Sunday, October 25, 2009

We Can't Go On Together With Suspicious Minds

While "civil libertarians" beat their breasts over the "shredding of the Constitution," the increased surveillance and criminalization of everyday life in the Anglo-Saxon world continues apace. Britain has led the way, but don't think pushy American bureaucrats don't read stories like this with a gleam in their eyes: Britons Weary of Surveillance State
It has become commonplace to call Britain a “surveillance society,” a place where security cameras lurk at every corner, giant databases keep track of intimate personal details and the government has extraordinary powers to intrude into citizens’ lives.

A report in 2007 by the lobbying group Privacy International placed Britain in the bottom five countries for its record on privacy and surveillance, on a par with Singapore.

But the intrusions visited on Jenny Paton, a 40-year-old mother of three, were startling just the same. Suspecting Ms. Paton of falsifying her address to get her daughter into the neighborhood school, local officials here began a covert surveillance operation. They obtained her telephone billing records. And for more than three weeks in 2008, an officer from the Poole education department secretly followed her, noting on a log the movements of the “female and three children” and the “target vehicle” (that would be Ms. Paton, her daughters and their car).

It turned out that Ms. Paton had broken no rules.

One pictures the prim Mrs. Paton walking by Uzi toting Taliban while the School Surveillance Squad scans her fish & chips purchase. Hers is not an isolated case. The sort of investigations that can lead to a police tail are remarkable for their pettiness:
(Local authorities) also use (surveillance laws) to investigate reports of noise pollution and people who do not clean up their dogs’ waste. Local governments use them to catch people who fail to recycle, people who put their trash out too early, people who sell fireworks without licenses, people whose dogs bark too loudly and people who illegally operate taxicabs.
The best part about stories like this is: I can point out once again that such intrusive government surveillance is a product of a hip (remember "Cool Britannia?") left-wing government, rather than the right-wing "Magna Charta Shredders" that are invoked when the word "Fascist" is casually bandied about.

Really, it's the left-wing approach to law enforcement and the War of Terror that leads to the abuse of ordinary citizens. Despite herculean efforts to narrowly tailor the law to allow the police to fight Jihadists while maintaining free and open societies, civil libertarians have insisted that bad actors be treated "equally." But, since the public demands safety from being blown up above all else, the state must surveille everyone in order to catch a murderous few. Equality before the law used to simply mean everyone got a fair trial. Now, it means everyone will be treated to obnoxious intrusions into their lives, so as to assuage the imagined abuses carried out against al-Quaeda.

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