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Invasion of Privacy:

Watching Big Brother Watch You

by John Loeffler

World Affairs Editor

The move by the world's governments to number, track and spy upon their citizens is arousing serious concern on several continents. 

Recent announcements of an injectable tracking chip that can be placed in animals and, of course, humans has fueled the ongoing controversy over privacy and the invasion of the world's governments into the lives of their citizens. 

The chip has a transponder that can be read by GPS satellite systems and is perpetually powered by the muscular action of the carrier's body. 

What a dream solution for the world's bureaucrats to perfectly track the world's citizens!

Echelon

Over the past two years, reports of the global spy satellite system known as Echelon began emerging.  As this story goes to press, the U.S. government is admitting that it has been using the system to spy on Americans. 

At first there was "plausible deniability" as to whether Echelon actually existed.  But as more reports surfaced and Echelon's existence became undeniable, queries began as to the identities of the spy-ers and spy-ees in this system. 

Late last year the European Parliament prepared a 112-page technology assessment report on Echelon, which was the first public documentary evidence of the global surveillance system. 

It concluded that the rapid proliferation of surveillance technologies presents "a serious threat to the civil liberties in Europe" with "awesome implications."  Shortly thereafter, Insight magazine in the U.S. ran a major story on Echelon.1

Now the Europeans are furious because they have evidence to suggest they are a major target of the system, not just for political spying but also industrial espionage. 

Allegedly, the Echelon governments - mainly Great Britain and the United States - were obtaining sensitive corporate information and handing it to their own domestic businesses to give them a competitive advantage. 

The EU Parliament is opening a major international debate on Echelon.  The EU's civil liberties committee will most likely charge Great Britain with aiding the United States in conducting commercial espionage on a grand scale. 

This is a touchy situation, since Great Britain is technically a partner with the countries on whom it is allegedly spying, not the U.S.

How Does Echelon Work?

Echelon is operated by the five main English-language countries: The U.S., Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.  The satellite system uses monitoring bases in those countries and "sweeps" the radio spectrum worldwide, eavesdropping on phone calls, faxes and emails. 

The system then uses a network of super-computers maintained by the National Security Agency (NSA) to filter the data-at the rate of two million calls per hour-looking for keywords, voiceprints, or particular telephone numbers that are of interest to the Echelon governments or some of its allies (the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand).
Echelon countries avoid violating their own laws, which prohibit spying on their own citizens, by having one of the other Echelon countries do the spying and then handing over the data.

There were efforts by Congress last year to investigate the system, but they were rebuffed by the National Security Agency (NSA), which operates the U.S. end of the system.

The public interest group, Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), has filed a lawsuit seeking public disclosure of those documents that the NSA refused to give Congress. 

In Europe, in addition to the EU investigation, French attorney Jean-Pierre Millet has "launched a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. and British governments, claiming that Echelon robbed European industries of some of their most cherished trade secrets and undercut their bargaining positions in trade deals."2

Many who saw the movie Enemy of the State probably assumed it was an exaggeration.  It really isn't.  The technology exists.

Echelon is not the sole source of concern.  There are now new surveillance devices at airports that can reveal everything one has on under their clothes... and then some. 

Also, the FBI has been fighting to prevent citizens from concealing their transactions by means of encryption the government cannot easily access, and the SEC is now chasing fraud on the Internet.

Unique Medical Identifiers

Perhaps the use of a universal medical identifier is another glaring issue regarding privacy and our government's invasion of it. 

President Clinton's claims to the contrary notwithstanding, by its own documents cradle-to-grave computer tracking is the current goal of the U.S. government, from databasing parents and their babies at the time of birth to monitoring family performance from preschool all through a child's career years. 

This is a well-coordinated effort between the Departments of Labor, Education and Health and Human Services.  Everyone is slated to be put on a career track - not of their choosing - and databased throughout their careers, having to be recertified each time they change jobs. 

This sounds like great material for a Mel Gibson movie if it were not already underway and readily available in government and related documents. 

Much of it is too voluminous to detail here, but there are a number of excellent books and reports by Charlotte Iserbyt, Phyllis Schlafley, Beverly Eakman, and others which lay out the plan.

Databasing was a cornerstone concept of Marc Tucker and Hillary Clinton's failed "health-scare" plan, which would have turned our healthcare system into the world's largest socialist operation. 

According to the Free Congress Foundation, "in 1993, as part of the healthcare package presented by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, there was a proposal for a 'unique healthcare identifier number' that would be given to all Americans and used as identification for tracking their medical records and histories. This information could also have been shared with third parties without the individual's consent."3

Because of public outcry, the "unique healthcare identifier number" died, but in 1996 the "Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act" (HIPAA) was passed.4   Now Public Law 104-191, the Act calls for uniform electronic data collection and exchange standards, and that could most effectively be done through - here it is again - the "unique health care identifier number." 

HIPAA said that Congress had until August 21, 1999 to enact legislation that would protect individual citizens' health data.  Failing that, the responsibility would be transferred to the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Congress defaulted on its responsibility, and the proposals of Donna Shalala are as breathtaking as a sinking ship.  Not only did Congress fail to act, it passed an amendment to HR10, "The Financial Authorization Act of 1999," which permitted credit card, insurance and financial institutions to have access to individuals' medical records. 

Donna Shalala's current proposals will make medical records available to a wide variety of parties, and citizens will be prohibited from suing if the use of that information violates the law.5

In reality, everything in the future of government control hinges around (1) assigning a unique identifier number for each person and (2) attaching that number to the person in such a way that no one else can use or duplicate it. 

Right now, the social security number is that de facto number.  Whether or not plans for a national ID card resurface, the Social Security Number is our unique numeric identifier.  (Perhaps it is no coincidence that we refer to it as the SS number.)

Meanwhile, the government's program to increase surveillance and individual identification continues in force.  The movement is driven by real problems in the cyberworld, such as identity theft and the need to prove conclusively who is who during all types of legal and commercial transactions.

New Identification
Technologies 

All current methods of identification - bank cards, PINs, passwords, drivers' licenses, keys,  knowledge of mother's maiden name or social security number - can be forged.  Something more unique is needed.

To fill this gap, new technologies are being explored, especially biometrics-items unique to each human being, such as finger imaging, retinal scans, body tatoos and injectable chips.  A brief search of U.S. Patent Office files will yield patent applications for all such devices. 

Connected with these devices is the move toward electronic money and away from cash.  New Zealand is one of the global "test sites" for cashless operation where few people carry cash any longer.  Even coffee hutches now accept cash debit cards in New Zealand. 

Fraud on the Internet is a powerful incentive to get global governments involved in policing this last bastion of freedom. So why all the flap?  The technology is not inherently evil.  Positive ID can virtually eliminate theft, fraud, extortion, and other criminal activities, especially money laundering and drug operations.

However, it is important to remember that evil often rides in on a white horse - a real problem being "solved" by something more sinister. 

Citizen tracking is wonderful only if one makes the assumption that government is always benevolent and never abusive or dictatorial.  What happens if government goes sour and begins using the technology to harass or persecute those who don't agree with its agendas?

This is not a theoretical situation.  There are regular criminal cases targeting people not because they commit crime, but because they do something politically incorrect to someone. 

Harassment  Court Cases

Carol Ward mouthed off to an IRS agent in 1994, when she was not even under audit.  The IRS retaliated by seizing all of Mrs. Ward's business and personal property.  The agency began telling her business associates that she was being investigated for drug operations. 

Despite the fact the IRS demonstrably broke laws in their assault on Mrs. Ward and the fact she won a $350,000 dollar lawsuit against the federal government, the government agents responsible have never been punished.

Almost 30 innocent people were falsely accused of running a child abuse ring in Wenatchee, Washington.  Those who protested the witch hunt, such as Pastor Roby Roberson, were themselves accused and prosecuted. 

Despite convictions being overturned and lawsuits won at a record pace and amount, the State of Washington and City of Wenatchee have never apologized nor punished the police detective and CPS workers involved in the fraudulent operation.

Recently, WorldNetDaily documented the case of West Virginia physician Dr. Danny Westmoreland.  Several years ago, Drug Enforcement Administration agents invaded his office, terrorized his family and patients, and arrested him on bogus charges.

Two years after the raid, Dr. Westmoreland learned the truth about what had happened to him.  "The attack on his home had been a setup...orchestrated by two former disgruntled employees who had conspired with a local DEA agent to teach Westmoreland a lesson."6

Despite charges so bogus that a judge threw them out in disgust, and after spending more than $300,000 to defend himself, no one in the government responsible for the bogus raid has been punished. 

If these cases were rare exceptions, we wouldn't worry.  But this is a regular event in the U.S.

What will guarantee us that governments will not become abusive and hostile to various sections of their populations?  The rise of hate speech proposals and politically correct thought demands echo the policies of Communist and Nazi regimes of the past. 

What happens to dissenters who don't go along with the new trends?  Womb-to-tomb policies are designed to be coercive and all-inclusive.  Who will become the next enemy of the state, simply on the basis of what they think or refuse to go along with?

Although the Nazis had proclaimed their capital city Berlin judenrein, there were an estimated 1,400 Jews still alive in Berlin at the end of the war.  They were called "Uboots"-U-boats that had gone below the surface of daily life.  Some were hidden by sympathetic Germans or were Jews who were blue-eyed and blond and passed as Aryans. 

Today, with identity technology capable of monitoring everyone's identity and living habits down to the amount of food they eat on a daily basis, hiding from an abusive government would be virtually impossible.

It is sobering to imagine what German efficiency in the person of SS-Oberfhrer Heinrich Himmler could have done had he had the technology we have available today.

*  *  *

 


  1. Insight,  December 13th, 1999.
  2. Goodspeed,   Peter, "The New Space Invaders: Spies in the Sky,"  The National Post , February 19, 2000, http://www.nationalpost.com .
  3. Dean, Lisa, "Our Future Privacy Is Up to Us - Medical Privacy Ends With a 'Unique Healthcare Identifier,"' Free Congress Commentary, August 30,1999.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Interview with James Hirsen, Professor of International and Constitutional Law, Trinity College.
  6. York, Frank, "Doctor seeks justice after DEA's clinic assault: Judge, 'One of the most outrageous things I've ever heard of.'" WorldNetDaily , February 21, 2000.

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