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Why Should You Care if the Government Spies on You?
T.J. Newton

You've done nothing to be considered a "terrorist." Why should you care if the government spies on you?

The reason you should care is that the never-ending war on "terrorism" provides a legal justification for eliminating political enemies. Such activities have been going on illegally for a very long time, but the "war on terrorism" makes things a lot easier.

"Be very cautious not to seek political advantage by making incendiary suggestions" (Dick Cheney qtd. (1) 5/24/2002).

Because of the "war on terrorism," political war has been legalized. Of course, most people only need to worry about being lied to by the government in their daily life.

[A Pentagon] document ...entitled "Winning the War on Ideas" [...] dated Sept. 17, 2003 [...] said [it is a] goal ...to establish... "...effective strategic influence ...and ...perception management campaigns." [...] [A] senior defense official [added,] [...] "This is not a secret document on how we're going to change the Arab world's perception of the U.S." (Schmitt, NYT p. A6 12/5/2003).

For those of us in the "non-Arab" world, the kind of ideas contained in the document could spell bad news... literally.

[T]he news media can be used ...to avoid "the media going to other sources (such as an adversary or critic of U.S. policy) for information" (Arkin, DP p. K5 12/1/2002, Unnamed Air Force document).

But for others, this war is about behavior modification. The idea is that because you are being watched and blacklisted based on your political "profile," you will be less likely to attend, for example, an anti-war march or an environmental protest. If you are not the protesting type, you may just want to read a book about war or the environment. You can still checkout any book you want, but certain books, and certain political views, will get you on the list, and will cause your phone to be tapped. Most people think it would only be books about bomb making, but it could be books about war or the environment, or anything the administration includes in a particular "model."

Total Information Awareness of transnational threats requires keeping track of individuals and understanding how they fit into models [...] so that analysts can hypothesize, test and propose theories and mitigating strategies about possible futures, so [politicians] can effectively evaluate the impact of current or future policies and prospective courses of action (DARPA Information Awareness Office (2) 11/25/2002).

It gets worse. Let's say you work for Enron and have found out about a scandal involving Ken Lay. You have some ideas about clean energy, and you threaten to expose Ken Lay in order to get your ideas about clean energy heard. With the "war on terrorism" in full swing, Ken Lay can now have you carted away for a long time. Even if your idea is an improvement related to energy, you can be stopped by the secret police from threatening the profits of those close to the administration under the justification that you are a terrorist.

Under procedures prescribed by the President, all appropriate agencies ...shall ...share homeland security information with Federal agencies and appropriate State and local personnel... [...] The procedures prescribed... shall establish conditions on the use of information... to ensure that such information is not used for an unauthorized purpose; The term 'State and local personnel' means... [...] [e]mployees of private-sector entities that affect critical infrastructure, cyber, economic, or public health security, as designated by the Federal Government in procedures developed pursuant to this section (HSA Sec 892).

In fact, you can remain in a military prison until the President declares an end to war on "terrorism," which isn't likely because the war has already been declared never-ending.

The administration ...could order a ...search of a U.S. citizen's home and, based on information gathered, secretly declare the citizen an enemy combatant, to be held indefinitely at a U.S. military base. Courts would have very limited authority to second-guess the detention, to the extent that they were aware of it [...] "It's a separate track for people we catch in the war." (DP p. A1 12/1/2002 from Washington Post)

"I'm not sure that 280 million Americans are ready to accept that [the war on terror] is a permanent condition..." (Tom Ridge qtd. (3) 05/28/2002).

As long as the "war" is going, the President can declare anyone he wants an enemy. That way, society will never change for the better, and the wealthy interests of the administration will be protected. Chances are, you'll never even talk. You'll be afraid, and that's what behavior modification is all about. Fear replaces freedom.

If the administration gets their way, you'll also be afraid to disagree with their economic policy. You'll not only be afraid because of statements about how dissent "aids terrorists," but because the people around you will look at you like you're Osama bin Laden. It's all part of the administration's "war of ideas," which argues that a low minimum wage and high executive salaries are the only way to avoid another 9-11. Sound extreme? Soon, such views will become part of our national identity. If you disagree, you might as well be speaking Arabic. That's how your friends and neighbors will treat you.

We will ...wage a war of ideas to win the battle against international terrorism [...] to ensure that the conditions and ideologies that promote terrorism do not find fertile ground in any nation (NSS 6).

[These ideologies include opposition to] pro-growth legal and regulatory policies to encourage business investment, innovation, and entrepreneurial activity (NSS 17).

"...to those who scare ...people with phantoms of lost liberty, ...[y]our tactics only aid terrorists ...[and] erode our national unity..." (John Ashcroft qtd. (4) 12/07/2001).

It seems like Americans would notice this kind of abuse, and vote to change it.

Administration officials imply that the main check on the president's performance in wartime is political, that if the public perceives his approach to terrorism is excessive or ineffective, it will vote him out of office (DP p. A11 12/1/2002 from Washington Post).

But that is easy to stop. Opinions are now being shaped through partnerships with universities that teach paranoia and fear as part of the mission of "protecting the homeland." And the workforce has been bought off through lucrative contracts for the development of new spy and weapons technology. Chances are, no matter what your industry, you're in the loop. Nowadays, it's all about a creating a fear-based economy.

In carrying out its mission, the Office shall ...carry out research, development, testing, evaluation, and cost-benefit analyses in fields that would improve the safety, effectiveness, and efficiency of law enforcement technologies used by Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies, including, but not limited to ...weapons...; [...] monitoring systems...; [...] DNA ...technologies...; [...] [and] tools and techniques that facilitate investigation of computer crime (HSA Sec 232).

The Secretary, acting through the Under Secretary for Science and Technology, shall establish within 1 year of the date of enactment of this Act a university-based center or centers for homeland security. The purpose of this center or centers shall be to establish a coordinated, university-based system to enhance the Nation's homeland security (HSA Sec 308).

Of course, the quickest way to ensure that no one tries to vote for freedom is to just blow something up, or at least make it seem like something's about to blow up. Nothing works better than an anthrax scare to keep the heat off Enron.

So, defeating the terrorists really would be a bad thing. That way, the Ken Lay's of the world will get more control than they already have, and employ people who are not only afraid of their government, but so afraid of their boss that they are coerced into political silence.


DP: Daily Press. Newspaper. Dec. 1, 2002. Newport News, VA: Tribune.

HSA: United States. (2002). Cong. House of Representatives. Homeland Security Act of 2002. 107th Congress, H.R. 5005. Washington: http://thomas.loc.gov.

NSS: United States (2002). White House. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington: http://www.whitehouse.gov.

NYT: New York Times. Washington Edition. Newspaper. December 5, 2003. New York, NY.


(1) http://www.cnn.com/ 2002/LAW/05/columns/fl.dean.cheney.5.24/index.html
(2) http://www.darpa.mil/iao/TIASystems.htm
(3) http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/05/28/ridge.cnna/index.html
(4) http://www.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/12/07/ inv.ashcroft.testimony/index.html

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