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)