Wednesday, July 16, 2008

More on the National Surveillance State...

The reasons for the timing of this week's cartoon are obvious (see the sham FISA "compromise"), but it's really a subject that's been bothering me more than usual lately. There are a disturbing amount of "red light" cameras going up in intersections around Seattle lately, especially in suburban areas. Aside from the questionable effectiveness of "red light" cameras, how do we know that this is the only reason for these cameras? How do we know the FBI or NSA don't have access to these cameras? There are wide swaths of the greater Seattle area where there isn't a square foot of public area that doesn't have a government eye on it. Maybe I'm paranoid, but this really bothers me...

Articles n' stuff:
  • Jack Balkin:
    I have noted previously that we are in the midst of the creation of a National Surveillance State, which is the logical successor to the National Security State. And we have noted that, like the National Security State before it, the construction of this new form of governance will be a joint effort by the two major parties.
    ...We are going to get some form of National Surveillance State. The only question is what kind of state we will get. As of right now, it looks like we will get one that is far less protective of civil liberties than we could have gotten.

  • Predictably, the ACLU website has a lot of good material on this subject, particularly on the high-tech tools available to the watchers and the ways these tools can be used. One piece says plainly, "the fact is, there are no longer any technical barriers to the Big Brother regime portrayed by George Orwell."

    More objectionable examples of our brave new world... first from John Cole:
    A senior government official with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has expressed great interest in a so-called safety bracelet that would serve as a stun device, similar to that of a police Taser®. According to this promotional video found at the Lamperd Less Lethal website, the bracelet would be worn by all airline passengers.

    This bracelet would: take the place of an airline boarding pass, contain personal information about the traveler, be able to monitor the whereabouts of each passenger and his/her luggage, [and] shock the wearer on command, completely immobilizing him/her for several minutes

    Juan Cole:
    Till now, DOJ guidelines have required the FBI to have some evidence of wrongdoing before it opens an investigation. The impending new rules, which would be implemented later this summer, allow bureau agents to establish a terrorist profile or pattern of behavior and attributes and, on the basis of that profile, start investigating an individual or group. Agents would be permitted to ask “open-ended questions” concerning the activities of Muslim Americans and Arab-Americans. A person’s travel and occupation, as well as race or ethnicity, could be grounds for opening a national security investigation.
    Tim Shorrock:
    Under a proposal being reviewed by Congress, a National Applications Office (NAO) will be established to coordinate how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and domestic law enforcement and rescue agencies use imagery and communications intelligence picked up by U.S. spy satellites. If the plan goes forward, the NAO will create the legal mechanism for an unprecedented degree of domestic intelligence gathering that would make the U.S. one of the world's most closely monitored nations.

  • Julian Sanchez:
    The original FISA law was passed in 1978 after a thorough congressional investigation headed by Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) revealed that for decades, intelligence analysts — and the presidents they served — had spied on the letters and phone conversations of union chiefs, civil rights leaders, journalists, antiwar activists, lobbyists, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices — even Eleanor Roosevelt and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. The Church Committee reports painstakingly documented how the information obtained was often “collected and disseminated in order to serve the purely political interests of an intelligence agency or the administration, and to influence social policy and political action.”

    ...if you think an executive branch unchecked by courts won’t turn its “national security” surveillance powers to political ends — well, it would be a first.


jsanchez said...

"How do we know the FBI or NSA doesn't have access to these cameras?"

Oh, quite likely they do. Google "fusion center".

Abell Smith said...

oh crap, you quoted my one typo in my post! Fixed now...

If that's you, Julian, great column...