|PEACE ACTION FOR A SANE WORLD, the nation's largest grassroots peace network,
with chapters and affiliates in over 30 states, organizes our grassroots network to place
pressure on Congress and the Administration through write-in campaigns, Internet actions,
citizen lobbying and direct action. Through a close relationship with progressive members of
Congress, we play a key role in devising strategies to move forward peace legislation, and as a
leading member of United for Peace and Justice and the Win Without War coalition, we lend our
expertise and large network to achieving common goals.
Real change comes from the bottom up.
We're committed to educating and organizing at the grassroots level. Peace Action Youngstown ,
Ohio chapter since 1989, merges the organization's national mission with efforts to build
community peace and social justice programs, including neighborhood restoration and the arts.
Together, we have the power to be the change we wish to see in the world.
|FOR MORE THAN 30 YEARS, WE'VE WORKED FOR PEACE THROUGH COMMUNITY COMMITMENT, ISSUES INTERCHANGE AND ARTS PRESENTATIONS
|IF YOU WANT IT...
at the Peacehouse
Returning soon..A superb
band of mavericks
15 60 75
Numbers Band founder,
has been honored by receiving
the Cleveland Art Prize 2012
for Lifetime Achievement
in the Arts.
|WAR IS OVER
|"No matter how cynical you
get, it's almost impossible
to keep up." - Lily Tomlin
|PEACE ACTION YOUNGSTOWN
Brought to You by a Fracking-
The Lotto of a
by MICHAEL McGEHEE
December 12, 2013
It is a scary world and getting
scarier every day. I live in the
small town of Kennedale, Texas.
Population: 7,068. We are just
south of Fort Worth (whose city
motto is: “Where the West
Begins”), but just north of
Mansfield, a fast-growing suburb.
My family lives within the danger
zone of two nuclear power plants,
and two more whose construction
have been postponed. Were
Comanche Peak (1&2) to
experience some kind of disaster
like that in Fukushima, Japan—
whose reactor was severely
damaged in a 2011 earthquake—
we would be up radiologically-
contaminated Shit Creek
without a paddle.
Across the street from my home is
a hydraulic fracturing well. What
do these wells and nuclear power
plants have in common? More
than most North Texans may
Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,”
is a process where wastewater is
used to fracture hard rock, like
shale, in order to get to the oil
and gas below by injecting it down
into the ground at high pressures.
A huge amount of natural gas has
been discovered underneath the
Barnett Shale here in the Fort
Worth Basin. Over the last several
years more than 50,000 of these
drilling wells have sprouted up all
across the state.
The dangers with these wells are
there are some 600 chemicals
used in the waste water, some of
the carcinogenic and toxic. But
there is a growing body of data
showing the process is linked to
earthquakes (also, see here and
here and here). Cliff Frohlich, a
research scientist at the Institute
for Geophysics at the University of
Texas at Austin, has explained it
as “the air hockey table model”:
“You have an air hockey table,
suppose you tilt it, if there’s no air
on, the puck will just sit there.
Gravity wants it to move but it
doesn’t because there friction
[with the table surface] . . . Faults
are the same.” The injection of
the water allows the faults to slip
more easily, producing the
obvious results we have
In the last six years, since the
fracking boom began, 60% of the
earthquakes in Texas (93 of 153)
have been here in North Texas.
While Earthquake Track goes
back only 38 years, between 7-38
years ago there were no
earthquakes here. None. Nada.
Zilch. Zero. In fact, from 7-38
years ago there were only 70
earthquakes in all of Texas. In a
six year span there were 25%
more earthquakes here in North
Texas than that 28 year period
for the entire state! For the state
as a whole, seismic activity has
increased more than 100% in six
years, as compared to
a 32-year period.
In the aftermath of the earthquake
that damaged the nuclear reactor
in Fukushima, Japan, we can turn
to a 2010 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory
Commission study that calculated
the odds of an earthquake strong
enough to damage the reactor
core of the two Comanche Peak
plants in nearby Glen Rose,
Texas. According to NBC, which
covered the study, there is a
“1 in 250,000 chance each year”
of such a catastrophe. To get an
idea of how things have worsened
for us here, the old estimate,
based on earthquake data as of
1989, was 1 in 833,333.
The change in risk: 233%.
The NRC’s data is as of 2008.
Earthquakes have escalated over
the last five years, especially in
Cleburne, Texas, which is only
twenty miles east of Comanche
Peak on US-67 (in fact, there
have been 16 earthquakes in
Cleburne over the last five years).
The probability of an earthquake
producing a nuclear disaster
is certainly greater.
According to Luminant, the Texas-
based utility company that
operates Comanche Peak,
“Nuclear power is a safe,
dependable, clean-air energy.” Of
course they make a lot of money
off of the nuclear power plant. But
considering the recent spate of
earthquakes in Azle and Mineral
Wells, I am not sure I feel as safe
and comfortable as they do. Here
in the Lone Star State the odds of
winning the Lotto Texas are 1 in
25 million. How safe are we when
we are more than 100x more likely
to experience a nuclear disaster
brought on by an earthquake than
we are to win the lottery?
By the way, this is not just limited
to Texas. Our neighbors are
having the same problems. In the
last ten years there have been
691 earthquakes in Oklahoma,
with 669 in the last six years,
since they too began fracking for
gas. And, to their east, and my
Northeast, the same pattern holds
for Arkansas: over the last
decade there have been 424
earthquakes in Arkansas, with
407 occurring in the last six years.
And remember, up until these
wells were dug and drilling began,
we in North Texas did not have
earthquakes. This is the price we
pay to have carbon-spewing semi-
trucks—adding a climate-
changing insult to the still-thawing
injury we have dubbed
of gallons of carcinogenic and
toxic wastewater to tens of
thousands of wells all across the
state in order to fracture hard
rock two miles underground so
that private multi-billion dollar
companies like Chesapeake
Energy can make a buck or two:
profits over people.
Michael McGehee is an
independent writer from
North Texas. He can be reached
|Way Worse Than
a Dumb War:
Iraq Ten Years Later
Phyllis Bennis- The Nation
Editor’s Note: This statement on the tenth anniversary of the
launch of the Iraq War was signed by Phyllis Bennis, John
Cavanagh and Steve Cobble (Institute for Policy Studies); Judith
LeBlanc and Kevin Martin (Peace Action); Laura Flanders
(GritTV); Bill Fletcher (The Black Commentator); Andy Shallal
(Iraqis for Peace); Medea Benjamin (Code Pink); Michael T.
McPhearson and Leslie Cagan (United for Peace and Justice);
Michael Eisenscher (US Labor Against the War) and David
Wildman. All organizations for identification only.
It didn’t take long for the world to recognize that the US invasion
and occupation of Iraq constituted a dumb war, as then Senator
Barack Obama put it. But “dumb” wasn’t the half of it.
The US war against Iraq was illegal and illegitimate. It violated the
UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and a whole host of
international laws and treaties. It violated US laws and our
Constitution with impunity. And it was all based on lies: about
nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda, about never-were
ties between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden, about Iraq’s
invisible weapons of mass destruction and about Baghdad’s
supposed nuclear program, with derivative lies about uranium
yellowcake from Niger and aluminum rods from China. There were
lies about US troops being welcomed in the streets with sweets
and flowers, and lies about thousands of jubilant Iraqis
spontaneously tearing down the statue of a hated dictator.
And then there was the lie that the US could send hundreds of
thousands of soldiers and billions of dollars worth of weapons
across the world to wage war on the cheap. We didn’t have to
raise taxes to pay the almost one trillion dollars the Iraq war has
cost so far, we could go shopping instead.
But behind these myths the costs were huge—human, economic
and more. More than a million US troops were deployed to Iraq;
4,483 were killed; 33,183 were wounded and more than 200,000
came home with PTSD. The number of Iraqi civilians killed is still
unknown; at least 121,754 are known to have been killed directly
during the US war, but hundreds of thousands more died from
crippling sanctions, diseases caused by dirty water when the US
destroyed the water treatment system and the inability to get
medical help because of exploding violence.
And what are we leaving behind? After almost a decade the US
finally pulled out most of its troops and Pentagon-paid
contractors. About 16,000 State Department-paid contractors and
civilian employees are still stationed at the giant US embassy
compound and two huge consulates, along with unacknowledged
CIA and FBI agents, Special Forces and a host of other
undercover operatives. The US just sold the Iraqi government 140
M-l tanks, and American-made fighter jets are in the pipeline too.
But there is little question that the all-encompassing US military
of Iraq is over.
After more than eight years of war, the Iraqi government finally
said no more. Their refusal to grant US troops immunity from
prosecution for potential war crimes was the deal-breaker that
forced President Obama’s hand and made him pull out the last
30,000 troops he and his generals were hoping to keep in Iraq.
But as we knew would be the case, the pull out by itself did not
end the violence. The years of war and occupation have left
behind a devastated country, split along sectarian lines, a
shredded social fabric and a dispossessed and impoverished
population. Iraq remains one of the most violent countries in the
world; that’s the true legacy of the US war. We owe a great debt
to the people of Iraq—and we have not even begun to make good
on that commitment.
The US lost the Iraq War. Iraq hasn’t been “liberated.” Violence is
rampant; the sectarian violence resulting from early US policies
after the 2003 invasion continues to escalate. Of course we didn’t
bring democracy and freedom to Iraq—that was never on the US
agenda. The failure to “liberate” Iraq cannot be the basis for
assessing the war.
The real assessment must be based on whether the war achieved
the goals that the Bush administration and its neo-conservative,
military CEO and Pentagon profiteering partners established for
Consolidating permanent US control over Iraq’s oil. Nope, US oil
companies are just some of the myriad of foreign oil interests in
Iraq’s oil fields.
Leaving behind a pro-US, anti-Iranian government in Baghdad.
Hardly, Prime Minister al-Maliki is barely on speaking terms with
anyone in Washington.
Guaranteeing permanent access to US bases in Iraq. Not even
close, all but two of the 500 plus US bases and outposts were
either closed down or turned over to the Iraqi military.
Ensuring that a post-war Iraqi government would allow the US to
use Iraq as a jumping off point to attack Iran. No way, despite
continuing billions of dollars of our tax money, the Iraqi
government today is allied more closely to Iran than the US.
In the buildup to the war, too many media, government officials,
academics and others allowed fear to curb their tongue or their
eagerness to curry favor with those in power to stifle their speech.
This remains a crucial lesson as we stand up to the escalation of
Obama’s drone war and continue to challenge those who call for
war against Iran.
The war in Iraq began with significant support, with many people
accepting the false claims that this new war would bring security
to a still-frightened US public. But that support did not last long.
Within the first years, pro-war assumptions had been reversed,
and by the end, the anti-war movement and escalating casualties
had turned around public opinion so thoroughly that
overwhelming majorities admitted the war in Iraq was wrong and
should never have been fought in the first place.
And this war showed us our power. It proved the possibility of
globalizing opposition even before the war began. The
mobilization of February 15, 2003, when the broad United for
Peace and Justice coalition joined with allies around the world on
the day the world said “No to War!” February 15 created what
The New York Times called “the second super-power,” ready to
challenge the US drive towards empire. Our movement changed
history. While we were not able to prevent the invasion of Iraq a
month later, that mobilization proved the illegality of the war. It
demonstrated the isolation of the Bush administration, pulled
governments and the United Nations into a trajectory of
resistance, helped prevent war in Iran and inspired a generation
of activists, including some of those who, eight years later, would
create the Arab Spring in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
The US troops left behind a devastated, tortured Iraq. What they
didn’t leave behind is one dollar for reparations or compensation.
That battle still lies ahead. The US war in Iraq may be over, but
we owe an apology to all those who suffered from the war. And
that apology must be grounded in recognition of our enormous
debt to the people of Iraq, a debt for which compensation and
reparations are only a start. Our real obligation, to the people of
Iraq and the region and the rest of the world, is to transform our
government and our country so that these resource-driven wars,
shaped by lies and fought for power and for empire, whether in
Iran or somewhere else, can never be waged again
Read more: http://www.thenation.com/blog/173396/way-worse-
|Slip Sliding Away
The Incredible, Shrinking Presidency
of Barack Obama by MIKE WHITNEY
According to a new Washington Post-ABC poll, Barack Obama now ranks
among the least popular presidents in the last century. In fact, his approval
rating is lower than Bush’s was in his fifth year in office. Obama’s overall
approval rating stands at a dismal 43 percent, with a full 55 percent of the
public “disapproving of the way he is handling the economy”. The same
percentage of people “disapprove of the way he is handling his job as
president”. Thus, on the two main issues, leadership and the economy,
Obama gets failing grades.
An even higher percentage of people are upset at the way the president is
implementing his signature health care system dubbed “Obamacare”. When
asked “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Obama is handling
“implementation of the new health care law?” A full 62% said they
disapprove, although I suspect that the anger has less to do with the plan’s
“implementation” than it does with the fact that Obamacare is widely seen
as a profit-delivery system for the voracious insurance industry.
Notwithstanding the administration’s impressive public relations campaign,
a clear majority of people have seen through Obama’s health care ruse
and given the program a big thumb’s down.
Of course, Obamacare is just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The list
of policy disasters that preceded this latest fiasco is nearly endless,
including everything from blanket pardons for the Wall Street big-wigs who
took down the global financial system, to re-upping the Bush tax cuts, to
appointing a commission of deficit hawks to slash Social Security and
Medicare (Bowles-Simpson), to breaking his word on Gitmo, to reneging on
his promise to pass Card Check, to expanding to wars in Africa, Asia and the
Middle East, to droning 4-times as many civilians as the homicidal maniac he
replaced as president in 2008.
Obama’s treatment of undocumented immigrants has been particularly
shocking although the details have been kept out of the media, presumably
because the news giants don’t want to expose the Dear Leader as a
heartless scoundrel who has no problem separating mothers from their
children, locking them up in privately-owned concentration camps and
booting them out of the country with nothing more than the shirt on their
back. Check out this blurb which sums up Obama’s “progressive”
immigration policy in one paragraph:
“Obama is on track to deport 3 million immigrants without papers by the end
of his second term, more than any other president. George W. Bush
deported about 2 million over two terms. Obama will likely hit that mark this
month….. The average daily count of immigrants in detention now is about
33,000. In 2001, it was 19,000. In 1994, it was 5,000, according to the
Detention Watch Network. Almost all of the detainees and deportees are
Latino. True, the population of illegal immigrants has also doubled in that
time to more than 11 million. But the detainee and deportee counts have
escalated more than twice as fast.
“He could go down as the worst president in history toward immigrants,” said
Arturo Carmona, executive director of the liberal activist group Presente.org.
Hooray for the Deporter in Chief! You’re Numero Uno, buddy. You even beat
Bush! Is it any wonder why the man’s ratings are in freefall?
All told, Obama has been bad for the economy, bad for civil liberties, bad for
minorities, bad for foreign wars, and bad for health care.
He has, however, been a very effective lackey-sock puppet for Wall Street,
Big Pharma, the oil magnates, and the other 1% -vermin Kleptocrats who run
the country and who will undoubtedly attend his $100,000-per-plate
speaking engagements when he finally retires in comfort to some gated
community where he’ll work on his memoirs and cash in on his 8 years of
faithful service to the racketeer class.
But, let’s face it; no one really gives a rip about “drone attacks in Waziristan”
or “hunger strikes in Gitmo”. What they care about is keeping their jobs,
paying off their student loans, putting the food on the table or avoiding the
fate of next-door-neighbor, Andy, who got his pink slip two months ago and
now finds himself living in a cardboard box by the river. That’s what the
average working stiff worries about; just scraping by enough to stay out of
the homeless shelter. But it’s getting harder all the time, mainly because
everything’s gotten worse under Obama. It’s crazy. It’s like the whole middle
class is being dismantled in a 10-year period. Wages are flat, jobs are
scarce, incomes are dropping like a stone, and everyone’s broke. (Everyone
I know, at least.) Did you know that 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-
paycheck. Check it out: “Roughly three-quarters of Americans are living
paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a
survey released by Bankrate.com Monday.
Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings
account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion
the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event,
according to the survey of 1,000 adults.
Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion
and 27% had no savings at all….
Last week, online lender CashNetUSA said 22% of the 1,000 people it
recently surveyed had less than $100 in savings to cover an emergency,
while 46% had less than $800. After paying debts and taking care of
housing, car and child care-related expenses, the respondents said there
just isn’t enough money left over for saving more.”
Are you kidding me? What’s that? Who do you know that’s able to save
money in this economy? Maybe rich uncle Johnny whose lived on canned
sardines and Akmak for the last 50 years, but nobody else can live like that.
Subtract the rent, the groceries, the doctor bills etc, and there’s barely
enough leftover to fill the tank to get to work on Monday. Saving just isn’t an
option, not in the Obamaworld, that is.
Now check this out from Business Insider:
“Thousands of Americans aged 55 and older are going back to school and
reinventing themselves to get an edge in a difficult labor market, hoping to
rebuild retirement nest eggs that were almost destroyed by the recession….
According to the Federal Reserve, household financial assets, which exclude
homes, dropped from a peak of $57 trillion in the third quarter of 2007 to just
over $49 trillion in the fourth quarter of last year, the latest period for which
data is available.
A survey to be released this summer by the Public Policy Institute of AARP,
an advocacy group for older Americans, found a quarter of Americans 50
years and older used up all their savings during the 2007-09 recession.
About 43 percent of the 5,000 respondents who took part in the survey said
their savings had not recovered.” (“Unemployed Baby Boomers Are Getting
Hired By Going Back To School”, Business Insider)
Sure they’re going back to work. What do you expect them to do? They’re
broke! They got wiped out in Wall Street’s mortgage laundering scam and
they’re still behind the eightball five years later. And what’s left of the money
they set aside for retirement is yielding a big zilch thanks to the Fed’s zero
rate policy which is forcing people back into another decade of penal
servitude at minimum wage. That’s why you see so many hunched over
graybeards in red vests with “Happy to Serve You” splattered on their chests
lugging shopping bags out to the cars for old ladies. Because they’re broke
and out of options. Everyone knows someone like this unless, of course,
they’re one of the fortunate few who make up the Nobel 1%; aka–The Job
Cremators. Then they don’t have to fret about that sort of thing.
Here’s another gem you might not have seen in USA Today a few months
back: “Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or
reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating
economic security and an elusive American dream.
Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly
globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the
loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend….
Hardship is particularly growing among whites, based on several measures.
Pessimism among that racial group about their families’ economic futures
has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-
GfK poll, 63% of whites called the economy “poor.”
“I think it’s going to get worse,” said Irene Salyers, 52, of Buchanan County,
Va., a declining coal region in Appalachia. Married and divorced three times,
Salyers now helps run a fruit and vegetable stand with her boyfriend, but it
doesn’t generate much income….
Nationwide, the count of America’s poor remains stuck at a record number:
46.2 million, or 15% of the population, due in part to lingering high
unemployment following the recession. While poverty rates for blacks and
Hispanics are nearly three times higher, by absolute numbers the
predominant face of the poor is white…
“Poverty is no longer an issue of ‘them’, it’s an issue of ‘us’,” says Mark
Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who calculated the
numbers. “Only when poverty is thought of as a mainstream event, rather
than a fringe experience that just affects blacks and Hispanics, can we really
begin to build broader support for programs that lift people in need.” (“4 in 5
in USA face near-poverty, no work”, USA Today)
Does Obama have any idea of the damage he’s doing with his Rich-First
policies? The country is in a terrible state and yet Obama continues to
approve bills that throw millions of people off unemployment benefits, sharply
cut government spending, or undermine vital safetynet programs that keep
the sick and the elderly from dying on the streets. It’s like he’s trying to
reduce 300 million Americans to grinding third world poverty in his short
eight-year term. Is that the goal?
Did you know that–according to Gallup–20.0% of all Americans did not have
enough money to buy food that they or their families needed at some point
over the past year? Or that –according to a Feeding America hunger study–
more than 37 million people are now using food pantries and soup kitchens?
Or that one out of six Americans is now living in poverty which is the highest
level since the 1960s? Or that the gap between the rich and poor is greater
than any in history?
Everything has gotten worse under Obama. Everything. And, not once, in his
five years as president, has this gifted and charismatic leader ever lifted a
finger to help the millions of people who supported him, who believed in him,
and who voted him into office.
These latest poll results indicate that many of those same people are
beginning to wake up and see what Obama is really all about.
MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless:
Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also
available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at email@example.com.
|Life in the Electronic Concentration
Camp: The Many Ways That You're
Being Tracked and Controlled
Fri, 10 Jan 2014 By John W Whitehead, Rutherford Institute | News Analysis
A security camera] doesn’t respond to complaint, threats, or insults. Instead,
it just watches you in a forbidding manner. Today, the surveillance state is so
deeply enmeshed in our data devices that we don’t even scream back because
technology companies have convinced us that we need to be connected to
them to be happy.”—Pratap Chatterjee, journalist
What is most striking about the American police state is not the mega-
corporations running amok in the halls of Congress, the militarized police
crashing through doors and shooting unarmed citizens, or the invasive
surveillance regime which has come to dominate every aspect of our lives. No,
what has been most disconcerting about the emergence of the American police
state is the extent to which the citizenry appears content to passively wait for
someone else to solve our nation’s many problems. Unless Americans are
prepared to engage in militant nonviolent resistance in the spirit of Martin Luther
King Jr. and Gandhi, true reform, if any, will be a long time coming.
Yet as I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American
Police State, if we don’t act soon, all that is in need of fixing will soon be
unfixable, especially as it relates to the police state that becomes more
entrenched with each passing day. By “police state,” I am referring to more than
a society overrun by the long arm of the police. I am referring to a society in
which all aspects of a person’s life are policed by government agents, one in
which all citizens are suspects, their activities monitored and regulated, their
movements tracked, their communications spied upon, and their lives, liberties
and pursuit of happiness dependent on the government’s say-so.
That said, how can anyone be expected to “fix” what is broken unless they first
understand the lengths to which the government with its arsenal of technology is
going in order to accustom the American people to life in a police state and why
being spied on by government agents, both state and federal, as well as their
partners in the corporate world, is a problem, even if you’ve done nothing wrong.
Indeed, as the trend towards overcriminalization makes clear, it won’t be long
before the average law-abiding American is breaking laws she didn’t even know
existed during the course of a routine day. The point, of course, is that while you
may be oblivious to your so-called law-breaking—whether it was collecting
rainwater to water your lawn, lighting a cigarette in the privacy of your home, or
gathering with friends in your backyard for a Sunday evening Bible study—the
government will know each and every transgression and use them against you.
As noted by the Brookings Institution, “For the first time ever, it will become
technologically and financially feasible for authoritarian governments to record
nearly everything that is said or done within their borders — every phone
conversation, electronic message, social media interaction, the movements of
nearly every person and vehicle, and video from every street corner.”
As the following will show, the electronic concentration camp, as I have dubbed
the surveillance state, is perhaps the most insidious of the police state’s many
tentacles, impacting almost every aspect of our lives and making it that much
easier for the government to encroach on our most vital freedoms, ranging from
free speech, assembly and the press to due process, privacy, and property,
by eavesdropping on our communications, tracking our movements
and spying on our activities.
Tracking you based on your consumer activities: Fusion centers, federal-state
law enforcement partnerships which attempt to aggregate a variety of data on so-
called “suspicious persons,” have actually collected reports on people buying
pallets of bottled water, photographing government buildings, and applying for a
pilot’s license as “suspicious activity.” Retailers are getting in on the surveillance
game as well. Large corporations such as Target have been tracking and
assessing the behavior of their customers, particularly their purchasing patterns,
for years. In 2015, mega-food corporations will be rolling out high-tech shelving
outfitted with cameras in order to track the shopping behavior of customers,
as well as information like the age and sex of shoppers.
Tracking you based on your public activities: Sensing a booming industry, private
corporations are jumping on the surveillance state bandwagon, negotiating
lucrative contracts with police agencies throughout the country in order to create
a web of surveillance that encompasses all major urban centers. Companies
such as NICE and Bright Planet are selling equipment and services to police
departments with the promise of monitoring large groups of people seamlessly,
as in the case of protests and rallies. They are also engaging in extensive online
surveillance, looking for any hints of “large public events, social unrest, gang
communications, and criminally predicated individuals.” Defense contractors are
attempting to take a bite out of this lucrative market as well. Raytheon has
recently developed a software package known as Riot, which promises to predict
the future behavior of an individual based upon his social media posts.
Tracking you based on your phone activities: The CIA has been paying AT&T
over $10 million per year in order to gain access to data on Americans’ phone
calls abroad. This is in addition to telecommunications employees being
embedded in government facilities to assist with quick analysis of call records
and respond to government requests for customer location data. They receive
hundreds of thousands of such requests per year.
Tracking you based on your computer activities: Federal agents now employ a
number of hacking methods in order to gain access to your computer activities
and “see” whatever you’re seeing on your monitor. Malicious hacking software
can be installed via a number of inconspicuous methods, including USB,
or via an email attachment or software update. It can then be used to search
through files stored on a hard drive, log keystrokes, or take real time
screenshots of whatever a person is looking at on their computer,
whether personal files, web pages, or email messages. It can also be used
to remotely activate cameras and microphones, offering another means of
glimpsing into the personal business of a target.
Tracking you based on your behavior: Thanks to a torrent of federal grants,
police departments across the country are able to fund outrageous new
surveillance systems that turn the most basic human behaviors into suspicious
situations to be studied and analyzed. Police in California, Massachusetts, and
New York have all received federal funds to create systems like that operated by
the New York Police Department, which “links 3,000 surveillance cameras with
license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect
lists.” Police all across the country are also now engaging in big data mining
operations, often with the help of private companies, in order to develop city-wide
nets of surveillance. For example, police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida,
now work with IBM in order to “integrate new data and analytics tools
into everyday crime fighting.”
Tracking you based on your face: Facial recognition software promises to create
a society in which every individual who steps out into public is tracked and
recorded as they go about their daily business. The goal is for government
agents to be able to scan a crowd of people and instantaneously identify all of
the individuals present. Facial recognition programs are being rolled out in states
all across the country (only twelve states do not use facial recognition software).
For example, in Ohio, 30,000 police officers and court employees are able to
access the driver’s license images of people in the state, without any form of
oversight to track their views or why they’re accessing them. The FBI is
developing a $1 billion program, Next Generation Identification, which involves
creating a massive database of mugshots for police all across the country.
Tracking you based on your car: License plate readers, which can identify the
owner of any car that comes within its sights, are growing in popularity among
police agencies. Affixed to overpasses or cop cars, these devices give police a
clear idea of where your car was at a specific date and time, whether the doctor’s
office, the bar, the mosque, or at a political rally. State police in Virginia used
license plate readers to record every single vehicle that arrived to President
Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009 from Virginia. They also recorded the
license plates of attendees at rallies prior to the election, including for then-
candidate Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. This
data collection came at the request of the U.S. Secret Service. Incredibly, Virginia
police stored data on some 8 million license plates, some for up to three years.
Tracking you based on your social media activities: The obsession with social
media as a form of surveillance will have some frightening consequences in
coming years. As Helen A.S. Popkin, writing for NBC News, has astutely
observed, “We may very well face a future where algorithms bust people en
masse for referencing illegal ‘Game of Thrones’ downloads, or run sweeps for
insurance companies seeking non-smokers confessing to lapsing back into the
habit. Instead of that one guy getting busted for a lame joke misinterpreted
as a real threat, the new software has the potential to roll, Terminator-style,
targeting every social media user with a shameful confession or
questionable sense of humor.”
Tracking you based on your metadata: Metadata is an incredibly invasive set of
data to have on a person. Indeed, with access to one’s metadata, one can
“identify people’s friends and associates, detect where they were at a certain
time, acquire clues to religious or political affiliations, and pick up sensitive
information like regular calls to a psychiatrist’s office, late-night messages to an
extramarital partner or exchanges with a fellow plotter.” The National Security
Agency (NSA) has been particularly interested in metadata, compiling information
on Americans’ social connections “that can identify their associates, their
locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal
information.” Mainway, the main NSA tool used to connect the dots on American
social connections, collected 700 million phone records per day in 2011. That
number increased by 1.1 billion in August 2011. The NSA is now working on
creating “a metadata repository capable of taking in 20 billion ‘record events’
daily and making them available to N.S.A. analysts within 60 minutes.”
Tracking you from the skies: Nothing, and I mean nothing, will escape
government eyes, especially when drones take to the skies in 2015. These
gadgets, ranging from the colossal to the miniature, will have the capability of
seeing through the walls of your home and tracking your every movement.
To put it bluntly, we are living in an electronic concentration camp. Through a
series of imperceptible steps, we have willingly allowed ourselves to become
enmeshed in a system that knows the most intimate details of our lives, analyzes
them, and treats us accordingly. Whether via fear of terrorism, narcissistic
pleasure, or lazy materialism, we have slowly handed over our information to all
sorts of entities, corporate and governmental, public and private, who are now
using that information to cow and control us for their profit. As George Orwell
warned, “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the
assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness,
every movement scrutinized.”
Thus, we have arrived in Orwell’s world. The question now is: will we take a stand
and fight to remain free or will we go gently into the concentration camp?