By Steven Maxwell
As soon as Trump became the President-elect, sales of George Orwell’s book 1984 surged to the top of Amazon Best Sellers where it has remained for the last couple months. It seems that learning about Statism is all the rage by those who opposed Trump. And no one defined it more succinctly than Orwell: “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” However, if they read carefully enough, they’ll realize that temporary leaders of “Big Brother” merely continue the machinery of the State.
Your computer, smartphone, car, smart TV and appliances, and credit cards didn’t just start spying on you when Donald Trump became president. They were put in place by Big Brother over decades, and they will continue to expand under Trump because he’s continuing the manufactured war on terror. Moreover, a new approach to immigration signals that even more doors could be opened up for invading the privacy of travelers and residents alike.
As we learned in 1984, all of the tyrannical measures of control are justified by convincing the people that they’re perpetually fighting a dangerous enemy: “Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia.”
Trump uses more colorful language when describing the bogeyman than previous administrations, but make no mistake, it’s the exact same tactic. Yet Trump’s style has the added benefit of getting everyone to argue about the insensitive rhetoric instead of the concrete actions. I say this because I see some former liberty/privacy advocates going quiet, or misdirected, under Trump much like the anti-war crowd went quiet under Obama.
The lack of any significant improvement to civil liberties was evident as soon as Trump announced his pick for Attorney General, Sen. Jeff Sessions, just weeks after being elected.
As recently pointed out by Derrick Broze, Sessions’ voting record indicates support for the drug war and bulk data collection:
Media reports have so far focused on the possibility that Sessions anti-cannabis and pro-Drug War voting record would lead to a massive growth of arrests for victimless crimes like drug use. Sessions has also been attacked as a possible racist, or at the least, unfriendly towards equality laws. Finally, Senator Jeff Sessions’ past comments regarding immigration have some activists worried about how he will enforce immigration policy as Attorney General.
Each of these issues deserves your time and research so you may develop a more informed opinion regarding Jeff Sessions’ stances. However, I wish to take a moment to focus on Sessions’ views on surveillance and how that view will play into the issues mentioned above. In a new report, the Center for Democracy & Technology focuses on the senator’s voting record and comments on the government’s use of surveillance. His actions and comments should have all lovers of liberty concerned.
What’s more, Sessions has vowed to mandate encryption backdoors for “national security.” During his confirmation hearing he said this about encryption:
Encryption serves many valuable and important purposes. It is also critical, however, that national security and criminal investigators be able to overcome encryption, under lawful authority, when necessary to the furtherance of national-security and criminal investigations.
This issue was discussed further by Broze and James Corbett in the video below:
The government’s commitment to “overcome encryption” due to national security would seem to dovetail nicely with Trump’s Executive Order of January 27th, which went far beyond the controversy of “bans” placed on certain countries. In fact, it is something that will affect all travelers into the U.S. and easily could trickle down into the everyday lives of Americans. According to Section 7 of that order, Homeland Security is directed to implement biometric registration and databasing of all who enter.
While that might seem unrelated to encryption, there is an “interview” stipulation as well that easily could expand what type of data is deemed open for examination. This appears already to be happening, as even U.S.-born Americans have been caught up in the early dragnet. Perhaps the most striking case is that of Sidd Bikkannavar, a NASA scientist who was born in the United States, but was stopped at the border with a demand to unlock his smartphone and give up his social media passwords. There are also various reports coming in from around the country of people being stopped on the street and asked for documentation. All of this is to illustrate that the current administration is clearly interested in further tracking citizens and non-citizens alike – at the borders, as well as internally – and employing the latest technology to do it.
These are fundamental issues for privacy and liberty, and, yet, we are clearly on a path where the government sees privacy and liberty as liabilities rather than guarantees. It’s a good reminder for you to do what you can to limit the government’s ability to spy on you, as well as limit tracking by any other source. Use encrypted chat apps and email services. Get a good VPN or use Tor when appropriate. Buy things with cash and bitcoin. Don’t make it easy for them.
As the fresh new enemies are established, national security will remain the excuse for the Surveillance State to expand under Trump. The government will continue recording your every move and sound through your Internet-connected smart devices, and databasing your information wherever you leave a digital trail.
In 1984, the telescreens that filmed and recorded Winston seemed nearly impossible to believe. Now we carry them around in our pockets everywhere we go, and Trump’s government has access to the data.