Creative Destruction

June 20, 2006

More Evidence that We, the People, May Be the Enemy

Filed under: Human Rights,Politics — Brutus @ 10:20 pm

Robert Hayes never responded to my comments in the entry on Top 10 Signs of the Impending U.S. Police State. Nevertheless, I want to add a couple links to stories that caught my eye today.

Wired reports that the Sheriff's Dept. in Los Angeles will test using unmanned drones (isn't that redundant? — Wired's term, not mine) to provide surveillance for "scanning rooftops for break-ins and finding lost children or hikers." If tests are successful, the Sheriff's Dept. "could eventually put as many as 20 of the aircraft into service, expanding their use to searching for suspects on the run and monitoring hostage situations, among other things." Naturally, it's the "other things" that concern me. The story is balanced and gives both positive arguments and negative objections to potential for government intrusion into reasonable expectations of privacy.

Perhaps even more alarming is a report in Free Market News that the federal government, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin, is developing spy blimps equipped with high-resolution cameras able to surveil as much as 600 square miles at a time. That brief article notes no controversy.

Yet another story in IT Blogwatch found at Computer World sounds more alarmist, noting that we're trading freedom for security. The vaguely hysterical tone doesn't go over well, but it also doesn't undo the point that we've passed into an era when we are reasonable to expect that our e-mail, telephone calls and records, library borrowing, medical records, movement on public streets, etc. is being continuously monitored through a variety of means, most notably the hidden camera. That the cameras are in orbit (think Google Earth) gave many of us pause, but based on the news reports linked to above, in the near future, cameras will be much closer and better focused, and they'll be cheap enough to be deployed by those below the level of the federal government.

I also found a blog called Privacy and Security Law Blog run by law firm that appears to be a pretty authoritative round-up of, well, privacy and security issues.

6 Comments »

  1. I was trying to be polite in not responding.

    I’m not sure how passive monitoring impinges on our civil rights, however.

    Other than the right to “privacy”, of course, which has become well-established as being a joke that means “abortion, and nothing else”.

    Comment by Robert — June 20, 2006 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  2. If monitoring or surveillance stays passive, then it probably doesn’t infringe civil rights. The worry is that it won’t stay passive and will become targeted, or even a dragnet. There is plenty of precedent to warn that we should be worried about it.

    Comment by Brutus — June 21, 2006 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  3. OK…but then in that case, what’s the point of your posting, and of these articles?

    The government had the ability 20 years ago, 200 years ago, 2000 years ago, to decide that you were its enemy for no good reason, and to send guys around to watch you/go through your garbage/hit you over the head/send you off to death camps. That hasn’t changed – at all.

    Targeted or “dragnet” violations of civil liberties are always a concern, especially for us right-thinking libertarian types. Why does the invention of cheap little airplanes (or blimps for that matter – a hundred years old, for pete’s sake) suddenly spur a chill of fear?

    It strikes me as simply a way to bash the Bush administration, only without any data.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 12:54 am | Reply

  4. I should say, I respect your concern for civil liberties (and the genuine concerns for same expressed by many people whose politics I find otherwise unappealing).

    It’s just that none of the concerns being expressed seem particularly new, and (in some cases, not including yours) the concern comes from people who have shown remarkably little alarm at previous genuine incursions on civil liberty, particularly when those incursions came against economic civil liberties and privacy. (Tell George Washington that the federal government has a right to look at all your business accounts, and he’d be slack-jawed with disbelief. Then he’d rape a bear.)

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 12:57 am | Reply

  5. Robert Hayes wrote:

    It strikes me as simply a way to bash the Bush administration, only without any data.

    Perhaps elsewhere others are using the issue for partisan Bush-bashing. However, I’ve kept my eye on the prize — civil liberties — and did not say anything about Bush, Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, Fascists, or Nazis. In fact, the rights I’m concerned about are Constitutional, which isn’t partisan. So your remark comes wildly out of left field and is disingenuous.

    It’s just that none of the concerns being expressed seem particularly new, and (in some cases, not including yours) the concern comes from people who have shown remarkably little alarm at previous genuine incursions on civil liberty, particularly when those incursions came against economic civil liberties and privacy.

    Why is newness a prerequisite to make something matter? It’s precisely because maintenance of civil liberties is ongoing that there is little newness except in the technologies deployed to circumvent rights. And besides, people have to join the fray at some point. One can’t build a record of opposition to spying devices without first opposing one. Does that not meet your newness requirement?

    Tieing 1st amendment rights to privacy to economic freedoms would appear to be an attempt to redefine the issue to suit your objectives. That’s fine for you, I suppose, but not a fair expectation of someone else, especially since you haven’t responded to the substance of the issue.

    Statement: Poverty in U.S. cities is shameful.

    Rejoinder: But what about poverty in China? You haven’t addressed that, have you? So you have no standing to complain about anything! Nyah, so there.

    Comment by Brutus — June 21, 2006 @ 10:56 am | Reply

  6. So your remark comes wildly out of left field and is disingenuous.

    The very first thing you linked to when asked for evidence of civil liberty degradation is a piece scolding Bush for his wickedness in disliking certain people’s statements against him.

    Tieing 1st amendment rights to privacy to economic freedoms would appear to be an attempt to redefine the issue to suit your objectives.

    Huh? I’m pointing out that people up in arms about privacy haven’t complained about invasions of privacy that suit their political agenda – which leads me to the suspicion that it isn’t privacy that is their real motivator.

    My response to “the substance of the issue” is, what the hell are you talking about? What civil liberties are disappearing? What’s the problem that you’re complaining about?

    So far the answer has been pretty much just a ball of hot gas.

    Comment by Robert — June 21, 2006 @ 12:39 pm | Reply


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