Surveillance and security products, and the industries that manufacture and sell them, can be important and useful to protecting one’s property and family. These companies deserve all the success they can create through market competition and providing value to public.
That said, a whole lot of technology companies are working for Uncle Sam. And, to the extent these advances are being turned inward against the American people, we have deep concerns.
The Rise of the Surveillance Industrial Complex
Even a high-ranking Obama administration official acknowledges the use of spy technology against the masses:
“We are seeing a growing number of repressive regimes get hold of the latest, greatest Western technologies and use them to spy on their own citizens for the purpose of quashing peaceful political dissent or even information that would allow citizens to know what is happening in their communities,” says assistant secretary of state for human rights Michael Posner in a recent speech.
Of course, Mr. Posner failed to mention that the most widespread use of government-sponsored spy cams against residents of Western democracies is right here in America!
Back in 2002, at the first Intelligent Support Systems World Conference (aka The Wiretappers’ Ball), only 35 people attended. Today, this closed, by-invitation-only event hosts five conferences worldwide and attracts hundreds of vendors, thousands of buyers, and sells an estimated $5 billion in surveillance gear to government agencies, both foreign and domestic. These events are not open to the public.
According to reports from the Washington Post and Wikileaks, the products for sale include, but are not limited to:
Technology that allow governments to track hundreds of cellphones at once;
E-mail interceptors that read e-mails by the tens of thousands;
Programs that make an owner’s own computer take a picture of him or her and send the image to government goons – or anyone else;
Programs that send phony updates for iTunes, Adobe Acrobat, and other popular programs in order to infiltrate personal computers, much like a virus or malware;
A suitcase-sized device capable of monitoring Web traffic from public WiFi hotspots such at cafes, airports, and hotels;
Bogus cellphone towers that let government employees track phones up to three miles away and listen to calls;
It’s Way beyond Nanny or Big Brother
Micro-Managing Our Daily Lives…
A lot of Western-made surveillance technology is ending up in the hands of abusive governments, according to numerous reports. Most recently, discoveries have been made where tyranny thrives such as Egypt, Syria, China, and even Libya.
Indeed, there has been some U.S. effort to regulate how and who can buy this technology overseas, but, according to the Washington Post
, the “overwhelming U.S. government response has been to engage [the Wiretapper’s Ball] not as a potential regulator, but as a customer.”
At the October conference, state and local law enforcement agencies attended, as well as more than 35 federal agencies according to Telestrategies president and conference organizer Jerry Lucas. The agencies included the FBI, the Secret Service, each military branch, the IRS, Agriculture Department, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Postal Inspection Service, and more.
These surveillance technologies will be used for crime stopping. However, what’s disturbing is the potential for abuse and how innocent law abiding citizens will get caught in indiscriminate surveillance dragnets and logged into government databases.
The Surveillance Industrial Complex
Does Not Bode Well for Your Right to be Left Alone
Surveillance chills free speech and liberty. Power corrupts and seeks to gain more power. And when power-hungry bureaucrats get an inch, they demand entitlement to the whole mile.
There are a number of cases involving law enforcement abusing surveillance technology, such as GPS and cellphone tracking without a warrant. One of my close associates has spent many hours inside a municipal communication center that processes 9-1-1 calls and dispatches police, fire, and ambulance calls for several communities. These “comm centers” are the central nervous systems of local law enforcement and are frequently staffed by retired, disabled, or off-duty police officers. They are loaded up with many types of advanced technology.
The scary part is that between phone calls or during slow periods, comm center employees tend to have a lot of time on their hands – and vast databases and law enforcement techno-tools at their disposal. I’m sure the great majority of these public servants are completely trustworthy. All I’m pointing out is that the opportunity for abuse and invasion of your privacy is present in virtually every state and local communication/dispatch facility in the nation. And there is a growing trend to ignore the rights of innocent, lawful citizens that should concern everyone.
Guilty until proven innocent. Already, the feds have expanded the propaganda campaign to be suspicious of everyone. We’ve touched before on how a financial transaction of only a few thousand dollars can get you written up on a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) by your bank, insurance agent, or broker and get you logged into a government database of suspicious individuals. This snitching culture is further expanded with the Department of Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign. In effect, the government asks ordinary citizens to act as secret police and snitch on their neighbors for no reason except suspicion.
Unreasonable searches. The TSA began by conducting unreasonable strip searches on little old ladies at airports. Now, they’ve begun spreading their tentacles onto our highways, bus terminals, ports, and train stations.
Restricted speech “zones.” These are quarantined areas where the Bill of Rights has been effectively amended to read, Void Where Prohibited by Law. Restricted speech zones came into expanded in use during the Bush administration, restricting public protestors to voice their opinions in a physically enclosed and dedicated area. Today, many U.S. colleges have these “speech zones” painted directly onto campus quads; conditioning America’s future generations to accept that free speech isn’t truly free. (Possibly another reason not to bear the cost of a higher college education).
Freedom of speech on the Internet is not inviolate either. The government has been looking for ways to censor the Internet and recent battles over the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), modeled after China’s Internet censorship policies, may help give feds an Internet “kill switch,” according to many legal analysts.
There isn’t enough room to list the hundreds of other examples.
The point is this: as technology makes it easier for government and its techno-cronies to exert more pressure on the innocent and erode their rights, the more often they’ll feel compelled to do so; all under the pretext of providing “security.”
The question many are asking is, security from whom? From criminals, or from our own elected officials and their politically connected cronies?
The Biggest Danger
“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty – power is ever stealing from the many to the few… The hand entrusted with power becomes… the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continual oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot: only by unintermitted Agitation can a people be kept sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.” – Wendell Phillips
Do not let gradualism slowly extinguish your rights and liberties, nor condition you and your family to grow accustomed to these assaults and accept them as “normal.”