John Whitehead's Commentary
Creating a Suspect Society: The Scary Side of the Technological Police State [SHORT]
It’s a given that Big Brother is always watching us.
Unfortunately, thanks to the government’s ongoing efforts to build massive databases using emerging surveillance, DNA and biometrics technologies, Big Brother (and his corporate partners in crime) is getting even creepier and more invasive, intrusive and stalker-like.
Indeed, every dystopian sci-fi film (and horror film, for that matter) we’ve ever seen is suddenly converging into this present moment in a dangerous trifecta between science and technology, Big Business, and a government that wants to be all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful—but not without help from the citizenry.
On a daily basis, Americans are relinquishing (in many cases, voluntarily) the most intimate details of who we are—our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)—in order to navigate an increasingly technologically-enabled world.
Consider all the ways we continue to be tracked, hunted, hounded, and stalked by the government and its dubious agents:
By tapping into your phone lines and cell phone communications, the government knows what you say.
By monitoring your movements with the use of license plate readers, surveillance cameras and other tracking devices, the government knows where you go.
By mapping the synapses in your brain, scientists—and in turn, the government—will soon know what you remember.
By mapping your biometrics—your “face-print”—and storing the information in a massive, shared government database available to bureaucratic agencies, police and the military, the government’s goal is to use facial recognition software to identify you (and every other person in the country) and track your movements, wherever you go.
And by accessing your DNA, the government will soon know everything else about you that they don’t already know: your family chart, your ancestry, what you look like, your health history, your inclination to follow orders or chart your own course, etc.
Of course, none of these technologies are foolproof.
Nor are they immune from tampering, hacking or user bias.
Nevertheless, they have become a convenient tool in the hands of government agents to render null and void the Constitution’s requirements of privacy and its prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Consequently, no longer are we “innocent until proven guilty” in the face of DNA evidence that places us at the scene of a crime, behavior sensing technology that interprets our body temperature and facial tics as suspicious, and government surveillance devices that cross-check our biometrics, license plates and DNA against a growing database of unsolved crimes and potential criminals.
For a long time, the government was required to at least observe some basic restrictions on when, where and how it could access someone’s biometrics and DNA and use it against them.
That is no longer the case.
The information is being amassed through a variety of routine procedures, with the police leading the way as prime collectors of biometrics for something as non-threatening as a simple moving violation. The nation’s courts are also doing their part to “build” the database, requiring biometric information as a precursor to more lenient sentences. And of course Corporate America has made it so easy to use one’s biometrics to access everything from bank accounts to cell phones.
This doesn’t even touch on the many ways in which the government is using our DNA against us, the Constitution be damned.
DNA technology, what police like to refer to as a “modern fingerprint,” reveals everything about “who we are, where we come from, and who we will be.”
With such a powerful tool at their disposal, it was inevitable that the government’s collection of DNA would become a slippery slope toward government intrusion.
Now, Americans are vulnerable to the government accessing, analyzing and storing their DNA without their knowledge or permission.
Even hospitals have gotten in on the game by taking and storing newborn babies’ DNA, often without their parents’ knowledge or consent. It’s part of the government’s mandatory genetic screening of newborns. However, in many states, the DNA is stored indefinitely.
What this means for those being born today is inclusion in a government database that contains intimate information about who they are, their ancestry, and what awaits them in the future, including their inclinations to be followers, leaders or troublemakers.
For the rest of us, it’s just a matter of time before the government gets hold of our DNA, either through mandatory programs carried out in connection with law enforcement and corporate America.
If you haven’t yet connected the dots, let me point the way.
Having already used surveillance technology to render the entire American populace potential suspects, DNA technology in the hands of government will complete our transition to a suspect society in which we are all merely waiting to be matched up with a crime.
No longer can we consider ourselves innocent until proven guilty.
Now we are all suspects in a DNA lineup until circumstances and science say otherwise.
It’s not just yourself you have to worry about, either.
It’s also anyone related to you who can be connected by DNA.
Unfortunately, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed, convicted and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.
This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.
While the Fourth Amendment was created to prevent government officials from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause—evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot—the founders could scarcely have imagined a world in which we needed protection against widespread government breaches of our privacy on a cellular level.
Yet that’s exactly what we are lacking.
Once again, technology has outdistanced both our understanding of it and our ability to adequately manage the consequences of unleashing it on an unsuspecting populace.
In the end, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, what all of this amounts to is a carefully crafted campaign designed to give the government access to and control over what it really wants: you.