For all the talk about the threat of "Little Brother" this year (youtubers and bloggers ready to distribute celebrity and citizen malfeasance within minutes), Big Brother still got some life in him yet. Here are some of his finest moments from the last year:
1) Fox News airs an infomercial for torture. On the November 3rd Greta Van Susteren show, reporter Steve Harrigan submitted himself to waterboarding, declaring:
As far as torture goes, at least in this controlled experiment, to me, this seemed like a pretty efficient mechanism to get someone to talk and then still have them alive and healthy within minutes.
2) Federal semantics eliminates the hunger problem. In November, The United States Department of Agriculture replaces the word "hunger" with the phrase "low food security" in its annual report on hunger in America. Problem solved! Link.
3) Defending the First Amendment by proposing that we scrap it. At a New Hampshire event dedicated to freedom of speech, Newt Gingrich declares that the United States will have to re-examine that particular constitutional right as it fights terrorism. Link. Said Newt: "This is a serious, long-term war. It will inevitably lead us to want to know what is said in every suspect place in the country. It will lead us to learn how to close down every Web site that is dangerous."
4) Halliburton contracts to build large detention camps in the US. In January, KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton was awarded a 385 million dollar contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build "Detention and Removal" facilities to help "in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs that require additional detention space." Links: 1 2 3 4
5) The Inexorable Worldwide Rollout of RFID Chips. Although it's not moving as quickly as the RFID industry would like, 2006 saw the addition of electronic ID chips to US passports, Nikes and iPods, Florida pythons, Japanese schoolchildren, German hospital patients and boozing Brits.
6) Stay What? After years of characterizing US policy in Iraq as "Stay the course," the Bush administration not only drops the phrase, but denies it ever existed. On October 23rd, Bush declared "We've never been 'stay the course.'"
7) Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Carrying Cash is a Crime. In August, a federal court ruled that the government can seize cash from an individual, even if that individual has not been accused of a crime and has no criminal record. Link to Article | Link to Ruling (pdf)
8) The Automated Targeting System. In November, the Federal Register revealed the existence of the Automated Targeting System, a Department of Homeland Security program for identifying terrorists and criminals, which cross references all people entering or leaving the country with a host of personal data which they are not allowed to see or correct. Links: 1 2 3 4
9) NSA Warrantless Surveillance and Crypto-City. Although the
NSA's secret spying program broke in late 2005, the controversy took up
much of 2006, culminating in the August ruling by Detroit District
Court that the program was unconstitutional and illegal under the
Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It continues nonetheless. And
yet, through all of this, there's been almost no discussion of the
NSA's secret city north of Washington, DC, called Crypto-City.
Crypto-City links: 1 2 3
10) You tell me. What did I forget, or what's Orwellian in your neck of the woods? I'll add the tenth item from the best glaring omission suggestions made in the comments section.