Watching Eyes

On September 11, 2001, two hijacked airplanes flew into New York's Twin Towers. Immediately it created repercussions, ones that America still feels today. Ever since then, security has been increased. At the time, the population may have needed it as a comfort from the threat of terrorism, but it has since evolved into a cumbersome, limiting thing. Now, the government's fear and paranoia concerning terrorism is expressed through increasing security measures that watch America. This is terrible because a government that is run by paranoia is a destructive government.

I glimpsed a look into a paranoid future when I read a book called, Little Brother X. Written by Cory Doctorow, it portrays an America where, driven to paranoia by terrorist attacks, everyone and everything is tracked. For example, the library books had tracking devices in the barcodes, the schools had gait-recognition cameras in them to identify where each student goes, and the population had to create their own, safe internet that they called the X-net. The problem with the safe internet was that it wasn't keeping its users safe from outsiders and terrorists. Its purpose was to keep its users safe from their own government's omnipresent eyes. China has already tried a version of an oppressive Internet by censoring Google. What is to stop the American government from doing it as well? With the right emphasis and choice of words, almost anything can happen in Congress.

The American government, faced with terrorism, has decided that above all, they should protect their country. So they decided to protect the people of America, its living body count, but not America's ideals of freedom and liberty. No matter what it will take, the government is trying to keep its population safe. I'm all for the government preventing terrorist attacks, but how many other people are being watched that are innocent? And how are they watched?

One way the government can find people is by those handy GPS's (Global Positioning Systems) that willingly give away their owners' location at a moment's notice. Another venue of surveillance that the government is starting to look into is tracking through the Internet. This concept has been proposed to Congress before, but it didn't pass. If the bill is passed in the future, Internet tracking will only be present on a few websites, and the users will be notified that they are being tracked when they enter the site. The problem with this is how many widespread laws, trends, or items have originated from one little action? Almost everything in America has grown like that, and considering everyone's tendency to use the Internet, the idea of tracking through websites could become pretty popular.

Now I'm sure most people don't have anything to hide, but at what lengths will the government go to to ensure of that? Airport security has increased so much, but there are skeptics (much more learned than I on the matter) who believe that all it has really done is make the process of loading a plane long and invasive. For example, an acquaintance of mine went on a vacation and came back with a funny story. He was going through airport security but was stopped because of the bracelet wire he had wanted to take with him on the plane. Apparently it was a security risk since it could be used to detonate a bomb. While I realize that this may be true, how many items will the airports put limits on? As Bruce Schneier, a security technologist, said, "We take away guns and bombs, and the terrorists use box cutters. We take away box cutters and knitting needles and they put explosives in their shoes. We screen shoes, they use liquids. We limit liquids, they strap explosives in their underwear. This is a stupid game, we can't win, and we should stop playing it." He's right. What's next? Screening underwear? If that's not an invasion of personal privacy, I'm not sure what is.

Another security measure found in airports is terrorist profiling. I doubt it's comforting for any Muslim man to know that he's being watched extra carefully. Let's think about this logically. Hypothetically, if I wanted to hire someone to hijack a plan, I would find try to find a seemingly sunny, jovial, and lighthearted Danish or someone like Jason Bourne who would be able to blend into crowds perfectly. I'd look for someone who didn't fit the profile. I mean no disrespect to the Middle Eastern ethnicities of this world when I say this, but basically I'd try to find the opposite of a solemn Muslim man. I'm sure at least some of the Middle Eastern population have felt that, because of the recent terrorist attacks, the ignorant American's view- and possibly even the government's view- has started to stereotype a terrorist.

Asides from all the airport scruples and inconveniences that keep popping up, there's still that age old problem. It goes something like, "If a tree falls in the forest and no one's around, does it make a sound?" The stakes are higher, though. Now, it's, "If the government is tapping into phone conversations but no one knows, does it really matter?" In the case of George W. Bush and the NSA (National Security Agency), the answer still remains unsolved. From former President George W. Bush's perspective, though, the answer is evident and explained, "Yesterday the existence of this secret program [that allowed NSA 'to eavesdrop on Americans communicating with people overseas'] was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk." An interpretation of his quote could be, "News stations had no right telling people we were eavesdropping!" One of the main controversies was that not even Congress was informed, although Bush claimed to have re-authorized the program at least thirty times. Technically, Bush is no longer president, but who can say things like that aren't forming now? Do you really want your phone lines criss-crossed with wire taps?

Also, it's not like all of these new security measures have really helped. Take into account a recent act of terrorism. A man was allowed onto an airline but was later caught with the necessary ingredients to make a bomb. Which is great, but security didn't even catch him! He was only discovered because his detonator activated before it was supposed to. Before the young man boarded, the man's father tried to tell the American Embassy that his son had displayed radical views. Yet he was still allowed to board? The government had all the pieces; they just failed to put it together.

This makes the solution I present so much more obvious. America does not need more security; it should use the many security systems that it has more efficiently and effectively, as well as train its security personnel better. If the American government increases its security, what's next, full body scans? Even then, I'm sure that terrorists will still be able to create a small, clinging bomb that escapes detection. There will always be something that can beat security systems; it's inevitable.

What America probably doesn't want to do is to have to start all over again. A new government, a new security policy. Starting over would be a solution to America's paranoia problem, but if the people can, it would probably be wise to do that only when all other options have been tried. Before then, the people should try to change their government by doing things like talking to their representatives or even marching to Congress. After they have tried all options, only then should they start all over.

There will always be terrorism. The government, no matter how hard they may try, cannot change that. What the government can do is help protect its people from those threats. However, protection is different than limiting their rights. It's different than becoming suspicious of its own people and the people of the world. America doesn't need overly zealous security guards, prying eyes, or listening ears. The government needs to use all of the resources it already has; fear of terrorism cannot be what runs the American government.

*Bibliography
"Bush Says He Signed NSA Wiretap Order." CNN.com, December 17, 2005. <http://www.cnn.com/2005/POLITICS/12/17/bush.nsa/> (January 21, 2010).

"CNN Student News Transcript: January 11, 2010." CNN Living, January 11, 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/2010/LIVING/studentnews/01/10/transcript.mon/index.html> (January 21, 2010).

Cory Doctorow: Little Brother. <http://craphound.com/littlebrother/Cory_Doctorow_-_Little_Brother.txt> (January 21, 2010).

Hsu, Spencer S. and Cecilia Kang. "U.S. Web-Tracking Plan Stirs Privacy Fears." <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/10/AR2009081002743.html> (January 21, 2010).


Mills, Elinor. "Google to Censor China Web Searches." <http://news.cnet.com/Google-to-censor-China-Web-searches/2100-1028_3-6030784.html> (January 21, 2010).

"U.S. Security for Air Travel Under New Scrutiny." msnbc, December 28, 2009. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34592031> (January 21, 2010).





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