S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Surveillance State(s)

The cliche "big brother is watching you" is now becoming more the reality.  These stories caught my eye just in the last couple of days.

New York's finest, detectives working on gathering intelligence entered church sanctuaries and basements to surveil Occupy Wall Street protestors.  Words and phrases found on Twitter will be data mined for clues to possible uprisings and unrest.  Texas border patrol agents may soon be the recipients of night vision equipment and unmanned drones that come home from the Middle East.  And with U.S. financing, Afghanistan has plans to gather biometric data on all coming and going to or from the country, and eventually will fingerprint, photograph and scan the irises of all Afghans.  Seen together it is a not a picture that matches with our vision of assumptions about freedom, privacy or justice.  Not to mention spending inordinate amounts of public money on such ventures.

Even in Churches, Wall Street protesters can’t escape the watch of police.* (After their encampent in Zucotti Park was destroyed by the highly militarized NYC police department), protestors had been allowed to sleep in welcoming churches. The police entered the churches with the excuse of needing a bathroom.  To quote from the New York Times story, 
. . . demonstrators were sleeping on the cushioned pews of a United Methodist church on the Upper West Side on Thursday morning when one of them spotted a man in plainclothes wandering through the sanctuary, apparently counting heads.
"U.S. Spy Agency to Use Twitter to Forecast Unrest" is the headline.  According to Scientific American, a US intelligence agency aims to forecast unrest by studying . . . social media. This is the use of so-called open source intelligence and it amounts to more widespread domestic surveillance. To quote:
It is every government's dream: a system that can predict future events such as riots, political upheavals and the outbreak of wars.The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA), a research arm of the US intelligence community, is sponsoring the work under the Open Source Indicators (OSI) program. The three-year project, with an unspecified budget, is designed to gather digital data from a range of sources, from traffic webcams to television to Twitter. The goal, according to IARPA, is to provide the intelligence community with predictions of social and political events that can "beat the news".

Here is a recent tweet I posted regarding the possiblity of widespread coordination of recent police actions:
GeeCarolNov 16, 4:08pm via HootBar

A long list of possibilities for #OWS raid coordination via DHS | Fusion Center Locations/Contact Information:

Using left-over war-zone equipment along the Texas border is the idea of Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).  More and more we see evidence that domestic security is becoming militarized.  To quote from the New York Times

The Send Equipment for National Defense Act, written by RepresentativeTed Poe, a Republican from Humble, would require that 10 percent of certain equipment returned from Iraq — like Humvees, night-vision equipment and unmanned aerial surveillance craft — be made available to state and local agencies for border-security operations.
Afghanistan has big plans for obtaining biometric data.  And the United States will pay for it.  (Note also recent news of far more widespread demand for identity cards for voting).To quote from the New York Times:

A handful of other countries fingerprint arriving foreigners, but no country has ever sought to gather biometric data on everyone who comes and goes, whatever their nationality. Nor do Afghan authorities plan to stop there: their avowed goal is to fingerprint, photograph and scan the irises of every living Afghan. It is a goal heartily endorsed by the American military, which has already gathered biometric data on two million Afghans who have been encountered by soldiers on the battlefield, or who have just applied for a job with the coalition military or its civilian contractors.The Kabul airport program is also financed by the United States, with money and training provided by the American Embassy. Americans, like all other travelers, are subject to it.

*In conclusion, for years I have blogged about civil liberties or security.  Despite the fact that "the war on terror" was always a misnomer, Fourth amendment protection from unreasonable search or seizure remains at increased risk for citizens of states becoming more and more militarized.

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