Total Surveillance


Almost a decade before I made my entrance into this world George Orwell wrote his epic masterpiece Nineteen Eighty-Four; about a dystopian society in an endless state of war, with complete government surveillance, and where individual thought is persecuted. The first time I read that book it was around two decades after it was first published as an assignment from my English teacher. She would assign three to four chapters a night and we would discuss them in class the next day.

One of my teacher’s favorite questions was, “What do you think that means?” Sometimes she would ask if we could see how something we had read correlates with what was happening in society. You see, even though the education system was undergoing the change which would lead to producing graduates with little to no critical thinking skills, back then we were taught to think; to turn things over and over in our minds and look at them from all sides.

One of the things I remember about our discussions of Nineteen Eighty-Four was that although we thought it possible that a system of government could be as controlling as the one Orwell wrote about, the idea of total surveillance was something too fanciful to ever actually happen. How wrong we were!

I am not saying that there is someone in government right now watching me, watching you, to ensure that we do not step out of line; but that does not mean that we aren’t being spied upon to an extent that would have caused even Orwell to shake his head in disbelief.

I recently watched the newest installment of the Bourne series, simply titled Jason Bourne, and although the plot and action were good, it was the surveillance capabilities the CIA was shown to have at the beginning which caught my eye. Had those watching Jason Bourne also watched the film Enemy of the State they would have seen the next logical progression of our government’s capability to spy upon every living being on the planet.

Make no mistake about it, unless you live in an underground bunker and never leave your home, our government has the capability to see you. Just a couple weeks ago my local news agency, KCRA, ran a story about how Sacramento has been installing video surveillance cameras across the city to be tied into a central monitoring station. Take a look above you as you drive around the town you live on and you’ll see video cams on the street lamps or traffic lights. There are cameras everywhere that have the capability to be hacked and their feeds tied into a central monitoring bank where they can follow you from place to place…wherever you go.

And that’s just what you can see.

How can you be sure that from the moment you walk out your front door you aren’t being watched by other means? Drones and spy satellites could be overhead watching you from the moment you leave your home until the moment you return; and you would not believe the quality of the images they can capture without you even being aware of it.

Let me tell you a little story. When I was in the Air Force my first assignment was to Castle Air Force Base in California. It was a Strategic Air Command base that taught B-52 and KC-135 pilots. Once, during an operational readiness exercise, the base commander ordered that every plane capable of flying be in flight for a specific time frame and those that could not fly be moved into hangars. His reason was that because during that time frame the SR-71 was going to make a pass over the base and take an aerial photo of the base with no planes on the ground.

We all wanted to be outside to catch of glimpse of the SR as it passed overhead, but we never saw it. The next week images taken by the SR were on the front page of the base newspaper. Of course there was the entire base without a plane on the ground, but there was also an image of an airman walking down the street smoking a cigarette and you could read his name tag clearly.

You have to remember, this was in 1980, thirty six years ago and the technology and capabilities have only gotten better. After I got out of the Air Force I went to work for a company that worked with the Air Force for the U-2 program at Beale Air Force Base. One time we were on loan to the Drug Enforcement Agency, (DEA), to monitor drug smuggling activities south of San Diego. We never saw the plane there either; with its cruising altitude being somewhere around 70,000 feet. Do you realize how high that is? That’s 13 miles up in the air. The pilots of the U-2 have to don a special suit because their flight takes them to the outer extremes of the Earth’s atmosphere; that’s how high they fly. Yet we were told that they could clearly see 250 miles into Mexico from that altitude without ever crossing over into Mexican airspace.

I do not pretend to even begin to understand the technology that makes what they do possible, but I know that I was told that not only can they take real time images of people from that far up, they can also monitor and listen to SIGNIT, or Signal Intelligence. They can probably pick up cell phone conversations from that distance just as easily as they can watch you leave your home and get into your car.

But we’re not safe from prying eyes in our homes either. Edward Snowden was forced into exile by our government for trying to warn us about the extent of our governments intrusion into our privacy. It is so bad that the only way to say it is that if you have any form of electronic device your public, as well as private, activity is being monitored. Hell, they even have keystroke recognition software that allows them to know what a person is typing on their keyboard as they type it. Hell, they could be recording every word I write right now.

One of the secrets our government tried to keep from us, but which Snowden told us was that the government can use your cell phone to spy upon you. They have towers that look and act like actual cell phone towers owned and operated by your network…but they belong to the NSA. When your phone logs into one of these towers it sends a signal to your phone which allows the NSA to use the camera and microphone to watch and listen to you. Even if you think your phone is turned off, it may only look off, but is secretly watching and listening to you.

And of course we all know that all the new smart phones have GPS tracking devices in them, don’t we? If you have a cell phone on your person the government has a means to find you and track where you have been.

I’m not saying that during every moment of your life the government is watching you, but they have the ability to do so if they believe you are a threat to them, or to society. Orwell couldn’t have made this shit up had he tried!

How many of you have ever taken a few minutes out of your busy lives to read the Bill of Rights; those first ten amendments to the Constitution? If so, do you remember the fourth of these amendments, the one which says, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Supreme Court, in past cases, has ruled that the people have a right to expect privacy in their homes and in their private conversations. Why else would the cops need to obtain a warrant from a judge before wiretapping your phone; they have to show probable cause that you are engaged in some sort of criminal activity before they can begin eavesdropping and recording your private conversations.

Ever since 9/11 the American people have been led to believe that their government is working to keep them safe from terror. The truth of the matter is that they are building an electronic cage to keep us in. With all our activities being monitored by either satellites or cameras, with all our electronic conversations and communications being watched, listened to, and tagged if certain keywords appear, we are in an electronic cage built to keep us in step. If anyone tries to break free the government is made aware of it and that person is tagged and put on some sort of watch list.

Yeah, I know that you are gonna say, “But it’s a TV Show Neal” but during the opening show of Season 10 of the X-Files, FBI director Walter Skinner tells Mulder that ever since 9/11 America has taken a step in a strange direction to which Mulder replies, “They police us and spy on us, tell us that makes us safer? We’ve never been in more danger.”

Not only can they track us, they have facial recognition software that can take images captured by surveillance cameras and identify us; even if we attempt to alter how we look. There are optical readers that can also identify you based upon retinal imaging or the unique coloring of our eyes. Everytime we leave our home we are identified, tracked, and listened to; and often within our homes as well. What has become of our privacy?

I would like to ask you a simple question now. Why do you trust a government that forces into exile a man whose only crime was to try to warn you of the extent to which your government was spying upon you? I heard someone once tell me that if I didn’t have anything to hide what should I be worried about. I swear, had I been face to face with this person instead of on Facebook, I would have throat punched him.

Using that same logic I suppose that person wouldn’t mind me installing cameras and microphones inside his home and listening to and watching everything he did. After all, if he has nothing to hide… I guess he never read the 4th Amendment; never gave much thought to our right to privacy. I suppose he would be okay with Jack Booted Thugs marching down the streets and arresting those who spoke out against the actions of their government as well. After all, those who supported Hitler also did so out of a sense of patriotism and national honor and yet we view Hitler as evil. Why is it that we can’t see the evil that is right in front of our own eyes?

If you think that everything I’ve said up to this point is the imagination of a wildly paranoid individual; boy are you gonna love this!

How many of you have ever heard of RFID chips? RFID, or Radio Frequency Identification are small electronic chips that can be programmed to contain data about the person or item they are attached to, or inserted into. If you have a passport you have an RFID strip in it; it is what allows immigration officials to scan your passport and recognize it.

But you may not also be aware that there are RFID chips in many of the items you purchase. I have read reports where there are RFID chips in our clothing that can tell scanners designed to read them the name of the person who purchased them; whether they paid cash or used a credit card, and the location of the store they bought them at.

There is also a nightclub in Spain, The Baja Beach Club, that offers the choice of a regular membership card, or an RFID implant which identifies the person implanted as a member. Before Brian Williams was disgraced and lost his lofty perch as news anchor for NBC Nightly News, he reported on a story about the possibility that in the future all Americans will have an RFID chip implanted in them with all their pertinent data on it.

Of course they will tell us that it is to keep us safe, to protect us from identity theft, or some other such nonsense; but the truth is that it is so that they can better track us. What if someone steps out of line and those who control the system make a few entries into a computer somewhere and your identity is erased or altered? What would happen when an RFID reader decides you are not who you say you are? How could you gain access to your funds, or receive medical treatment, or any number of possible scenarios?

If NBC News can report on technology like this, you have got to know that the truth is they are way beyond that ability now. Go ahead, call me crazy, call me a conspiracy theorist; I don’t care. Just think about something former State Department employee William Blum said first, “No matter how paranoid or conspiracy-minded you are, what the government is actually doing is worse than you imagine.”

In 2005 Yael Onn of the Haifa Center of Law and Technology, wrote, “The right to privacy is our right to keep a domain around us, which includes all those things that are part of us, such as our body, home, property, thoughts, feelings, secrets and identity. The right to privacy gives us the ability to choose which parts in this domain can be accessed by others, and to control the extent, manner and timing of the use of those parts we choose to disclose.”

In 1967 the Supreme Court heard the case of US v Robel in which they ruled that a person cannot be deprived of constitutional rights, even in the name of national security. In their ruling they said, “It would indeed be ironic if, in the name of national defense, we would sanction the subversion of one of the liberties … which makes the defense of the Nation worthwhile.”

Yet the overall majority of Americans applaud their government in its attempts to silence people like Edward Snowden and Julian Asange for their attempts to tell the American people the extent to which their government has done just that; deprived us of our rights and our privacy.

The truth is that Big Brother is watching and listening to you and I. The only question that really matters is are their intentions good or are they bad? I suppose the best way to end this is by quoting James Madison from Federalist 51, where he states, “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

If government is, as Madison says, the greatest reflection on human nature, would you allow your neighbor to watch every move you make and hear every conversation you had? If not, then why would you trust your government with the same power?

Ponder these things as I prepare for work; where they also have recently installed more overhead cameras to watch us as we work….

About Br'er Rabbit

I'm just one person out of millions of others. The only thing different about me is that I don't walk around with my head up my ass.
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