The Real ID Act: Privacy and Government Surveillance

By William Eyre | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 2:
Foundational Theory of
Surveillance

The reason given for the types of surveillance that the government conducts against American citizens involves the desire to avert another terrorist attack such as 9/11. According to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, President Bush told him, “Don’t ever let this happen again” (D. Solomon, 2006)

The advocates of the total surveillance regime that the U.S. government is in the process of imposing on the population of the United States argue that there is a logically straight line from the destruction of personal privacy protections under the Constitution to the prevention of terrorism. Conversely, it can be stated that the manner in which terrorism can be best prevented is to put every person under surveillance. The analogy is made by one of John Poindexter’s associates, Ted Senator:

Our task is akin to finding dangerous groups of needles hidden
in stacks of needle pieces. This is much harder than simply
finding needles in a haystack: we have to search through many
stacks, not just one; we do not have a contrast between shiny,
hard needles and dull, fragile hay; we have many ways of
putting the pieces together into individual needles and the
needles into groups of needles; and we cannot tell if a needle
or group is dangerous until it is at least partially assembled.
So, in principle at least, we must track all the needle pieces all
of the time and consider all possible combinations (Bamford,
2008, p. 102).

John Poindexter was the driving force behind Total Information Awareness (TIA), the program started under the aegis of the Department of Defense. Poindexter graduated at the top of his class at the Naval Academy, but was also the highest ranking official to be

-65-

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The Real ID Act: Privacy and Government Surveillance
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Law and Society Recent Scholarship i
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Chapter 1- Surveillance Today 1
  • Chapter 2- Foundational Theory of Surveillance 65
  • Chapter 3- Total Surveillance 85
  • Chapter 4- Technology of the Real Id Act 105
  • Chapter 5- The Real Id Act- Threat to Freedom 135
  • Epilogue 159
  • References 161
  • Index 195
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