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Chronicling the Surveillance Control Grid
November 21, 2008
The American surveillance society is one of the worst in the world. According to Privacy International and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, we are among the nine most “endemic” surveillance societies. The U.S. is supposed to be the beacon of liberty, the example to all the world of what a society of liberty under law ought to look like. But we have become an embarrassment.
Several facets of the surveillance society exist: the police state at the air port, massive biometrics databases of innocents, implantable microchips, secret spy forces, and much more. This report covers just one piece of our massive surveillance society: airports.
Part I: AIRPORTS
You’ve just walked into an airport. Don’t make a joke about a bomb, or you’ll be arrested. Dump out your water before you go through the line. And if you haven’t properly put your personal items in the correct sized zip-lock bags, they will be confiscated.
Is that tooth paste you’re trying to smuggle by? Hand it over. And missy, don’t even think about trying to bring that lip gloss through…that could be a liquid bomb for all we know.
Ma’am, you can’t have that bottle of milk…but it’s for my baby, this is breast milk that I pumped for him…well, you’ll have to take a sip so that I know that it’s not a bomb…I have to drink my own breast milk?…yes, take a sip, Ma’am.
Face it: this is not a free country. The moment you walk into the airport, there are Behavioral Detection Officers examining your “micro-expressions,” attempting to read your emotions for signs of terroristic motives. This practice began all the way back in 2002. It’s called “SPOT”: Screening passengers by Observation Technique. Flying make you anxious? TSA make you mad? You’d better not show it, or you might miss your flight and have to pull your pants down for the TSA agents.
The airport police state is illegitimate on its face. It is immoral and unconstitutional. Our women endure sexual humiliation having to bare their breasts, and our men in wheel chairs have their pants taken off in public, and we simply let it go on as if it’s normal.
But if one is not convinced based on a moral calculation or an appeal to the Fourth Amendment, an argument based on pragmatism is necessary. And the verdict is in: airport “security” does not make us any safer. TSA agents confiscate dangerous water bottles faithfully, while they allow bomb parts and other prohibited items to pass them without a hitch.
You know you’re not living in a free country when there is little to no reaction to the outrageous suggestion that cameras should watch airline passengers from the moment they sit down on the airplane to the moment they get up. That they would actually have the gall to suggest that all passengers should be fitted with shock bracelets should tell us how highly they think of us. We are mere dogs to them.
And does it get any worse than the famed x-ray screeners? You get to choose: endure a good government groping, or a quick peep show. I hate to post inappropriate material, but ask yourself, would you be comfortable having your body (or your sister’s or mother’s) exposed in this fashion?
Then, you really know you’re living in a high tech police state when NASA and the Pentagon say they’re going to read your mind and examine your physiology with bio-scanners in order to determine if you’re a terrorist or not. And getting agitated by the police state will only make you appear suspicious.
In addition to the litany of creepy Big Brother facets of our so-called free society, much has been said about the no-fly lists and other databases of information about travelers, which are collected and kept without the travelers’ knowledge or consent. AP reported,
Without notifying the public, federal agents for the past four years have assigned millions of international travelers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.
The travelers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep on file for 40 years.
The scores are assigned to people entering and leaving the United States after computers assess their travel records, including where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.
The program’s existence was quietly disclosed earlier in November when the government put an announcement detailing the Automated Targeting System, or ATS, for the first time in the Federal Register, a fine-print compendium of federal rules. Privacy and civil liberties lawyers, congressional aides and even law enforcement officers said they thought this system had been applied only to cargo.
The Washington Post reported on the “TIDE” database of supposed terrorists that had quadrupled between 2003 and 2007, heading toward 500,000 names as of March 2007. The same article reminded readers that in 2004 and 2005, a full half of names that were triggered at airports were misidentifications. And that does not account for the innocent people who were identified properly, but were flagged for reasons other than criminal or terrorist activity—namely, those who were flagged intentionally (though illegitimately) for their political activism.
The famed “do not fly” list, Raw Story reported, was edging toward a million names in 2008. One million terrorists on the U.S. Government’s no-fly list. Wow.
AP reported on the phenomenon of misidentifications that harass travelers:
Thousands of people have been mistakenly linked to names on terror watch lists when they crossed the border, boarded commercial airliners or were stopped for traffic violations, a government report said Friday.
More than 30,000 airline passengers have asked just one agency—the Transportation Security Administration—to have their names cleared from the lists, according to the Government Accountability Office report.
Hundreds of millions of people each year are screened against the lists by Customs and Border Protection, the State Department and state and local law enforcement agencies. The lists include names of people suspected of terrorism or of possibly having links to terrorist activity.
“Misidentifications can lead to delays, intensive questioning and searches, missed flights or denied entry at the border,” the report said. “Whether appropriate relief is being afforded these individuals is still an open question.”
Last of all, don’t forget that you’re still being watched when you’re on the airplane. Air Marshals went public in 2006 exposing the insane requirement that they fill out “Surveillance Detection Reports” (SDRs) even if they witnessed no suspicious activity. These whistleblowers told the press that they and other Air Marshals were given monthly quotas of SDRs to fill. How many regular people were placed on a watch list because of their normal airplane conduct? The DenverChannel.com reported:
You could be on a secret government database or watch list for simply taking a picture on an airplane. Some federal air marshals say they’re reporting your actions to meet a quota, even though some top officials deny it.
The air marshals, whose identities are being concealed, told 7NEWS that they’re required to submit at least one report a month. If they don’t, there’s no raise, no bonus, no awards and no special assignments.
"Innocent passengers are being entered into an international intelligence database as suspicious persons, acting in a suspicious manner on an aircraft … and they did nothing wrong," said one federal air marshal.
If we endure all of this, what will we not endure? Will we go to FEMA camps, submit to forced inoculations, hand over our guns, give our children over to the state?
When we endure the most blatant oppression at the airport, and when we stand by as our masters loot the people for trillions of dollars in banker bailouts, one has to really wonder, what won’t we put up with?
And airport tyranny is only one facet of the surveillance society. And the surveillance society is only one facet of the emerging tyranny in America.
Before we can solve our problem, we must first come to terms with the fact that we have a problem. Admit it: we’ve been in denial about our so-called free society. Face it: we’re living in a police state.
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