[-empyre-] Sedition, terror, privacy and the impossible control goal

Greetings all,

One of my main concerns, as a privacy advocate, with the new terror laws
and their concern about what people are thinking about doing is that it
is, in practice, impossible to tell what someone is thinking about now,
and even more so into the future. Especially if they sensibly decline to
say or write it explicitly and create good hard evidence.

You can collect what they say (which becomes the obvious evidence to use
in order to feed into a sedition charge), either from their public words
or from surveillance, but not what they might do or are thinking.

I certainly can't tell what I'll be doing in 5 minutes, let alone 5
months. Yet a regime like the new one in Australia which proposes
detention without charge, tested evidence, trial/due process or even the
ability to let family know of your disappearance, is based on a vision
of surveillance which can predict this with enough certainty to base
such extreme and unsupervised acts against individuals.

So, it needs surveillance, preferably without court orders or search
warrants (hello US!). Since casual surveillance will not be sufficient,
it needs lots of surveillance. But lots of surveillance will not work
either (being an attempt at an impossible object). 

So there are two choices/logics: 

The rational one: this will not work, let's try something else.

Or the sinister one: this is not working because we are not doing
enough. Must try harder. Must have even more surveillance, up to any
level possible at a given moment, without limit or restraint or review.

It's the latter which is obviously scary, and in principle the most
complete attack on privacy protection as we know it (which is arguably
still more robust than that in the US). Not only do we need to do this
more or less permanently, and intensively but since after London 2005 we
cannot trust our own citizens, we have to do it to the whole population.

And even to speak about this secret panoptic surveillance becomes
sedition (see the attacks by Bush and US A-G about those who blew
whistle on recent warrantless surveillance inside the US), aiding a
conveniently nebulous enemy who (as in Orwell's 1984) is always there.
We now seem have a permanent ("War on Terror" yesterday officially
became "The Long War") state of war (of choice), just with the enemy
occasionally changing sides or names.

It also becomes disloyal/seditious to undermine our own "leaders in a
time of war" and point out that our new enemies are our old friends, or
even that we may have spawned them - remember the pictures of Rumsfeld
schmoozing Saddam in 1983, when SH was our ally against Iran? Or those
trusty if violent and well-armed 'freedom fighters' the West funded in
Afghanistan, who seemed later to morph in to Al-Qaeda?

The logic of infinite surveillance also brings to mind the Tom Cruise
film "Minority Report", and the Department of Pre-Crime which does
pre-emptive strikes to prevent crime. At least they had the good grace
to base it on obvious quackery like ESP, not a false hope of
surveillance good enough to find what people are thinking of doing long
in advance.


An interesting source about the threats to free speech is the UNSW Law
Journal special edition on this topic:



David Vaile
Executive Director
Cyberspace Law and Policy Centre
Faculty of Law (Mathews 1205)
UNSW Sydney NSW 2052 Australia

T: +61 (0)2 9385 3589 
F: +61 (0)2 9385 1778 
M: +61 (0)414 731 249
E: d.vaile@unsw.edu.au, davidv@pobox.com
W: http://www.cyberlawcentre.org/

This message is intended only for the addressee, and may contain
confidential, copyright or privileged information. If you received it in
error, further distribution or use is prohibited; please delete it and
notify us by return email or on (02) 9385 3589.  If you don't want
notice of future events, please let us know. Views expressed are those
of the sender and are not necessarily of UNSW.

This archive was generated by a fusion of Pipermail 0.09 (Mailman edition) and MHonArc 2.6.8.