Computer Crime Research Center


Resisting the Homeland Security State

Date: February 07, 2005
By: Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt

... enforcement databases."

Outgoing DHS chief, Tom Ridge recently called for U.S. passports to include fingerprints in the future. While OTI, a Fort Lee, N.J.-based subsidiary of the Israeli company On Track Innovations was just selected to provide electronic passports that utilize a biometrically coded "digitized photograph, which is accessed by a proximity reader in the inspection booth and compared automatically to the face of the traveler."

In November 2004, California passed the Orwellian-sounding "DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act," which "allows authorities to take DNA samples from anyone – adult or juvenile – convicted of a felony" and "in 2009 will expand to allow police to collect DNA samples from any suspect arrested for any felony whether or not the person is charged or convicted. It's expected that genetic data for 1 million people – including innocent suspects – will be added to California's DNA databank by 2009."

The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to "use the latest in database technologies" to store information on and count the homeless, which, the Electronic Privacy Information Center notes, "lay[s] the groundwork for a national homeless-tracking system, placing individuals at risk of government and other privacy invasions."

According to a recent report in ISR Journal, "the publication of record for the global network-centric warfare community," a "high-level advisory panel recently told U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld" that the Pentagon needs ultra-high-tech tracking tools that "can identify people by unique physical characteristics – fingerprint, voice, odor, gait or even pattern of iris" and that such a system "must be merged with new means of 'tagging' so that U.S. forces can find enemies who escape into a crowd or slip into a labyrinthine slum."

Imagine if this last program were integrated with any of the aforementioned ventures – in our increasingly brave new (blurred) world. Yet, for all their secret doings, vaunted programs, and futuristic technologies, and their powerful urge to turn all American citizens into various kinds of tractable database material, our new Homeland Security managers require one critical element: us. They require our "Eagle Eyes," our assent, and – if not our outright support – then our ambivalence and acquiescence. They need us to be their dime-store spies; they need us to drive their tracking device-equipped cars; they need us to accede to their revisions of the First Amendment.

That simple fact makes us powerful. If you don't dig the Homeland Security State, do your best to thwart it. Of course, such talk, let alone action, probably won't be popular – but since when has anything worthwhile, from working for peace to fighting for civil rights, been easy? If everyone was for freedom, there would be no need to fight for it. The choice is yours.

Nick Turse is a doctoral candidate at the Center for the History &Ethics of Public Health in the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. He writes for the Village Voice and regularly for TomDispatch on the military-corporate complex.

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