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Are we living in Orwell's 1984 Oceania surveillance state?

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali     Permalink
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various records for intelligence investigations. "The fact that the government is collecting this information is likely to have a chilling effect on people who would otherwise contact Plaintiffs," the suit says.

However, on June 12, Gen. Keith Alexander , the head of the National Security Agency defended his agency's broad electronic surveillance programs, saying that they have helped thwart dozens of terrorist attacks and that their recent public disclosure has done "great harm" to the nation's security.

He said the surveillance programs were critical to unraveling terrorist plots at home and abroad. In particular, he cited the cases of Najibullah Zazi, an Afghan American who pleaded guilty to planning suicide attacks in New York, and Pakistani American David C. Headley, who was arrested in 2009 for his role in a terrorist attack the year before in Mumbai, and who was plotting to attack a Danish newspaper that published a satirical cartoon of the prophet Muhammad.

"Hundreds of words to avoid using online if you don't want the government spying on you"

While discussion over internet continued on NSA surveillance program this scribe received an interesting story published by the British newspaper, the Daily Mail on May 26, 2013 with the above headline.  

The Daily Mail reported that the Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.

Released under a freedom of information request, the information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats.

The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'.

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According to the paper, the words are included in the department's 2011 ' Analyst's Desktop Binder' used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'.

Department chiefs were forced to release the manual following a House hearing over documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organizations for comments that 'reflect adversely' on the government.

However they insisted the practice was aimed not at policing the internet for disparaging remarks about the government and signs of general dissent, but to provide awareness of any potential threats.

 As well as terrorism, analysts are instructed to search for evidence of unfolding natural disasters, public health threats and serious crimes such as mall/school shootings, major drug busts, illegal immigrant busts.

The list has been posted online by the Electronic Privacy Information Center - a privacy watchdog group who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act before suing to obtain the release of the documents.

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Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
 

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