"You had to live--did live, from habit that became instinct--in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."--George Orwell, 1984
a reason George Orwell's 1984 is a
predominant theme in my new book A
Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State (available now on
Amazon.com and in stores on June 25). It's the same reason Orwell's dystopian
thriller about a futuristic surveillance society has skyrocketed to the top of
book charts in the wake of recent revelations by former CIA employee and National Security Agency (NSA)
contractor Edward Snowden that the nefarious spy agency is collecting
the telephone records of millions of Verizon customers, with the complete
blessing of the Obama administration.
"To the future or to the past,
to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do
not live alone-- to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone:
From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big
Brother, from the age of doublethink -- greetings!" George Orwell
understood what many Americans, caught up in their partisan flag-waving, are
still struggling to come to terms with: that there is no such thing as a
government organized for the good of the people--even the best intentions among
those in government inevitably give way to the desire to maintain power and
control at all costs. As Orwell explains:
The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from the oligarchies of the past in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just around the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power. Now you begin to understand me.
fact that the U.S. government now has at its disposal a technological arsenal
so sophisticated and invasive as to render any constitutional protections null
and void, and these technologies are being used by the government to invade the
privacy of the American people should not come as a surprise to anyone who has been
paying attention over the past decade.
by the NSA,
which has shown itself to care little for constitutional limits or privacy, the "security/industrial
complex"--a marriage of government, military and corporate interests aimed at
keeping Americans under constant surveillance--has come to dominate our government
and our lives .
At three times the size of the CIA, constituting one third of the intelligence
budget and with its own global spy network to boot, the NSA has a long history
of spying on Americans, whether or not it has always had the authorization to
outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again;
but already it was impossible to say which was which."-George Orwell, Animal Farm
many fail to realize, however, is that the government is not operating alone.
It cannot. It requires an accomplice. Thus, the increasingly complex security needs of our massive
federal government, especially in the areas of defense, surveillance and data
management, have been met within the corporate sector, which has shown itself
to be a powerful ally that both depends on and feeds the growth of governmental
bureaucracy. For example, USA Today reports that five years after the
9/11 terrorist attacks, the homeland security business was booming to such an
extent that it eclipsed mature enterprises like movie-making and the music
industry in annual revenue. This security spending by the government to private
corporations is forecast to exceed $1 trillion in the near future.
Money, power, control. There is no shortage of
motives fueling the convergence of mega-corporations and government. But who is
paying the price? The American people, of course, and you can be sure that it
will take a toll on more than our pocketbooks. "You have government on a holy
mission to ramp up information gathering and you have an information technology
industry desperate for new markets," says Peter Swire, the nation's first
privacy counselor in the Clinton Administration. "Once this is done, you will
have unprecedented snooping abilities. What will happen to our private lives if
we're under constant surveillance?" We're at that point now.
they became conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled
they cannot become conscious."--George Orwell
Americans have been conditioned to accept
routine incursions on their privacy rights. However, at one time, the idea of a
total surveillance state tracking one's every move would have been abhorrent to
most Americans. That all changed with the 9/11 attacks. As professor Jeffrey
Rosen observes, "Before Sept. 11, the idea that Americans would voluntarily
agree to live their lives under the gaze of a network of biometric surveillance
cameras, peering at them in government buildings, shopping malls, subways and
stadiums, would have seemed unthinkable, a dystopian fantasy of a society that
had surrendered privacy and anonymity."
We have, so to speak, gone from being a nation where privacy is king to one where nothing is safe from the prying eyes of government. In search of terrorists hiding amongst us--the proverbial "needle in a haystack," as one official termed it--the government has taken to monitoring all aspects of our lives, from cell phone calls and emails to Internet activity and credit card transactions. Much of this data is being fed through fusion centers across the country. These are state and regional intelligence centers that collect data on you.
"If liberty means anything at
all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear."-George
Wherever you go and whatever you do, you are now
being watched--especially if you leave behind an electronic footprint. When you
use your cell phone, you leave a record of when the call was placed, who you
called, how long it lasted and even where you were at the time. When you use
your ATM card, you leave a record of where and when you used the card. There is
even a video camera at most locations. When you drive a car enabled with GPS,
you can be tracked by satellite. And all of this once-private information about
your consumer habits, your whereabouts and your activities is now being fed to
the U.S. government.
As I document in A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, t he government has nearly inexhaustible resources when it comes to tracking our movements, from electronic wiretapping devices, traffic cameras and biometrics to radio-frequency identification cards, satellites and Internet surveillance.
"Big Brother is Watching You."-George Orwell
Speech recognition technology now makes it
possible for the government to carry out massive eavesdropping by way of
sophisticated computer systems. Phone calls can be monitored, the audio
converted to text files and stored in computer databases indefinitely. And if
any "threatening" words are detected--no matter how inane or silly--the record
can be flagged and assigned to a government agent for further investigation.
And in recent years, federal and state governments, as well as private
corporations, have been amassing tools aimed at allowing them to monitor
Internet content. Users are profiled and tracked in order to identify, target
and even prosecute them.
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