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Big Brother's watching

Privacy has become an anachronism. The privacy the founding fathers so cherished is now merely a footnote in history (that is, in those classes where pre-20th century history is even taught).

Many are aware of the unbridled abuse of the alleged single-purpose Social Security number. We have legislators who have sworn a sacred oath to preserve and protect the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic, who have in fact become domestic enemies. The persistent push for a national identification card (complete with biometric elements) is barely a step away from subdermal biochip implants. In fact, the science exists now for little computer chips to be inserted under the skin which would contain more information about you than your mother knows: medical, financial, and legal data is a start. Food, fuel, and retail consumption is the next step.

All the assaults on our privacy have a “reasonable” rationalization.

Rumor control has for years suggested there was a massive system designed to intercept all your e-mail, fax traffic and more. In this case the rumors are correct.

I have been warning anyone who would listen that the most significant dangers to the Republic we the people face, is not from annoying unconstitutional laws which distract us so routinely. The real threat to the republic has and will come from international treaties. You may have seen hints of this with NAFTA and GATT, but have a seat and pour yourself a strong libation.

It is illegal for the United States to spy on its citizens … kinda. The laws have been circumvented by a mutual pact among five nations. Under the terms of UKUSA agreement, Britain spies on Americans and America spies on British citizens, and then the two conspirators trade data. A classic technical finesse. It is legal, but the intent to evade the spirit is inescapable.

This system is called ECHELON, and has been kicking around in some form longer than I have. The result of the UKUSA treaty signed by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand was and is to have a vast global intelligence monster which allegedly shares common goals. The system is so “efficient” that reportedly National Security Agency (NSA) folk from Fort Meade can work from Menwith Hill in England to intercept local communications without either nation having to burden themselves with the formality of seeking approval or disclosing the operation.

This isn’t black helicopter stuff guys. The London Telegraph reported in December of last year that the Civil liberties Committee of the European Parliament had officially confirmed the existence and purpose of ECHELON. “A global electronic spy network that can eavesdrop on every telephone, e-mail and telex communication around the world will be officially acknowledged for the first time in a European Commission report. …”

The report noted: “Within Europe all e-mail, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland via the strategic hub of London, then by satellite to Fort Meade in Maryland via the crucial hub at Menwith Hill, in the North York moors in the UK.

“The ECHELON system forms part of the UKUSA system but unlike many of the electronic spy systems developed during the Cold War, ECHELON is designed primarily for non-military targets: governments, organizations and businesses in virtually every country.”

Space precludes my going into greater detail, but you can probably find a lot more by checking the archive of the London Telegraph, or send me an e-mail inquiry, and I’ll have the entire ECHELON report forwarded to you.

An interesting sidebar appeared last month in the International Herald Tribune under the headline, “Big Corporate Brother: It Knows More About You Than You Think.” The story details Acxiom Corp, which is a humongous information service hidden in the Ozark foothills. Twenty-four hours a day, Acxiom electronically gathers and sorts all kinds of data about 196 million Americans. Credit card transactions and magazine subscriptions, telephone numbers, real estate records, automotive data, hunting, business and fishing licenses, consumer surveys and demographic detail that would make a marketing department’s research manager salivate. This relatively new (legal) enterprise is known as “data warehousing” or “data-mining”, and it underscores the cruel reality that the fiction of personal privacy has become obsolete. Technology’s ability to collect and analyze data has made privacy a quaint albeit interesting dinosaur.

The Tribune reported that “Axciom can often determine whether an American owns a dog or cat, enjoys camping or gourmet cooking, reads the Bible or lots of other books. It can often pinpoint an American’s occupation, car and favorite vacations. By analyzing the equivalent of billions of pages of data, it often projects for its customers who should be offered a credit card or who is likely to buy a computer.”

Long ago and far away, Adolf Hitler was talking to Hermann Rauschning and said, “The people about us are unaware of what is really happening to them: They gaze fascinated at one or two familiar superficialities, such as possession and income and rank and other outworn conceptions. As long as these are kept intact, they are quite satisfied. But in the meantime they have entered a new relation: a powerful social force has caught them up. They themselves are changed. What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.”

I see someone has made a TV movie of “Brave New World.” Are we to view it as a work of fiction, or a Scribean foreshadowing of what looms in the very near future?

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