Posts Tagged ‘cell phones’

If there is one result that always occurs when a sneak attack takes place, it is the lack of trust.  The Al Qaeda attacks on September 11 rival the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in their element of surprise, horror, and disgust.  It is fair to say that any significant surprise attack will produce these emotions.  However, besides these immediate reactions, there is also a lingering effect on society – a prolonged lack of trust ensues.  Who, exactly, is the enemy? Will the enemy attack again? If they do attack again, what sort of attack will it be? Can we do anything to prevent such an attack?

After Pearl Harbor, the U.S. declared war on Japan and became fully engaged in World War II.  The war continued on for years until President Truman decided to use nuclear weapons against Japan.  Japan surrendered almost immediately after the devastating attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Our war against Al Qaeda has not come to any such conclusion.  Indeed, we seem to be fighting an unending series of skirmishes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and maybe secretly in Pakistan too.  Without some sort of surrender or formal peace agreement we have no other option than to keep our guard up.  However, unlike the post Pearl Harbor world, keeping our guard up means far more than aerial or maritime surveillance.  It means more than just rounding up potential suspects, either in the U.S. detention camps of WW II, or the Gitmos of today.  Technology has provided us a new way of being vigilant.

It is no secret that the Bush/Cheney administration interpreted the office of President as being essentially equal to Emperor.  They blithely ignored laws that protected Americans from unwarranted surveillance.  They instituted a set of measures, using whatever technologies were available, to find, locate, track, any and all potential threats.  They sifted through mountains of electronic messages and voice messages.  They used spy satellites to try to find unusual activities in unusual places.  Nothing was sacred, nothing was protected from this surveillance and none of it was done with court ordered warrants – as U.S. law requires.  The President simply assumed sweeping powers that, in fact, do not belong to the President, and he and his Vice President created a new world – a world that had been foretold in books like 1984 and Brave New World.

Here’s something to think about next time you call in sick to work and then go out to watch a baseball game.  If you have a cell phone in your pocket, it is possible to find and track you at any time.  If you have a two-way GPS system in your car, it is possible to track your car wherever it goes.  The question is: does the government do this as part of its anti-terrorism activities?  If you were the person in charge of anti-terrorism in the U.S., what would you do?

We may think we are anonymous when we go to a movie theater or a restaurant.  We might think that no one knows when we take a day off from school or work and head for the beach.  We might think that no one knows if we have a secret rendezvous with someone, but is that true?  Could it be that Big Brother is watching?  And if Big Brother knows, who else knows?  It’s a question worth thinking about.

Some other questions worth thinking about are these: will we ever trust each other again?  Will our government ever trust us again?  Will we ever trust our government again? Will we ever trust Congress again to stand up to a President who abuses his powers?  Will we ever trust strangers again?  Will we ever trust anyone from the Middle East again?

The list goes on and on.  The loss of lives in the 9/11 attacks was horrendous.  By any standard of conduct whether it is Christian, Jewish, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, American, Israeli, Palestinian – you name it – the large scale murder of innocent people is not only inexcusable, it is damnable and beneath contempt.  It is the act of cowards and shall ever be remembered as such – to the everlasting shame and disgrace of the perpetrators.  However, those of us who now live in  a post 9/11 world have to deal with another effect of the attacks: the loss of trust.  It is this loss of trust that can completely change how we live.  If we give in to the urge to commit blanket surveillance of everyone, where does the surveillance end? As technology gets better and better and sensors become more sensitive and more ubiquitous and more varied, will we lose all sense of privacy – or is it simply that we no longer have a right to privacy?

As we approach another anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and listen to Dick Cheney’s oft-stated fear of Al Qaeda with suitcase nukes coming to America, we need to ask ourselves whether we can draw a line.  Is there such a thing as too much government surveillance?  Have we forever yielded our right to private, individual lives in the name of security?

Could it be that we have already lost our private lives forever, but no one has told us?

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