Worldview WeekendBy John W. Whitehead 8/30/2010
"The only person who is still a private individual in Germany is somebody who is asleep."- Robert Ley, a member of the Nazi hierarchy As the surveillance state expands around us, entangling us in a web from which there is no escape, what we used to call "privacy" is fast becoming a thing of the past. In fact, the very latest governmental assaults on our privacy rights take the form of two portable high-tech scanners that are little more than thinly disguised data collection systems aimed at turning unsuspecting Americans into permanent suspects.
The first device, a license-plate recognition scanner that can sweep a parking lot full of cars in under a minute, uses infrared cameras mounted on police cars to constantly scan nearby license plates and check them against police databases. "Police like the devices for their speed and efficiency but mostly for their ability to record thousands of plates and their locations each day," writes journalist Christine Vendel. "The information is loaded wirelessly into a police database and archived for possible searches later." With such a tool at its disposal, the government can retroactively pinpoint exactly where you were on any given day. And if you had the bad luck to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the burden of proving your innocence will rest with you.
The second device, a mobile version of an airport full-body scanner, will soon be roaming America's streets and neighborhoods. Mounted in nondescript delivery vehicles that enable police or other government agents to blend into urban and other landscapes, these roving x-ray scanners "bounce a narrow stream of x-rays off and through nearby objects, and read which ones come back," thereby producing instantaneous photo-like images of whatever the van passes-whether it be cars, trucks, containers, homes or people. In other words, the government can now do drive-by strip searches of your person and your home, including monitoring what you are doing in the privacy of your home. Even though you may be innocent of any wrongdoing whatsoever, every aspect of your life, as well as every room of your house and everything you do in your house will be under scrutiny by government agents-and can and will be recorded and used against you at a later date.