It’s no secret that this country’s anti-terrorist technology and spy networks have expanded by leaps and bounds during the past several years (since 9/11). What has developed is a gigantic, awesome array of governmental and private corporate, top-secret operatives that, to some extent – however limited it may be – penetrate and can explore the lives of each and every one of us (see recent headline stories of a whistle-blower who’s on the run.)
In 2010, the Washington Post analyzed and surveyed this secret empire and counted more than 3,000 government organizations and private companies working on homeland security in 10,000 locations across the U.S. Needless to say, during the past three years it’s only gotten larger.
On the high-tech side, there are those omnipresent surveillance cameras that snap our pictures every time we step in a 7-Eleven, use an ATM, go into a bank, simply walk down the street or plant a bomb at the Boston Marathon. There are outer-space satellites that can read your license plate and follow your routine driving patterns. With or without a court order, the powers that be have a record of every single transaction, vocal or texted, you’ve made on your land-line phone, cell phone and computer, including, of course, every viewing of pornography. The government has Internet probes that simply roam randomly about cyberspace looking for anything “suspicious.” And every time you use a credit card or bank card, there’s a permanent record of your transactions on the Internet, everything from the groceries you buy to the bills you pay. And who knows what other high-tech gadgets the government might be using that we haven’t even dreamed about?
On the low-tech side, there are any number of spies and secret agents who may be watching you. (Like, who’s the guy watching you, and who’s that other fella watching him?) Hidden bags of cash change hands under the table. There are surreptitious spooks who operate undercover for several years – so long they sometimes forget which side of the law they’re working for.
The purpose of this vast, shadowy empire is, of course, to stop acts of terror before they happen. Near Bluffdale, Utah, the feds have recently opened a new billion-dollar facility that will be able to gather and decipher 500 billion terabytes of information each year. (I don’t have any idea with a terabyte is, but I suspect 500 billion of them is a hell of a lot of information.)
As many people fear, these secret operations have the potential for some real first-class abuse. William Binney, a former senior official with the National Security Agency, has said, “We are (not far) from a turnkey totalitarian state.” Could be. However, in this country, I think this is more technically feasible then political likely. Still, it’s not too farfetched to imagine an ultraconservative screwball like J. Edgar Hoover taking over the CIA and this would surely rain hell upon our inalienable right to privacy. Many of us would like to conceal our financial records, especially if there’s something questionable in them. Still others have sexual preferences and practices that they’d like to keep secret. Whatever.
On the other hand, you may not care who knows about your medical records or arrest records or drug habits or extramarital affairs or anything else you’ve done or are doing. If that’s the case, the privacy issue isn’t important. Lucky you.