In the early days of Caller ID, there was a funny joke posted on the Internet. A guy is calling to order pizza and the person taking the order answers the phone, knows who is he, what his latest cholesterol test was, his genetic make up and tells him he can't have a double cheese and pepperoni but a boring, healthy alternative. It made you laugh and hopefully realize that there is a huge web of information available today about everyone. It's powerful and can easily be misused.
We are Americans, though. Land of the Free, Don't Tread on Me and all that stuff. We invented liberty.
Seems people coming to visit our country -- watch a game at Fenway Park, ooo and ahh over the Grand Canyon or take a few snap shots of the Statue of Liberty are going to be subject to an intensive data search before being able to step on a flight to this country.
The Bush Administration needs to know what kind of bed you are selecting for the hotel. And a whole lot more.
No, I'm not kidding.
According to the Guardian, "Highly sensitive information about the religious beliefs, political opinions and even the sex life of Britons travelling to the United States is to be made available to US authorities when the European Commission agrees to a new system of checking passengers."
This information gathered will be on file at the Department of Homeland Security for 15 years.
15 years. Can you imagine why the Department of Homeland Security needs to know if someone in Wales had appendicitis? And to hold that information for 15 years, let alone 15 seconds?
Is anyone else a little horrified?
Or are we so numb to the Patriot Act, the repeated invasions of our privacy, the continued assaults to the constitution by our elected officials we simply shrug and say, well, whatever it takes to save us from terrorism.
No. Not whatever it takes. If we live in fear, then the terrorists win. If we hand our liberties, our rights, in order to feel 'safe? We don't have freedom. I don't think having Homeland Security know the last time some woman in France coming to shop in New York City had a pap smear is going to save us from another attack.
And I'm furious that my government has access to all my records- financial, health and even what books I forgot to return to the library. I'm a big threat sitting here paying my taxes, sending my kids to public schools and participating in the democracy by voting. Somewhere there is a record of my ordering a copy of "The Invincibles" DVD for my kids from Amazon.com with my credit card at Homeland Security.
It's not funny. It's true.
Does anyone remember what Watergate was about? Illegal wiretapping. Nowadays, wiretapping seems silly in comparison to the information accessed via the Patriot Act in the name of our own protection. What once chased a President out of office can't even make the news headlines anymore.
My friend Andy from England sent me the article from The Guardian and asked me to spread the news. He was certain that in America, we would be horrified.
Why isn't this on the front pages of the news? Well, you know, Lindsay Lohan did get caught with drugs again. I mean, we have our priorities.
My fear, Andy? No one will be outraged. We gave up so many rights and privacies along the line, we're numb to how invasive it is. We strip off our shoes, belts, jewelry, empty our pockets and are subjected to searches by 'security' in airports that lack any real training. No offense but you can put on a white shirt with a tin star safety pinned to your chest but that doesn't mean you have the ability to determine or identify real safety issues, especially when your biggest focus is whether or not all the liquids can fit in a quart sized, Ziploc bag. (Want to follow that profit trail and see where the policy came from?)
Don't even think about bringing a sippy cup of milk for your baby. Has to be screened. Pretty soon? We'll have to put the baby in one of those grey bins to be scanned by the x-ray machine.
We are like sheep. No one complains. No one even understands the level of invasive spying going on in this country of it's own citizens, let alone what they are proposing to do to anyone coming to this country.
The Internet joke was a funny warning but no one listened. They didn't think that it could ever get that bad- this is America. We assumed our legal system and our elected officials would uphold the Constitution. All that nifty balance of power stuff you learn about in junior high school social studies class was working for us as a country and as individuals.
I mean, we're the ones who came up with "Give us liberty or give us death!" Right?
I guess we'd only notice if someone took away our double cheese and pepperoni pizza.