by Prof. Rodrigue Tremblay
January 1, 2011
“They who can give up essential liberty to
obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American
inventor, journalist, printer, diplomat, and statesman (1775)
“Americans used to roar like lions for liberty; now we bleat like sheep
Norman Vincent Peale (1898-1993),
American Christian preacher and author
"A Party member lives from birth to death under the eye of the Thought
Police. Even when he is alone he can never be sure that he is alone... At the apex of the pyramid comes
Big Brother. Big Brother is
infallible and all-powerful. Every success, every achievement, every
victory, every scientific discovery, all knowledge, all wisdom, all
happiness, all virtue, are held to issue directly from his leadership
George Orwell (1903-1950) (Eric Arthur
Blair), (book: 1984)
“Since information gives power, access to personal files can lead to
unreasonable pressures, even blackmail, especially against those with
the least resources, people who depend upon public programs, for
example. Big Brother isn't a camera. Big Brother is a computer.”
C.J. Howard, political novel “Cybercash”
In 2049, when the 100th anniversary
of the publication of George Orwell political novel “1984”
will be celebrated, it will be recalled that the immediate post
11, 2001 period marked the beginning of a gradual decline in personal
liberty and freedom, especially in the United States but also elsewhere, and
the emergence of a great information-obsessed Leviathan.
Freedom rarely disappears in one fell swoop. Its
disappearance is rather the end result of a thousand encroachments.
Pushed to the extreme and without clear democratic oversight, it becomes the
mark of a totalitarian state, when authorities feel that they never have
enough information on the people. It is because information is power and
state bureaucrats and politicians naturally like to be in control; on the
one hand, releasing as little information about their own actions through an
imposed secrecy, and on the other, accumulating as much information as
possible about the citizens.
And today, modern governments have all the tools to transform their country
into a creeping police state, more so now then ever before, in this
electronic age. They have access to information technology that previous
full-fledged “police state” governments could only have dreamed about.
Nowadays, with super computers and revolutionary new models to gather
information and build databases, governments, i.e. bureaucrats and
politicians, are in a position as never before to accumulate and correlate
tremendous amounts of personal information on their citizens, from public
(federal, state and local) as well as from a plethora of private sources.
Government intelligence on each and every
citizen is thus rendered much easier and, I would add, much more
frightening. Indeed, the potential for abuse is enormous.
In 2002, for example, retired Vice Admiral John Poindexter proposed
that the U.S. government create a tracking and monitoring system called "Total
Information Awareness", in order for the U.S. government to
gather information in a preventive way about individuals from widely varied
tax records, telephone calling records,
credit card charges, banking transactions, airline or ship reservations,
and various biometric databases, without taking into consideration civil
liberties or a citizens' right to privacy, the U.S. Privacy Act of 1974,
or without having to request search warrants and without having to give
prior notice to the persons involved.
The pretext was to allow the government to
thwart possible terrorist activity, thus creating an unlimited appetite for
Well, there are clear signs that this massive data mining system on
individuals is now solidly in place and is in full operation and can be
expected to grow over time.
George Orwell must be turning in his
First, the U.S. Department of Homeland
Security’s network of fusion centers, launched in 2003, has allowed
the government to centralize a host of previously disparate
information about Americans and foreigners alike, whether related to
personal and business records, drivers licenses, local taxes, local
infractions, police records, etc., through a host of coordinated
(N.B.: The U.S.
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was established on November
25, 2002 and is the domestic equivalent of the Department of
Secondly, central provisions of the USA
Patriot Act, signed into law by President
George W. Bush on October
26, 2001, allow the government to operate roving wire taps, search
any individual’s business, personal, and even library records upon
presentation of a national security letter, and spy on so-called
"lone wolf" suspects, i.e., foreign nationals who have no known
links to groups designated as terrorist.
On this, the current Obama
administration, by extending those provisions, is scarcely different
than the previous Bush administration.
Thirdly, since passports and tight
intelligence screening have been made a requirement for most
international travel by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security,
since January 1, 2008, every individual traveling in and out of the
United States has all his or her whereabouts and movements recorded
so the government knows at all times his or her address and the
places he or she has traveled to and from.
For instance, U.S. Transportation Security Administration's recent
decision to use
full-body airport X-ray scanners and full body
groping at airports is another example where so-called security
procedures are applied blindly and indiscriminately.
There is more to come, since it has been
announced that such invasive intelligence screening is coming to hotels and
shopping malls, as well as to trains, buses and ports, etc.
These are some of the main features of the new
government apparatus to gather information on people. There are many others.
Take for instance the requirement, since 2002,
that all American high schools must give Pentagon military recruiters the
names and contact information of all their juniors and seniors. Failure to
comply on their part may result in the loss of government funding.
The logical next step for the U.S. government would be to follow a recent
Italy's lead and outlaw outright the use of cash for most transactions,
except for small ones, thus providing the government even more minute
information about an individual's income, purchases and displacements.
Nothing will escape the watching eye of the government in the electronic
age. People will be filed, photographed and corralled.
Indeed, the way mass government surveillance systems are growing, by year
2020, chances are good that Americans will be living in a “Brave New World”!
CYBER BIG BROTHER would know it all and it will be watching you.