In the late Eighteenth century, English philosopher Jeremy Bentham designed the institutional building of Panopticon. Bentham himself described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind”. The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the managers of the institution are able to watch the inmates without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched.
Fancy or reality, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, this is more or less what is happening in the United States, due to a continuous and increasingly intrusive surveillance of citizens by Government, through a systems which also involves citizens themselves and private corporations in collecting data and information about population.
“Acting under the broad mandate of the “war” on terrorism, the U.S. Security establishment is making a systematic effort to extend its surveillance capacity by pressing the private sector into service to report on the activities of Americans.”
This is what is written in the ACLU report, according to which “Information held by third parties was either assumed to be innocuous or protected by professional codes of confidentiality.” In this way Government does not fear for political or legal repercussion.
In the report, the ACLU writes that Government has created several programs to control Americans’ lives, supposedly to defend the Country from Terrorism after 9/11.
In January 2002, for example, the Justice Department created a program called the “Terrorism Information and Prevention System,” or TIPS. Considered as “A national system for concerned workers to report suspicious activity,” the program would have recruited “millions of American utility workers, letter carriers and cable technicians to report to the Government anything that they considered an unusual or suspicious activity.”
Bush also called for “Neighbourhood Watch” programs to be doubled in number and expanded beyond their traditional role of deterring and detecting household burglary to involve them in preventing terrorism.
These are only few of the State reporting programs listed in the Surveillance Industrial Complex report, in which authors underline how, beyond these organized watch programs “there are more diffuse campaigns of citizen awareness featured on government Web sites around the nation. These campaigns urge Americans to be suspicious, and to report to the authorities anyone who fits a long list of suspicious characteristics.”
From 9/11 now, there are almost 6000 organizations, of which 2000 are private institutions, which not only cooperate with Government in keeping public order, but also collect an enormous amount of data about individuals and monitor them, probably also through the use of high-tech tools, such as covert listening devices, micro digital voice recorders and spy cameras.
Supposedly to track down potential terrorists, this enormous “big brother” is not only destroying Americans’ right “to be left alone”, but is also creating a huge business which does not suffer from the economic crisis.