Whether you think, “Ahh….I don’t have anything to hide” or “we’re in a war” or “the government needs the tools to fight terrorism”, you need to be aware of what’s going on and the power….the massive and sweeping power….that an unchecked government could have at their fingertips.
Bruce Schneier has a very important post today about the resurrection of the Total Information Awareness program — which caused an enormous outcry from those among us aware and informed — so it was killed by Congress.
It’s reappeared. Read Schneier’s post for more.
Look…I’m against evil and the bad guys. I also will admit that I’m not sitting on the Senate Intelligence Committee and I’ll bet there are geopolitical happenings of which I’m unaware (I think of that when I voice my strong opposition to the war in Iraq). I also am well aware that with today’s tools for privacy (that mostly geeks know about) it must be incredibly difficult to be in law enforcement or to be focused on our national security. But the oversight , the checks-n-balances are missing. Of course, the president said yesterday “terrorists will win” if the Democrats (possible oversight and check-n-balance?) win control of the House and/or Senate.
Case in point about no oversight: the (admittedly bonehead) kid that created the fake boarding pass? Anyone with half-a-brain and Photoshop/InDesign could easily have done exactly what this kid had automated. Certainly terrorists that can figure out how to smuggle arms, blow stuff up, and are funded by oil rich monarchies, can certainly figure out how to use encrypted Skype or PGP, or any of the other numerous solutions available in open source or commercially available. Still, a Congressman went after this kid hard (though later retracted somewhat) to make, in my opinion, an example of him.
What do you think might happen if there had been slightly stronger circumstantial evidence, no Habeus Corpus and a status of being an “enemy combatant”?
I have a former colleague who was born in Syria and calls home frequently to talk to family. I’ve often wondered if his transactions at Sears, emails, phone call records, library habits and book purchases were datamined and he was watched. A successful tech entrepreneur and American citizen, I could see him being watched and benign activities interpreted as suspicious. THAT is the problem. Since all of this is secret and “a matter of national security in a time of war” there is no disclosure possible. How would he ever know? What if he went for venture funding but the well was dry since he was “under suspicion”?
I was blown away with the capabilities and power of enterprise data mining software when I learned about it starting five years ago. Trust me when I say this: everything you do (unless it’s when you’re in your house having unclean thoughts or something) is open to data mining, matching and inferences drawn. Think about that the next time you make a purchase with your credit card at Amazon, surf pr0n, call outside the country or do a search on Google.