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Guest Paul_W

The growth of an American Surveillance Society

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Hi all,Find linked here a sobering article that details in laymans terms some of the technologies and frightening public policies we as Americans are embracing (or worse, ignoring while its being embraced). This soundly debunks years of "it could/would/will never happen here" denial.I don't know how many times I've heard the argument lately, "I'm a law abiding citizen, not a criminal, so it doesn't matter if the government or commercial enterprise track my every move". This article clearly points out the falicy in such thinking: it is the abuse such powerful systems like these allow on the average law abiding citizen (you and me) that makes all of this so dangerous. Here are a few very tame examples contained within that show what the government and commercial enterprise is capable of today - it'll be much worse a year from now, five years from now, then ten..."An African-American man from the central city visits an affluent white suburb to attend a coworker's barbeque. Later that night, a crime takes place elsewhere in the neighborhood. The police review surveillance camera images, use face recognition to identify the man, and pay him a visit at home the next day. His trip to the suburbs where he "didn't belong" has earned him an interrogation from suspicious police.""A tourist walking through an unfamiliar city happens upon a sex shop. She stops to gaze at several curious items in the store's window before moving along. Unbeknownst to her, the store has set up the newly available "Customer Identification System," which detects a signal being emitted by a computer chip in her driver's license and records her identity and the date, time, and duration of her brief look inside the window. A week later, she gets a solicitation in the mail mentioning her "visit" and embarrassing her in front of her family."The article points out powerful technologies that are available now and their rapid implementation within government and commercial enterprise that is happening unchecked and unquestioned by the citizens of our country. We are being "sold" these systems with the rosiest of terms, yet there is a dark side. Within are facts that most of our society doesn't know about, doesn't understand or haven't contemplated the ramifications of. I hope with messages like this, you become proactive and help change this:Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Societyhttp://www.aclu.org/Files/OpenFile.cfm?id=11572(This is a PDF file you view in your browser if you have the Adobe Acrobat Reader installed)Any comments or response (that won't get the thread pulled :-))?Take care,Elrond

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I'm not concerned. The moment I hear about an autospy that revealed "boredom" as the cause of death I'll know I'm being spied on.Elrond, d00d, you need some happy pills or something!Sex Shop! Oh how embarrassing!!!!! But my girlfriend won't get caught, because I already took her there. She thought it took alot of guts on my part to do that. (easy points :) )Hey! It's Friday. I'm going out. (hint hint)

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Hi Elrond,I think the post deserves a serious reply ;-)Certainly I share your concerns in a way. Nobody likes being spied upon, we all like our privacy and freedom, something our parents, grand parents and ancestors have fought for in most countries we live today.And I agree that such systems and practices are very easily misused and abused and that there is no (or at least not sufficient) control on those using the systems and methods.On the other hand however, there is the issue of security, no, of the people's well-feeling (for lack of a better word). The government in Holland, where I happen to live most of the year), fell a few months ago, after a very strange and hectic elections and a political murder preceeding those elections. Something (both events) totally unheard of in this quiet and 'safe' country.What we see today, in the run-up to new elections next week, is that most talk, polls, articles, party programs and citizen's comments only have one subject: personal security ! People are not feeling safe anymore and demand government action. Even more important it seems than health care, education, social wellfare, economy and all the other topics that usually topped the discussions and polls are no longer important. What 'we' talk about is 'immigrants', criminality, more police, more people in one jail cell, stronger punishment, more money for police, add the army to protect money transports and the list goes on....So at least in this country - and I am pretty sure it is the same in the US, otherwise, why would people have voted for a guy like Bush (wink, wink) - the civilians are asking for those measures, perhaps even without understanding what they are asking for ;-)Kind regards,Francois :-outta Francois :-wave[table border=0 cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0][tr][td valign=bottom" align="center]"At home in the wild"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][link:avsim.com/alaska/alaska_052.htm]Don's Alaskan Bush Charters]"Beavers Lead the Way"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][tr][td valign=top" align="center]http://www.fssupport.com/images/moose4.gif[/td][td valign="top" align="left" colspan=2][/td][tr][/table

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"[...] perhaps even without understanding what they are asking for"Exactly Elrond's point, I believe.I'm a law abiding citizen, but I do find these developments troubling. The key to me is that we pride ourselves in living in a society where "innocent until proven guilty" is one of our core values, and many proposed measures counter that - at least bring it up to "suspect until proven innocent". As proven in the Netherlands people in many places are easily persuaded to vote from a gut feeling instead of sound reasoning. I guess these "law abiding citizens" will have to spend a night at a police station before they get the picture.Vince

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The situations in both countries are similar, but have been arrived at differently.In the USA, there has been for so long a policy that everything is allowed and any government control over people is bad that a situation has arissen in which the government is incapable of securing the safety of its citizens.As a result while there is a strong police force, it's almost impossible for that police force to take decisive action against criminals in order to give people the possibility to walk the streets at night.In the Netherlands, there have always been laws and regulations under which the government could secure the safety and security of its citizens but there has also been a policy to turn a blind eye towards most crime which led to the police and justice forces becoming completely ineffective (in part because authority was taken away, in part because they were reduced to ineffective numbers to make money for nice social programs that promised to bring votes).So one country has the forces to enforce non-existent laws, the other does not have the forces to enforce the laws that do exist (and have been rendered ineffective due to other laws to some extent).Elrond is clearly of the opinion that any means the government has to find out what he has done is a violation of his civil liberties and the next step towards a police state a.k.a. the USSR or North Korea and that all the current US government wants is to bring about such a police state.This is clearly the point of view of a mind that's even more paranoid than mine (and I'm quite paranoid...).I'd love to have complete and total freedom and control over my own life. Problem is that that also means that others who want to do me harm have that same total freedom and control and there is no way to protect me from those people.By sacrificing a little of that total freedom, it might be possible to keep those who want to harm me away from me. If so, I think most people would gladly make that sacrifice (to a point of course, having to report your itinerary to the police each day clearly goes too far but that's not in anyone's plans).

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Seriously now....I too have concerns about many of the ways personal freedoms are being impacted by a wide variety of factors. But, whatever. (not meant in a snide fashion)However, just as it is easy to focus on what's bad, and what's going wrong, you can focus on what's good, and what's improving. Once you get to the state of mind that all of this is the process towards something better, it makes life alot easier. Plus it frees up your mental energy to focus on what changes you can make to improve the world.Life is like flying! Put on the auto-pilot and enjoy the scenery. Trust the autopilot. Don't sit there clenching the yoke waiting for the aircraft to depart controlled flight. When you feel like it, do a loop. If you see an interesting airport, land and check it out.:)

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I have learned that while flying on autopilot, one has to keep scanning the instruments from time to time and make sure all systems work as intended and you stay on course. Even the most sophisticated system (or perhaps even: ESPECIALLY the most complex system) fails at times...... ;-) :-outta Francois :-wave[table border=0 cellpadding=10 cellspacing=0][tr][td valign=bottom" align="center]"At home in the wild"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][link:avsim.com/alaska/alaska_052.htm]Don's Alaskan Bush Charters]"Beavers Lead the Way"[/td][td valign=bottom" align="center][br][tr][td valign=top" align="center]http://www.fssupport.com/images/moose4.gif[/td][td valign="top" align="left" colspan=2][/td][tr][/table

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>So at least in this country - and I am pretty sure it is the >same in the US, otherwise, why would people have voted for a >guy like Bush (wink, wink) - the civilians are asking for >those measures, perhaps even without understanding what they >are asking for ;-) "A guy like Bush (wink, wink)" was voted into office well before terrorism became the principal issue of the day, and polls indicate that most in the US believe that "a guy like Bush (wink, wink)" and his team are doing a good job in combating the dangerous threat of terrorism that suddenly appeared on their watch. And while I'm not a US citizen, but live in the US as a permanent resident, I still think of him--and based on the common parlance over here, I believe most do--as President Bush, or simply the president.As for Elrond's--and apparently the ACLU's--concerns about surveillance, we now have an enemy in our midst. Recently there was a downturn in economic activity in the Virginia and Washington DC areas because people going about their daily lives were being gunned down indiscriminately. The question was, who, what, where and why...? Apparently at a point of desperation the military (perhaps it was the CIA) was called on to deploy aerial surveillance in an effort to track suspicious vehicles or individuals near crime scenes. It was simply an effort to protect the public. During the crime spree video from surveillance cameras was consulted to try to identify suspects. Perhaps better video from more sources would have helped, but then the murderers started leaving notes and calling police and leaving clues about themselves, and the case broke.One of the main powers sought by the Attorney General following the September 2001 terrorist attacks was increased powers of electronic surveillance, but predictable voices of concern and opposition were raised in various quarters. This enemy had lived freely in American society, and then struck it very hard, but still there were those who opposed increased powers of surveillance for the government.I'm not one of those. God knows what damage these determined maniacs can do in a free society, and I support whatever methods it requires to catch them.

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I have two short notes that, although understanding of your position, make me come to a somewhat different conclusion.First, it's interesting you mention the DC area killing spree because it was (as far as I'm aware) unrelated to international terrorism, but more importantly - the increased surveillance was only done to look for a specific man for specific crimes. To me at least that does not count toward increasing my fears of a 'police state'.Second, should people make an argument for more surveillance and control over civilians without reasonable suspicion an important question would be: would it work? I think not. What I understand from this side of the pond, is that had intelligence agencies properly worked together and had mistakes not been made, the existing forces would have had a good chance of uncovering the 11/9 plot before it happened - *without* extra surveillance. On the other hand, more authority and non-specific surveillance would not have prevented mistakes to be made (I believe some suspects *were* actually shot by airport security cameras...). Also, if 11/9 shows us anything it is about the frightening capabilities of low-tech weapons. Not just the knives of the hi-jackers, but also the means of communication: using a hotmail style web e-mail account that multiple people log onto to *leave messages* for each other! No e-mail would be sent in this scheme, so all the world's e-mail filtering technology would be useless.The obvious response would be to allow police to read all hotmail accounts, but this is where the slope starts - while being an intrusion to people's privacy, it would do nothing to uncover the next terrorist plot... because they're using different means of communication now (encryption perhaps, or voice again, or ???). So, the trick is to stay ahead - and the best way to do that is to infiltrate, and start with the ones you know - instead of blindly suspecting every citizen. As prove the two recent British raids in uncovering a ricin poison plot. Will this prevent any terrorist attack? Surely not, but at least it will leave something worth protecting.Clear skies all!Vince

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It's a worrying point to make.However, there is one thing which is overlooked. The fear you seem to be referring to, is a fear of far right fascism and hard left communism. Both of these states of government are extreme and infringe on the rights and freedom of the individual.However, the public policies you outine are just that. Policies. Nothing more. The important thing about policies are the way in which they are employed. A simple and harmless policy could have serious impact on human rights, if implemented poorly.The important factor is the wrapping. Who is mplementing the policy and for what reason.What we are talking about is not policy! No way. What we are actually talking about is trust. Trust in the government and their employees. Some dictatorships, far left or far right governments are extremeist (some are not) and as such, might not be trusted by the people. Cue civil war, civil disobedience and uprisings... instability in the long term.However, most 'western' governments are not black and white like this. They exist in the middle ground. A little to the left... a little to the right... but mostly in the middle. It's safer ground and tends to be a place of equilibrium and stability. It is not these governments' aims to spy on their citizens for dark, conpiratorial (real word?) reasons. What they are trying to do is protect the citizens and win a vote. It is your government's policy to protect you. From persons outside your country, from persons inside your country and from yourself.There has been a swing of expectations in recent decades from a need for personal freedom, towards a need for security. Governments try to apply policies which will strike an acceptable balance. It is my opinion that in times of security, people turn towards the right and in times of poor civil freedom, they turn towards the left... and so the people decide which governments are employed. That's democracy. When civil liberties become severeley infringed enough, the government will change, because another party will fight as opposition.If you are worried about policies, think again... what I see in your post is that you have distrust in the people that implement those policies and you need to think about your next voting opportunity. It's not like you have no voice. Have you written to your local goverment representative about your concerns? Asked him/her to raise a point in government? You will not be spied on if you do. Be less scared but be more aware of who runs things.That's my opinion.Cheers all,Simon.

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jwenting wrote:>By sacrificing a little of that total freedom, it might be >possible to keep those who want to harm me away from me. If >so, I think most people would gladly make that sacrifice....Gents,I'm far too tired to think critically this morning, so I'll offer the following words in my stead."A Society that will trade a little liberty for a little order will lose both, and deserve neither." - Jefferson in a letter to Madison"Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither Liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin"It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. - Justice Robert H. Jacksonjwenting, please don't color this as an attack on your thoughts, only food for thought. Or as Voltaire said:"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."Better words, from better men than myself.Roger

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>"A Society that will trade a little liberty for a little >order will lose both, and deserve neither." - Jefferson in a >letter to Madison So, Jefferson might be against the delays at airports caused by the additional security and spot checks now deemed necessary to protect the flying public. And I imagine he wouldn't think much of the state of Israel given the security operations undertaken by El Al.I mean no disrespect at all, but quotes from these famed historic figures are neither here nor there, and strike me as gems of abstraction. Actually, if we could send a quote back in time in their general direction, I think something along the following lines might be reasonably appropriate: "Given the specific circumstances and dire threats from heretofore unknown and/or unused means of mass destruction that we must now face, we can probably think this through better for ourselves, thanks very much."

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>So, Jefferson might be against the delays at airports caused >by the additional security and spot checks now deemed >necessary to protect the flying public.Perhaps he would be. :-)>And I imagine he >wouldn't think much of the state of Israel given the >security operations undertaken by El Al.Perhaps he would not. :-) >"Given the specific circumstances and dire threats from >heretofore unknown and/or unused means of mass destruction >that we must now face,"We must now face" ? I would submit that this is no different a mind set than present at any time in history. The phrase du jour (WMD), unfortunately, has been used by those in power to promote a sense of urgency in carrying out a prescribed course of action. It is being used to strike fear into those who would hear it uttered. It says "this could happen, so you must do as I say without question." Any scholar will tell you that governments have historically used public paranoia and times of uncertainty to seize upon more power and control. Weapons of mass destruction ? Is not an invading army a "weapon of mass destruction" to those being invaded ? >we can probably think this through >better for ourselves, thanks very much.So you would discount the wisdom of our founding fathers because "times have changed" ? Would you also discount their most important work, our Constitution, because "we can think for ourselves ?"*I would submit that at no other time in American history have such educated men graced the American political system. Names such as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, J. & S. Adams, Monroe, and others framed this country. These were highly educated men who had foresight past their political careers. They did not lead by poll numbers, they were self sufficient - not relying on political careers to pay the bills. To dismiss their wisdom due to "changed times" is to buy the current agenda....... lock, stock, and barrel.My 2 cents,Roger* Some will recognize this argument from Chapter 25 of "The Demon- Haunted World - Science As A Candle In The Dark" by Carl Sagan. This chapter, entitled "Real Patriots Ask Questions", (written with Ann Druyan) was penned well before Sept. 11th, but is stunningly accurate in describing the mindset of the people afterwards, and the actions that a government might take when the people are largely uneducated concerning the policy that would govern them. This chapter, is in fact so prophetic, you would swear that it was written post Sept. 11th 2001. Consider the chapter's title itself, "Real Patriots Ask Questions" - have we not already been told that questioning our government's current policy is "un-patriotic" ? Sagan was a brilliant man, I'm sorry he isn't here to advise us. I have assimilated this argument, as it is pertinent to the issue, as all wisdom is ;-) Cheers,Roger

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>...During the >crime spree video from surveillance cameras was consulted to >try to identify suspects. Perhaps better video from more >sources would have helped, but then the murderers started >leaving notes and calling police and leaving clues about >themselves, and the case broke. >That highlights how far we really are away from the 'Minority Report' style all-seeing all-knowing authoritarian society. During the most intense manhunt in recent history, in one of the most video-surveyed cities in the world, all that video data proved to be useless.There is just too much electronic data for authorites to monitor and correlate. They can't even keep track of a tiny fraction of it all, and the amount of that data is growing rapidly so the problem will just get worse. That is compounded by the fact that there are hundreds of government departments, thousands of police agencies at several government levels, and dozens of intel agencies who rarely share data and can't manage even basic network connectivity. Basically, government never has, and never will be able to 'get its act together' enough to make electronic surveillance a significant threat.As to face recognition technology, that is a joke. It is extremly unreliable, except under rarely achievable ideal conditions, and it is very easy to fool. Security agencies are buying into it now because of the security panic, but after investigators waste a few month chasing down thousands of false-positive identifications they will shelve the whole concept.

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>"We must now face" ? I would submit that this is no >different a mind set than present at any time in >history.One of the things that impressed me most about the 80s and 90s were what a relatively quiet period they were when compared to the norms of continual distress of one form or another experienced throughout the earlier decades of the century. Regardless, while there certainly always appears to be calamity of one kind or another around every corner (I agree with you there, with those decades as relative exceptions), September 2001 marked the first massive attack of this kind (terrorism) to occur within the US, and in that sense it's a new threat that must now be faced. And it's not only a new threat within the US of course; if you've read the recent reports from England and Spain you'll know that this new form of terrorism is making its appearance elsewhere.>Weapons of mass >destruction ? Is not an invading army a "weapon of mass >destruction" to those being invaded ? Well I could write a lot on this subject, since you've asked such a provocative and open-ended question, but let me see if I can get to the point here.I imagine those imprisoned in concentration camps in Europe in 1945 had been praying for and were relieved to see the invading armies of the Allies fighting their way in to those locations and relieving them from their distress, and providing them with food and medical care, and restoring their liberty and some hope.By contrast I imagine their hearts sank and fear and alarm increased greatly when the enemy armies occupied their lands, and took their property, and sent them to labor camps, and set up ghettos, and cut off supplies to those ghettos.The point is, whose army are you referring to? There is an enormous difference between certain armies, and in my opinion an individual such as Carl Sagan had a very typical (and typically vocal) liberal opinion on these matters wherein all wars and all armies are treated without distinction as bad, and the human race is treated holistically, there being not much difference in the values, motivations and standards of civility between the nations. And that view is, I believe, very naive, and very dangerous.>So you would discount the wisdom of our founding fathers >because "times have changed" ? Would you also discount their >most important work, our Constitution, because "we can think >for ourselves ?" I wondered if I'd be taken to task for daring to imply that in our age and time we might have a better handle on the appropriate actions notwithstanding the abstract utterances of these mythic figures.Yes, absolutely the founders and the framers fought heroic struggles and established this great nation that I'm glad to call home. But their statements, philosophies and actions are still subject to review and criticism--and there's been quite a bit of it over the last few years involving the contrast between Jefferson's soaring visions on paper, and his actions with respect to slaves in practice.I think these critiques have merit, at least from our vantage point in this day and age. But on the other hand I respect the fact that circumstances were different then, and that there were struggles and no easy answers all the way up to the Civil War.Likewise, I think we're in a better position to decide the specific tactics required to meet the challenges of today regardless of the lofty and open-ended quotes of people from another era. (And let's not forget, notwithstanding their heroic age, leaders like Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton weren't always the wisest of fellows....)

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