The New York Review of Books has an interesting article written by David Cole about the government’s programs to monitor citizens in search of suspicious activity. Its acronym: Total Information Awareness.
“In October 2003, Congress voted to end Total Information Awareness (TIA), a Pentagon plan designed to analyze vast amounts of computer data about all of us in order to search for patterns of terrorist activity,” Cole writes. “At the time, the vote in Congress seemed one of the most notable victories for privacy since September 11. Computers record virtually everything we do these daysâ€” whom we call or e-mail, what books and magazines we read, what Web sites we search, where we travel, which videos we rent, and everything we buy by credit card or check. The prospect of the military and security agencies constantly trolling through all of this information about innocent citizens in hopes of finding terrorists led Congress to ban spending on the program.” But stories of the program’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Data mining, or the systematic analysis of large databases of information, has been prevalent since the attacks of September 11. “Since then, through the USA Patriot Act and various executive initiatives, the government has authorized official monitoring of attorneyâ€“ client conversations, wide-ranging secret searches and wiretaps, the collection of Internet and e-mail addressing data, spying on religious services and the meetings of political groups, and the collection of library and other business records. All this can be done without first showing probable cause that the people being investigated are engaged in criminal activity, the usual threshold that must be passed before the government may invade privacy.”
I encourage you to read the article; it offers a good overview of the issues citizens face under such laws. Also, I want to apologize to frequent Typeface readers for being absent over the past four days. I have been traveling and I have been unable to post. More to come soon. Keep reading.