“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means for going backwards.” ― Aldous Huxley, "Ends and Means."
If 2014 was the year of militarized police, armored tanks, and stop-and-frisk searches, 2015 may well be the year of technologized police, surveillance blimps and scan-and-frisk searches.
Just as we witnessed neighborhood cops being transformed into soldier cops, we’re about to see them shapeshift once again, this time into robocops, complete with robotic exoskeletons, super-vision contact lenses, computer-linked visors, and mind-reading helmets.
Similarly, just as military equipment created for the battlefield has been deployed on American soil against American citizens, we’re about to see military technology employed here at home in a manner sure to annihilate what’s left of our privacy and Fourth Amendment rights.
For instance, with the flick of a switch (and often without your even being aware of the interference), police can now shut down your cell phone, scan your body for “suspicious” items as you walk down the street, test the air in your car for alcohol vapors as you drive down the street, identify you at a glance and run a background check on you for outstanding warrants, piggyback on your surveillance devices to listen in on your conversations and “see” what you see on your private cameras, and track your car’s movements via a GPS-enabled dart.
Police make arrests as protesters rallying against a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner march near Times Square, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
That doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of what’s coming down the pike, with law enforcement and military agencies boasting technologies so advanced as to render everything up until now mere child’s play.
Once these technologies, which used to belong exclusively to the realm of futuristic sci-fi films, have been unleashed on an unsuspecting American public, it will completely change the face of American policing and, in the process, transform the landscape of what we used to call our freedoms.
It doesn’t even matter that these technologies can be put to beneficial uses. As we’ve learned the hard way, once the government gets involved, it’s only a matter of time before the harm outweighs the benefits.
Imagine, if you will, self-guided “smart” bullets that can track their target as it moves, solar-powered airships that provide persistent wide-area surveillance and tracking of ground “targets,” a grenade launcher that can deliver 14 flash-bang grenade rounds, invisible tanks that can blend into their surroundings and masquerade as a snow bank or a soccer mom’s station wagon, and a guided mortar weapon that can target someone up to 12 miles away.
Or what about “less lethal weapons” such as the speech jammer gun, which can render a target tongue-tied; sticky foam guns, which shoot foam that hardens on contact, immobilizing the victim; and shock wave generators, which use the shockwaves from a controlled explosion to knock people over.
Now imagine trying to defend yourself against such devices, which are incapable of distinguishing between an enemy combatant and a civilian. For that matter, imagine attempting to defend yourself or your loved ones against police officers made superhuman thanks to technology that renders them bullet-proof, shatter-proof, all-seeing, all-knowing and all-powerful.
Detective Sgt. Childers stands atop the massive MRAP armored vehicle recently acquired by the Livingston County Sheriff's Department for use by its tactical response team, July 16, 2013 in Howel, Mich. PhotovCredit: ALAN WARD/AP
While robocops are problematic enough, the problem we’re facing is so much greater than technology-enhanced domestic soldiers.
As I make clear in my book "A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State," we’re on the cusp of a major paradigm shift from fascism disguised as a democracy into a technocratic surveillance society in which there are no citizens, only targets. We’re all targets now, to be scanned, surveilled, tracked and treated like blips on a screen.
What’s taking place in Maryland right now is a perfect example of this shift. With Congress’ approval, the Army has just launched two massive, billion dollar surveillance airships into the skies over Baltimore, each airship three times the size of a Goodyear blimp, ostensibly to defend against cruise missile attacks.
In New York, police will soon start employing mobile scanners that allow them to scan people on the street in order to detect any “suspicious” objects under their clothes. The scanners will also let them carry out enhanced data collection in the field—fingerprints, iris scans, facial mapping—which will build the government’s biometric database that much faster.
Google Glass, being considered for use by officers, would allow police to access computer databases, as well as run background checks on and record anyone in their line of sight.
Stand-off lasers can detect alcohol vapors in a moving car. Meanwhile, Ekin Patrol cameras, described as “the first truly intelligent patrol unit in the world,” can not only detect the speed of passing cars but can generate tickets instantaneously, recognize and store the license plates of stopped, moving or parked vehicles, measure traffic density and violation data and engage in facial recognition of drivers and passengers.
Collectively, all of these gizmos, gadgets and surveillance devices render us not just suspects in a surveillance state but also inmates in an electronic concentration camp.
Unfortunately, eager as we are for progress and ill-suited to consider the moral and spiritual ramifications of our planned obsolescence, we have yet to truly fathom what it means to live in an environment in which we are always on red alert, always under observation, and always having our actions measured, judged and found wanting under some law or other intrusive government regulation.
There are those who are not at all worried about this impending future, certain that they have nothing to hide. Rest assured, soon we will all have nowhere to hide from the prying eyes of a government bound and determined to not only know everything about us—where we go, what we do, what we say, what we read, what we keep in our pockets, how much money we have on us, how we spend that money, who we know, what we eat and drink, and where we are at any given moment—but prepared to use that information against us, whenever it becomes convenient and profitable to do so.
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