By Dave Snyder
The FBI is planning to announce the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract in an increased effort to “protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in,” in the words of FBI Biometric Services Section Chief Kimberly Del Greco.
This seems to be a noble cause and something everyone can agree is important, but how exactly does the FBI plan on doing this? The FBI wants to create a database which compiles various types of biometric data, such as palm prints, eye scans, facial structures and even data regarding scars and tattoos.
And certainly this won’t only be used to track terrorists and criminals, as many of the FBI background checks (which already compile some of this data) are for people who are involved in such things as teaching and elder care.
While one can make the argument that this does not necessarily mean the system will affect every American citizen, regardless of his or her activities or standing in the criminal justice system, one has to admit that the potential is certainly there.
In this day and age, when government is too vast and too many operations and actions are being undertaken in secret in the name of “national security,” we must realize that this is potentially opening the door for a very Orwellian state and system in this country.
While it is probably impossible to find people who disagree with the notion that we need to implement new measures to combat and prevent terrorism and crime, it seems far-fetched to assume that these same people would agree with actions such as these, which have far greater impacts on society as a whole.
Certainly I’m not out committing atrocious crimes such as rape and murder, and would have no reason to be fearful of the government having my biometric data on file to link me to these crimes, but is it wrong to want, or even expect, some reasonable amount of privacy in my daily life?
This revelation, coupled with other actions and discussions on the part of the government, is leading us in a direction that just doesn’t seem too comfortable and compatible with our notions of liberty, privacy and freedom. In the past few years the government has discussed and implemented plans for a National ID Card.
There is ongoing discussion about fencing off our borders to keep outsiders out (but perhaps also to keep insiders in?). And who can ignore the depth and secrecy of the NSA’s wiretapping program, which has caused considerable controversy even within the government.
We must be aware of the potential for mistakes to be made with systems such as this. How can we know for certain that the government won’t suspect a person of having ties to a terrorist or terrorist organization, only to later find out that they don’t and that all the private and personal information which has been collected about this person does not aid the government in its endeavors? And what would become of this information? Surely the government wouldn’t want to simply destroy it, because it may help them later, should they ever have a reason to identify or track this person down.
Now why couldn’t they just use this same justification for everyone, as an excuse to know where anyone is at any time? The truth is, they could, and this is why this system should be frightening to many people, not just to so-called “privacy advocates.” Do you really want the government to know when you’re engaging in … ahem … marital relations with your spouse? Even worse, would you want the government to know if you’re doing the same with someone other than your spouse (not that I advocate this at all, but we’re speaking hypothetically here)? I didn’t think so.
Based on these new revelations, we need to ask ourselves how much of our liberties and freedoms we are willing to give up in the name of “national security.”
It is wise to remember the words of Benjamin Franklin when considering this situation: “They that give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Are we moving towards a “more secure” and “safer” society, or are we moving towards the end of “society” as we know it?