Monday, January 31, 2005

Big Brother is Peeping You

One of the scariest trends in America today is the vapid acceptance of whole-hearted chucking of civil rights. Remember civil rights? Civilian rights? Youse and mine rights? Get a load of these apples:

Recently, it was disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security had deployed an x-ray van, previously used in cargo searches at America's borders, in a test run – taking X-ray pictures of parked cars in Cape May, New Jersey. While, the DHS claimed all X-ray surveillance was conducted on empty cars with their owners' consent, one wonders how long this will last. After all, American Science & Engineering Inc, the manufacturer of the Z Backscatter Van (ZBV), notes that "it maintains the outward appearance of an ordinary van," so it can stand unnoticed and peep into cars as they drive past, or with its "unique ‘drive-by' capability [it] allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past." Since we're all increasingly suspects (in our "suspect vehicles") in the Homeland Security State, it seems only a matter of time before at least some of us fall victim to a DHS X-ray drive-by.

But what happens after a DHS scan-van x-ray shows a dense white mass in your car (which could be any "organic material" from explosives or drugs to a puppy, a baby, or a head of lettuce)? Assuming that the DHS folks will be linked up with the Department of Transportation (DOT), soon they might be able to call on DOT's proposed Intelligent TransportationSystems' (ITS) Joint Program Office (JPO)'s "Vehicle-InfrastructureIntegration (VII)" system for help.

According to Bill Jones, the Technical Director of the ITS JPO, "The concept behind VII is that vehicle manufacturers will install a communications device on the vehicle starting at some future date, and equipment will be installed on the nation's transportation system to allow all vehicles to communicate with the infrastructure." In other words, the government and manufacturers will team up to track every new automobile (x-rayed or not) in America. "The whole idea," says Jones, "is that vehicles would transmit this data to the infrastructure. The infrastructure, in turn, would aggregate that data in some kind of a database."

Imagine it: The federal government tracking you in real time, while compiling a database with information on your speed, route, and destination; where you were when; how many times you went to a certain location; and just about anything else related to your travels in your own car. The DOT project, in
fact, sounds remarkably like a civilian update of the "Combat Zones That See" program developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Noah Shachtman, writing for the Village Voice, reported in 2003 that DARPA was in the process of instituting a project at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, whose aim was "to track 90 percent of all of cars within[a] target area for any given 30-minute period. The paths of 1 million vehicles [w]ould be stored and retrievable within three seconds." It gives a whole new meaning to "King of the Road." -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

And that King of the Road, friends? Won't be you or me. I have to go on record that I like being obscure. I'm a law abiding, tax paying, honest person who likes her privacy. Part of the reason I live in a rural community is safety related, but I live outside the chaos of city life primarily because I like being alone. It's a good groove. The thought that the simple act of driving into Orlando to pick up a relative from the airport or to (yawn) take them to Disney would result in my privacy being not only violated, but saved for ongoing viewing bothers me.


Let's do the math. Precisely how many times would civil rights be violated to catch a terrorist suspect? Billions? Is that the best use of assets? Perhaps it is a wee bit darker than that. After all, one you have "permission" to gather that data, its very easy to say, "We have all this data just sitting around, we should be able to release it to other agencies for their use." Paint that bitch up as effective crime fighting, and watch the sheep populace head for the civil rights slaughter.

Concerned? Have another apple:

In the latter years of the Vietnam era, a series of exposures of official lies regarding the FBI's various COINTELPROs, a host of surveillance and dirty tricks programs aimed at American activists, and the analogous CIA program known as MHCHAOS; of domestic spying by military intelligence agents and of the Nixon administration's various Watergate surveillance and illegal break-in operations brought home to Americans at least some of the abuses committed by their military, intelligence, and security establishments. Congressional bodies like the Church Commission and the Senate Watergate Committee even helped to rein in some of the most egregious of these abuses and to reinforce the barriers between what the CIA and military could do overseas and what was permissible on the homefront.

In the 1980s and 1990s, however, oversight and constraints on illegal domestic activities by the military and intelligence community slowly began to drain away; and with the 9/11 attacks, of course, everything changed. Three years later, what was once done on the sly is increasingly public policy – and
done with pride – though much of it still flies under the mainstream media radar as the Bush administration transforms us into an unabashed Homeland Security State.

Today, freedom – to be spread abroad by force of arms – is increasingly a privilege that can be rescinded at home when anyone acts a little too free. Today, America is just another area of operations for the Pentagon; while those who say the wrong things; congregate in the wrong places; wear the wrong
t-shirts; display the wrong stickers; or just look the wrong way find themselves recast as "enemies" and put under the eye of, if not the care of, the state. -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

Considering the way the Bush re-election campaign was run, with "invitation only" rallies and forcible removal of citizens of this country who attended and disagreed, I have no difficulty agreeing with this assessment.

To follow is what I consider to be a true terror list.

1) "The FBI obtained 257.5 million Passenger Name Records following 9/11, and that the Bureau has permanently incorporated the travel details of tens of millions of innocent people into its law enforcement databases."
2) Outgoing DHS chief, Tom Ridge recently called for U.S. passports to include fingerprints in the future.
3) In November 2004, California passed the "DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act" which "allows authorities to take DNA samples from anyone – adult or juvenile – convicted of a felony" and "in 2009… will expand to allow police to collect DNA samples from any suspect arrested for any felony… whether or not the person is charged or convicted.
4) The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to "use the latest in database technologies" to store information on and count the homeless which, the Electronic Privacy Information Center notes, "lay[s] the groundwork for a national homeless tracking system, placing individuals at risk of government and other privacy invasions."
5) According to a recent report in ISR Journal, "the publication of record for the global network-centric warfare community," a "high-level advisory panel recently told U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld" that the Pentagon needs ultra-high-tech tracking tools that "can identify people by unique physical characteristics – fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris" and that such a system "must be merged with new means of ‘tagging' so that U.S. forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd..." -- Tom Englehardt & Nick Turse, January 31, 2005

What would our nation be like if they decided to integrate number five with any of the others? This isn't Hollywood; these are real, ongoing, quality of life changes that would impact across generations. Want this world for yourself? How about for your children? Before our lives can be turned into some kind of traceable database of material, Homeland Security planners require a critical element. The assent and support of the American people. Once given, I suspect they hope we sort of forget about it while they do their thing.

Therein lies the holy grail. They can't simply take it, we have to give and allow it to happen. Don't like what you just read? Get loud. Talk about it, stir the pot. You may take a little heat, but most of the good things liberals have made happen throughout the history of our nation got pretty hot. If freedom was uncontested, no one would be fighting for it.

Jesus went to town on the moneychangers because what they were inflicting on the community hurt it. God didn't invest humans with free will so we would chose to do nothing, nor provide us our marvelous brains so we can let others think for us.

I believe I've had my fill of this particular apple.


At February 01, 2005 2:23 PM, Blogger R said...

You have to wonder why we are harrassing tax paying Americans when our Southern border is WIIIIIIDE OPEN. All a terrorist has to do is to agree to be exploited by Bushies loyal fans in the south and work for nothing..and they will be sponsored over here with open arms. No background check, no i.d. nothing.

As for your comment on MY site..I said "wrestle" not "push" don't go making me sound more psycho than I am. ;-)

At February 01, 2005 10:42 PM, Blogger frstlymil said...

Now THAT was outstanding. My God. And to add to this little slice of horror, it was reported this week in the news ( a representative sample of college freshman do not feel that the 1st Amendment is all that important and that they think it might actually go too far. Have we failed that miserably in educating our youth? Never mind, don't answer that. Another study showed that they also no longer believe that racism exists or is a problem, (whilst continuing to stay within their own homogenous population and dating pool)....but that's another rant.

At February 03, 2005 12:38 AM, Blogger PATCAM2005 said...

I am purchasing a bicycle...

At February 03, 2005 3:17 PM, Blogger DJW said...

As for your comment, which I have seen more than once from you, about dissenters not being allowed at Bush rallies - do you think that dissenters who go to a Bush rally (or Kerry rally for that matter) and disrupt speeches by yelling, and who refuse to stop yelling, should not be subject to removal? Is a partisan, political rally required to allow debate? Are you aware of any dissenters who were removed from Bush rallies who were simply listening like everyone else? Is Bush required to allow his partisan political rallies to be disrupted by protesters? What does he have to do, stop his speech and stand there as long as it takes while these people yell and scream?

Dissent is alive and well in this country and was throughout the election. Democratic and left-leaning organizations spent millions of dollars getting spreading dissent. The internet is full of dissent. Do you really think that dissent was significantly quashed because people who were attempting to disrupt partisan political rallies were forcibly removed?

At February 04, 2005 2:07 PM, Blogger Jet said...

I have three separate issues that I want to respond to here. First, the President is the leader of all the citizens of the United States. When he makes an public appearance on public property, re-election oriented or not, all citizens should have access to that appearance. Second, segregating dissenters sets an extremely bad precedence. Will we cordon off the Native Americans or the Jews as well? How about the African Americans or the Gays and Lesbians? Each has specific issues and concerns. None will agree 100 percent with the speaker. The job of president is to govern over all, as diverse as that all may be. To truly be a uniter, you must first be a listener. Third, the first amendment does provide for just this type of interaction. As a lawyer, I'm sure your respect for the constitution is an abiding force in your life. I will not support herding taxpayers into "separate but equal" segregation simply because it's inconvenient for me to listen to their point of view.

I am aware that the DNC separated protestors during the convention, and I do not support that. I am not aware, however, that the Kerry campaign denied access to protestors during their many stops.

The tactics used to deny protestors access at the Bush rallies included ripping up tickets in order to deny entry, taking away only the protestor's signs but not the supporter's signs (and isn't a sign silent compared to a voice?) to censoring the T-shirts (another silent form of expression) and refusing admittance based on what the shirts said. Three teachers in Oregon wore shirts that simply said "Protect our Civil Liberties". Two shirts had only the words, the third had the words along with an American flag graphic and a Statue of Liberty graphic. This is not the stuff of mayhem.

My question from all of this is whether or not a president can knowledgably govern a diverse nation when he is shielded from half the populace.

At February 04, 2005 3:17 PM, Blogger DJW said...

Politely, hogwash.

If the president's campaign rents the Superdome in New Orleans to hold a political rally to energize supporters, the President's campaign is entitled to admit whomever it wants. The event is paid for with campaign funds. The same for the challenger. I don't care who it is running and which party.

The First Amendment does not grant us the unfettered right to speak whenever and wherever we wish. It does not give us the right to disrupt speeches. What are the limits? Should protestors be allowed inside the House chamber during the State of the Union address and allowed to yell and scream and disrupt the speech? Do you honestly believe that? Should protestors be allowed inside the convention hall with the delegates during the conventions and allowed to heckle the speakers? Get serious.

For more, please read the following:

At February 05, 2005 9:14 AM, Blogger Jet said...

As a tax-payer owned facility, the Louisiana Superdome is a poor choice for a deliberately segregated political gathering. If the rally is held after the national convention, the campaign funds in question are provided by tax-payers as well. If you pay for the gig, you get access. Simple.

As I stated previously, I want to see full access to both candidates.

Amendment 1: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The constitution belongs to all the Joe/Joan Schmoes of America. Its simple language means we get it. The government can't control the church, and can't tell us we can't practice the religion we choose. We can say and write what we want in public or private, we can get together in groups and we can tell our government when we don't like stuff.

This says to me that you can express your opinion in a non-violent way. Like it or not, Bush IS the government, and listening is part of his job. When you close doors on closely held beliefs and opinions, the fact that you no longer see them has zero bearing on their existence.

At February 05, 2005 10:29 AM, Blogger PATCAM2005 said...


I find it fascinating that you describe liberals in a context that is shared by your conservative behavior. You said "Democratic and left-leaning organizations spent millions of dollars getting spreading dissent." Ok, well what was that crap with Mr. Draft Dodger trying to deface an American Patriot. I found it hard to believe that a man that never saw the battle field would actually attempt to bash a man that earned medals in his tour of duty. I guess when your awol all that doesn't matter though.

Oh well, at least we practice about the same way. I have come to notice that liberals think of conservatives the same way conservatives think of liberals...Disgusted by fellow Americans.

At February 07, 2005 7:08 AM, Blogger DJW said...

Just a couple of more points:

Jet: You still haven't addressed the issue of appropriate regulation of our freedoms. The Supreme Court, going back a really long time, has upheld government's ability to regulate free speech, religion, etc. - so long as those regulations are reasonable. That's not the exact test, but that's the general drift. I agree with access to all - that each campaign should let anyone in, and excluding people from either campaign because they were wearing a certain shirt is stupid. But, I don't believe that the campaigns are required to allow hecklers to take over the stage. You still haven't addressed the issue of limits. Under your application of the first amendment, I should be allowed to march into Congress, while in session, and take over the microphone and speak. That's absurd.

In response to Patcam's point, I did not mean to imply that only liberals spent money spreading dissent - both sides did. My point was that the message of dissent was communicated extremely well in the last campaign, and the fact that protestors were not allowed to heckle at campaign rallies (for either side) did not squelch dissent. Dissent is alive and well in this country as it should be.

I guess the bottom line here is that I am not a "chicken little the sky is falling" kind of guy. And it's not just because Bush was reelected. I did not care much for Clinton, but I survived those 8 years.

At February 08, 2005 1:56 PM, Blogger Jet said...

DJW, your background gives you a greater working knowledge base that I possess in regards to what the courts have done; I'm not trying to upstage here.

On the issue of limits, I guess I look at what to me seems to be common sense. Elevate the speaker. Provide amplification. Create the barrier space between the stage and the audience (10-20 feet maybe?) necessary to ensure space for the secret service personnel. Breaching that space is grounds for removal. Beyond that, if the crowd is upset, the speaker may need to forego the script and converse. The speaker is amplified, the crowd is not. This a an opportunity, not an inconvenience.

As for your example regarding Congress, I have never had the opportunity to see the chambers but I have attended county commissioner meetings in my county. People are allowed to speak (they do have to wait their turn), but they are part of the process. Their viewpoints regarding the potential action being considered are part of the permanent record.

I support equal access and opportunity, not unbridled mayhem.

At February 14, 2005 10:33 AM, Blogger Steve O said...

Great post, if you don't mind I've linked it on my site;


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