Nation: Nat Hentoff: We'll All Be Under Surveillance

The Village Voice: Nation: Nat Hentoff: We'll All Be Under Surveillance.

Without any official public notice, and without any congressional hearings, the Bush administration–with an initial appropriation of $200 million–is constructing the Total Information Awareness System. It will extensively mine government and commercial data banks, enabling the FBI, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies to collect information that will allow the government–as noted on ABC-TV's November 14 Nightline–“to essentially reconstruct the movements of citizens.” This will be done without warrants from courts, thereby making individual privacy as obsolete as the sauropods of the Mesozoic era. (Intelligence from and to foreign sources will also be involved.)

Our government's unblinking eyes will try to find suspicious patterns in your credit-card and bank data, medical records, the movies you click for on pay-per-view, passport applications, prescription purchases, e-mail messages, telephone calls, and anything you've done that winds up in court records, like divorces. Almost anything you do will leave a trace for these omnivorous computers, which will now contain records of your library book withdrawals, your loans and debts, and whatever you order by mail or on the Web.

As Georgetown University law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out in the November 17 Los Angeles Times: “For more than 200 years, our liberties have been protected primarily by practical barriers rather than constitutional barriers to government abuse. Because of the sheer size of the nation and its population, the government could not practically abuse a great number of citizens at any given time. In the last decade, however, these practical barriers have fallen to technology.”  [Privacy Digest]

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