by Paul & Phillip D. Collins ©, Apr. 2nd, 2007
George Orwell’s 1984 captured the totalitarian vision of a surveillance society with frighteningly vivid precision. Years later, deceased philosopher Michel Foucault would expound upon the Orwellian model and provide some conceptual understanding of the emergent carceral culture. In so doing, he would trace the ideational origins of panopticism to the Enlightenment. The ultimate objective of the Enlightenment was the enshrinement of a Technocracy equipped with panoptic machinations to monitor and squelch any potential dissidents. Today, the ideological heirs to the Enlightenment tradition are still endeavoring to realize that vision. This is painfully evidenced by the various panoptic machinations being established by the neoconservative-dominated Bush Administration. The purpose of this article is to trace the ideational continuum that underpins the present neoconservative panoptic initiatives. Through careful examination of this continuum, these researchers hope to provide a succinct analysis of panopticism’s ideological heritage and its developmental history.
The Post-September 11th Surveillance Society
If a recent Justice Department audit is correct, the worst nightmares of constitutionalists and privacy advocates may have been realized. The audit found that the FBI had misused power given to the Bureau by the Patriot Act to conduct surveillance. The controversy circles around the FBI’s use of national security letters. A CNN report elaborates:
The FBI is guilty of “serious misuse” of the power to secretly obtain private information under the Patriot Act, a government audit said Friday.
The Justice Department’s inspector general looked at the FBI’s use of national security letters, in which agents demand personal and business information about individuals — such as financial, phone, and Internet records — without court orders. The audit found the letters were issued without proper authority, cited incorrect statutes or obtained information they weren’t supposed to.
As many as 22 percent of national security letters were not recorded, the audit said.
“We concluded that many of the problems we identified constituted serious misuse of the FBI’s national security letter authorities,” Inspector General Glenn A. Fine said in the report. (No pagination)
Good video from Bruce Schneier. A few choice excerpts follow:
Follow that guy last month. The death of ephemeral conversation. Systems that never forget (9:40) …a public-private-surveillance partnership (9:58) … We have built systems that spy on people in exchange for services. Surveillance is the business model of the internet (10:13)
This is truely the golden age of surveillance. Because everything we do is surveillable (11:37)
Metadata equals surveillance (12:09). Okay, there’s sort of an easy thought experiment: imagine you’d hire a private detective to eavesdrop on somebody. That detective will put a bug in his car, his home, his office; and you’d get a report of the conversations he had. If you ask that same detective to put someone under surveillance you’d get a different report: where he went, who he spoke to, what he read, what he purchased, what he looked at – right, that’s all metadata. Fundamentally metadata equals surveillance data. (12:40)
We have built an insecure internet for everyone. We basically enabled the Panopticon, and all the losses of freedom and liberty and individuality that come with that. (16:47)
From Stellar Wind to PRISM, Boundless Informant to EvilOlive, the NSA spying programs are shrouded in secrecy and rubber-stamped by secret opinions from a court that meets in a faraday cage. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Kurt Opsahl explains the known facts about how the programs operate and the laws and regulations the U.S. government asserts allows the NSA to spy on you.
Also, be sure to read and bookmark this indispensable “Timeline of NSA Domestic Spying“ over at EFF as well.
By Christopher Ross Harrison, 2011-03-2
Where the debate over privacy rights is concerned, there exists a perpetual danger of being drawn into one of two extreme camps: One that would dismantle all security entirely, leaving us open to those very real threats that exist at home and abroad, and the other that would submerge our basic rights and freedoms beneath an Orwellian surveillance state, all in the name of our collective safety. Of course; freedom isn’t free, it just seems that way because we have been blessed to live in an oversaturated freedom market. On the other hand, although the price of freedom is still eternal vigilance, it seems there are those who would impose an artificial price hike; having us pay eternal vigilance, plus groping and manhandling fees, plus a whopping one hundred and fifty percent interest. These folks don’t necessarily hate freedom, they’d just prefer that you visit it in a museum under a glass cover.
If this sounds like a paranoid fantasy, let us reflect upon the following evidence for the recent and undue ascension of Big Brother in our Western Democracies.