A new totalitarian America?

 By (name withheld by request)

 

 

 Starting in "late spring 2004", there will be no more free speech in

 the United States. Thanks to a new passenger profiling system known

 as CAPPS II, you could now lose your right to travel by air if the

 government does not like you. CAPPS II will consist of an immense

 database comprised of comprehensive personal data of everyone

 attempting to travel by air. According to a January 18th article in

 the Washington Post, each traveler will be given a color code

 specifying their "threat level," and those receiving anything other

 than a "green" will be interrogated and arrested, possibly without

 due process. Given the way our government has criminalized dissent,

 labeling hundreds of harmless activist groups as "terrorists", it is

 very possible that they could do the same to individual citizens who

 hold alternative views, blackballing them from participation in air

 travel, commerce and eventually, from society itself. One thing is

 clear. To the Department of Homeland Security, you are no longer an

 American, you are a potential terrorist.  Something as simple as

 paying in cash, or booking a one way flight sets off CAPPS II

 alarms. Airport security is undoubtedly important, but why not zero

 in on suspects based on real evidence of wrongdoing, rather than

 circumstantial cues which more often than not, may indicate nothing

 worthy of suspicion?

 

 On November 18th 2003, the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in

 California ruled that it is legal for the FBI to use cars' dashboard

 computing systems to listen in on conversations taking place inside

 vehicles, but only when they do not disable the Onstar safety

 system's ability to assist in an emergency. Over 4 million cars in

 the United States alone are equipped with an Onstar computing

 system, and in 15 years it is estimated that the majority of cars on

 the road will use similar dashboard computing. Like most post 9/11

 erosions of civil liberties, this one is surreptitiously bypassing

 the public eye, and being sold under the guise of "safety"

 and "security".

 

 As part of a "traffic survey" in September of 2000, 48,000 motorists

 who had traveled along a Maryland interstate received letters from

 the Maryland Mass Transit Administration which stated: "Your vehicle

 was seen traveling on southbound I-95 near I-195 on Wednesday, Sept.

 27. Please provide the following information: Where were you going?

 Who was with you? What was the purpose of your trip?" No matter

 where we go, it is becoming impossible to escape the eye in the sky,

 hidden and not-so-hidden surveillance cameras. Soon it will be

 possible for you and I to be tracked down through the jeans we wear,

 the razors we buy, or the cars we drive. How? The answer is Radio

 Frequency Identification tags. Send it a specific radio signal, and

 it sends back its serial number through the air. Attach it to

 anything and you can locate its host with high precision. These

 undetectable miniature radio transmitters and receiver units are

 already in widespread use.

 

 The Gillette Corporation has ordered 500 million of the tags, Wal-

 Mart has followed suit, American Express and Mastercard have created

 RFID-enabled credit card prototypes, and the US Military requires

 that equipment used to carry and transport goods be equipped with

 these RFID tags starting 11 months from now. Today's luxury cars

 come outfitted with RFID "immobilizer" circuits that won't let the

 cars' engines start unless the right RFID-compatible car key is put

 into the ignition. In the paranoid post 9/11 climate, it's not out

 of the question for a policing agency to use RFID frequencies to

 immobilize an unfairly targeted person's vehicle, pinpoint their

 location using the transmitters on their razors or even erase all

 credit on a person's MasterCard account. RFID is getting closer to

 becoming an industry standard at a scary rate, and considering

 the "developed" world's absolute dependence on hi-tech products, the

 inner workings of which the vast majority of people are clueless

 about, it is not hard to imagine RFID tags leading to an all-

 pervading police surveillance state, in which the average person

 would be even more a slave to the products they buy.

 An August 16th 2003 article in the Washington Times reported

 that "More than a third of Fortune 500 companies scan their

 employees' medical files before making hiring, firing and promotion

 decisions." Life insurance providers are acquiring their clients'

 genetic information without permission, and using this knowledge to

 drop coverage or reject applicants who might develop an illness

 others in their family have had. Even more disconcerting was

 learning that "internet information brokers sell an individual's

 complete medical file" to anyone with 400 dollars. The dubiously

 named Matrix plan, is an Orwellian information-pooling project

 headed by a coalition of Florida, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio,

 New York, Michigan, Iowa and North Carolina, which share a multitude

 of personal details on every resident of these states. On the one

 hand it may make law enforcement's job easier, but at what cost?

 Proponents of civil liberties compare it to the terrorism "data-

 mining" plan which recieved public criticism and also lost

 Congressional funding in 2003.

 

 Where will the violations of our rights to privacy stop? Sadly,

 privacy is not the only civil liberty we are slowly being forced to

 say goodbye to. Donald Rumsfeld's Patriot Act has allowed all

 intelligence agencies to share any and all data, in effect merging

 the NSA, CIA, FBI, DEA and many other organizations into a giant all

 seeing eye. The Patriot Act has erased years of civil rights

 progress and awarded "our" government with total authority to

 collect intelligence on American citizens and imprison them for long

 periods without due process. Pardon me if I'm wrong, but

 isn't "intelligence" something a military gathers on the enemy, not

 on its own people? Now we are the enemy. There was once a time when

 legality and morality were one and the same. That time is long gone.

 It is now legal for intelligence agencies to tap our phones without

 the consent of a judge. The fourth amendment of the constitution has

 been made null, police and FBI agents can legally conduct

 unreasonable searches and seizures without our permission and

 without first consulting a judge. It is now legal for any person

 suspected of "terrorism" (read: dissent and the ability to inspire

 in others further dissent) to be imprisoned for an indefinite period

 and processed by a military tribunal with no regard for civil

 rights. Thanks to Rumsfeld, I could be legally detained tomorrow,

 for writing this article and be held prisoner forever, with my

 captors not obliged to state what crime I am charged with or even

 required to even prove my guilt. That's exactly what happened to

 Rabih Haddad, an innocent Muslim cleric who was arrested in 2001 and

 has been held in prison for over two years by the Justice Department

 for a minor immigration violation. The San Francisco Chronicle

 called Rumsfeld's new measures "instruments of repression, used by

 totalitarian states." In addition, the fact that the majority of

 post 9/11 so-called terrorism arrests were actually for minor

 infractions like document fraud, identification theft and

 immigration violations has raised serious doubts about the

 efficiency of the new measures.

 

 After the horror of September 11th, some say we should willingly

 give up many of our liberties for the goal of communal safety. Who

 cares if some government official knows a few thousand details about

 your life? Who really needs privacy? The answer is, we all need

 privacy very badly. Privacy is not only a morally sound practice,

 but also must necessarily be respected by law. The Human Rights Act

 gives us all a right to privacy for private and family life. The

 Data Protection Act 1998 was introduced to ensure that all your

 personal data is processed in a manner that is lawful and fair and

 therefore should your employer monitor your communications then it

 should not intrude on the employees' 'privacy and autonomy'.

 

 But is lack of privacy really a cause for concern for law abiding

 citizens? Many argue that the erosion of privacy is not a problem,

 as long as the government is not tyrannical, and has the public's

 interest at the forefront of its plans. This is the case with our

 friends in the White House, right? This same government that values

 its people's wellbeing sends many thousands of its youths to risk

 their lives to kill people they don't even know halfway around the

 globe, resulting in over 530 dead and 3000 maimed, in a conflict the

 majority opposes and many claim has more to do with oil profits in

 the pockets of the global elite than with anything else.

 

 Despite 11 million people in dozens of nations simultaneously taking

 to the streets on February 15th, 2003, protesting the war on the

 Iraqi people, in the biggest popular gathering in history for any

 reason, the U.S. government and its lackeys' worldwide violated the

 popular will by going on with the assault on Iraq. Despite millions

 of law abiding world citizens declaring that imperialism was not a

 way of life worth bombing for, or worth drafting and killing their

 own working class young men for, corporate interest behind the Iraqi

 conflict supercedes the wishes of the people. I guess the 17 Billion

 dollars the Pentagon awarded to Dick Cheney's Lockheed Martin are

 more important than the wellbeing of human beings. What a

 peculiar "democracy" we have when the selected rulers spend more

 money developing new ways to kill people (400 Billion to be exact),

 than they do developing ways to help people live more productive

 lives.

 

 Whose interests do our "elected representatives" serve? It is clear

 that we of the popular citizenry are powerless to change where

 resources are directed. Our taxpayer dollars help fund deplorable

 wars we don't support, for the goal of profit which won't be ours.

 Echoing the sentiments of one of our forefathers, Thomas Jefferson,

 I believe that to force people to finance with their taxes the

 propagation of ideas in which they don't believe and in fact hate is

 evil and tyrannical. Yet this and further destruction of our civil

 liberties happen every day. This is because our world is a

 corporatocracy; directed and managed by military industrial

 behemoths. Volumes could be written on the instances where the

 governments of the world have acted against the popular wellbeing

 throughout recent history, actions which could easily be interpreted

 as tyrannical. Bush's idea of democracy is not one where the

 majority of the people dictate what action the leaders take, but one

 where the people with the majority of the money dictate what action

 is taken, and this is why it has been so easy for our rights to

 personal confidentiality to have been trampled upon.

 The existence of the corporate media ensures that the perspective of

 the ruling establishment is first and foremost in people's minds. In

 response to the one sided views the media bombards us with, a free

 speech movement has emerged. The Internet has amplified the voice of

 the common person. Americans are excited about this new power and

 freedom, and we should be suspicious of a politician who seeks to

 limit that freedom. Meanwhile, we have a president who believes in

 Internet censorship. With regards to a website criticizing his

 politics, Bush stated at a televised press conference that "there

 ought to be limits to freedom". Thanks to the corporate media's

 weapons of mass distraction and disinformation, the increasing

 threat to freedom of expression online (the U.N. has proposed to

 censor the internet), the FCC takeover of the radio airwaves which

 are supposed to be public domain, and the hostile militarized police

 forces worldwide which illegally launch violent assaults on harmless

 protesters, free speech is limited and the venues through which

 common people can broadcast their uncensored opinions are few.

 Without a doubt, dissidence is key to democracy. Without freely

 broadcasted dissenting opinions, America stops being not America.

 The British Government is suspected of being a part of a coalition

 that is currently pressuring the European Union to make sure that

 Internet Service Providers and phone companies keep a record of all

 of the nation's telephone calls, faxes, and internet and email usage

 from the past seven years. Whether you have a one phone connection

 or dozens of electronic communications devices, chances are that

 what you say and what you do is being scrutinized. Enter Echalon,

 the shadowy global spy system that intercepts and scans through all

 world communications and records the personal data of individuals

 mentioning sensitive keywords. It was for years kept under a veil of

 secrecy, but some concerned intelligence officials in New Zealand

 leaked information about Echalon to writer Nicky Hager, who

 describes his findings in the book, `Secret Power'. In a turn of

 events that confirms Hager's findings, the agency known as the

 Defense Signals Directorate of Australia which is allegedly involved

 in Echelon, has recently admitted to the existence of UKUSA, the

 network of five national intelligence agencies that reportedly

 governs the system. It is supposedly an effort to pick up on enemy

 communications. Unfortunately, "enemy communications" is an

 extremely vague term, and an enemy could be made out of anyone

 vexing the rich and powerful. Conversations between harmless peace

 advocates could be deemed "enemy communications" and this coupled

 with the USA Patriot Act could land any one of us in jail for simply

 questioning authority.

 

 Invasion of privacy, the filtering of acceptable and unacceptable

 information is all part of the same plan. The reality of these

 worldwide surveillance systems, is that they seek to identify

 dissent, for the eventual purpose of squashing difference of

 opinion. The powers that be are monitoring messages we express and

 messages we take in, and are actively stepping in to suppress the

 dissemination of those messages that conflict with their agenda.

 Thomas Jefferson once said "When governments fear the people, there

 is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny."

 One of the things our nation sorely needs is not an increase in

 paranoia, but an amplified awareness of the battle for our minds and

 of the existing system of political control. The federal government

 must be our servant, not our master. Why do we allow our government

 to maintain extreme levels of secrecy regarding many of their

 actions when we are not even allowed to keep a basic level of simple

 privacy? Surveillance leads to the suppression of dissent, and that

 can only lead to a police state, nothing else. Why do we, the people

 of the United States, so easily accept the obvious misuse of power

 we see before us? Perhaps this 2000 year-old quote from Julius

 Caesar can enlighten us. "Beware of the leader who beats the drums

 of war in order to whip the citizenry into patriotic fervor, for

 patriotism is a double-edged sword. It emboldens the blood and

 narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached fever pitch

 and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader

 will have no need to seize the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the

 citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer

 up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know?

 For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar."