Saturday, August 01, 2009

The development of the surveillance state

Adam Serwer has some interesting background on the development of the US surveillance state:
The roots of excesses in law enforcement and incarceration … have almost the same impetus as those that created our modern surveillance state: fear of the other. Nixon's 1968 campaign was implicitly premised in large part on his ability to protect the silent majority from black criminality and radicalism, just like Bush's imperial presidency was meant to protect us from scary Muslim terrorists. It's only now, that fully 1 in 31 Americans is in prison, on probation or parole, that the public is beginning to recognize the problem, because the police state has gone beyond its mandate to protect "us" from "them." It's now locking "us" up too. The surveillance state will likewise only be met with sufficient skepticism once people realize it can be turned on "us" as well as "them."

The new Information Commissioner, Christopher Graham, makes a related point in his response to the Home Office's "Intercept Modernisation Programme" consultation: that Internet surveillance should be targeted at individuals already suspected of illegal activities, not blanketed across the entire population:
The consultation does not appear to have fully investigated other options that may exist between the two extremes of a single, centralised Government database of all communications data and doing nothing. The ICO response presents several other options that need to be properly considered and open to public debate and comment. Full consideration of all available solutions is essential to ensuring that the final decision as to which option is selected fully considers the proportionality and necessity of that solution against other possible solutions.

Of course, there should be ex ante judicial scrutiny of allegations of suspicion rather than the UK's feeble political warrantry regime.


citizendave said...

I'm not sure about the US analysis at the beginning. When it comes to criminality, prison population etc the US picture is so utterly distorted by the "war on drugs" that I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions.

At a personal level, when I was living in the US I found it to be much less "criminal" than the UK.

Dizell said...

At a personal level, when I lived in the United States, I found it to be much less "criminal" than in Britain.

chris said...

In the spirit of '68's Nixonian counterblast (scarily like our own Dear Leader was tricky Dicky), isn't IMP just 'gone fishin', by a shady-wadey (data) pool'?

Sue said...

I don´t think that crime in the USA is more than in other countries... look at Britain, France and Germany...