"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
-Oscar Wilde
Brilliant at Breakfast title banner "The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
"...you have a choice: be a fighting liberal or sit quietly. I know what I am, what are you?" -- Steve Gilliard, 1964 - 2007

"For straight up monster-stomping goodness, nothing makes smoke shoot out my ears like Brilliant@Breakfast" -- Tata

"...the best bleacher bum since Pete Axthelm" -- Randy K.

"I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum." -- "Rowdy" Roddy Piper (1954-2015), They Live
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Big Brother is watching you
Posted by Jill | 5:12 AM
Suppose I spend an hour or so chatting with a friend using GChat. Then I cut my finger, so I go to the Rite-Aid and buy a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, which I usually keep around the house to clean things like cat scratches and the various paper cuts and abrasions that are part of day-to-day life. Then I go to pick up Mr. Brilliant at the airport, but his plane is late, so I'm walking around the airport, just idly looking around.

According to the new Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting (SAR) Initiative, the combination of those three things constitutes suspicious activity, and might warrant putting me under surveillance as a potential terrorist. 9/11 Coverup Commission member John Farmer, writing in the New York Times thinks this is OK:
Federal, state and local law enforcement officials have set up “fusion centers” for the program in about a dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago and Houston, where reports of suspicious activities made by citizens and the local police are collected and analyzed for disturbing patterns.

Suspicious Activity Reporting begins at the troubling intersection where law enforcement meets intelligence. Its premise is that if potential attacks are to be prevented, and not merely responded to, law enforcement must focus on precursor conduct — surveillance or “casing” of bridges or train stations, for instance — that may not itself be criminal, but may signal a coming attack.

One need only look to the events of the past year — the shootings at Fort Hood, Tex.; the attempted bombing of a jetliner on Christmas Day; the Times Square bombing attempt; the New York subway plot — to see the point. Each of these attacks and attempted attacks was preceded by “precursor conduct,” legally protected actions like chatting on the Internet or purchasing legal chemicals or applying for a visa, that combined with other information might have tipped off law enforcement agents to the intended act of terrorism.

The Suspicious Activity Reporting program recognizes both the necessity for a focus on precursor conduct and the potential for abuse. It strikes a balance by establishing a uniform process for gathering and sharing information. It seeks to avoid racial profiling and other law enforcement excesses by requiring that the reports be based on the evidence of suspicious conduct, not on what the person looks like or where he comes from.

The government consulted with civil liberties groups as it devised the initiative, and they secured changes in the program to assure that the threshold for criminal conduct would not be lowered and that individual privacy would not be violated by the willy-nilly entry of innuendo into a government record. As Michael German, the security policy counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union and a former F.B.I. special agent, put it last year, “The revised guidelines for suspicious activity reporting establish that a reasonable connection to terrorism or other criminal activity is required before law enforcement may collect Americans’ personal information and share it.”

Virtual strip-searches as a prerequisite to getting on an airplane and mass surveillance of Americans who are unfortunate to put together three innocent activities that put together may mirror something a terrorist did is no way to keep a free country free. The teabagger idiots out there screaming about freedom and liberty are curiously silent about things like this. Mass surveillance of Americans is no more the right thing to do when a Democrat is in the White House than it is when a Republican is. Most of us in the "professional left", as Robert Gibbs calls us, are appalled at this Administration's appalling record on civil liberties, even though most of us have not covered it as thoroughly as has Glenn Greenwald. We shrieked loudly when the Bush Administration's FBI initiated programs like this. We should shriek no less loud when it's coming from the Obama Administration.
Bookmark and Share