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September 2005, Volume 13 Nr. 7, Issue 175

Total Information Awareness 
A World Not Worth Living In?

Jozef Hand-Boniakowski

The little town of Wells, Vermont is located on the western side of the Green Mountain State, 18 or so miles south of the Route 4 which runs east to west.  The population of this strikingly beautiful rural community where I live is about 1,000 people.  It is a town where most people segregated their household trash and garbage taking it weekly to the transfer station.  Many fine Saturday morning philosophy sessions and discussions can be heard in front of the town dumpsters.  Building permits in Wells to this day are not required to build homes nor to construct additions.  Not yet, anyway.  Vermont is a state with both the least restrictive gun laws and often the lowest crimes rates in the nation.  Vermont often ranks 49th or 50th in crime statistics.  On September 29, 2005, the townspeople voted for the second time on whether they would finally build a Town Hall.  The town clerk's office is presently housed in a very old building, poorly maintained that has outgrown its usefulness and is no longer viable in protecting the town records and documents.  This time the people voted yes to building a Town Hall by an almost two-to-one margin.  At an informational meeting the day before the paper ballot vote, a fortunate and generous resident publicly donated $100,000 to the project.  Another resident had already donated the land on which the Town Hall is to be built.  I voted late on election day having worked in my office 66 miles away on the New Hampshire border.  When I arrived at the polling booth familiar faces greeted me outside with smiles and conversation.  While voting took a mere minute, the commiserating, both before and after, lasted almost two hours.  Vermonters were, once again, discussing the issues in an impromptu Town Hall Meeting on the Green, though the actual Town Green was a block or so away.

The topic of discussion quickly turned from the Town Hall issue to Vermont state issues, to the Constitution, and onto more important matters.  It turned to privacy issues and what the government has a right to know, and what it should know.  Even in the small town of Wells, VT, where some residents have not left for many years, people were discussing biometrics, RFID tagging, instant DNA identification, and other means of creating the Brave New World.  Security, it seems, for some, has a higher value than freedom and privacy.  If one has nothing to hide, the argument went, then why not allow everyone to know everything about everybody?  Oh sure.  As if the people can trust their neighbors and government to not misuse access to their most personal and sensitive information?  Total access to information about everybody would insure my protection I was told  by a town resident with significant State authority.  I can just see it now.  Just who is going to oversee Big Brother?  Who is going to keep tabs on the holder of such immense power?  Who will oversee the keepers of our intimate details from abusing us?  Do people really want to live in such a world ?  To live in such a country or state?  In such a town?  I say, no, they would not.  I do not.

The United States government has already tried instituting an Information Awareness Office (IAO).  The original mission of the IAO was Total Information Awareness.  This was amended in May of 2003 to be Terrorist Information Awareness (TIA). John Poindexter, former United States National Security Advisor to President Ronald Reagan served as the first head of the IAO.  Imagine.  This organization was headed by this convicted felon.   The Latin motto of the IAO was, "Scientia est potentia", or, "In knowledge there is power".  The IAO formerly had a logo with a giant eye on top of a pyramid shooting death rays onto planet earth.  Here's looking at you!  But, who is looking back on them?  The IAO logo puts the IAO and offshoot efforts like it engaged in total people snooping into stark perspective.  Denounced as being far too creepy and at least as creepy as the people in charge of it, the logo was abandoned.  Who in their right mind would give convicted felon, John Poindexter, unfettered access to their health and medical records?  Ronald Reagan would!  Who would want the Feds to have access to their purchasing habits, their reading habits, foibles and shortcomings?  What Republican or Democratic Congressperson in their non-fascist mindset would give the government the authority to snoop on everything from the toothpaste that they buy, to the brand of condoms they use?  Are the Right-wingers actually supporting the government's keeping track of the frequency of their Viagra prescriptions?  What is it about the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution that people do not understand?  Why are people so willing to negate it?

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

When I brought up the Fourth Amendment and the violations thereof by the United States PATRIOT Act at the impromptu Wells Town Hall Meeting on the Green, I was told that this (misnamed) Act doesn't allow for searches without warrant.  It merely allows for warrants that are secret, and, secret searches.  Excuse me?  This is not Stalinist Russia!  At least, not yet.  Or, is it?  This is the United States of America.  The land of the free.  Remember?  

In February, 2003, Congress passed legislation ending activities of the IAO pending a Congressional report of the office's activities.  One would be naive, however, to believe that the umbrella group that spawned IAO, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) isn't, as the research website Wikipedia puts it, leaving " the possibility that some or all of the high-powered software under development might be employed by different government offices to gather intelligence from U.S. citizens and others abroad or from foreigners in this country."  

Somehow, we are to believe that total information awareness would offer protection.  Protection for whom?  For the corporations and gangsters that have taken over the United States government, that's who.  When the most sophisticated "intelligence" gathering apparatus in the history of humankind invades another country (Iraq) because the intelligence was at best compromised, or at worst deliberately altered and fabricated, the people have profound reasons to be both suspicious and afraid that intelligence gathered on them can be just as easily misconstrued.  

David Hoffman, legal editor of the website writes in a provocative article where he compares Bush and Hitler:

There has been little ire expressed over the fact that anti-war groups across the nation are now being spied upon by thought police masquerading as "law enforcement" agencies.  And headlines across America recently announced that the neo-fascist Supreme Court has once again extended Bush's dictatorial powers, permitting the use of "secret detentions" in the so-called "war on terror."  It is bitterly ironic and sadly symbolic of how far America has deteriorated to watch a policy that was once more at home in apartheid South Africa now become the law of the United States.

And now, many people intelligent and educated enough to know better, are approving of going one better.  They are openly advocating and supporting the same tactics formerly used by the Soviet state through the evolution of its People’s Commissariat of Domestic Affairs (NKVD) into the Committee for the State Security (KGB).  It all sounds so familiar.  Where this all leads is anybody's guess.  The road we are on, however, is already sullied to such an extent that major United States institutions, politicians, clergy and public servants are no longer trusted.  As the Constitution further erodes, however, the people may be so shocked as to institute their own total information awareness efforts on the government and save the Republic.  I'm not very hopeful.  Neither am I hopeless, however, as young people in their twenties are becoming more involved.  As the young people say, "a new world is possible".  Therein, lies the hope.

Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within... Only the mob and the elite can be attracted by the momentum of totalitarianism itself. The masses have to be won by propaganda.-- Hannah Arendt

Reject the propaganda whether it be on FOX news, or on the Town Green.  As for the new Wells Town Hall, perhaps it will be a place where the townspeople will exercise their responsibilities and freedoms without being spied upon.  I hope so.

© 2005 Jozef Hand-Boniakowski
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