Ok, so it’s not really this bad… yet. But if the incremental intrusions into our privacy aren’t stopped, a phone call like this isn’t so far-fetched for our future.
Written by Jim Harper, Director of Information Policy Studies at the Cato Institute. Posted with permission from Cato @ Liberty.
Lots of other stories have dominated the headlines lately, so people have paid little attention to news that House and Senate leaders have settled on a plan to fund the government for the first half of fiscal 2013 through a continuing resolution.
Senator Reid’s press release states that the agreement “will avoid a government shutdown while funding the government at $1.047 trillion.” If only that were true. The president’s most recent budget estimates that federal outlays will be something more like $3.8 trillion.
Whatever the case on the total figures, this is a good time to be asking just what will be in that six-month extension of government funding. And I’m particularly interested in whether it will continue to fund our national ID law, the REAL ID Act.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has endorsed the use of unmanned drones over the skies of the Commonwealth:
Police drones flying over Virginia would be “great” and “the right thing to do” for the same reasons they are so effective in a battlefield environment, the state’s chief executive said Tuesday.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, says he is open to any technology that makes law enforcement more productive. The use of drones, which was recently endorsed by the police chiefs of Fairfax County and D.C., would make better use of valuable police resources.
“It’s great,” he said while speaking on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program. “If you’re keeping police officers safe, making it more productive and saving money…it’s absolutely the right thing to do.”
If that isn’t mind-blowing enough, the governor believes that unmanned agents of Big Brother surveying the skies, perhaps armed, is good for civil liberties:
McDonnell added Tuesday it will prove important to ensure the state maintains Americans’ civil liberties, such as privacy, if it adds drones to its law enforcement arsenal.
With technological advances comes the need for greater civil liberties protections to prevent the government from using said technologies against its citizens. Clearly Governor McDonnell sees nothing wrong in arming the state with weaponry that could be used to spy on innocent civilians, or worse, without warrant.
The CIA may soon have a new way to spy on Americans. According to a new report from Wired, the intelligence agency will be using the Internet through electronic devices, including TVs and alarm clocks, to pry into our lives:
Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies,” Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft.”
All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.
“Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters — all connected to the next-generation internet using abundant, low-cost, and high-power computing,” Petraeus said, “the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”
I’ve written before about how our society seems more and more like it’s trying to turn us into a nation of criminals. It feels paranoid to even think it, especially when so few people actually agree with the notion. Of course, you know what they say, “It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you.”
This one comes courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.
For centuries, a bedrock principle of criminal law has held that people must know they are doing something wrong before they can be found guilty. The concept is known as mens rea, Latin for a “guilty mind.”
This legal protection is now being eroded as the U.S. federal criminal code dramatically swells. In recent decades, Congress has repeatedly crafted laws that weaken or disregard the notion of criminal intent. Today not only are there thousands more criminal laws than before, but it is easier to fall afoul of them.
As a result, what once might have been considered simply a mistake is now sometimes punishable by jail time. When the police came to Wade Martin’s home in Sitka, Alaska, in 2003, he says he had no idea why. Under an exemption to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, coastal Native Alaskans such as Mr. Martin are allowed to trap and hunt species that others can’t. That included the 10 sea otters he had recently sold for $50 apiece.
Mr. Martin, 50 years old, readily admitted making the sale. “Then, they told me the buyer wasn’t a native,” he recalls.
Martin was convicted, despite the fact that he had no idea he had committed a crime. They say that ignorance of the law is no defense, but how is one supposed to know that their actions are illegal? Are we all supposed to stay at home, wrapped in bubble wrap, lest we inadvertently run afoul of some regulation?
Big Brother is watching you. Make no mistake. While the federal government doesn’t have the resources to watch you directly, they’re doing their damnedest to make your ISP provider a proxy. After all, the House Judiciary Committee voted 19-10 to pass HR 1981 (it really should have held out for HR 1984 though) which will require all ISP providers to maintain a log of internet activity for 12 months.
The bill, called ‘‘Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011’’, is designed to do just that. I have no problem with going after child pornographers. The problem is, this ain’t going to just be used to catch people looking at kiddie porn. It will be used as a tool for other things, even when looking at information on the internet isn’t illegal.
H.R. 1981 would impose sweeping requirements on a broad swath of online service providers to keep new records on all of their customers, just in case the police ever want to investigate any of them. In particular, the bill would require any commercial providers of Internet access to keep for at least 12 months a record of which users were assigned to particular network addresses at particular times.
Such addresses, like the Internet Protocol (IP) address assigned to your cable modem by your cable company, or to your laptop by a wireless router, can be used to identify who visited particular websites or posted particular content online–threatening your right to privately browse the web and to speak and read anonymously when you’re online.
The book 1984 is probably the most pan-partisan book ever. Regardless of your political ideology, the book scares the pants off of you, at least to some extent. If you’re like 99.9% of the population, you blame the another side for taking us closer to the point that Big Brother is reality. Laws that extent surveillance powers are usually the most vehemently debated because of that fear of 1984′s world. Only now, it seems the government’s skipping the new laws and just trying to change the interpretation of current law for the same effect. At least, that’s according to a couple of senators who would, at least in theory, have a clue about what’s going on.
“There is a significant discrepancy between what most Americans – including many members of Congress – think the Patriot Act allows the government to do and how government officials interpret that same law,” wrote the Senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall. “We believe that most members of the American public would be very surprised to learn how federal surveillance law is being interpreted in secret. ”
OK, I probably wouldn’t, but that’s because I’m cynical and paranoid when it comes to government, but I suspect that most of my fellow Americans don’t feel the same way as me. So what’s the concern specifically?
The Senators won’t say, exactly, what elements of this secret Patriot Act have them so spooked. But Wyden told Danger Room in May that the so-called “business-records provision” is a major source of concern. It empowers the FBI to get businesses, medical offices, banks and other organizations to turn over any “tangible things” it deems relevant to a security investigation.
Yes, that is an infant receiving a pat-down from TSA agents. This photo was taken over the weekend in Kansas City. TSA claims that the family was cooperative. That may be so, but it doesn’t matter. They policies that they are pushing under the guise of “making us safer” simply border on the absurd, apparently now to the point that an eight month old has to be searched before it can board a plane.
At the same time legislation currently in the Senate would give the president expansive power over the Internet during an emergency, the National Security Agency (NSA) has developed a program, dubbed “Perfect Citizen,” to detect cyber attacks on the United States:
The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government’s chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack, though it wouldn’t persistently monitor the whole system, these people said.
Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million, said a person familiar with the project.
Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs, while others say it is an important program to combat an emerging security threat that only the NSA is equipped to provide.
“The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government…feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security,” said one internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal. “Perfect Citizen is Big Brother.”
From Reason TV a look at how America has drifted, slowly and quietly, into the land of Big Brother: