Big Brother is Watching!

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August 2006


Remember when we all read George Orwell’s book 1984? We thought it was so distant and so impossible for the government to be so intrusive in private lives. Big Brother is watching!

            The year 1984 has come and gone and the book is probably catching dust on bookshelves or relegated to history, but another George has taken up the task of making Big Brother a reality.

            First it was the provisions of the Patriot Act, endorsed by President George W. Bush, that allowed Big Brother to check library patrons’ book reading. Librarians quickly took up the chanllenge and destroyed old records, keeping only the record of current books checked out. Also many refused to give information to the government. Big Brother is watching!

            Then George decided to intercept emails without legal authorization. He could easily have obtained such authority by going to a special court, but he chose not to take this route, claiming presidential authority granted under the Constitution.

            He assured us that only international emails were being checked for patterns of communication. Even though some expressed outrage, this seemed to mollify the critics. Big Brother is watching!

            Next came the request for and receipt of millions of telephone calls. This started soon after 9/11. AT&T, Verison, and Bell South complied with the government’s request.     The U.S. telecommunications industry can connect hundreds of billions of telephone calls each year. Intelligence analysts are seeking to mine their records to expose hidden connections and details of social networks, hoping to find signs of terrorist plots in the vast sea of innocent contacts.” Nearly 2 trillion have been collected since late 2001; only the phone numbers have been collected, not names or messages. The National Security Agency is using a program to find patterns of phone calls and find those made to known terrorists (Washington Post 06May12)

            The President assure dus that ordinary citizens have nothing to fear. Are we led to believe that there are millions of terrorists running around this country making phone calls? Bib Brother is watching!

            The Bush administration asked for and received data on the searches made by private citizens on  the internet. Yahoo complied with the request,but Google refused.  Bib Brother is watching!

            When the Terri Schiavo case was being debated in Florida, President Bush stepped in. Bib Brother is watching!

            A family of five bought a house in Black Jack Missouri, but they discovered a city ordinance required an occupancy permit. The twon is trying to prevent over crowding,it said. Their permit was denied because the man and woman were not married, even though they have been living together for thirteen years and two of thee children are theirs. They are not considered family by the city. The city is reviewingthe ordinance. Big Brother is watching at the local level too!

            It is this same Big Brother who wants to regulate marriage through a Constitutional amendment.  Big Brother is watching!

            According to the Washington Post (7/23/06), the Commission on the Future of Higher Education released its proposal in late June to set up a national database that would track college students  courses taken and their successes and failures throughout their college careers. Data would be linked to individual social security numbers. The article asked how  soon will it be before such studies trickle down to high school and elementary school students. Bib Brother is watching!

            Back when 1984 first came out, it was generally believed that the liberals of this country would be the ones to take the path of making government into Big Brother. After all, the widely held view was   and is the liberals that continue to make government bigger and bigger! They are the ones who try to regulate everything, so the thinking goes.

            “Surprise, surprise!”, as Gomer Pyle used to say.  The conservatives are the ones reaching into our private lives breaking the Fourth Amendment rights of protection from capricious searches.

            On the other side, the gun control people, including me,  want to ban the ownership and use of firearms, but I begrudgingly admit that this too is a case of government intrusion. Bib Brother is watching!

            When is it proper and good to restrict individual rights under the banner of security? A good question to ponder, especially in this election year.