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Big Brother Fights the WAT
“It is the leaders of the country who determine policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along…Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.”
- Hermann Goering
The potentially endless War Against Terror (WAT) so far has largely been a war against penniless peasants in a country far, far away. The luckless Afghani’s, fighter and civilian alike, now know the United States government can kill you from a great distance and everyone in local attire or carrying a weapon looks like the enemy to the U.S. Air Force. Visible “collateral damage” includes a couple of wedding parties, a group of tribal leaders and some of our Canadian allies. There is likely a good deal more that remains unreported.
While the WAT has brought chaos and death to an already chaotic Himalayan wasteland, so far the effects at home are hardly noticeable. In a loopy reversal of the sacrifice urged on us in past wars, Americans can now perform their patriotic duty by loading up their credit cards and buying a new SUV. We have apparently responded bravely to the call as personal debt is up sharply since 9/11.
We have a new group of federal drones in the hive --- the TSA, Uncle Sam’s most recent effort to put the final nail in the coffin of the airline industry. We have new airport signs too, including long lists of forbidden carry-on items like nail clippers and putters. I particularly like the cartoon images of the round, black Spy vs. Spy-style bomb and Yosemite Sam’s six shooter, both with Big Red X’s over them. It’s good to know the illiterate will now be aware of the most important forbidden items. Here’s a little personal safety tip – don’t joke about the signs.
Other than airport nuisances and a patriotically hefty VISA bills the impact of the WAT on the lives of most American’s has been small. Much of that will change when Baby Bush goes after Iraq and the Homeland Security Act starts taking effect.
Remember the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS) program? It was a scheme to recruit busybodies, gossips and postal workers as neighborhood snoops --- a national version of your local building department, but with features like warrantless searches and jail terms without trial. The House defeated the measure after a public outrage against it, but not before over a million good citizens volunteered to join through the real but slightly less-scary Citizen Corps.
In an end run around that defeat, the Homeland Security Act has created the snoop’s dream: the Total Information Awareness program. John Poindexter, current head of the “Information Awareness Office” of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (developers of the internet and stealth aircraft technology) is the director of this program.
Admiral Poindexter’s name may sound familiar. First in his class at Annapolis, Ph.D in physics, national security advisor under Reagan, chief architect of the Iran-Contra scheme, he was convicted in 1990 on five felony counts of lying to Congress. The verdict was overturned on appeal because Congress had granted him immunity for his testimony. He has all the features of the ideal federal department head, military background, intellectual brilliance and ethical flexibility. It’s no surprise that he remains in prominent, cushy government service. But his perks and pension are not what we have to worry about.
The Homeland Security Act has given him $200 million to create a “virtual, centralized grand database.” What will it include? Why, simply everything. Every credit card transaction you ever made, every drug prescription you ever filled, every doctor’s visit, every grade you ever got, every web site you ever visited, every e-mail you ever sent or received, every phone call, bank deposit, airline flight, magazine subscription, every car you ever rented and where and for how long, in short, every detail of your private life that may exist in any commercial database.
Next, all the commercial data will be combined with the information that any government agency has about you. Your driving record, property records, court documents, lawsuits, divorces, wills, liens, parking tickets, passport application, turnpike toll records, business licensing records, every complaint any busybody, ever made about you to any government official, will go into your personal electronic file.
One could argue that we are safeguarded against such a vast coordinated system by the government’s own inertia and stupidity. To that I say, the mistakes will be as dangerous as the accurate data if not more so and, heck, you can still do a lot with $200 million.
Think this is Right Wing Paranoia? Do an internet search on “Total Information Awareness.” The results are sobering. The Genisys system is already under development. It is a virtual database that will layer over and interpret information from thousands of existing but currently incompatible databases. The plan is to create computerized dossiers on 300 million Americans. Genisys is dedicated to the theory that each and every citizen is a potential terrorist, our relations form a terrorist cell, and our activities constitute a terrorist plot.
Poindexter has already shown his contempt for any sort of oversight of his grasping for power. The coordinated combination of commercial and government snooping has the potential to crush individual privacy and liberty. Poindexter is just the man to accomplish it. The motto on the Information Awareness Office’s creepy logo reads “Scientia Est Potentia” – “knowledge is power.” The more the government knows about you the more power it has over you. Unlimited knowledge will translate to unlimited government power over every American.
The only limits on that power will come from public political awareness of the dangers of the Homeland Security Act and the creeps at the IAO. Both will have a profoundly negative affect on civil liberties and human creativity. I urge you to ask questions about and oppose the existence of this government department that is abusive by its very nature.