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Does Government Surveillance Harm Society?

June 30, 2008

Government surveillance increasingly depends on new and enhanced technology combined with the ability to use that technology. As a result, the powers-that-be have seen to it they are as free as possible to access personal data while assaulting the freedom of Americans through the rampant use of closed-circuit television and global positioning systems. In general, the law has failed to respond beyond providing more access to the invasion of privacy.

More and more, the court system including the Supreme Court has become removed from the oversight of government surveillance. With the new surveillance law just passed in Congress, the government now has its’ own pseudo-court system that privately monitors and green stamps the actions of U.S. government activities that involve surveillance of all kinds behind the scenes.

The failure of the judicial branch resides in the legal unwillingness of the judicial legislature to realize the extent and depth of government surveillance in the life of the average American citizen or in the life of global society. The power of the Constitution, notably the Fourth Amendment, has been abandoned in favor of a new approach to the rights of American citizens.

The event that really sold the concept of new world surveillance was the September 11 attack by terrorists. The government has provided large sums of cash, enveloping society with new camera technology in order to provide a new age of monitoring ability. Combined with the power of computers and internet access, data and information management has become the almost exclusive territory of big government.

The Supreme Court has decided that Americans in public places are not due privacy rights. Common areas and public squares are the free territory of policing unencumbered by the Constitution of the United States. Even private information that you have given to someone else: a doctor, bank or school is no longer protected. If you have released information into the public domain, you no longer own the exclusive use of that information.

The battle is ongoing. New programs are brought into existence that continue to enhance the authority and ability of the government on all levels to supervise the activities of citizens in the vain hope of discovering terrorist and potential criminal activity. Even though the effectiveness of government attempts are questionable at best, this has not impeded or slowed the invasion of privacy.

Meanwhile, government is conditioning Americans to accept the “security and convenience” of new computerized I.D systems. For example, the city government of Washington D.C. has planted a new I.D. system with an innocent card called the “One Card.” This city photo identification card serves as a city resident’s I.D. card, an access card to public libraries, parks, pools, motor vehicles, student identification and the Metro transportation system. The Department of Homeland Security is issuing “REAL ID” grants to generate methods of “securing” data while making data transparency between government bodies a reality in the name of security and efficiency.

The violation of personal privacy seems so innocuous and beneficial that millions of Americans will continue to learn to expect the measure without question. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff is convinced that “Americans overwhelmingly want secure identification, and this funding will help those states working to provide it.” Time and time again, computers have proved that technology does not secure data, but instead makes data easier to use.

Instead, the expressed purpose of intent is policing and verification. The stated purpose of the Department of Homeland Security is to reduce and impair “the use of stolen, borrowed, altered, or counterfeit source documents widely used to obtain state-issued documents.” The system does not necessarily stop the use of fraudulent documents, but adopts them into the system and prohibits illegal changes in the future. The long-term goal can only be the control of information. The reality is that the strategy of the Department of Homeland Security only works for the long-term as a net of established personal documents are built and used to permanently source the living population of the country over time. After a number of years, any variance from the norm will create a red flag condition that will undoubtedly result in some sort of penalty or trial.

Public security measures can easily be extended to biometric data and DNA data for the general population so that everyone in the nation can feel safe. For the majority of the American and global population, living with the security of government surveillance is only a matter of conditioning. The analogy of conditioning the population could be akin to boiling a lobster. Boiling a lobster can be done slowly so that the lobster is unaware of being cooked for dinner. Surveillance in the name of security may seem like a perfect solution. To others, the situation may seem like a double-edged sword resulting in total control over time. What do you think?

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