None of us are perfect. All of us bend the rules occasionally. Even before the age of overcriminalization, when the most upstanding citizen could be counted on to break at least three laws a day without knowing it, most of us have knowingly flouted the law from time to time.
Today, however, there's little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence -- especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home. That's because technology -- specifically the technology employed by the government against the American citizenry -- has upped the stakes dramatically so that there's little we do that is not known by the government.
In such an environment, you're either a paragon of virtue, or you're a criminal.
If you haven't figured it out yet, we're all criminals. This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.
As I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears.
For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants.
Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants.
License plate readers can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. However, it seems these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. The DEA has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a "vehicle surveillance database" of the nation's cars, drivers and passengers.
Sidewalk and "public space" cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.
Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of "pre-crime" cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for "normal" behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being "suspicious."
Technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person's cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.
Developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. No word yet on whether the technology will also be able to detect the contents of that text message.
Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, police body cameras will turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you'll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.
There's a price to pay for "smart" appliances and electronic devices connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung's Smart TVs are capable of "listening" to what you say, thereby allow users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party.
Then again, the government doesn't really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.
Drones, which will begin to take to the skies en masse this year, will be the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. This means drones that can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.
And then there's the Internet and cell phone kill switch, which enables the government to shut down Internet and cell phone communications without Americans being given any warning. It's a practice that has been used before in the U.S., albeit in a limited fashion.
Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we're approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between obeying the dictates of the government -- i.e., the law, or whatever a government officials deems the law to be -- and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.
Unfortunately, privacy as we once knew it is dead.
We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.
Thus, to be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government's roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel. Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw. So how do you survive in the American police state?
As Philip K. Dick, the visionary who gave us Minority Report and Blade Runner, advised:
"If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities."