On The Record
On The Record
IF YOU were thinking of taking your summer holidays in the
All this information will be fed into a data- processing system known as CAPPS (computer-assisted passenger pre-screening system) to help identify suspect people. By checking the identity of every traveller and cross-checking it with information available from the police, the State Department, the Department of Justice and the banks, CAPPS will evaluate the degree of danger passengers pose and will colour-code them accordingly: green for harmless, yellow for doubtful and red for those to be prevented from boarding. If the visitor is Muslim, or from the
Latin Americans are also being watched. We now know that 65 million Mexicans, 31 million Colombians and 18 million citizens of Central America have files on them in the
James Lee, spokesman for ChoicePoint, the company that buys these files to re-sell them to the
Foreigners are not the only people subjected to increased surveillance. Americans themselves are suffering from the current paranoia. New controls, authorised by the USA Patriot Act, are threatening personal privacy and secrecy of correspondence. Authorisation is no longer required for telephone tapping. Inquiring authorities can now access personal information without needing a search warrant. For example, the FBI is currently asking libraries to provide them with lists of the books and internet sites consulted by their members as a way of building "intellectual profiles" of individual readers (3).
The scariest of all the projects of illegal state surveillance is the one being created by the Pentagon under the codename Total Information Awareness (4), a system for total data surveillance that has been entrusted to the care of Admiral John Poindexter, a man who was sentenced in the 1980s for having been the instigator of the Iran-Contra affair.
The project proposes collecting an average 40 pages of information on each of the 6 billion inhabitants of this planet and entering them into a supercomputer. By processing all available personal data - credit card payments, media subscriptions, banking activities, phone calls, website visits, email, police files, insurance details, medical and social security information - the Pentagon is hoping to establish a tracker profile of every adult alive.
As in Steven Spielberg's film Minority Report, the
One step on from Big Brother. ________________________________________________________
(2) The Guardian,
(3) The Washington Post, national weekly edition, 21-27 April 2003.
(4) Faced with protests by defenders of personal privacy the name was changed to Terrorism Information Awareness. See Armand Mattellart, Histoire de la sociÃ©tÃ© de l'information, La DÃ©couverte,