dinsdag, december 03, 2002

The Dreadful Duo

Scientia Est Potentia

One is wanted for war crimes genocide, and crimes against humanity. The other has been convicted of conspiracy, lying to Congress, defrauding the government, and destroying evidence in the Iran Contra scandal. What do they have in common? Both were recently appointed to new, key posts in the American government by Bush Administration and neither appointment generated much coverage by the media despite the controversial nature of the appointees and the positions they will head.

Last week, snuck in on Thanksgiving when everyone's attention was elsewhere, came the announcement that Henry Kissinger was named chairman of the "independent" commission investigating the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The 10-member commission will investigate suspicions and evidence that security and intelligence agencies concealed information from each other so no one could put it all together. Kissinger's appointment has prompted a deluge of protests, all of them centering around Kissinger's past, documented history of organizing mass deceptions of Congress and public opinion, according to Slate's Christopher Hitchens. If you recall, victims' families and Congressional Democrats have been endorsing an investigation into the events of 9/11 for some time and both President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney urged Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle four months ago not to push for an investigation into the events of Sept. 11. Well, the skeptical world has its commission and its investigation. Problem is, the appointment of Kissinger, a man who, even according to his own memoirs, set up a "back channel" to Moscow to cut out the State Department, met secretly in Paris with North Vietnamese negotiators, organized the secret bombing of Laos and Cambodia, clandestinely set up Mr. Nixon's visit to China and dated an actress to hide his trail when he sneaked off on foreign trips, is like naming Saddam Hussein to head his own inspection team. Look forward to this investigation committee to be as big a public money sinkhole as it is a waste of time.

Meanwhile, far more disturbring, is the plan underway at the Pentagon and within the Bush Administration to name John Poindexter to lead the ominous sounding Total Information Awareness system. While the Kissinger appointment is in essence, inobtrusive, the goal of the Total Information Awareness (TIA) system, according to a recent New York Times article, is to provide "intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transaction and travel documents, without a search warrant." TIA will be designed to scan records of finance, education, travel, medical, veterinary, country entry, transportation and housing. According to DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) documents obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), TIA is an all-encompassing surveillance system that will collect virtually every byte of information that there is to collect about U.S. citizens: phone records, bank records, medical records, education records, travel records. There are even plans to establish a biometric identification system. Well, you get the picture.

Rather than kicking and screaming my way through the cheerless and aphotic boscage of the coming years, rather than view my privacy as a sacrificial Wasteland to be fertilized then extinguished, I've come to believe that this new plan of having my every purchase, thought and movement documented is indeed, first-rate.

The way I see it, there are two primary possibilities of having everything but my stool samples dissected in chilling detail. One, I could become paranoid and unhinged, quivering with every credit card transaction, wondering how suspicious Halloween candy purchasing will be interpreted, how large investments of carbon, which from the ashes converts to graphite, which can be pressurized into a diamond, will be construed.

On the other hand, I could leave a tempting trail of debatable and contradictory actions in my wake to see how to stump the TIA machinery. One morning, I could make credit card purchases for large quantities of non-integrated oil and gas refiners, rubber tires and trade heavily on the Eurodollar. That afternoon, a deluge of high profile prank telephone calls charged to my phone card to a wide scope of Baptist ministries and the World Council of Churches’ Faith and Order Commission and then in the evening, schedule a series of necrosadistic surgeries on a variety of domesticated animals I flew to Orlando, Florida to purchase. Wonder what they'd make of that.

The point is, all this sort of treachery and perfidiousness is not going to bother me. For Chileans, "Sept. 11" evokes the day in 1973 when Socialist President Salvador Allende was overthrown in a military coup led by Gen. Augusto Pinochet and which was allegedly clandestinely pushed for by Kissinger, who also served as national security adviser to former President Richard M. Nixon at the time. Is Kissinger a pig, a war criminal? Sure. But let's face it. In 1974, the year following this coup, Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize so he can't be all bad, can he?

And as for TIA and Poindexter putting one of those Orwellian telescreens, those two-way interactive televisions that cannot be turned off, and which give the government a faceless surveillance window into everyone's life, into everyone's home, well, hell, the internet and copy-cat television has already provided us with a heightened sense of voyeurism. I say we make the government pay to watch our every move. I say they can stick cameras anywhere they want, download any information about me they please but that every search of myself, my motivations and my actions will incur a surcharge. They can stick cameras in my bedroom and my bathroom and pay the going rate for internet pay-per-view hidden camera porn. They can watch me cook my meals in the kitchen and pay me something like whatever Emeril gets per episode, per Bam! They can monitor my credit card purchases so long as they pay for them. They can listen in on my phone calls if they pay my phone bill.

The way I figure it, this new TIA program is going to make me millions. You other Americans should sit up and take notice. The big payday is coming.

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