Pentagon's plan for tracking everything that moves

[...] Ever since the events of 9/11 and the enactment of the draconian Patriot Act on October 26, 2001 and the even more draconian Homeland Security Act on January 23, 2002, the United States has been increasingly turning into a police state -- with a growing erosion of civil liberties and an ever more intrusive snooping on the population by government agencies. The latest step in this connection is the Pentagon's plan for tracking everything that moves.

According to a report in the New York-based weekly Village Voice, the cameras for the new surveillance system are already in place, the computer code is being developed at a dozen or more major companies and universities, and the trial runs have already been planned. In short, everything is now set for the Pentagon's new programme to become perhaps the federal government's widest reaching, most invasive mechanism yet for keeping everybody in America under watch. Not in the far-off, dystopian future, but soon [...]

That's not all that will change. As everybody who's ever mugged for the camera knows, people act differently when they're being watched. On the street, people can be a little less skittish, knowing that their neighbours, their beat cops, their corner store owners are keeping an eye on them. But being watched by a faceless, inaccessible government minder is something altogether different.

Putting people under electronic watch induces a kind of split personality, says Bill Brown, who leads tours of Manhattan's spy cameras as part of his duties with the "Surveillance Camera Players." The authorities want people to obey the law, to behave rationally. But video surveillance does the exact opposite. It's makes people feel, correctly, as if they're constantly being watched, as if they're paranoid. "And that's not a rational state at all," says Brown. "It's a mental condition." Welcome to President George W Bush's America.

(By Kaleem Omar and published in the 11 May 2005 on-line edition of The News International, Pakistan.)

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