Big Brother

bigbrother1280They’d been in the Department of Un-American Activities (DUA), for three years. That was since it’s very inception. They had all had a background in law enforcement, but getting into this department was really tough. There was more psychological testing than physical, regulations, or weapons. To be in this department, you really had to believe in what it stood for.

In 1949, George Orwell wrote a story set in London, called 1984. If had put the setting as the United States and added twenty-five years, he might have been seen as prophetic. In his rather dark view of the future, the government had become a totalitarian entity that used fear, propaganda, and indoctrination to force compliance of the general population. They were constantly monitoring every action of the people, and even their thoughts to some degree.

Have you noticed lately, when there is a crime and the police aren’t around, they often end up showing pictures of the criminal in an appeal for the public to help them? In fact, you often see multiple pictures of the offender from different angles. It used to be that this only happened with bank robbers, then they added convenience stores, and now it is most businesses. You have cameras in every ATM machine, and many intersections now have cameras. They even photograph people who run red lights, and send them a traffic ticket. With face recognition software no longer a science fiction concept, they can set system to look out for certain people or track their movements. These aside from the satellites that can see the stitching on a baseball from space. Add to this almost every type of mass transportation is constantly monitored. Airports, planes, trains, and even buses are adding cameras, and in many cases microphones as well.

Schools are adding surveillance, employers are monitoring their employees, and it doesn’t stop at video and audio tracking. Back in 2005 around 75% of employers tracked where they employees went with their Web browsers and monitored all e-mail. That number is surely higher now. It doesn’t stop at the workplace. Even at home when you surf the internet, you are not safe. In 1996 a federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Act started regulating data preservation. It required any Internet Service Provider (ISP) to retain any records in their possession for 90 days upon the request of any governmental entity. Now your ISP is required to keep a year’s worth of records on everything you do online.

Telephone calls are monitored for certain key words, and automatic recording is kicked in when one of the trigger words is said. What you check out from the Library is monitored and certain books are an immediate trigger to specific surveillance on individuals. You can be pretty sure that this extends to ordering books as well, regardless of whether it is online or by phone. President Bush’s administration has admitted it does wire taps of American citizens without a court order. The CIA which by previous laws could not spy on Americans, now has the authority to do so by provisions in the Patriot Act. They have even been caught sharing that information with other governments. Recently declassified documents show that the practice of spying on Americans actually goes back to the Vietnam era. One group especially targeted were journalist. So much for freedom of speech, and freedom of the press.

We are at a fork in the road, where one path leads us towards a totalitarian government like the one described in 1984. The other, is an uncertain path in which we as Americans must constantly be on vigil to keep the government from taking away our freedom and liberties. The choice is yours, on which one we take, not the governments. Maybe it is time for you to read the book again, but borrow it from a friend. If you check it out from the library or buy it, the government knows what you are reading.