Sunday, August 27, 2006

Are we in danger of sleepwalking into a global "surveillance society"?

This has been out there for a while, but it's still worth reading (and downloading): The International Federation of Journalists released a report last year detailing the erosion of our civil liberties in the worldwide war on terror, "Journalism, Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism." [Download 2.35 MB PDF.] Among the findings:
The report, produced jointly by the IFJ and the civil liberties group Statewatch, says:

# Media and independent journalism suffer in a “pervasive atmosphere of paranoia” which is leading to dangerous levels of self-censorship
# Dissent inside and outside media is being restricted
# Fundamental rights to a fair trial are routinely violated
# Governments are covertly creating massive databanks for surveillance of their citizens
# New international rules are being agreed in a secret process of “policy laundering”

The report, which includes an analysis of current policy developments as well as a survey of some 20 selected countries, concludes that around half of the minimum standards set out in the Universal Declaration of on Human Rights are being undermined by the war on terrorism.

“An atmosphere of fear and uncertainty is being created and civil liberties are being torn to shreds, even in states with a reputation for tolerance and pluralism,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary at the launch of the report today. “World Press Freedom Day is the right moment to demand a return to transparency, open government and free expression for all.”

“Everyone agrees with steps taken to ensure public safety against terrorist attacks,” said Tony Bunyan, Statewatch Director. “But a lot of the measures brought in have little or nothing to do with combating terrorism. This report is an alarm call to democracies - in the name of the "politics of fear" we are in great danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society and that democratic values we have taken for granted are being sacrificed in the ‘war on terrorism’”.
OK, that was 18 months ago. Can you think of ways the situation has gotten significantly better since then? Didn't think so. I can't, either.

UPDATE: These aren't just bleeding-heart, goodie-goodie liberal abstractions we're talking about here. Avedon Carol has a post about a couple of particularly nasty examples, one in California, and one in Pakistan relating to the alleged London airline plot.

UPDATE #2: Glenn Greenwald has more here, his bitterly sarcatic close leaving no doubt about where he stands:
But there's no need to worry. The Bush administration only intends to use these extraordinary, unchecked powers for your own good -- to protect you. That's why all of this yammering about the need for oversight or checks is just shrill paranoia. Placing blind trust and faith in the Goodness of our leaders to exercise powers against us in secret and with no oversight is the bedrock principle on which this country was founded. Only someone who hates this country could be against all of that.

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