More on "Big Brother"

  1. SAN FRANCISCO (Jan. 16) - The United States is evolving into a Big Brother society as technology advances and post-Sept 11 surveillance increases, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a new report.

    ''The reasonable expectation of privacy has been dramatically diminished,'' Barry Steinhardt, an ACLU director, said in an interview following Wednesday's release of the report ''Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The Growth of an American Surveillance Society.''

    ''A combination of lightning-fast technological innovations and the erosion of privacy protections threatens to transform Big Brother from an oft-cited but remote threat into a very real part of American life,'' the report said.

    A growing ''surveillance monster'' is emerging, it argues, in which the private and the public sector are monitoring Americans with video cameras to the extent that it is becoming almost impossible to walk the streets of major cities without being filmed. Yet there are virtually no rules governing what can be done with those tapes.

    Computer chip technology currently in use to speed motorists through tollbooths might one day be used on identification cards to allow police officers to ''scan your identification when they pass you on the street,'' the report said.

    The study points to the Total Information Awareness pilot project, in which the Pentagon is exploring amassing a database of Americans' medical, health, financial, tax and other records. There are few privacy laws to prevent businesses from selling the government such information, Steinhardt said.

    ''If we do not act to reverse the current trend, data surveillance - like video surveillance - will allow corporations or the government to constantly monitor what individual Americans do every day,'' the report said.

    Moreover, under the Patriot Act - the anti-terrorist legislation passed by Congress immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks - the government can demand that libraries turn over reading habits of patrons. Authorities can more easily attain telephone and computer wiretaps, and conduct searches in secret without immediately notifying the target.

    Viet Dinh, an assistant U.S. attorney general and one of the government's spokesmen on security topics, said in a recent interview that the Bush administration would not abuse these far-reaching powers.

    ''I think security exists for liberty to flourish and liberty cannot exist without order and security,'' Dinh said.

    New rules, the report notes, reinstate the FBI's ability to spy on Americans even when no crime is suspected and allows authorities to share with prosecutors information obtained via search warrants granted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court. Under FISA court rules, Americans are not protected by the bread-and-butter legal standard of probable cause - prosecutors need only say the search will assist a terror probe.

    ''It is not just the reality of government surveillance that chills free expression and the freedom that Americans enjoy,'' the report said. ''The same negative effects come when we are constantly forced to wonder whether we might be under observation.''

    i have nothing to hide..but this illegal search and seizure thing..
    makes me a bit uncomfortable
  2. 38 Comments

  3. by   researchrabbit
    I read a news story just the other day about computer chips that can be sewn into your clothes and tracked!!! Apparently the technology for this is pretty inexpensive now and it could become widely used by manufactuers, say, who want to know where their customers go etc...

    Is it paranoia if they really ARE after you?
  4. by   sanakruz
    What about all these people being detained after 9/11 and not being charged, some American citizens? No Writ of Habeus Corpus ,no right to an attorney, nada...

    Yeah theyre really after us. Who's a terrorist? Me? My neighbor? My kid's teacher? The little gang banger at juvenile hall?

    Apparently this guy named Jose Padilla is. He worked at a Taco Bell in Fla when he was arrested for terrorist activities after it was reported ( by an unreliable source, some Saudi guy already in custody who has lied repeatedly) That this kid knew something. Even his own mother can't talk to him. He is now being held in military prison as a enemy combatant or some such nonsense_BECAUSE WE ARE AT WAR.
    I didnt know that, did you?
  5. by   rncountry
    Actually Jose Padillo was not just some kid that was working at Taco Bell who had a lie told about him. There is evidence that he may have been involved in much more than that. However, that does not mean that I believe people, citizen or not, should be able to be indefinately without specific charges. I don't. I find it riduculous that more than a year after 9-11 there are people that were taken in as illegal combatants who still have nothing specific being brought against them. I see nothing wrong in taking those people in, shot at an American soldier and there has to be repercussions, but it is not sound for the American gov't to simply sit on it from there.
    I also believe that it is wrong to have American's wherever being videotaped etc... without laws that cover what it is being done, why it is being done and what it will all be used for. It is an end run around the American people and our right to decide what the gov't can and cannot do.
    I am not happy with G. Bush, I personally would like to shake the crap out of him and ask him if he slept through his American History Classes.
  6. by   BellaTerra2002
    This reduction in our civil liberties and takeover by Government has been slowly coming for a long time. 9/11 was an opportunity for it to accelerate AND to get the people to consent. By November 2001 I was asking my coworkers if they 'noticed' what was going on, and few agreed with me. Everyone supported the Government; they thought it "necessary" under the circumstances.

    Perhaps the worst thing is that Government is TELLING us, for the most part, what they are doing -- and we're just sitting here like ducks in hunting season. (Has anyone heard that surveillance cameras are going to be used on protesters at protest sites?)

    I'm not advocating that we actually 'riot' -- besides, I think it's WAY too late -- but one of our Presidents a long time ago said we were "a nation of sheep" and we are. We weren't minding the store when this started to happen. We've just let it happen. So we will have to live with it. The two biggest problems is 'turning this around' is that our country is so big (geographically) AND so powerful. The 'people' don't stand a chance of turning things around. We will lose more and more of our rights as time goes by.

    You know those devices in cars which tell you where you are and how to get to where you're going and the ones which you can use to 'talk' to someone when you're lost? Sound great, don't they? We may not have tracking devices in our clothes -- but we certainly have those in our cars. Someone knows where we are in our cars (which have those devices) every moment.

    It's TIME to be scared. This is NOT paranoia. We're in trouble.
  7. by   rncountry
    I disagree that things can't be turned around. I have great faith in the American people. We may be a large geographical country, but that in itself works to the advantage of the every day normal joe. It is much harder to know what people are doing in a large area than it is in a small area. Plus I don't know about you in Southern California, but here in rural America I don't know too many people who would be willing to just roll over and play dead. Get enough Good ole boy's pissed off and see what can happen. Many times in the history of this country dire predictions of where America is going has been said, each time those predictions have turned out to be the boy crying wolf. People are afraid right now, dealing with terrorism is not something we have had to do before, at least not on the level we are now, and people are not sure yet what they really want to support and what they don't. It will gel in time and I believe there will be roll backs on good ole W's disregard of civil liberties. Will this take time? Of course it will, one doesn't turn a ship the size of America around in just moments, but as long as there are people willing to speak out it will happen.
    America is not a nation of sheep, we are a nation that has a strong history of rugged individualism, something more or less invented here. People decry we have gotten away from that, but I don't believe so. At least not in my neck of the woods. It is my belief that given enough of a push we have millions of people that would go to ground and fight with anything and everything that had to continue living with the freedoms this country embodies. I know my family would and I know many others who would too. It would not matter if the threat was from outside or if it was from our government. My ancestors that fought in the Revolutionary War probably had those that said it couldn't be done too, thank God they didn't listen.
  8. by   BellaTerra2002
    The federal income tax was supposed to be for a short time. We have now had it for how many decades? Not only that, as each decade comes, the income tax is not indexed for inflation. We're not only making less each year (according to our own federal government statistics) but more and more of our incomes are being eaten up by federal income tax -- and for really STUPID stuff. Just one example is Pentagon spending. And just what have we done about our income taxes?? How many of us are just willing to simply not pay our federal income taxes? A non-violent thing to do. But none of us will do it. Because we're too damned scared of the consequences -- and we have a right to be scared.

    I am not saying that we should not pay federal (or state) income tax or that the rich should pay more than their fair share. I'm saying that it should be fair (a flat tax?), that the government should be accountable to us, and that the tax should be indexed for inflation. Good grief, even the government's idea of "poverty level" -- what is it? -- $16,000 for a family of four -- has ANY family of four been able to have food, shelter, clothing, basic medical care on $16,000 ANNUALLY -- is a joke. Come to think of it, how many Americans don't even have basic health care??

    What about our schools? We only pay lip service to our 'ideal' that our children are our most important commodity. The school buildings themselves are deplorable -- and let's not even get into the education part. Families come here from other countries and laugh at our idea of education. What are we doing about that? We still send our kids to school every day (if we're not home schooling them -- but the federal and state governments are trying to do away with that!).

    And what about our "welfare program?" We're telling these women that they have to go to work NOW -- but we make no provisions for them to have childcare. Just try making minimum wage or slightly above and trying to pay for childcare also.

    And the bottom line of what I'm saying is that our government has been walking all over us for decades -- and tell me, besides some peaceful protests which have gotten us basically nowhere, just what we have done about it??

    One more example: for all of us who KNOW -- because one top executive of one of our major oil companies said so on "60 Minutes" and because none of us were born under a turnip truck -- that this war with Iraq is about securing its oil fields -- how many of the almost 150,000 troops (or their families) stood up and said, "Hell, no, I won't go?" And why do we need that oil? Well over 10 years ago (if not longer) we had the technology to build electric cars -- but that would have upset the oil companies and Detroit!

    Just tell me how "pushed" and in what areas you think we will need to be "pushed" before we do something to turn things around?
  9. by   rncountry
    Bella, you bring up some good points. However, I would say without an income tax the other things you point out as a problem would be much worse, no?
    All of the things you pointed out are problems, I have particular issues with the inequity of healthcare. But you see I'm not the only one in that boat, there are people who make noise over all this. People do have a voice in gov't. It's called voting. Sure tell me how many people don't vote, and I'll tell you that they haven't found a reason to vote yet. How do you get people to want to vote? You become politically active and make people see how things affect them directly.
    Social Security was not intended to be what it is now either, it was supposed to be only for widows and children to begin with, we all know that is not the case currently. Does that mean that we should go back to the original way social security was distributed? Not a likely occurance, anymore than having people refuse to pay income tax, or state taxes for that matter. Because while our taxes go to stupid things, it also goes to good and worthwhile things.
    It is my belief that no matter where you live in the world, people tend to not care about certain things until a problem is one that impacts themselves, or someone in their family. The way to get things done is to make those problems something that people can relate to.
    People come to this country to get an education. Tell an immigrant from a society that has no public education that our system is laughable, and that immigrant is likely to laugh at you. My oldest child is in college now and is amazed at the number of foreign nationals that are enrolled in his university. It does not amaze me. Many other countries do not even attempt to educate the general public.
    To me anyway, what you are talking about is problems people are actively seeking solutions to. It is not likely to ever be perfect, but there are many who are seeking to address them. It is not as if no one gives a damn at all.
    Plus to me, there is a world of difference between bad schools, poorly instituted welfare etc... and taking away basic civil liberties. Schools tend to be a local issue, they are not run nationally and therefore no national solution will found unless schools quit being run from the local populations. Again welfare is distributed by the state, within guidelines from the federal gov't, but much latitude is given to states. It is easy to say the federal gov't has been walking all over us for decades, harder to see what happens on a local level. But we must also consider that without the federal gov't women would not have been given the vote, child labor would not have became something of the past, civil rights would not have happened and so on. Each and every one of these things happened because they became issues that someone with enough guts and gumption made them problems for all. It is up to the American people to make corrections, but first it has to be percieved by the American public there is a problem to begin with. I believe the same thing applies to basic freedoms. At first people didn't question what the gov't was doing after 9-11, we all lined up with our gov't and said go for it. But even less than a year later we had some who started to question things, and as time goes on there will be more people who question things. YOUR personal freedoms are easier to understand and fight for than worrying about how you neighbors school systems function.
    What you have pointed out in your post are social problems. The guy who doesn't give a hoot about whether the other school district has problems, whether a woman on welfare has to work and who pays his taxes because they should be paid, is not going to ignore his basic liberties being taken away. When big brother affects enough American's there will be an outcry. Already there are libraries that are refusing to cooperate in telling the FBI what their patrons are taking out. There are hospitals refusing to do smallpox vaccines. Just Tuesday I found out that instead of going forward with voluntary vaccines like we were going to our corporate has said they will not participate. Why? Because the homeland security bill has a clause that will not hold pharmacetical companies liable for problems, so that falls on the hospital. Not to mention there are no clear guidelines as to what happens if someone misses work for illness from it and well as other issues. That is not being sheep, that is making an informed decision not to do what the gov't wants us to do.
    I just hate the idea of people running around yelling the sky is falling, when in fact there are many people out there already questioning what the gov't is doing and why. The vast majority of American's did not demonstrate against Vietnam or for civil rights, but enough did so to make an impact, and enough to make other American's think. I have difficulty believing that American's won't eventually question what the hell the gov't is doing in terms of civil liberties in the long run. Oh, and healthcare? It's time will be coming too. If nothing else the coming demographics will demand it. I feel we are only on the cusp of some huge life changing events in this country, but I believe that the American people will be up for the challange.
  10. by   LasVegasRN
    Excellent thread.
  11. by   maureeno
    the war on drugs got many Americans used to giving up civil liberties. and always we hear 'if you don't have anything to hide, why worry?' I worry because history tells the tale of power and control. I hold hope people are starting to think hard and question. The major media is tagging on behind the ordinary thoughtful person.
  12. by   BellaTerra2002
    I didn't say we shouldn't pay federal (or state) income tax. I said that it should be much more equitable as to income and indexed re inflation.

    You're right about schooling; however, I wasn't speaking of countries who don't offer public schooling to their children. I was talking in general of Third World countries. I apologize for not being more specific.

    I know an argument can be made for civil liberties and social problems because two different areas -- but I don't see them that way, because they definitely impinge on each other.

    If you're talking about very basic civil rights -- the right to move freely, the right to speak freely (let's not go into: does a person have a right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre -- we both know what we mean), the right to not be illegally searched and arrested, the right to not be spied upon: in WWII the German people -- many, if not most, of whom knew what was going on in their country -- did not overthrow their government. A few did try, and they couldn't do it. It was the Allied Forces that took Germany down. (Again, before someone calls the police, I am NOT advocating overthrowing our government. Interesting, isn't it, why should I be so scared all of a sudden to think that I may be misunderstood?)

    As for voting, I vote. I have voted almost every year in every election that I possibly could. I do not believe it makes a difference. (Witness our last election for President.) At the risk of sounding like I believe in conspiracy theories (and I really don't), I think the whole world, particularly the US, is governed by Big Bucks, not Big Brother. Or, rather, they are the same entity with different names.

    And BTW, to throw something else in, somewhat off the track, I don't see the adult children of rich people going off to this war. [As one of our good social commentators said yesterday, "A draft would entail only minorities, poor whites and homosexual (if they didn't tell). It wouldn't touch the kids of those involved making over $150,000.00, because those parents know how to get their kids out of going into the services.] Minorities and lower middle class and the poor enlist in the Armed Services because it is a good job when one lacks (and wants -- the GI Bill) a good education.

    No, we talk big. We talk like we'll do something. But when push comes to shove, those libraries will crumble and so will the hospitals. Because libraries and hospitals are made up of people, and most of us are not willing to go to jail/prison. The vast majority of us are too afraid to do anything but let this government take us over. It is too late. "The sky is falling." But the problem is not that "it's falling." It's the shame of knowing that we buried our heads in the sand when it first started, when something perhaps could have been done about it.

    BTW, I went out this morning and joined a large protest against the war. Just how much of a difference do you think the protests will make?
  13. by   rncountry
    If you really feel that way why bother? If your vote doesn't matter, why vote? Why go out and protest and continue to vote if it makes a hill of beans in difference? Could it be because somewhere inside yourself you still have a bit that refuses to become a total cynic?
    The last election was not the first presidental election in which the outcome was disputed, yet we have continued to survive as a nation, and even thrive as a nation.
    This country has survived worse idiots than George W.
    I don't mean to sound like I do not have grave concerns about what the way the nation is headed, I do. But I'm not about to roll over and die because of it, nor do I believe most Americans will either. The history of this country and it's peculiar people is significantly different than the history of Germany. For one this is not primarily a homogenous society, it is much easier to get people to follow an idiot when all believe in the same things, not to mention fear of being shot in the streets. I personally do not have much fear that the black shirts are going to come get me and drag me out of my home for saying GW is an idiot. He's an untried cowboy who can't manage to say something without mangling the English language. Hell, he doesn't even make a good cowboy! It is apparent to me that he slept through American History and has no idea what the Monroe Doctrine means.
    I don't see the sky falling, but I do see some things that need correcting, and that won't happen by people wringing their hands and bemoaning the fate of the world. That's what got Germany in trouble to begin with. Silence.

    In Germany they first came for the Communists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Catholics,
    and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.

    Then they came for me -
    and by that time no one was left to speak up.

    As long as there are people such as yourself who are willing to protest, then we are not a silently robotic society.

    You'll never get people to agree on how to cure social ill's, can't even get those who do it for a living to agree. But we have a bill of rights for a reason, problem is right now we have to get enough American's to see what is happening and that takes people who are willing to stop saying my vote doesn't matter, to stop saying anything I do doesn't matter. Just think if Martin Luther King Jr. had decided nothing could be changed. Or how about little ole Ghandi, who brought down an empire?
    What is necessary is to make this personal to American's. There will always be a time and place to defend everything our ancestors fought to give us, there is a duty there for modern American's, but there is also a duty to uphold the concepts that this country was founded on. And throwing up your hands and sobbing into them instead will not get any of us there.
  14. by   rncountry
    PS. the pentagon is against reinstituting the draft. The old argument of rich kids not going is not a valid one. Those who fight do so willingly. Ultimately it is the normal average joe who is the backbone of this country, and I believe it will always be so. Somehow I don't imagine the vast majority of those that fought at Valley Forge, freezing with no shoes were the sons of the well to do. It was the unschooled, those who desired to have the ability to be more that were willing to undergo those conditions to win a life for themselves and their loved ones that only the few could dream of. It will be the average joe who will continue the same.