Ever since 9/11, the conversation of beneficial domestic surveillance has become common. In 2001, the conversation originated with Who did it?, then onto Why'd they do it?, then onto How do we track them? The last question was What do we do with them once we have them?, which is still in process of being answered acceptably because our government decided to revisit the definition of torture, and where to detain criminals who aren't even American. This one event changed our purview and attitude toward surveillance, because we turned our suspicious gaze away from the Them, and toward the Us.
Beneficial domestic surveillance was to the new millennia what the assembly line was the 20th century. The pre-9/11 world certainly had surveillance, since espionage itself dates back to ancient Greek warfare. As John Gilliom and Torin Monahan point out in their book SuperVision: An Introduction to the Surveillance Society, "If you have a phone, drive a car, have a job, or go to school, then you're under surveillance." (1) Ultimately, everyone is. However, observation is starkly different than surveillance, because the latter is the "systematic monitoring, gathering, and analysis of information in order to make decisions, minimize risk, sort populations, and exercise power." (2)
It's implausible for any country to wholly agree or disagree on an issue, but that's not as important as the behavioral implications of harvesting widespread fear. The more fearful of infiltration the public and officials are, the more arguments will be made in favor of domestic surveillance, because the public will only see prevention of attack, not loss of freedom. And once you lose freedoms, it's difficult to get them back. It's like policy develops a new muscle-memory.
Further, as Foucault argues, this protection from infiltration is a very dangerous aversion because if even the most peaceful person disagrees with the power structure's ideal of order, law, and power, then they are either viewed as mad (insane), or physically dangerous to others and the society-in-general. So tucked within this anti-infiltration paradigm is the premise that those doing the surveillance are more competent and ethical than the citizens.
In terms of costs and rewards, let's look at the PATRIOT Act. First and foremost, we need to be on the same page that it wasn't a set of procedures and governmental rights created out of thin air. It was a bundle of amendments to current American policies. Citing Wikipedia, "Key acts changed were the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, which thereby allowed the government to wiretap domestically without a warrant; the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, thereby allowing the government to wiretap any media--verbal, written, recorded, electronic--and have access to your electronic funds transfer information; the Money Laundering Control Act of 1986 and the Bank Secrecy Act, thereby giving the government more access to your financial accounts and history; and the Immigration and Nationality Act, thereby allowing the government more power to root out suspected terrorists within America, expanding domestic interrogation procedures. We lost all these freedoms--which we'll probably never get back--for a concept of a safer world.
The over aching theme of this enhanced domestic surveillance is safety, however the concept of safety can justify any behavior if it's believed a worse outcome will be avoided. Thus, within one month after 9/11, four significant Acts were amended, trouncing on Americans' basic freedoms. The War on Terror didn't sit on the shoulders of Americans for a clearer view of the enemy, but instead stepped on their heads and charged into battle after wire-, phone-, bank-account-, and email-tapping their own citizens. You think that technology and intra-suspicion was hung up after Bin Laden was killed? In 2011 Obama extended it another four years. It is the new normal.
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