Is America Becoming an “Elective Dictatorship”?
BIG BROTHER GETS EVEN BIGGER WITH THE NEXT GENERATION IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM.
by Nat Hentoff for HUSTLER Magazine
I keep learning never to underestimate the FBI’s endless passion for finding new ways to track us. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is a frequent source of mine on Constitutional issues, and two of its attorneys— Sunita Patel and Scott Paltrowitz—have now jolted me with a CommonDreams.org report titled “How Far Will the Government Go in Collecting and Storing All Our Personal Data?” Patel and Paltrowitz focus on “the FBI’s everexpanding Next Generation Identification (NGI) system, which collects and stores all aspects of our personal physical characteristics—our biometric data.” This is the first time I’ve heard of NGI. Have you?
I’ve often written about my FBI file, started by the late J. Edgar Hoover because he had become irritated by my criticisms of him. The fanciful surmises in it are chump change compared to what is being collected these days (unknown to me) in—as attorneys Patel and Paltrowitz point out—the FBI’s “massive database program that collects and stores personal identifying information such as fingerprints, palm prints, iris scans, scars, marks, tattoos, facial characteristics and voice recognition” and who knows what else.
The Center for Constitutional Rights began to find out about this operation as a result of a lawsuit it filed under the Freedom of Information Act. (NGI makes George Orwell look like a true visionary with his Big Brother-is-watching novel 1984.) If this makes any of you a little uneasy, dig this: Patel and Paltrowitz warn that “when NGI becomes fully operational in 2014, other federal agencies will gain access to the bio-data without your knowledge or consent.”
By now,many of us have a general and vague sense of living in a surveillance society. But many young Americans of the next generation have yet to realize—as the CCR attorneys caution—that this country is getting ever closer to becoming an “inescapable surveillance state where we blindly place our hands on electronic devices that capture our digital prints, stare into iris scanning devices that record the details of our eyes and have pictures taken of different angles of our faces so that the FBI and other federal agencies can store and use such information.”
Not just the feds will be busily involved in this endless tracking. In the March 21, 2011, online edition of the Charleston Gazette, Eric Eyre reported on the scope of the FBI’s $1-billion NGI project:“Under the system, state and local police officers will eventually use hand-held devices to scan suspects’ fingerprints [and other physical characteristics] and send the images electronically to the FBI center.” That’s the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division in Clarksburg,West Virginia.
Stephen Morris, a deputy assistant director at the FBI’s information center, proudly states, “It increases capacity and accuracy.” According to Morris, the Next Generation Identification system has another supposed benefit: “It’s a quick scan to let police officers know if they should let the person go or take him into custody.”
At least if you’re busted thanks to NGI, you will know why. ArsTechnica.com posted an article by Joel Hruska that noted a major shortcoming with the FBI’s database. It stated,“At this point, the FBI’s proposed [and now partially functioning] biometric identification system contains no recourse for citizens who are misidentified, no formal method for the update and correction of biometric information, and no indication that citizens would even be allowed to view their own biometric profiles.”
Hruska also chillingly revealed that “in 2003, the FBI exempted its National Crime Information Center, the Central Records System, and the National Center for Analysis of Violent Crime from subsection [552a](e)(5) of the 1974 Privacy Act. That particular subsection mandates that each agency that maintains a system of records shall ‘maintain all records which are used by the agency in making any determination about any individual with such accuracy, relevance, timeliness and completeness as is reasonably necessary to assure fairness to the individual in the determination.’”
But even if the FBI had not exempted itself from the Privacy Act—without, of course, ever telling us—how can any citizen be assured “fairness” under this insatiably omnivorous New Generation Identification system if we are forbidden from actually seeing what information has been collected and stored?
I’ve been covering all the debates among Republican aspirants for the Presidency, and not once have I heard anything about We the People being meshed covertly into the Next Generation Identification system’s massive database. One of the debaters did say something that affects every one of us—not to mention future generations, but Ron Paul only focused on the executive orders by which President Obama has ignored Congress, the courts and the U.S. Constitution. As the Daily Caller reported on November 2, 2011, Paul accused the Obama Administration of becoming “dangerously close to an elective dictatorship.”
Wake up, Ron! Move on to organize against NGI’s destruction of what little is left of our right to privacy. If, as you say, executive orders are “dictatorial,” what do you call the federal government’s creation of a biometric database?
I’m sure it would have rankled George Washington, who proclaimed that “arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty abused to licentiousness.” And 14 years after Washington’s death, Thomas Jefferson recalled how our first President had confided to him that he considered America’s new Constitution to be “an experiment…with what dose of liberty man could be trusted for his own good.” No matter who is elected President in 2012, how many of our personal liberties will remain?
Did Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis write America’s obituary? “The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people. Public discussion is a public duty.”
Never before have we had so many ways to conduct public discussion while our personal liberties are being extinguished by our “elective” leader.