News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Coming to a Town Council Near You: Security Officials Looking for "Suspicious" People

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Coming to a Town Council Near You: Security Officials Looking for "Suspicious" People

Indiana is setting up its own intelligence force to keep track of "suspicious" people. After the recent revelations about the NSA eavedropping on millions of Americans, the release of this information to the FBI, and the ability of anyone to buy a list of numbers you called with your cell phone, I see a pattern emerging here.

Okay here's my chance to engage in what logicians call the slippery slope fallacy--aka the Chicken Little argument, where one thing leads to another to another until we're headed to hell in a hand-basket. The fallacy rests in the fact that in identifying causes there has to be a hard, provable connection between one event and another. The slippery slope does not adequately show the links.

So, what's the link between NSA eavedropping, FBI, the Indiana security office, and cell phone lists? ...

According to UPI:

The state of Indiana may set up an "intelligence fusion center" to collect and analyze data on what security officials deem as suspicious people.

Legislators and public safety officials say the center would be part of homeland security efforts, staffed with law enforcement officers under the governor's supervision, reports the Indianapolis Star.

State Sen. Thomas J. Wyss, R-Fort Wayne, who is sponsoring a bill for the center, says the measure would allow collection of intelligence information on an individual only if that person "reasonably" appears to have knowledge of terrorist or criminal activities.
Okay, maybe I am over-reacting. There is that term there--"reasonably"--which is meant to set my paranoia at rest.

Call it paranoia, call it a healthy skepticism about the government's ability to restarin itself when it comes to using technology to spy on people. Or maybe it's just a feeling that not everyone out there is always thinking of my best interests.

Who's to say that some faceless bureaucrat can tell the difference between what's "suspicious" and what's just "eccentric"? Can I really trust the idea that some Xtian fundamentalist types--theyre' the most obvious candidates to love this measure, aren't they?--might not get into office and begin to brand everyone who makes fun of whatever "they" call normal as being suspicious?

The overriding concern here is that the threat of being watched, of being suspected of something, will ultimately instill a type of conformity in people that restricts any form of what I will call "spiritual" growth.

What do I mean by that? I mean that people who are looking for themselves often do weird things, think weird thoughts, and say weird stuff. Heck, they even search for weird articles on the web, write stuff about jihadists and Moslems and bin-Laden.

Why? Because they are finding themselves--which means they are finding how they differ from everyone else, as well as the crowd mentality that tries to make them fit into the square hole.

In order to be free to find myself, I cannot simply fear that my behavior will become suspicious and illegal. I should be allowed to experience for myself various forms of behavior--while not illegal or unethical--that go against someone else's notion of "normal."

Otherwise we have a nation of clones--something, maybe, the Xtian jihadists, Liberal PCers, neocons and corporate types want to create anyway.

Perhaps the folks who are planning these types of surveillance could take a page from the Malysian govt's book. In what is surely a very funny twist of irony, the Malaysians have just ordered a group of "moral police" to disband:
Malaysia's government has ordered an Islamic body in the capital to disband its volunteer force of moral police, saying its mission to deter so-called indecent behaviour was tantamount to invasion of privacy.

The government also warned that no such body would be allowed anywhere in the country.
This is what I call true internationalism--learning from other cultures what we ourselves seem to have forgotten.

Yet, it also seems that even in "repressed" countries, these ideas die a hard death. The Malaysian ministry in charge of the "morality police" has refused to disband, according to the staronline, a Malyasian news outlet:
he Federal Territory Religious Department (Jawi) wants to go ahead with its snoop squad, against the Cabinet's decision.

Jawi public relations officer Idris Hussein said it was not given the opportunity to explain to the Government the purpose of the unit's formation.

Update 1/20/06: According to Wired Magazine, reasons to be concerned about the govt's request to obtain Google records on a million records, include the following:
Why should anyone worry about the government requesting search logs or bother to disguise their search history?

Some people simply don't like the idea of their search history being tied to their personal lives. Others don't know what the information could be used for, but worry that the search companies could find surprising uses for that data that may invade privacy in the future.

For example, if you use Google's Gmail and web optimizing software, the company could correlate everyone you've e-mailed, all the websites you've visited after a search and even all the words you misspell in queries.

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