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Midnight of a surveillance society

In the week that new laws requiring phone companies to keep records of ALL calls and make them available to a range of agencies came into force in Britain, a report from the United States gives a chilling account of the destruction of civil liberties in that other great “democracy”.

In 2003 and 2003, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) described in separate reports how new technology was feeding a surveillance “monster” and how the government and private sector were increasingly “mining” data about individuals. In a further report, the ACLU says the situation has worsened dramatically and warns: “We are far too close to the midnight of a genuine surveillance society, and the second hand has not stopped sweeping around the dial.”

The state is engaged in a series of illegal activities. The National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency have departed from their supposedly exclusive focus on overseas spying, and have “turned their eyes and ears inward upon the American people” in violation of existing laws and the Constitution. The ACLU report shows that:

The ACLU report concludes: “In August 2007, the Bush Administration pressured Congress into enacting a misnamed Protect America Act. While the NSA can already engage in mass untargeted eavesdropping overseas, this legislation for the first time allows the government to engage in mass, untargeted collection of Americans’ communications (specifically, any conversations between people in the United States and overseas)… It cuts the courts out of the process, and permits the U.S. Attorney General to unilaterally issue a new legal order… in which entire programmes of electronic surveillance would be authorised in one sweep.”

Many of the practices described in the ACLU report take place in Britain too. New Labour has spent a decade building its own version of the surveillance society. The Brown government is constructing an authoritarian, one-party state and should it win the forthcoming election, it will press ahead with the destruction of what remains of our basic rights and civil liberties. One more reason to withhold your vote whenever the election is called.

Paul Feldman
AWTW communications editor
3 October 2007

Comment on this article

Can there be any doubt that our Right to Privacy at any level will disappear with the introduction of The Identity Card Scheme as proposed by New Labour. We are being sold a hideous deception in the form of The National Identity Register (NIR) pretended to be one and the same as an Identity Card - IT IS NOT. Every Public Interest purpose honestly declared and argued as served by this scheme of mass registration, is fulfilled by the holding of a pocketable ID Card. - the NIR is a linked database whose only purpose is to identify how and when we use these ID Cards, a requirement that will become ever more widespread (Security applies as equally to the Local Pub as it does a Football Stadium or Airport and the details of routine banking will become an audit-trail when we have to use our ID cards for every transaction). It is a supreme surveillance system, which we are about to agree to using throughout every day. It can ultimately track our activity in such minute detail as to give a power to the present proliferation of increasingly intrusive cameras (and 'National Security' eaves-dropping technology) that only George Orwell dreamed of, a multi-media life-time record over which we will have no Control or Rights. With our 'conduct' progressively secreted to Government records, behavioural patterns of which we are unaware will quickly become the subject of probabilistic 'Point-Scoring', as now silently determines our Credit Status - what we have always understood as Liberty will cease to exist and our privacy at the most intimate level will be irreversibly penetrated. Only a mass backlash against this scheme will prevent its application. David Payne.

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