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Democrat July-August 2012 (Number 130)

Watch Out

Says Ron Dorman

Cameras looking everywhere

Surveillance of people by the state considered “dangerous” is nothing new but was in the past confined to comparatively few people. However, with the explosion of technology in the last two decades the situation has changed dramatically. We now have such things as the internet, mobile phones and satellites. These inventions have brought about massive changes in communications and the way we live. But not all of this has been for our good.

The new techniques in communications have also made it possible to check what everyone does and says and providing a scapegoat can be found for doing so it will be done. Hence for example, the “reason” for making all Muslims into “baddies” - this is not to say some Muslims may be baddies just as in every other walk of life.

However, this new kind of surveillance started before the “Muslim problem” way back in 1985 with the Schengen agreement signed by Germany, France and the Benelux countries and aimed at mutual recognition of visas between these countries and strengthened police co-operation. Schengen has since been integrated into the EU Amsterdam Treaty.

Also, a system called Echelon has been developed, designed as much for non-military use as military – for governments, organisations and businesses throughout the world - with Britain as one of the main participants. Thomas Mathiesen, Professor of law, University of Oslo in “On Globalisation of Control: Towards an Integrated Surveillance System in Europe” quotes Steve Wight as follows: “The Echelon system works by indiscriminately intercepting very large quantities of communications and then siphoning out what is valuable using artificial intelligence aides like Menox to find key words. Five nations share the results....Each of the five centres supply “dictionaries” to the other four of key words. Phrases, people and places to “tag” and the tagged intercept is forwarded straight to the requesting country...”.

Some people may say “If you have nothing to hide why worry?” The fact is all of us have private lives we wish no-one else to know about. But more importantly what may considered innocent today by the state may be considered a threat tomorrow – like a mass movement to get rid of our reactionary Con-Dem government – and Echelon should be opposed.