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November 18, 2002

Myths of Security

Still busy, but this is worth coming out of hibernation for. Is William Safire just trying to scare us with this "Total Information Awareness" and "virtual, grand centralized database"? There's some great discussion related to that question at Scott Rosenberg's blog.

It just so happens that I'm currently teaching The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. Atwood imagines a near-future America that has been taken over by conservative religious fanatics who believe they're making the world a better place by waging war against those who hold beliefs opposed to theirs. This creates a state of permanent war both at home and abroad, but this arrangement also means that if you want to live in what the U.S. has become, you have to follow the religious rules. Anyway, the main point here is the method Atwood imagined the religious fanatics would use to take over the U.S. -- they centralized information about everyone in a computer database, reduced everyone to a number, and began methodically controlling people via this information. The parallels to what the Homeland Security bill makes possible are pretty spooky.

"Total Information Awareness" potentially means "Total Control." No matter how scared we are about "terrorists among us," I can't see a single benefit for democracy, freedom, or justice in this "Homeland Security" plan. In fact, these appear to be the very things the bill directly threatens. So where's the "security" in that?

Posted November 18, 2002 07:44 AM | general politics

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