With the tank filled, I retrieved the receipt and climbed back into the Jeep but before I could start the engine a bank of high speed computers operated by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) 3801 Fairfax Drive in Arlington, Virginia, 300 miles away, already knew I had purchased 17.3 gallons of unleaded regular at $2.29.9 a gallon in a small mountain community in the Blue Ridge Mountain.
The computer compared that purchase with my last gas purchase 14.7 gallons at the Travel America Truckstop just outside Roanoke four days ago and added the information to the computerized profile it keeps on me and millions of other American citizens.
That same computer also knew that, before leaving my studio for the day, I purchased software from MacMall in Torrance, California. It registered the purchase within seconds after the bank authorized my purchase on my VISA card.
Paranoid fantasy? I wish it were. Welcome to America 2006, a totalitarian police state far beyond anything George Orwell imagined in his book, 1984, which, not coincidently, is on the watch list for suspicious material if you happen to check it out of your public library. Most of this takes place under the so-called "Terrorist Information Awareness " program, a data mining operation Congress thought it had shut down but as chronicled on this web site last year survived when the Bush administration moved it into the Pentagon 's "black bag " operations, a super-secret area where Congressional oversight is not allowed.
Most Americans are watched 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year 366 in leap years. The federal government watches their actions, catalogs their movements, tracks their spending and travel and then uses the information to build profiles profiles based on the belief that every American is a potential threat to the peace and security of the United States and cannot be trusted.
No one knows for sure how many innocent victims have been seized without warrants and held incommunicado without due process under the USA Patriot Act but most estimates run into the thousands.
"Most people just don't understand how pervasive [US] government surveillance is, " says U.S. military analyst John Pike. "Frankly, they can get what they want. "
Dan Smith, a military-affairs analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus, is also a retired US Army colonel, and a senior fellow on military affairs at the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
"More than buildings were brought down that September 11, " Smith says. "Historical protections of speech, assembly, protest, and privacy enjoyed by U.S. citizens and legal residents ( "U.S. persons "), also came under attack as a stampeded Congress, goaded by a panicked and paranoid administration, abdicated its constitutional role --rather, its constitutional duty --to prevent the undue concentration of power in the Chief Executive. "
Publicly, Smith says, the face of this expansion is the "Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 " (PL 108-458). "Among other provisions, the law increases the number of individuals engaged in collecting and analyzing information --what is known as Human Intelligence or HUMINT. (One estimate is that 4,000 agents were added just to the military programs.), " he says.
"With barely a ripple of congressional 'oversight, ' those newly empowered must have thought almost any practice would be permitted, " Smith says. "After all, the president and most other officials insisted that in the much-changed post-9/11 world the old rules and the old legal signposts were completely outdated and had to be rewritten. The problem? The White House and the Pentagon didn't want to wait for the rules to be changed. In fact, as chronicled by the New York Times (December 11), NBC Nightly News (December 13), and the Los Angeles Times, U.S. Army counter-intelligence agents undertook a nation-wide program to infiltrate organizations the military deemed potential "threats " to military personnel and bases. "
Not to mention the President of the United States ignoring the law and ordering the warrantless spying on Americans by the NSA, an action that attorney general Alberto Gonzales admits was taken because "we were advised that that [obtaining a legislated change to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] would be difficult, if not impossible. "