The new COINTELPRO?
January 28, 2002 6:03 PM   Subscribe

The new COINTELPRO? In an age of massive databases, shared law enforcement intranets, and wire-taps that can collect terabytes of data, privacy may well become an antiquated notion as legislators and law enforcement work to fight the current menace.
posted by skallas (5 comments total)

 
Ooh, this article has some tasty details on exactly how to go about figuring out anyone's dish! However, COINTELPRO wasn't exactly about looking over your shoulder and prying into your personal details. COINTELPRO was about targeting politically active individuals for harassment, meddlesome gossip, intimidation, and anything else that would ruin their lives. (Alas for us post-911 folks, COINTELPRO's systematic, '60s-style harassment of political activists not only upsets people, it's also highly unlikely to thwart committed terrorists trained in the Afghan camps.)

There's a big difference between Big Brother listening politely to protect you from terrorists, and Big Brother taking active steps to put you out of the action just because he "doesn't like your looks." We need to make this distinction clear.

Does that "Link Association Analysis sub-system, a relational data base that identifies the 'friends and families' of groups and individuals" remind anyone else of "Friends and Favorites" at Amazon.com? There's no denying that IN-Q-TEL has come up with some really neat stuff.
posted by sheauga at 7:12 PM on January 28, 2002


There's a big difference between Big Brother listening politely to protect you from terrorists, and Big Brother taking active steps to put you out of the action just because he "doesn't like your looks." We need to make this distinction clear.

In the sense that neither are acceptable, there is little practical distinction.

We have rights to privacy which are revoked if we are suspected of committing or being privy to a crime. We have an amendment to our constitution which provides for equal protection of all citizens under the law. I'm no constitutional law scholar, but it seems like you can't spy on us legally, and you can't "just spy on suspected terrorists" because your grounds for suspicion are almost inevitably racist, and therefore not permissable under the 14th.

Now, obviously, USA-PATRIOT would seek to change this, but I would argue that changing the legal status of spying on your own citizens does not alter its moral repugnance. Groups such as Earth First and the American Indian Movement (which the article lists as possible surveillance targets) have little to do with homeland security. Didn't we learn our lesson after J. Edgar Hoover?
posted by Hildago at 8:12 PM on January 28, 2002


Does anyone think that just going to certain websites 'could' bring you to the attention of these people? The Spyware thing is bad enough, but this has the makings of a mighty chilly wind starting to blow. Security for Activists: Overcoming Repression is a site with a lot of information regarding this and related subjects. Hope its not being operated by 'them'...
posted by Mack Twain at 9:58 PM on January 28, 2002


Oh no, the dreaded "them!" It's a chilly wind indeed that blows our direction from Ground Zero, but it's been blowing a long time. Eternal vigilance is still the price of freedom. That didn't change just because Barry Goldwater passed on. I'd say that law enforcement has a legitimate interest in knowing what's on websites which attempt to describe the current rules of engagement between law enforcement and activists. It would also make sense for law enforcement to try to figure out who's familiar with the rules of engagement, and who's not, no? (I'm an old activist, Mack. Hope I'm walking you through this stuff in a way you find helpful.)

Your electronic information footprint is truly your existence in the body telematic, just like those great theorists Kroker and Weinstein said. If it's not open information, don't type it in to a computer. Someone might sell your hard drive to the "Wall Street Journal" in Kabul someday, or worse.

Wanna get real nervous? There's actually a "World Information Organization ..."

"Changing the legal status of spying on your own citizens does not alter its moral repugnance."

Actually, Hildago, I'd like to think that EF! has a lot to do with homeland security! No biosphere = no homeland. You're right, snooping isn't very savory at all. I think the problems here are not purely technical. The problems are in defining what we consider socially acceptable, decent, civilized behavior. I got to tour the Panama Canal control room once when I was transiting the canal, and they'd just installed their first cameras. The operators said that the workers really didn't like it if they zeroed in on specific individuals and stared at them, so they made an effort to avoid tight closeup shots as a sign of respect. (This surveillance camera material certainly integrates with electronic sniffing, as our article from skallas so ably demonstrates.)
posted by sheauga at 11:51 PM on January 28, 2002


What concerns me most is that (a) few people care about this, and (b) many people support it.
posted by yesster at 7:10 AM on January 29, 2002


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