The Dark Future Of America’s Surveillance Culture
June 18, 2013 by Brandon Smith
Surveillance is the act of removing transparency from one person while operating under a veil of secrecy yourself. Surveillance is a one-sided exploitation of cultural violence, like a street mugging backed by ideological rationalizations. To be able to invade the life of another human being at will; to catalog his hopes, dreams and weaknesses; to put yourself in a position to judge him from a discreet distance or undermine his future entirely: This is what surveillance is truly about. Make no mistake, mass surveillance is not about safety; it’s about power. It is a means of enslavement.
When a government chooses to assume the role of watcher and godlike arbiter in the affairs of the citizenry, there is always a specific motivation; and that motivation is usually self-preservation. Government elites spy on the public because they have done or are about to do things that will trigger resentment and rebellion within the population. They keep tabs on us because they fear what we will eventually do to them. They watch us because they plan to hurt us, and they want to be sure they get away with it.
There are no other reasons for random sweeping infringements of the public’s right to privacy. There is no other rationale for treating every person as a threat without warrant, without legitimate judicial oversight and without probable cause. Only criminal governments desire the legal authority to remove the barriers of personal privacy, because only they have something to gain through the action.
America as a society is at perhaps the most dangerous crossroads faced by any nation in history. We must decide — right here, right now — if we are going to embrace absolute government intrusion on a technological level never before seen by man or if we are going to fully revolt against it. Now, some people might suggest that there is a line that will not be crossed, that the establishment will respect certain boundaries and that the surveillance apparatus we have now will be the apparatus that stands forever. I’m here to tell those people that they have no idea what they are talking about.
Take a good look at any government in modern history that has been allowed the kind of surveillance powers our government is currently demanding. Did Soviet Russia respect any particular boundaries dealing with individual liberty? Did the East German Stasi ever draw a moral line in the sand when it came to their suffocating network of informants and eavesdroppers? Did Mao Zedong’s China choose to simply “observe” political dissidents without using those observations to destroy them? The surveillance machine only moves forward. It never stands still — not for anyone or anything.
The recent exposure to the general public of National Security Agency mass phone tracking (and tapping) programs have caused a groundswell awakening. What we in the liberty movement already knew years ago has finally struck the lackadaisical senses of the mainstream like a bucket of ice water. However, as terrible and bewildering as the surveillance grid is today, it is nothing compared to what lies ahead if we allow the establishment even one foothold tomorrow.
The Nightmare Has Just Begun
Without transparency or oversight by the citizenry, the technology in existence today and being perfected over the coming years will lead to nothing short of the total subjugation of humanity. Forget the NSA’s wiretapping random phone lines or all phone lines; imagine every waking moment of your life recorded and filed. Imagine every thought you ever uttered or typed scrutinized for “keywords” and analyzed to discern whether you might dissent. Imagine an invasive machine engineered not just to place you under a microscope, but also to mold your very behavior with the constant threat of bureaucratic retaliation.
Perhaps this sounds like science fiction, but for many people, the NSA’s sifting through the phone and email records of more than 300 million people daily used to be science fiction. Here are some of the surveillance advancements I believe the establishment will use next on a wide scale — for our own safety, of course.
The perpetual tap: If this doesn’t exist already, it will soon. The NSA’s process of “interception” (the monitoring of Internet and phone traffic for keywords and key phrases) might seem like an impractical strategy, given the incredible amounts of data they are required to sift through. That said, many corporations and clandestine services already have powerful software that is able to filter through mass communications and discover patterns in real time. With computing power reaching levels never before dreamed of, the possibility of perpetual real-time monitoring of hundreds of millions of individuals with the intent to record everything they say and do electronically is fast arriving. Website habits, speech patterns, purchasing habits, mood swings, relationship issues, psychological attachments and detachments would all be noted and stored. Keywords and pattern recognition would allow spies to build elaborate profiles on every American — updated daily, if not hourly. One could not even be privately discontent in such a world.
A surveillance device in every home: It’s sad when Yakov Smirnoff becomes a prophet of your era, but the old joke applies today: In soviet America, TV watches you!
The next stage in consumer technology is often called the “Internet of Things.” This refers to the new lines of Web-connected appliances being progressively introduced onto the market. These include everything from televisions that record program-watching habits and video game consoles equipped with camera technology, all the way down to alarm clocks that record sleeping habits and doorbells that monitor how many visits you receive per day. The argument for such tech presented by corporations is that the Internet of Things will help them to better service the public by identifying and catering to more specific consumption habits. However, former CIA Director David Petraus reveled in the idea of the Internet of Things and its usefulness to the CIA, stating in 2012: “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—the latter now going to cloud computing, in many areas greater and greater supercomputing, and, ultimately, heading to quantum computing.”
I believe that, one day, such smart appliances with surveillance capabilities will be mandated, either at the manufacturing level or at the home level, by the Environmental Protection Agency, using “environmental concerns” as an excuse.
Pervasive RFID: Most people have at least heard of radio-frequency identification chips. Many people, though, do not seem to understand the malicious nature of such technology. RFID chips, the size of a grain of rice, will soon be embedded in every conceivable consumer item, allowing each purchase to be cataloged and even tracked. Buy a pair of shoes with RFID and forget to remove the chip, and every time you walk by a scanner in the mall or on the street your presence could be noted and filed. But this is just the beginning of RFID.
Initiatives have been suggested multiple times by various government agencies and politicians to include RFID technology in ID cards, Social Security cards and even citizenship cards (an idea meant to use citizen concerns over illegal immigration as a way to lure us into accepting RFID). RFID has also been suggested for use in the medical field on many levels, which brings us to our next surveillance abuse.
Surveillance by doctor: There are literally hundreds of problems with Obamacare, and universal healthcare in general; but a primary threat that is just beginning to surface is the use of medical surveillance as a political weapon. Already, the Federal government has tried to establish rules for physicians requiring them to note patients who, in their opinion, might be psychologically unstable and should be denied the right to firearms ownership.
I believe the Obamacare structure is ultimately not meant to build even a poorly run socialist health system. Rather, it is meant to build a highly effective surveillance system using healthcare professionals as informants and opening private medical records to incessant bureaucratic overwatch. Today, it’s mental stability and gun rights. Maybe tomorrow it will be any loose-lipped expression of dissent or distaste for authority. The obvious next step, following the surveillance cultures of the past, would be for government to draft the professional class into the fold by using them as eyes and ears.
Drone planet: We are all aware of the exponential use of drones around the world, and many people are even educated on the U.S. government’s intentions to launch at least 30,000 drones into America’s skies for domestic surveillance in the near term. The problem is not existing drone technology, though; it is the drone technology about to be released.
Micro-drones are already being fielded by the U.S. military for use in operations, and small drones are being issued to law enforcement departments for riot control. Micro-drones, though still dependent on line of sight, are cheaper and easier to produce than larger varieties. A swarm of such drones could be unleashed for the cost of a single predator model, and would have the capability to provide clandestine monitoring of hard to reach areas. All I can say is, for those who plan any practical activism or revolution, study in electromagnetics will be essential.
Biometric roadblocks: Naked body scanners, which were used by the Transportation Security Administration until May 16, stored biometric data on all passengers foolish enough to not opt out, as was proven time after time. Many people in the liberty movement have long suspected that the cattle-call manner in which the TSA collected this private information was only a warm-up to a much wider net to be cast over the streets of America. The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Maryland v. King to uphold police ability to take DNA samples during an arrest (even if charges are never filed) supports this suspicion.
The next step is random DNA recording at roadside blocks and then on sidewalks in your town. This process will be implemented in tandem with new ID laws, which will give a more substantial legal rationalization for random seizures of genetic property. Biometric surveillance will be the ultimate destruction of the 4th Amendment. It removes all anonymity, until every person becomes nothing more than a data set and a file; and unless a person finds a way to change his own genetic characteristics, that file will follow him forever.
These are only a handful of examples on how our current surveillance grid will become far worse than most Americans expect. The point is clear: there is no end to this game. It never stops. It never gives a moment’s peace.
The arguments in support of the surveillance state always assume that there will be no consequences for those who do nothing wrong. How many times have we heard this dismissal: “The government can watch me all they want. They’ll just get bored because I have nothing to hide.”
What these apologists do not seem to grasp is that government surveillance is not a passive tool, but a vicious weapon. Surveillance maims and kills free society — first psychologically, then physically. It forces acceptance of prior restraint, making thought crimes punishable and concrete activism impossible. If we do not stop the institutionalization of surveillance here and now, every single citizen, whether he believes himself innocent or not, will find himself a target.