“Big Brother is Eyeing Us – For Good or Evil?”

Tyler Durden's picture

Presenting the Thought of the Day by Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.

“Big Brother is Eyeing Us – For Good or Evil?”

By Sydney M. Williams

We have all become increasingly aware of the fact that no matter what we do, where we go, or who we see, someone is watching us. It may not be “1984” yet, but it is getting pretty close. Most cell phones have a GPS chip built in, allowing your movements to be tracked within a few feet. Credit cards record all purchases – where and when. A car’s GPS system – built into its navigation system – tracks your car within a few yards. Last week I spent a few days skiing in Vail where the concept really hit home. Their Epic Pass has a chip that allows the mountain to track your every movement – the lift you ride, the trail you come down, when and where you take a break. The system is popular; it calculates the vertical feet one skis; it also allows one to track one’s friends, knowing what lift or trail they are on.

There is much that is useful, and even potentially lifesaving, in the ubiquity of such technology, but there is the risk that the information may fall into the wrong hands. Either way it is antithetical to the concept of the independent individual on which our society is based. Keep in mind, the Fourth Amendment of our Constitution guarantees the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.”

In the wake of the terrorists attack on 9/11, the Patriot Act was drafted, passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush on October 25, 2001. (It is amazing how quickly Congress can act when they choose to!) The Act essentially provided the federal government the tools that were already in place – with court-ordered warrants – to counteract organized crime and drug trafficking. But, it did so while generally eliminating the necessity of getting court approval to search e-mails, tap into phone calls, access medical, financial and library records. A crisis, it has been said, is a terrible thing to waste. Most of the Act’s provisions were set to sunset in four years; however, it was reauthorized in 2006. And, on May 26, 2011, President Barack Obama signed another four-year extension of its key provisions.

Other than an old flintlock, there are no weapons in my house. Apart from a brief period in the U.S. Army, I have never fired a weapon. Nevertheless, the right to bear arms is an intrinsic right of our citizens and one supported by the Second Amendment. And I strongly support the notion that, in the case of a crime or an accident, it is almost never the inanimate weapon that is at fault; the fault lies with the bearer, or the owner. Thus, it was interesting, amusing and a little frightening to read of Professor David Kopel’s recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Panel on the Schumer Registration and Rights Denial Bill. Mr. Kopel teaches at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law. (The name “Sturm”, presumably, derives from Sturm Ruger, the manufacturer of the Ruger SR9 pistol and seventy other weapons.) Senator Schumer’s Bill appeared not only to violate the Second Amendment, but also the Fifth. When Senator Schumer seemed unaware of some of his Bill’s provisions, Professor Kopel suggested he redraft the text to reflect his intent. The Bill is still pending. Certainly, if a chip can be embedded in a credit card and car, it could be placed inside a weapon. While such a decision may be applauded by some, the consequences could be a decrease in gun sales and an increase in gun thefts.

The 2012 Defense Department Authorization bill, which the Senate is currently considering, contains a provision that would authorize the U.S. military to indefinitely detain anyone they consider to be engaged in hostilities toward the United States, without charge or trial. The provision would not restrict military detentions to people in specific countries or regions of the world and would apply to U.S. citizens living within the United States. While I agree that vigilance is critical in a world as dangerous as the one in which we live, is it worth living in a prison, even one guarded by those whom we have elected? President Abraham Lincoln did suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus in 1861, allowing the government to hold suspects indefinitely without charge, but that was during the Civil War and he was criticized at the time.

Unmanned predator drones are being used not just in theaters of war or for border surveillance, but to search out criminals on American soil. Michael C. Kostelnik, retired Air Force general and Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Custom and Border Protection, was quoted recently as saying that predator drones are flown “in many areas around the country, not only for federal operators, but also for state and local enforcement.” Ohio Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich, with whom I don’t often agree, spoke last summer against the domestic use of predator drones: “…we have slipped into a spooky new world where joystick gods manipulating robots deal death from the skies and then go home and hug their children…The proliferation of drone technology and its inevitable extension into civilian law enforcement is a leap into the arms of Big Brother.” It is this fear of an omnipotent government that has made so popular fictional characters like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, an ex-Army MP who travels the country, courting trouble without car, cell phones or credit cards.

It may be that my words are unduly alarmist, and perhaps they are. But our democracy has always been fragile. The enormous strides in surveillance technology, the increased power of appointees within the executive branch who are not beholden to Congress, the real threat of terrorist activity and little understanding of history on the part of too many people provide risk to our individual freedoms. “Truth,” wrote George Orwell, “is treason in the empire of lies.”

We in the United States have lived free from a tyrannical government for over two hundred years. It becomes easy, therefore, to succumb to the notion that government is benevolent and can do us no harm. But the founders of our nation knew otherwise, as do millions of people today who have come here from countries that do not have our basic freedoms.

It is easy to slide insidiously into repression. Just ask Jews who lived in Germany in the early 1930s. Over the years, novelists have warned of the consequences of an expanded and centralized government. Dystopian novels like Alduos Huxley’s Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, among others, have dealt with a future in which dehumanized people led lives fearful of an all-knowing and all-powerful government. Technology and surveillance systems today have rendered such possibilities as probabilities. The fear of terrorism has made us more willing to tolerate increased government intrusion. Predator drones attack our enemies without putting our soldiers at physical risk, seemingly inconsistent with their job description. There is no halting technological development, nor should there be. Nevertheless, the risk of an unscrupulous person gaining power exists. Our democracy is based on a system of checks and balances. However, since 1933, the executive branch of our government has assumed increasing powers – today manifested in the 38 “czars” working in the Obama Administration – 33 of whom function without Senate confirmation.

In the wake of Communism in Russia and Nazis in Germany, Sinclair Lewis titled his 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here. So far it hasn’t, but that is no reason to let down our guard.

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A brother from a different mother. 

trav7777's picture

...he loved Big Brother, bitchez

Tapeworm's picture


Predator drones against farmers in north Dakota.

chumbawamba's picture

The author of this article is a pathetique milquetoast.

I am Chumbawamba.

Strut's picture

No worries sheep fukkers, it's just us Koch brothers - suckerz!

Silver Bug's picture

Sadly the federal conviction rate in the U.S has even surpassed that of Nazi Germany, it stands at a 99% conviction rate. Germany was 90%. Big brother is here for Evil.



BigInJapan's picture

No. Not really.
95%. Big difference.
Russia, yes. America, not yet.

CH1's picture

Russia, yes. America, not yet.

Well then, that makes it okay!

jeff montanye's picture

so it is crucial that the laws being enforced are just and that they are justly enforced.  neither is the case now.  ron paul '12.

ShankyS's picture

Police State Bitchez! Sorry for those that would not even consider listening when it was warned it was coming. 

Robslob's picture





Game, set , match....

pods's picture

That was my thought. How the hell can one NOT come to the conclusion that it is not already here?

Just because it is not in the form that the movies show (which is not be accident) does not mean we are not neck deep in one now.

Naive article.


wandstrasse's picture

how deep are the big banks involved in Google, facebook, the telcos, the media etc? Easy question, easy answer. They own our bodies AND our souls.

Dr Hackenbush's picture

The spirit and intent of the Freedom of Information Act and similar State Public Records Legislation were enacted so that citizens could know what the State and Federal Gov are collecting on them.  The ultimate conundrum being that  nanosecond aggregation has turned these laws against us.   these laws were NOT enacted in order to give EVERYONE's Brother, snooping rights into our private lives. 

Element's picture

But if you've done nothing wrong, what have you got to worry about?

akak's picture

If we've done nothing wrong, why is the government spying on us?

Element's picture

But you never can tell ... it's always the quiet ones.

jeff montanye's picture

funny stuff.  but obama talked a lot and look what that fellow has done.

DaveyJones's picture

except more damage when he crashes

hidingfromhelis's picture

Will anyone ask for his return when he does crash?

12ToothAssassin's picture

Terrible argument. THEY decide what is right or wrong, not you. If they decide youve done wrong then you can be detained without charge or trial. You cant tell anyone that you did no wrong. 


Wake up.

Element's picture

OMG! ... not only are they spying on you, they've disabled all your sarc detectors as well ... this is worse than I thought ...

pods's picture

I saw it. Nobody here (save MDB) could actually post that without it being sarcasm.


MichaelNY's picture

I'm sorry, but by and large us Americans are too stupid to save. Oil goes up, gasoline goes down. Stocks flat or up, gold and silver down. (Think Xmas sale and run up more debt.) There is a sucker punch coming...and the majority aren't ready. Are you?

divide_by_zero's picture

When Senator Schumer seemed unaware of some of his Bill’s provisions, Professor Kopel suggested he redraft the text to reflect his intent.

If Schumer seemed unaware it was just an act. He was perfectly aware his Act was violating a Constitution he does not in any way agree with.

akak's picture

Schumer, you warmongering statist POS, I wipe my ass with you, just as you wipe your ass with the US Constitution.

jeff montanye's picture

he, among many others in congress and media, is an israel-firster.  they are not helpful to the long run interests of the u.s. or the world.  or even israel.

Tsunami Wave's picture

Not a peep out of that piece of shit when in 2008/2009 he got massive donations from banks/bankers/other wall street elements and kept his big mouth shut about everything. He's no advocate of "the people".. what a loser.

Money Squid's picture

long peace beads, hacky sack, frisbee, scented candles and patchouli oil.

jeff montanye's picture

and while we're at it, john lennon's "imagine" would have worked better than the foreign policies of the last two presidents, as gimlet eyed real politic, closely calculating purely selfish benefits for the u.s. in blood and treasure.  

LFMayor's picture

It didn't work too peachy against that .38, did it?

pods's picture

Hmmm, seems to be another partnership between the police and military.  

Of course it is for our own protection.


john39's picture

congress didn't act fast on the patriot act...  that POS was drafted years before 911....  "just in case" something like 911 happened.    

HD's picture

This used to be the domain of those wearing tin foil hats. Now it's 1984. Cameras EVERYWHERE. A record of everything you buy online or with a credit card. Calls and emails are monitored for specific "words and patterns". A simple google search can turn up a honey pot of information on just about anyone - even an interactive map of the street they live on. Hell, even the Fed is monitoring sites just like ZH - so they can "communicate their message" better.

And the future? Well, the youth are too busy posting every detail of their lives on facebook - I mean what could go wrong?



Element's picture

This is an enlightened age, there are no bad people in a democracy.

Oh, and democracies don't go to war with other democracies, which proves there are no bad people running democracies.

This is as good as it gets.

Now go back to sleep.

GeezerGeek's picture

Starting several years ago I created a 'paragraph' filled with suspicious phrases and ending with a disclaimer that I was wondering who might be reading my emails other than the intended recipients. I would attach that to the end of most of the emails I sent. No one has contacted me yet. There are also techniques, if one so desires, to send messages that cannot be cracked, not that I've ever felt the need to use one.

As for the lack of privacy, has anyone else noticed (http://dailycaller.com/2011/12/06/library-of-congress-to-receive-entire-...) that the Library of Congress will host the Twitter archives? Not being a Twitter user, I wonder: is there anything in the EULA that allows a user to opt out of this? I never used to read all those supposedly boilerplate agreements, but after this and the rehypothecation garbage in brokerage account agreements, I think I'll spend more time reading.

CH1's picture

There are also techniques, if one so desires, to send messages that cannot be cracked

Yes, PGP or GnuPG - USE IT!

ponzi-r-us's picture

More info on the bill mentioned. http://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/behind-closed-doors-congress-... This is receiving no coverage whatsoever by the mainstream media.

GeezerGeek's picture

The MSM has assumed a role that would do Himmler proud. They suppress anything the government/TPTB would want kept from the people. They allow politicians to lie without being taken to task for it, as long as it benefits TPTB. A good recent example is the outrageous lies from Debbie Wasserman-Schultz regarding unemployment now compared to when Obama took office. Was it covered in the local newspaper, the Sun-Sentinel? Not that I ever saw...

This is why, in the eyes of our masters, the internet must be controlled. The truth may not set us free (at least not in this life) but it will tell us who to target for elimination come the next election cycle. 

Spastica Rex's picture

Terry Gilliam's greatest film, Brazil, is an under-appreciated dystopian masterpiece. It's funny, too.

Cathartes Aura's picture

Katherine Helmond

(one of the best films ever made, gets better with each viewing)

delacroix's picture

thx1138   robert duvall  way before it's time

Jumbotron's picture

Minority Report...

Patriot Act+TSA+Drones+Cameras+Cell Phones+Warrentless Wiretaps+Unlimted Detention of US Citizens =


Spastica Rex's picture

Phillip K. Dick: underappreciated Sci-Fi master.