aNewDomain.net — If you’re riled up about PRISM, hold the phone — and the postage. Ted Rall has something to say on the July 4 news re: the U.S. Postal Service and its so-called Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program. It is, Ted Rall says, just what it sounds like: the government is spying on your snail mail. Missed the news? You’re not alone.
Here’s another horror right out of George Orwell’s dystopian 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and no one will care about it: The government is spying on your snail mail.
It’s Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four — just 29 years later.
Notice The New York Times timed the release of the story so it would come and go without notice. That was on the Fourth of July, a national holiday when no one reads the paper or watches the news here in the United States.
And beneath the puffy lede there it was — another privacy-killing whopper. After 9/11, the Times reports, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) created the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking (MICT) program:
in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images.”
Make a wild guess. Go ahead.
How about … forever?
The report continues:
Together…the two programs show that postal mail is subject to the same kind of scrutiny that the National Security Agency has given to telephone calls and e-mail.”
Any government agency — the FBI, local police, you name it — is able to request mail-cover data.
And, as with the rubber stamp “FISA court,” the USPS almost always says yes to these outrageous mass violations of privacy.
From George Orwell’s 1984:
As for sending a letter through the mails, it was out of the question. By a routine that was not even secret, all letters were opened in transit.”
“It’s a treasure trove of information,” former FBI agent James Wedick tells the Times. He continues, “Looking at just the outside of letters and other mail, I can see who you bank with, who you communicate with — all kinds of useful information that gives investigators leads that they can then follow up on with a subpoena.”
We are talking about your finances. Your friends. Your politics.
No doubt about it, the dystopian vision laid out in Orwell’s 1984 is here.
Thanks to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, we now know about the previously-top-secret PRISM program, in which the U.S. government “collects the e-mail, voice, text and video chats” of every American to be stored in a $2 billion data farm in Utah, in addition to sweeping telephone surveillance by Verizon and other telecommunications companies on behalf of the NSA.
According to NBC News and various other sources, “every single phone call made in the U.S. has been monitored by the U.S. government.”
And this is not, merely, as President Obama and his media shills keep saying, just the metadata. Just? Nope. Under ECHELON, the government listens in to “all telephone, fax and data traffic,” record it and store it.
From 1984 :
There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to.”
Yes, they can.
The dominant eavesdropping technology in 1984 was a device called the telescreen. Installed in every home and workplace as an outlet for government propaganda, the telescreen as Orwell conceived it …
received and transmitted simultaneously. Any sound that Winston made, above the level of a very low whisper, would be picked up by it, moreover, so long as he remained within the field of vision which the metal plaque commanded, he could be seen as well as heard.”
That TV would target “ads to viewers based on information collected from infrared cameras and microphones that would be able to detect conversations, people, objects and even animals that are near a TV. If the detection system determines that a couple is arguing, a service provider would be able to send an ad for marriage counseling to a TV or mobile device in the room,” reported the blog Fierce Cable.
“If the couple utters words that indicate they are cuddling, they would receive ads for ‘a romantic getaway vacation, a commercial for a contraceptive, a commercial for flowers, or commercials for romantic movies,’ ” Verizon states in the patent application.
Verizon’s patent was denied. But now Google TV is going for it. The technology exists. It only is a matter of time before it finds its way into our homes. Anti-privacy tech types point out it’s only to make ads more effective — the same way web ads react to your searching and browsing. But that’s just for now. It isn’t a stretch to imagine the NSA, FBI or other crazy spook outfit tapping into America’s telescreens in order to watch us in our living rooms and bedrooms.
Gotta stop the terrorists, right?
Whatever it takes.
Ah, the terrorists.
The enemies of the state. Bush had his Osama. Obama has Snowden. Bugaboos keep us distracted, fearful, compliant. “The heretic, the enemy of society, will always be there, so that he can be defeated and humiliated over again,” the government official O’Brien lectures Winston Smith in 1984.
“The espionage, the betrayals, the arrests, the tortures, the executions, the disappearances will never cease.”
Governments rule over the governed by obtaining their tacit consent, Or they do it by crushing potential opponents — they make them too afraid to speak up. Option two is where we are now.
One horror follows another.
At Guantánamo concentration camp, where les misérables of America’s War of Terror languish for year after year, uncharged with any crime, U.S. government goons announced that they will continue to force feed more than 100 hunger strikers during Ramadan, a month-long holiday when devout Muslims are required to fast.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy in London because he fears extradition to and execution by the U.S. and Interpol. And Ecuador spokespeople say they have discovered that some Western intelligence agency planted a bug to watch him.
Meanwhile, Edward Snowden has been de facto stripped of his U.S. citizenship. With his U.S. passport canceled, he is rendered effectively stateless.
Meanwhile, the megacriminals he exposed — Obama and his cronies — are living large.
Assange and Snowden are no longer important. They’ve done all the damage they can do. But the U.S. will never leave them or any other enemy of the state alone.
It’s all about terrifying potential political opponents into submission.
“Do not imagine that you will save yourself, Winston, however completely you surrender to us. No one who has once gone astray is ever spared,” O’Brien tells Winston in Orwell’s 1984. “We shall squeeze you empty, and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”
Did you enjoy your 4th of July barbecue?
Based in New York, Ted Rall is a senior commentator on the Big Brother beat for aNewDomain.net, Find all his work at tedrall.com. His upcoming book, After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan, will be out in 2014 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.