Wednesday, June 4, 2008

China's all-seeing eye - coming to America?

There's a very interesting - and very worrying - article in Rolling Stone about China's surveillance of everyone in its society.

American commentators like CNN's Jack Cafferty dismiss the Chinese as "the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years." But nobody told the people of Shenzhen, who are busily putting on a 24-hour-a-day show called "America" — a pirated version of the original, only with flashier design, higher profits and less complaining. This has not happened by accident. China today, epitomized by Shenzhen's transition from mud to megacity in 30 years, represents a new way to organize society. Sometimes called "market Stalinism," it is a potent hybrid of the most powerful political tools of authoritarian communism — central planning, merciless repression, constant surveillance — harnessed to advance the goals of global capitalism.

Now, as China prepares to showcase its economic advances during the upcoming Olympics in Beijing, Shenzhen is once again serving as a laboratory, a testing ground for the next phase of this vast social experiment. Over the past two years, some 200,000 surveillance cameras have been installed throughout the city. Many are in public spaces, disguised as lampposts. The closed-circuit TV cameras will soon be connected to a single, nationwide network, an all-seeing system that will be capable of tracking and identifying anyone who comes within its range — a project driven in part by U.S. technology and investment. Over the next three years, Chinese security executives predict they will install as many as 2 million CCTVs in Shenzhen, which would make it the most watched city in the world. (Security-crazy London boasts only half a million surveillance cameras.)

The security cameras are just one part of a much broader high-tech surveillance and censorship program known in China as "Golden Shield." The end goal is to use the latest people-tracking technology — thoughtfully supplied by American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric — to create an airtight consumer cocoon: a place where Visa cards, Adidas sneakers, China Mobile cellphones, McDonald's Happy Meals, Tsingtao beer and UPS delivery (to name just a few of the official sponsors of the Beijing Olympics) can be enjoyed under the unblinking eye of the state, without the threat of democracy breaking out. With political unrest on the rise across China, the government hopes to use the surveillance shield to identify and counteract dissent before it explodes into a mass movement like the one that grabbed the world's attention at Tiananmen Square.

Remember how we've always been told that free markets and free people go hand in hand? That was a lie. It turns out that the most efficient delivery system for capitalism is actually a communist-style police state, fortressed with American "homeland security" technologies, pumped up with "war on terror" rhetoric. And the global corporations currently earning superprofits from this social experiment are unlikely to be content if the lucrative new market remains confined to cities such as Shenzhen. Like everything else assembled in China with American parts, Police State 2.0 is ready for export to a neighborhood near you.

This seriously concerns me. I've no doubt at all that the 'securocrats' in our Government would like nothing better than to implement similar technologies in the USA. I can't take the thought of our Government riding roughshod over our right to privacy in the name of some nebulous, never-to-be-attained 'security interest'.

It's already happening in England to an immense extent. This very day I read about this sort of thing over there:

Town hall snoopers used controversial anti-terror powers to delve into the phone and email records of thousands of people last year.

They wanted to check for evidence of dog smuggling and storing petrol without permission - and even to trace a suspected bogus faith healer.

In one case they were inquiring into unburied animal carcasses.

Some councils are allowing middle-ranking staff to authorise covert operations under the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which is intended for use 'in the interests of national security'.

Many of those spied upon will have no idea they have been subjected to surveillance, as those who are innocent have no right to know.

Last night Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: 'This is a stark demonstration of how the surveillance society has got out of control with the improper use of very broad powers - powers that the public would expect to be used only for serious crime and security threats.'

Friends, we need to educate ourselves about what's happening overseas, because as sure as night follows day, it's likely to come here too. Only by speaking out, loudly and frequently, can we challenge the otherwise-inevitable 'mission creep' of security agencies and preserve what little privacy we have left. To show you how important this is, read an article from the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

February 7th, 2008

Civil Liberties Groups Sue Homeland Security for Records on Intrusive Questioning and Searches of U.S. Travelers

Information Sought in Response to Growing Complaints of Harassment at U.S. Borders

San Francisco - The Asian Law Caucus (ALC) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit today against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for denying access to public records on the questioning and searches of travelers at U.S. borders. Filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the suit responds to growing complaints by U.S. citizens and immigrants of excessive or repeated screenings by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

ALC, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization, received more than 20 complaints from Northern California residents last year who said they were grilled about their families, religious practices, volunteer activities, political beliefs, or associations when returning to the United States from travels abroad. In addition, customs agents examined travelers' books, business cards collected from friends and colleagues, handwritten notes, personal photos, laptop computer files, and cell phone directories, and sometimes made copies of this information. When individuals complained, they were told, "This is the border, and you have no rights."

"When the government searches your books, peers into your computer, and demands to know your political views, it sends the message that free expression and privacy disappear at our nation's doorstep," said Shirin Sinnar, staff attorney at ALC. "The fact that so many people face these searches and questioning every time they return to the United States, not knowing why and unable to clear their names, violates basic notions of fairness and due process."

I could cite many more articles like this as evidence of the growing 'police state' security mentality in the USA. It's absolutely unacceptable, and we need to stop it now.

As the Rolling Stone article concludes:

When I leave China, I feel a powerful relief: I have escaped. I am home safe. But the feeling starts to fade as soon as I get to the customs line at JFK, watching hundreds of visitors line up to have their pictures taken and fingers scanned. In the terminal, someone hands me a brochure for "Fly Clear." All I need to do is have my fingerprints and irises scanned, and I can get a Clear card with a biometric chip that will let me sail through security.

Makes you think, doesn't it? Big Brother and Orwell's '1984' world may not be so far-fetched as we might like to imagine.



Anonymous said...

"If you have done nothing wrong, you have no reason to fear".

Yes, I have heard that from a lot of "educated" people. Problem is, what separates the "wrong", from the "right" these days is usually a line of ink on a piece of paper.
Own a shotgun with a barrel 18 1/16" long? You are among the blessed "right". If it is 17 15/16", you are a federal felon, eligible for 10 years in the slammer. 1/8" of metal, no harm done, difference is 10 years of prison- Such are the reasons to fear ANYONE CAN BECOME A 'CRIMINAL' AT ANY TIME, with the stroke of a pen.
If this shit keeps up, sharia law may become the LIBERAL alternative.

Rogue Medic said...

Excellent post.

Those who have been saying the government is good and we have nothing to fear will probably be saying something quite different if there is a democrat in the White House pushing for similar government powers of investigation. The "you have nothing to fear" comments will be replaced by claims of oppression.

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss