MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

2002 Landmarks on the Road to “1984” Orwellian Hell – The Future of Freedom Foundation

Posted by M. C. on August 31, 2019

…columnist William Safire captured the sweep of the new surveillance system: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’”

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/2002-landmarks-on-the-road-to-1984-orwellian-hell/

by

Next month will be the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Politicians
and bureaucrats wasted no time after that carnage to unleash the
Surveillance State on average Americans, treating every person like a
terrorist suspect. Since the government failed to protect the public,
Americans somehow forfeited their constitutional right to privacy. Despite
heroic efforts by former NSA staffer Edward Snowden and a host of
activists and freedom fighters, the government continues ravaging American
privacy.

Two of the largest leaps the largest leaps towards “1984” began in 2002. Though neither the Justice Department’s Operation TIPS nor the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program was brought to completion, parcels and precedents from each program have profoundly influenced subsequent federal policies.

In July 2002, the Justice Department unveiled plans for Operation TIPS — the Terrorism Information and Prevention System. According to the Justice Department website, TIPS would be “a nationwide program giving millions of American truckers, letter carriers, train conductors, ship captains, utility employees, and others a formal way to report suspicious terrorist activity.” TIPSters would be people who, “in the daily course of their work, are in a unique position to serve as extra eyes and ears for law enforcement.” The feds aimed to recruit people in jobs that “make them uniquely well positioned to understand the ordinary course of business in the area they serve, and to identify things that are out of the ordinary.” Homeland Security director Tom Ridge said that observers in certain occupations “might pick up a break in the certain rhythm or pattern of a community.” The feds planned to enlist as many as 10 million people to watch other people’s “rhythms.”

The Justice Department provided no definition of “suspicious behavior” to guide vigilantes. As the public began to focus on the program’s sweep, opposition surfaced; even the U.S. Postal Service briefly balked at participating in the program. Director Ridge insisted that TIPS “is not a government intrusion.” He declared, “The last thing we want is Americans spying on Americans. That’s just not what the president is all about, and not what the TIPS program is all about.” Apparently, as long as the Bush administration did not announce plans to compel people to testify about the peccadilloes of their neighbors and customers, TIPS was a certified freedom-friendly program.

When Attorney General John Ashcroft was cross-examined by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) on TIPS at a Judiciary Committee hearing on July 25, he insisted that “the TIPS program is something requested by industry to allow them to talk about anomalies that they encounter.” But, when George W. Bush first announced the program, he portrayed it as an administration initiative. Did thousands of Teamsters Union members petition 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue over “anomalies”? Senator Leahy asked whether reports to the TIPS hotline would become part of a federal database with millions of unsubstantiated allegations against American citizens. Ashcroft told Leahy, “I have recommended that there would be none, and I’ve been given assurance that the TIPS program would not maintain a database.” But Ashcroft could not reveal which federal official had given him the assurance.

The ACLU’s Laura Murphy observed, “This is a program where people’s activities, statements, posters in their windows or on their walls, nationality, and religious practices will be reported by untrained individuals without any relationship to criminal activity.” San Diego law professor Marjorie Cohn observed, “Operation TIPS … will encourage neighbors to snitch on neighbors and won’t distinguish between real and fabricated tips. Anyone with a grudge or vendetta against another can provide false information to the government, which will then enter the national database.”…

Total Information Awareness: 300 million dossiers

The USA PATRIOT Act created a new Information Office in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). In January 2002, the White House chose retired admiral John Poindexter to head the new office. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer explained, “Admiral Poindexter is somebody who this administration thinks is an outstanding American, an outstanding citizen, who has done a very good job in what he has done for our country, serving the military.” Cynics kvetched about Poindexter’s five felony convictions for false testimony to Congress and destruction of evidence during the investigation of the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages exchange. Poindexter’s convictions were overturned by a federal appeals court, which cited the immunity Congress granted his testimony.

Poindexter committed the new Pentagon office to achieving Total Information Awareness (TIA). TIA’s mission is “to detect, classify and identify foreign terrorists — and decipher their plans — and thereby enable the U.S. to take timely action to successfully preempt and defeat terrorist acts,” according to DARPA. According to Undersecretary of Defense Pete Aldridge, TIA would seek to discover “connections between transactions — such as passports; visas; work permits; driver’s licenses; credit cards; airline tickets; rental cars; gun purchases; chemical purchases — and events — such as arrests or suspicious activities and so forth.” Aldridge agreed that every phone call a person made or received could be entered into the database. With “voice recognition” software, the actual text of the call could also go onto a permanent record.

TIA would also strive to achieve “Human Identification at a Distance” (HumanID), including “Face Recognition,” “Iris Recognition,” and “Gait Recognition.” The Pentagon issued a request for proposals to develop an “odor recognition” surveillance system that would help the feds identify people by their sweat or urine — potentially creating a wealth of new job opportunities for deviants.

TIA’s goal was to stockpile as much information as possible about everyone on Earth — thereby allowing government to protect everyone from everything. New York Times columnist William Safire captured the sweep of the new surveillance system: “Every purchase you make with a credit card, every magazine subscription you buy and medical prescription you fill, every Web site you visit and e-mail you send or receive, every academic grade you receive, every bank deposit you make, every trip you book, and every event you attend — all these transactions and communications will go into what the Defense Department describes as ‘a virtual, centralized grand database.’” Columnist Ted Rall noted that the feds would even scan “veterinary records. The TIA believes that knowing if and when Fluffy got spayed — and whether your son stopped torturing Fluffy after you put him on Ritalin — will help the military stop terrorists before they strike.”…

In September 2003, Congress passed an amendment abolishing the Pentagon’s Information Office and ending TIA funding. But by that point, DARPA had already awarded 26 contracts for dozens of private research projects to develop components for TIA. Salon.com reported, “According to people with knowledge of the program, TIA has now advanced to the point where it’s much more than a mere ‘research project.’ There is a working prototype of the system, and federal agencies outside the Defense Department have expressed interest in it.” The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol is already using facial recognition systems at 20 airports and the Transportation Security Administration is expected to quickly follow suit.

Two weeks after the 9/11 attacks, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo sent a secret memo to the White House declaring that the Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches was null and void: “If the government’s heightened interest in self-defense justifies the use of deadly force, then it also certainly would justify warrantless searches.” That memo helped set federal policy until it was publicly revealed after Barack Obama took office in 2009. Unfortunately, that anti-Constitution, anti-privacy mindset unleashed many federal intrusions that continue to this day, from the TSA to the National Security Agency to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security.

This article was originally published in the August 2019 edition of Future of Freedom.

 

 

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