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    Front Page
     Feb 2, 2005
The Homeland Security State
By Nick Turse

THE MILITARY HALF
If you're in the United States and reading this on the Internet, the Federal Bureau of Information (FBI)may be spying on you at this very moment.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) Act, the Department of Justice has been collecting e-mail and IP (Internet protocol, a computer's unique numeric identifier) addresses, without a warrant, using trap-and-trace surveillance devices ("pen-traps"). Now, the FBI, Justice's principle investigative arm, may be monitoring the web-surfing habits of Internet users - also without a search warrant - that is, spying on you with no probable cause whatsoever.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, with the announcement of a potentially never-ending "war on terror" and in the name of "national security", the administration of President George W Bush embarked on a global campaign that left behind it two war-ravaged states (with up to 100,000 civilian dead in just one of them); an offshore "archipelago of injustice" replete with "ghost jails", and a seemingly endless series of cases of torture, abuse and the cold-blooded murder of prisoners. That was abroad. In the US, too, things have changed as America became "the Homeland" and an already powerful and bloated national security state developed a civilian corollary fed by fear-mongering, partisan politics, and an insatiable desire for governmental power, turf and budget.

A host of disturbing and mutually reinforcing patterns have emerged in the resulting new Homeland Security State - among them: a virtually unopposed increase in the intrusion of military, intelligence, and "security" agencies into the civilian sector of US society; federal-government abridgment of basic rights; denials of civil liberties on flimsy or previously illegal premises; warrantless sneak-and-peak searches; the wholesale undermining of privacy safeguards (including government access to library circulation records, bank records, and records of Internet activity); the greater empowerment of secret intelligence courts (such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court) that threaten civil liberties; and heavy-handed federal and local law-enforcement tactics designed to chill, squelch, or silence dissent.

While it's true that most Americans have yet to feel the brunt of such policies, select groups, including Muslims, Arab immigrants, Arab-Americans and anti-war protesters have served as test subjects for a potential Homeland Security juggernaut that, if not stopped, will only expand.

The military brings it all back home
Over the past few years we've become familiar with General John Abizaid's Central Command (CENTCOM) whose "areas of responsibility" (AORs) stretch from the Horn of Africa to Central Asia, including, of course, the Iraq war zone. Like CENTCOM, the US has other commands that blanket the rest of the world, including the Pacific Command (PACCOM, established in 1947) and the European Command (EURCOM, established in 1952). In 2002, however, the Pentagon broke new command ground by deciding, after a fashion, to bring war to the Homeland. It established the US Northern Command (NORTHCOM), whose AOR is "America's home front".

NORTHCOM is much more forthright about what it supposedly doesn't do than what it actually does. Its website repeatedly, in many forms, notes that NORTHCOM is not a police auxiliary and that the Reconstruction-era Posse Comitatus Act prevents the military from meddling much in domestic affairs. Despite this, NORTHCOM readily, if somewhat vaguely, admits to "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies" and "information-sharing" among organizations. NORTHCOM's commander, General Ralph "Ed" Eberhart, who, the Wall Street Journal notes, is the "first general since the Civil War with operational authority exclusively over military forces within the US", was even more blunt when he told the Public Broadcasting System's Newshour, "We are not going to be out there spying on people, [but] we get information from people who do."

Even putting NORTHCOM aside, the military has recently been creeping into civilian life in all sorts of ways. Back in 2003, for instance, Torch Concepts, a US Army subcontractor, was given JetBlue's entire 5.1-million-passenger database, without the knowledge or consent of those on the list, for data-mining - a blatant breach of civilian privacy that the army nonetheless judged not to violate the federal Privacy Act. Then, in 2004, army intelligence agents were caught illegally investigating civilians at a conference on Islam at the University of Texas law school in Austin.

And just recently, on the very same day the Washington Post reported that "the Pentagon ... [has] created a new espionage arm and is reinterpreting US law to give Defense Secretary Donald H Rumsfeld broad authority over clandestine operations abroad", the New York Times reported that, as part of the "extraordinary army of 13,000 troops, police officers and federal agents marshaled to secure the [presidential] inauguration", the Pentagon had deployed "super-secret commandos ... with state-of-the-art weaponry" in the US capital. This was done under government directives that undercut the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878. According to the Times, the black-ops cadre, based out at the ultra-secretive Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is operating under "a secret counter-terrorism program code-named Power Geyser", a program just recently brought to light in Code Names, a new book by a former intelligence analyst for the US Army, William M Arkin, who says that the "special-mission units [are being used] in extra-legal missions ... in the United States" on the authority of the Department of Defense's Joint Staff and with the support of the DoD's Special Operations Command and NORTHCOM.

Courtesy of The New Yorker's Seymour Hersh, we've known for some time of the creation of "a secret unit that was given advance approval to kill or capture and interrogate 'high-value' suspects ..." in the name of the "war on terror". Some of us may have even known that since 1989, in the name of the "war on drugs", there has been a multi-service command, (comprising approximately 160 soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and Department of Defense operatives) known as Joint Task Force Six (JTF-6), providing "support to federal, regional, state and local law-enforcement agencies throughout the continental United States". Now, we know as well that there are an unknown number of commando squads operating in the US - in the name of the war at home. Just how many and exactly what they may up to we cannot know for sure, since spokespersons for the relevant army commands refuse to offer comment and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman will only say that "at any given time, there are a number of classified programs across the government" and that Power Geyser "may or may not exist".

The emergence of an American Homeland Security State has allowed the US Army to alter fundamentally its historic role, transforming what was once illegal and then exceptional - deploying federal troops in support of (or acting as) civilian law-enforcement agencies - into standard operating procedure. But the army is not alone in its home-front meddling. While the army was thwarted in its attempt to strong-arm University of Texas officials into releasing a videotape of their conference on Islam, the US Navy used arm-twisting to greater effect on a domestic government agency. The Wall Street Journal reports that, in 2003, the Office of Naval Intelligence badgered the US Customs Service to hand over its database on maritime trade. At first, the Customs Service resisted the navy's efforts, but in the post-September 11 atmosphere, like other agencies on the civil side of the ledger, it soon caved to military pressure. In an ingenuous message sent to the Wall Street Journal, the commissioner of the Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, Robert C Bonner, excused handing over the civilian database by stating that he had received "navy assurances that the information won't be abused".

While the army, navy and NORTHCOM naturally profess to having no nefarious intent in their recent civil-side forays, history suggests wariness on the subject. After all, the pre-Homeland Security military already had a long history of illegal activity and illegal domestic spying (much of which came to light in the late 1960s and early 1970s) - and never suffered social stigma, let alone effectual legal or institutional consequences for its repeated transgressions.

NORTHCOM now proudly claims that it has "a cooperative relationship with federal agencies working to prevent terrorism". So you might wonder: just which other "federal agencies" does NORTHCOM - which shouldn't be sharing information about American civilians with anyone - share information with? The problem is, the range of choices in the world of US intelligence alone is staggering. If you've read (or read about) the 9-11 Commission Report, you may have seen the now almost iconic figure of 15 military and civilian intelligence agencies bandied about. That in itself may seem a startling total for the nation's intelligence operations, but, in addition to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), National Security Agency (NSA), FBI and others in the "big 15" of the US Intelligence Community (IC), there exist a whole host of shadowy, half-known, and little understood, if well-acronymed, intelligence/military/security-related offices, agencies, advisory organizations, and committees such as the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the Defense Airborne Reconnaissance Office (DARO), the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB) and the President's Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB); the Department of Defense's own domestic cop corps, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA); and the Intelligence's Community's internal watchdog, the Defense Security Service (DSS).

Think of these various arms of intelligence and the military as the essential cast of characters in America's bureaucratically proliferating Homeland Security State where everybody, it seems, is eager to get in on the act. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the operations center of the Department of Homeland Security. In its horseshoe-shaped war-room, the "FBI, the CIA, the Secret Service and 33 other federal agencies each has its own work station. And so do the police departments of New York, Los Angeles, Washington and six other major cities." In the operations center, large signs on walls and doors command: "Our Mission: To Share Information"; and, to facilitate this, in its offices local police officers sit just "a step or two away from the CIA and FBI operatives who are downloading the latest intelligence coming into those agencies". With all previous lines between domestic and foreign, local and federal spying, policing, and governmental oversight now blurring, this (according to outgoing Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge) is "the new model of federalism" in action.

From the military to local governments, from ostensibly civilian federal agencies to obscure counter-intelligence organizations, they're all on the make, creating interagency alliances, setting up new programs, expanding their powers, gearing up operations and/or creating "Big Brother" technologies to more effectively monitor civilians, chill dissent, and bring the war back home. Right now, nothing is closer to the heart of Homeland Security State officials (and to their budgetary plans) than that old standby of dictatorships and oppressive regimes worldwide, surveillance - by and of the Homeland population. In fact, almost every day, new examples of ever-hopeful surveillance programs pop up. Of course, as yet, we only have clues to the well-classified larger Homeland surveillance picture, but even what we do know of the growing public face of surveillance in the United States should cause some eyes to roll. Here's a brief overview of just a few of the less publicized, but mostly public, attempts to ramp up the eye-power of the Homeland Security State.

Saying NCIX
A little-known member of the alphabet soup of federal agencies is the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive (more familiarly known by the unpronounceable acronym NCIX) - an organization whose main goal is "to improve the performance of the counterintelligence (CI) community in identifying, assessing, prioritizing and countering intelligence threats to the United States". To accomplish this task, NCIX now offers that ultimate necessity for Homeland security, downloadable "counterintelligence and security awareness posters". One features the text of the First Amendment to the US constitution ("... Congress shall make no law ... prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech ...") and the likeness of Thomas Jefferson, but with a new addendum that reads: "American freedom includes a responsibility to protect US security - leaking sensitive information erodes this freedom."

Another NCIX poster might come straight out of the old East Germany: "America's Security is Your Responsibility. Observe and Report." While NCIX is an obscure agency, its decision to improve on the First Amendment and a fundamental American freedom is indicative of where the Homeland Security State is heading; and the admonition to "Observe and Report" catches its spirit exactly.

Every wo/man a G-man
Prior to the Republican National Convention in New York City, the FBI sent agents across the country in what was widely seen as a blatant attempt to harass, intimidate and frighten potential protesters. The FBI, however, countered by professing that "we have always followed the rules, sensitive to Americans' constitutional rights to free speech and assembly, always drawing the line between lawfully protected speech and illegal activity".

By the autumn of 2004, however, FBI spokespeople had moved on from such anodyne reassurances and, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, the bureau was launching its "October Plan". According to a CBS news report, this program consisted of "aggressive - even obvious - surveillance techniques to be used on ... people suspected of being terrorist sympathizers, but who have not committed a crime" while "other 'persons of interest', including their family members, [might] also be brought in for questioning ..."

While harassing citizens at home, the FBI, which can't set up a successful internal computer system of its own (despite squandering at least US$170 million on the project), began dabbling in overseas e-censorship, by confiscating servers in the United Kingdom from Indymedia, the activist media network website "with apparently no explanation". As Ward Harkavy reported in The Village Voice, "The network of activists has not been accused of breaking any laws. But all of the material actually on some of its key servers and hard disks was seized." More recently, the creator of an open-source tool designed to help Internet security experts scan networks, services and applications says he's been "pressured" by the FBI for copies of the web-server log that hosts his website.

In addition to intimidation tactics and tech-centric activities, the FBI has apparently been using Joint Terrorism Task Forces (teams of state and local law-enforcement officers, FBI and other federal agents) as well as local police to conduct "political surveillance" of environmental activists as well as anti-war and religious-based protest groups. The bureau is also eager to farm out such work to ordinary Americans and has been calling on the public to do some old-fashioned peeping through the blinds, just in case the neighbors are up to "certain kinds of activities [that] indicate terrorist plans that are in the works".

Into the wild blue yonder
Strange as it may seem, the US Air Force has also gotten into the local-surveillance act as well with an "Eagle Eyes" anti-terrorism initiative which "enlists" average citizens in the "war on terror". The Eagle Eyes website tells viewers, "You and your family are encouraged to learn the categories of suspicious behavior," and it exhorts the public to call "a network of local, 24-hour phone numbers ... whenever a suspicious activity is observed". Just what, then, constitutes "suspicious activity"? Well, among activities worth alerting the flying eagles to, there's the use of cameras (either still or video), note-taking of any sort, making annotations on maps, or using binoculars (bird watchers beware!). And what other patterns of behavior does the air force think should send you running to the phone? A surefire indicator of terrorists afoot: "Suspicious persons out of place ... People who don't seem to belong in the workplace, neighborhood, business establishment, or anywhere else." Just ponder that one for a moment - and, if you ever get lost, be afraid, very afraid ...

While the air force does grudgingly admit that "this category is hard to define", it offers a classic you-know-it-when-you-see-it definition for calling your local eagle: "The point is that people know what looks right and what doesn't look right in their neighborhoods, office spaces, commutes [sic], etc, and if a person just doesn't seem like he or she belongs ..." An ... ahem ... urban-looking youth in a suburban white community? Call it in! A crusty punk near Wall Street? Drop a dime! A woman near the White House wearing an anti-war T-shirt? Well, that's an out-of-category no-brainer!

And, in fact, much of this has already begun to come true. After all, "suspicious persons out of place" now do get arrested in the new Homeland Security State for such offenses as wearing anti-Bush T-shirts, carrying anti-Bush signs or just heckling the president. Today, even displaying an anti-Bush sticker is, in the words of the Secret Service, apparently "borderline terrorism". Holding a sign that reads "This war is Bushit" warrants a citation from the cops and, as an 11-year-old boy found out, the sheriff might come calling on you if you utter "anti-American" statements - while parents may be questioned by law-enforcement officials to ascertain if they're teaching "anti-American values" at home.

THE CIVILIAN HALF
Thus far in this saga, our cast of characters - NORTHCOM, the Office of the National Counterintelligence Executive, the FBI and the US Air Force - only represent the usual (if expansive) suspects. To make the US a total Homeland Security State will take more than the combined efforts of the military and intelligence establishments. The civilian side of government, the part of the private sector that is deeply enmeshed in the military-corporate complex, and America's own citizens will have to pitch in as well if a total-security state is to truly take shape and fire on all cylinders.

The good news is - if, at least, you're a Homeland Security bureaucrat - this process is already well under way, thanks, in large part, to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which brought a dazzling array of agencies together under one roof, including the United States Customs Service (previously part of the Department of Treasury), the enforcement division of the Immigration and Naturalization Service (Department of Justice), the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (Department of Agriculture), the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (Department of Treasury), the Transportation Security Administration (Department of Transportation), the Federal Protective Service (General Services Administration), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Strategic National Stockpile and the National Disaster Medical System (Health and Human Services), the Nuclear Incident Response Team (Energy), Domestic Emergency Support Teams (Justice), the National Domestic Preparedness Office (FBI), the CBRN Countermeasures Programs (Energy), the Environmental Measurements Laboratory (Energy), the National Biological Warfare Defense Analysis Center (Defense), the Plum Island Animal Disease Center (Agriculture), the Federal Computer Incident Response Center (General Services Administration), the National Communications System (Defense), the National Infrastructure Protection Center (FBI), the Energy Security and Assurance Program (Energy), the Secret Service (Treasury), and the Coast Guard (Defense and Transportation).

The DHS is, not surprisingly, the poster-child for the emerging Homeland Security State. But the DHS itself is just the tip of the iceberg - an archetype for a brave new nation where the lines between what the intelligence community and the military do abroad and what they do in the USA are increasingly blurred beyond recognition. Today, a host of agencies on the civilian side of the government are also setting up new programs; expanding their powers; gearing up operations and/or creating "Big Brother" technologies to monitor civilians more effectively, chill dissent - and bring the war back home to America.

Freedom of the road
Recently, it was disclosed that the Department of Homeland Security had deployed an X-ray van, previously used in cargo searches at America's borders, in a test run - taking X-ray pictures of parked cars in Cape May, New Jersey. While, the DHS claimed all X-ray surveillance was conducted on empty cars with their owners' consent, one wonders how long this will last. After all, American Science & Engineering Inc, the manufacturer of the Z Backscatter Van (ZBV), notes that "it maintains the outward appearance of an ordinary van", so it can stand unnoticed and peep into cars as they drive past, or with its "unique 'drive-by' capability [it] allows one or two operators to conduct X-ray imaging of suspect vehicles and objects while the ZBV drives past". Since we're all increasingly suspects (in our "suspect vehicles") in the Homeland Security State, it seems only a matter of time before at least some of us fall victim to a DHS X-ray drive-by.

But what happens after a DHS scan-van X-ray shows a dense white mass in your car (which could be any "organic material" from explosives or drugs to a puppy, a baby, or a head of lettuce)? Assuming that the DHS folks will be linked up with the Department of Transportation (DOT), soon they might be able to call on DOT's proposed Intelligent Transportation Systems' (ITS) Joint Program Office's (JPO) "Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration (VII)" system for help.

According to Bill Jones, the technical director of the ITS JPO, "The concept behind VII is that vehicle manufacturers will install a communications device on the vehicle starting at some future date, and equipment will be installed on the nation's transportation system to allow all vehicles to communicate with the infrastructure." In other words, the government and manufacturers will team up to track every new automobile (X-rayed or not) in the United States. "The whole idea," says Jones, "is that vehicles would transmit this data to the infrastructure. The infrastructure, in turn, would aggregate that data in some kind of a database."

Imagine it: The federal government tracking you in real time, while compiling a database with information on your speed, route, and destination; where you were when; how many times you went to a certain location; and just about anything else related to your travels in your own car. The DOT project, in fact, sounds remarkably like a civilian update of the "Combat Zones That See" program developed by the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Noah Shachtman, writing for The Village Voice, reported in 2003 that DARPA was in the process of instituting a project at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, whose aim was "to track 90% of all of cars within [a] target area for any given 30-minute period. The paths of 1 million vehicles [would] be stored and retrievable within three seconds." It gives a whole new meaning to "King of the Road".

Pssst ... wanna hear a secret (law)?
Last November, "the Transportation Security Administration ordered America's 72 airlines to turn over their June 2004 domestic passenger flight records". With only a murmur of concern over the privacy of passengers' credit-card numbers, phone numbers and health information, the airlines handed the requested information over so the agency could test its new Secure Flight system - an expanded version of the much-maligned terrorist watch list.

More recently, the Transportation Security Administration has made headlines with a change in its pat-down policies. After public outcry, airport security screeners have been instructed no longer to grope the breasts of female passengers as an anti-terror measure. Pat-downs, however, apparently remain part of TSA airport protocol in some cases, although we have no idea which ones. This is because the Transportation Security Administration has begun to dabble in "secret law" by subjecting passengers to special screenings including "pat-down searches for weapons or unauthorized materials", while denying the public the right to know under what law(s) such methods are authorized. As Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy recently observed, "In a qualitatively new development in US governance, Americans can now be obligated to comply with legally binding regulations that are unknown to them, and that indeed they are forbidden to know."

When Big Brother goes to college
Since it was enacted in the rough wake of September 11, 2001, the USA Patriot Act has enabled the US government to undermine privacy safeguards such as those once protected by the Family Education Records Privacy Act. The government is now allowed access, without a warrant, to a student's personal, library, bookstore and medical records, and any disclosure that such records have either been sought or turned over is prohibited.

Now, the Department of Education has suggested upping the ante with a proposal to create a national registry that would track every one of the estimated 15.9 million college students in the US through yet another "massive database" - this one containing everything from college students' academic records, tuition payments and financial-aid benefits to social-security numbers and information on participation in varsity sports.

Right now, students have to give written consent for educational and personally identifiable data to be transferred out of the college. "With this new proposal, most of that power is given to the federal government," says Sarah Flanagan, the vice president for government relations at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Moreover, if this new database comes to pass, says Jasmine L Harris, legislative director at the United States Students Association, it would further erode various remaining privacy safeguards, allowing government agencies other than the Education Department to have greater access to student records.

Bright lights, big cities
With the federal government casting off the Geneva Conventions as "quaint", employing secret law at home, and tasking average Americans to become Peeping Toms and undercover informants, it's little wonder that those in the private sector have now taken up the task of helping the feds in fashioning a Homeland Security State. After all, with surveillance bureaucracies burgeoning and security budgets growing, there's suddenly a fortune to be made. Last year alone, under the Urban Area Security Initiative, the DHS doled out $675 million to 50 large cities across the United States. This year, the total will jump to $854.6 million.

With money flowing in and representatives of the District of Columbia Metropolitan Police Department, the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, among others, sitting beside operatives from the National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI and other defense and intelligence agencies at the DHS's Homeland Security Operations Center, it's little wonder that major urban centers such as Chicago (which is getting $45 million in Urban Area Security Initiative funds this year), Los Angeles ($61 million in UASI money) and New York City (which is raking in a cool $208 million) have moved toward implementing wide-ranging, increasingly sophisticated covert surveillance systems.

In Chicago, a program code-named Operation Disruption consists of at least 80 street surveillance cameras that send their feed to police officers' laptop computers in squad cars and "a central command center, where retired police officers ... monitor activity". The ultimate plan, however, is to use a grant from the Department of Homeland Security and city monies to purchase 250 new cameras and link them to "some 2,000 un-networked video cameras installed around the Chicago (and at O'Hare International Airport) to create a network of as many as 2,250 surveillance cameras throughout the Windy City". "We're so far advanced than [sic] any other city," said Chicago's Mayor Richard M Daley of the program, "sometimes the state and federal governments - they come here to look at the technology."

In New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently announced a "major upgrade" for the city's high-tech crime-tracking system, Compstat, through the creation of a "Real Time Crime Fighting Center" to provide "same-day information" for tracking and analysis purposes.

Private eyes
While the doings of "private contractors" still pop up in articles about prisoner abuse in Iraq, what such mercenary outfits are up to on the home front is hardly ever mentioned. For example, CACI International Inc, whose employees were linked in news accounts to the Abu Ghraib torture scandals, boasts that its customers include not only a "majority of US defense and civilian agencies and the US intelligence community", but "44 US state governments" and "more than 200 cities, counties and local agencies in North America". CACI proclaims that it plays "many roles in securing our homeland" and that it "support[s] law-enforcement agencies such as the Department of Justice [and] design[s] and prototype[s] systems that collect intelligence information". One of CACI's fellow contractors, Titan Corp (which was also linked in news accounts to the Abu Ghraib torture cases), is at work in the "Defense of the Homeland" with programs such as Data Warehousing and Data Mining for the Intelligence Community and a Command and Control Concept for North American Homeland Defense.

Of course, these are only two of the many companies helping to secure the homeland (and fat contracts). In 2003 alone, the DHS spent "at least $256.6 million in 1,609 separate contracts or amendments to contracts to hire what the [General Services Administration] described as 'security guards and patrol services'" and doled out $6.73 billion in total. This year the DHS has raked in a cool $28.9 billion in net discretionary spending - including $67.4 million "to expand the capabilities of the National Cyber Security Division (NCSD), which implements the public and private sector partnership protecting cyber security"; $104.7 million for "Aerial Surveillance and Sensor Technology" projects; and $340 million for the United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program (US-VISIT), which "expedites the arrival and departure of legitimate travelers".

Your role in the Homeland Security State
In the latter years of the Vietnam era, a series of exposures of official lies regarding the FBI's various COINTELPROs, a host of surveillance and dirty-tricks programs aimed at American activists, and the analogous CIA program known as MHCHAOS; of domestic spying by military-intelligence agents and of the Nixon administration's various Watergate surveillance and illegal break-in operations brought home to Americans at least some of the abuses committed by their military, intelligence and security establishments. Congressional bodies such as the Church Commission and the Senate Watergate Committee even helped to rein in some of the most egregious of these abuses and to reinforce the barriers between what the CIA and military could do overseas and what was permissible on the home front.

In the 1980s and 1990s, however, oversight and constraints on illegal domestic activities by the military and intelligence community slowly began to drain away; and with the September 11 attacks, of course, everything changed. Three years later, what was once done on the sly is increasingly public policy - and done with pride - though much of it still flies under the mainstream media radar as the administration of President George W Bush transforms the US into an unabashed Homeland Security State.

Today, freedom - to be spread abroad by US force of arms - is increasingly a privilege that can be rescinded at home when anyone acts a little too free. Today, the United States is just another area of operations for the Pentagon; while those who say the wrong things; congregate in the wrong places; wear the wrong T-shirts; display the wrong stickers; or just look the wrong way find themselves recast as "enemies" and put under the eye of, if not the care of, the state. Today, a growing Homeland Security complex of federal, local and private partners is hard at work establishing turf rights, garnering budgetary increases, and ramping up a new security culture across the US. And unfortunately, the programs and abuses highlighted in this series are but the publicly known tip of the iceberg. For example:

It was recently revealed through the Freedom of Information Act that "the FBI obtained 257.5 million Passenger Name Records following [September 11, 2001], and that the bureau has permanently incorporated the travel details of tens of millions of innocent people into its law-enforcement databases".

Outgoing DHS chief Tom Ridge recently called for US passports to include fingerprints. Meanwhile, OTI, a Fort Lee, New Jersey-based subsidiary of the Israeli company On Track Innovations, was just selected to provide electronic passports that utilize a biometrically coded "digitized photograph, which is accessed by a proximity reader in the inspection booth and compared automatically to the face of the traveler".

In November, California passed the Orwellian-sounding "DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act", which "allows authorities to take DNA samples from anyone - adult or juvenile - convicted of a felony" and "in 2009 ... will expand to allow police to collect DNA samples from any suspect arrested for any felony ... whether or not the person is charged or convicted. It's expected that genetic data for 1 million people - including innocent suspects - will be added to California's DNA databank by 2009."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to "use the latest in database technologies" to store information on and count the homeless, which, the Electronic Privacy Information Center notes, "lay[s] the groundwork for a national homeless tracking system, placing individuals at risk of government and other privacy invasions".

According to a recent report in ISR Journal, "the publication of record for the global network-centric warfare community", a "high-level advisory panel recently told US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld" that the Pentagon needs ultra-high-tech tracking tools that "can identify people by unique physical characteristics - fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris" and that such a system "must be merged with new means of 'tagging' so that US forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd or slip into a labyrinthine slum".

Imagine if this last program were integrated with any of the aforementioned ventures - in our increasingly brave new (blurred) world. Yet for all their secret doings, vaunted programs, futuristic technologies and their powerful urge to turn all US citizens into various kinds of tractable database material, our new Homeland Security managers require one critical element: us Americans. They require our "Eagle Eyes", our assent, and - if not our outright support - then our ambivalence and acquiescence. They need us to be their dime-store spies; they need us to drive their tracking device-equipped cars; they need us to accede to their revisions of the first amendment.

That simple fact makes us powerful. If you don't dig the Homeland Security State, do your best to thwart it. Of course, such talk, let alone action, probably won't be popular - but since when has anything worthwhile, from working for peace to fighting for civil rights, been easy? If everyone was for freedom, there would be no need to fight for it. The choice is yours.

Nick Turse is a doctoral candidate at the Center for the History and Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He writes for The Village Voice and regularly for Tomdispatch on the military-corporate complex. This article appeared in two parts on Tomdispatch http://www.tomdispatch.com and is used here with permission.

(Copyright 2005 Nick Turse.)




Squeegee men and suicide bombers (Sep 28, '04)

Toward a secure America in a secure world (Sep 4, '04)

Where have all the terrorists gone? (May 18, '04)

 
 

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