Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Domestic Surveillance in America

There seems to be a lot of indifference in the United States regarding domestic surveillance. Perhaps this indifference is a result of a citizenry distracted by the war in Iraq, or because most people feel that they pose no real threat to the government (and therefore do not fear what government employees may seek to learn about the private lives of US citizens). Many people simply may not see how domestic surveillance affects them. Many people may simply desire anything that resembles protection from the nebulous threat of terrorism.

Wired News has published a description of the FBI's domestic surveillance capabilities, to which I posted the following comment (and immediately subsequent to which, the entire commenting feature for the article disappeared). I think these are concerns that every American citizen should consider with respect to the surveillance capabilities of the US government:

Maybe you do nothing wrong and have nothing to fear because you don't mind it when social engineers manage us like cattle.

Maybe you do nothing wrong and don't care if other people see all the personal details you reveal about yourself through your search history. Visit and see if you still feel that way.

Maybe you do nothing wrong and don't mind if a fascist government seeks to suppress or intimidate innovative thinkers who challenge the philosophical premises of successful business models with which government interests are entangled, and you are content to spend your days in a cube and your nights bowing down to the American Idol.

Maybe you don't mind if a foreign government hacks into our surveillance network and uses it against us, at your expense.

Maybe you don't mind being drafted into the War on Terror so long as you don't have to know about it.

Maybe the possibility of all those private contractors with access to your sensitive information doesn't bother you.

Maybe you care more about convenience than justice or liberty.

Maybe you're a terrorist.

Maybe it doesn't matter whether or not all your communications are surveilled because the potential for abuse is enough to make you self-censor any criticisms you may have of a government obsessed with stifling dissent.

Maybe you vote and are willing to boycott the two party system by voting for yourself, because that way you can both register your discontent and help verify the statistical accuracy of our voting system by demanding to see your vote in print after the elections.

Maybe you think our next President will spend every waking hour reversing Executive Orders, Presidential Directives, and un-litigating the last six years.

Maybe you wish the Revolution had never happened, and want to reinstate the Crown.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Gitmo '07 for Fun and Profit

In response to Great Britain's formal request that the United States release five British residents from the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, US officials have reiterated that the United States does not want to be the world's jailor.

This is an odd position to take, if one is representing the United States in an official capacity at a time when the United States is seeing dramatic growth in prison populations.

One out of every four people in prison is in the United States. That's no minor accomplishment for a Nation that represents a mere 5% of the World's population.

The USA is #1 in incarcerations, beating out Russia and China. Even if China is under-reporting, the United States is still running in good company.

Whatever cause or purported intent one invokes to account for this phenomenon, the effect disproportionately impacts Black Americans in a variety of ways. For example, 13% of adult Black men cannot vote because of their conviction history.

The Guantanamo Bay detention facility puts a friendly Hollywood face on America's attitude towards imprisonment, but the conditions described as existing there should not seem especially shocking to American sensibilities. Prisons are an awful -- and central -- part of the American Way of Life. For some people, keeping other humans imprisoned is the way to The American Dream.

Americans tolerate a lot of things: not too many inconveniences, but a great many injustices. That prisons represent a struggle against a criminal class is clear. That prisons represent a cultural problem far more significant than street crime is not nearly as often made clear in the popular media.

Prisoners are made by laws. Laws are expressions of cultural values. There have been many generations brought up with the indoctrination of human captivity: what cultural values do Americans hold so as to make so many disrupted lives seem worthwhile, and even lucrative?