Pentagon database is step toward police state, Libertarians say
WASHINGTON, DC -- A massive public surveillance system under
development by the Pentagon – called “Total Information Awareness” –
could help lay the framework for a police state in America and should
be halted immediately, Libertarians say.
“This is Big Brother on steroids,” said George Getz, Libertarian Party
communications director. “The government of a free country shouldn’t
want surveillance powers like these. And the fact that the government
wants them is proof that it shouldn’t have them.”
The goal of the program, funded by the Defense Advanced Research
Projects Agency (DARPA), is to construct a “virtual, centralized, grand
database” containing every Americans’ electronic transactions, such as
credit card purchases, bank and medical records, travel data, e-mails
and phone calls.
That information is to be linked with biometric data such as face
recognition technology and digital fingerprints, and provided instantly
to law enforcement to detect patterns of terrorist activity, the
Spearheading the initiative is former Navy Rear Adm. John Poindexter, a
Reagan administration official who was implicated in the illegal sale
of arms to the Nicaraguan Contras.
As the anti-privacy aspects of the project have become clear, civil
liberties groups and editorial pages around the USA have urged Congress
to torpedo the program.
“This project sends a message that every American should find
repugnant,” Getz said. “Namely, that politicians and bureaucrats view
America as a sea of criminal suspects whose private behavior must be
tracked, catalogued and analyzed, just in case they commit a crime.
“So much for the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy.
Just as in totalitarian states, your rights disappear at the whim of a
shadowy government employee intent on spawning another database.
“Unless this Orwellian project is dismantled, innocent Americans will
suffer under the kind of high-tech, 24-hour surveillance that the Stasi
and the KGB would have envied.”
Like most counterterrorism measures, Total Information Awareness is
based on a myth, Libertarians say – the myth that the only way to
prevent terrorism is to erode Americans’ freedom.
“But there’s already an effective, constitutional way to gather
evidence against any criminal suspect: Go to court and get a warrant,”
Getz said. “Call it Total Constitutional Awareness.
“The fact that terrorists destroyed thousands of lives on September 11
doesn’t give politicians the right to destroy the privacy of millions
of other innocent individuals. It’s time to tell the government: We are
citizens, not criminal suspects. Pull the plug on this un-American spy