Monday, August 06, 2007

A Boot Stamping on a Human Face

Always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

- 1984 by George Orwell
Rather than returning our liberties, the Bush administration has just curtailed them some more:
First, the law requires telecommunications companies to make their facilities available for government wiretaps, and it grants them immunity from lawsuits for complying. Under the old program, such companies participated only voluntarily – and some were sued for allegedly violating their customers' privacy.
Second, Bush has said his original surveillance program was restricted to calls and e-mails involving a suspected terrorist, but the new law has no such limit. Instead, it allows executive-branch agencies to conduct oversight-free surveillance of all international calls and e-mails, including those with Americans on the line, with the sole requirement that the intelligence-gathering is "directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States." There is no requirement that either caller be a suspected terrorist, spy, or criminal.
There's a scene early on in The Bourne Ultimatum where a reporter says the word "blackbriar" during a cell phone conversation in Europe and it triggers surveillance at the CIA within the United States.

It's chilling because it's not science fiction. It's current fact.

And how ironic that a (hugely entertaining) blockbuster about an individual combating big-government surveillance (and rendition) should come out the very weekend our real-life government has quantifiably extended its reach. It's a surreal world we live in when our diminishing freedoms are accompanied by Hollywood commentary and its attendant profits.

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