2007-07-12 / View From the Middle

View From The Middle

The Spies Among Us Might Be A Good Thing
By Charles Rogers

By Charles Rogers

I didn't really think it would come to this, but I'm ready to bend to the "Big Brother" syndrome. It's not a matter of "if you can't fight 'em join 'em," it's a matter of self protection.

The topic, of course, is domestic spying; something I've abhorred ever since, well, ever since I was told we are a free country. Lately, though, I wonder if it isn't such a bad idea to have "spy" surveillance cameras all over the place. I mean, when George Orwell wrote his anti-Establishment tome "1984," it was indeed a look into the future and what could be, or what might be, if a totalitarian state existed. The fear engendered by the powers-that-be at the top was a fictional entity that kept the proletariat hunched over and furtively rushing from point to point because even being tardy was a crime. If you did break a law, the Big Brothers who ran the surveillance units would get you and the punishment would be severe.

Of course, "1984" was semi-believable science fiction and, when that year came and went, those believers looked a little foolish. Like me.

But what goes around comes around (or whatever) and, lo and behold, look out the window at the utility pole and see the camera up there like a crow's nest on a pirate ship. Just starin' down at us.

Be careful now; don't step to the left. They'll think you're a Liberal. Whoops! Don't step to the right. You might be called a Conservative. Even if you walk down the middle, they'll call you a chicken Moderate, which is, essentially, an Independent. That means you're in real trouble!

From the above tableau, it's a pretty obvious possibility that somebody is out to get us, one way or another. And that's the scary part. That, plus the fact that somebody's just plain invading our privacy.

However, things have indeed changed more than we thought they could be - or might be - in 1984. Although the Cold War was still on, surveillance cameras and microphones were being used, for the most part, surreptitiously and almost always by the CIA or KGB, hardly ever by the FBI, and practically never by the NYPD. It was a different world.

It was thought, at the time, that this form of spying was to be left to the spymasters. Even getting a court order to "invade" the privacy of the worst of criminals was difficult. After all, it would break a law guaranteeing one of our fundamental rights; one of the policies that we fought war after war over, including the war that made us a country; the one that told the world that we are free and have certain inalienable rights - privacy being one of them.

Yes, things are different now. That privacy factor falls by the wayside when you're fighting the kind of terrorism tactics used by a people who will commit suicide just to commit homicide.

There are those in the government fighting the authorization of the use of secret surveillance cameras or other methods as stipulated by President Bush in the Patriot Act after 9/11. It's a pro and con measure with Congress fairly divided one way and another. But whadaya gonna do? If we don't get in on this spying business, then the one-upmanship that we need will never be seen and we may as well go to the end of the line. Sorry, but them's the facts. It may be dirty pool, but the Marquis of Queensbury rules don't mean a thing 'cause we're fighting for our lives.

Where does that leave us? Well, probably back at point A.

After having seen what happened in London and Glasgow within the past few weeks, it's time to scrutinize our policies. Luckily, there were very few injuries. Supposedly, all of the suspects involved in the cases have been arrested. Some of them are "professionals" in the medical industry.

And if it hadn't been for surveillance - audio and visual - the suspects would not have been caught.

Can you imagine what has been going on in the United States because of spy-surveillance since 9/11? Not enough, of course. Our Homeland Security will just as well ignore New York as the biggest per capita target for bad guys but they still don't get it.

So what do we have to depend on? The FBI, CIA and - you better believe it - the NYPD, all using their secret gizmos, but all being more effective than Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the already worthless bureaucratic post.

Suffice to say we haven't been attacked yet. Don't tell me it isn't because our spy system isn't working.

Scary? Yes.

Comforting? Well…um…yes!

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