Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Welcome to 1984

It seems that privacy may become a luxury the British can no longer afford:

Citizens will have to sacrifice their right to privacy in the fight against terrorism, a former senior security official warned today.

Sir David Omand, the Cabinet Office's former security and intelligence co-ordinator, said in future the security services would need access to a wide range of personal data, including phone records, emails and travel information.

In a research paper on national security strategy, Sir David wrote: "Finding out other people's secrets is going to involve breaking everyday moral rules."

The document for the Institute for Public Policy think tank outlines plans to track terrorist groups through a state database which would also contain the details of innocent people.

He wrote: "Modern intelligence access will often involve intrusive methods of surveillance and investigation, accepting that, in some respects this may have to be at the expense of some aspects of privacy rights." (1)

The parallels with 1984 are pretty hard to mis. The telescreens, the constant snooping, and the expectation that traitorous elements will be denounced:

‘What are you in for?’ said Winston.

‘Thoughtcrime!’ said Parsons, almost blubbering. The tone of his voice implied at once a complete admission of his guilt and a sort of incredulous horror that such a word could be applied to himself. He paused opposite Winston and began eagerly appealing to him: ‘You don’t think they’ll shoot me, do you, old chap? They don’t shoot you if you haven’t actually done anything—only thoughts, which you can’t help? I know they give you a fair hearing. Oh, I trust them for that! They’ll know my record, won’t they? YOU know what kind of chap I was. Not a bad chap in my way. Not brainy, of course, but keen. I tried to do my best for the Party, didn’t I? I’ll get off with five years, don’t you think? Or even ten years? A chap like me could make himself pretty useful in a labour-camp. They wouldn’t shoot me for going off the rails just once?’

‘Are you guilty?’ said Winston.

‘Of course I’m guilty!’ cried Parsons with a servile glance at the telescreen. ‘You don’t think the Party would arrest an innocent man, do you?’ His frog-like face grew calmer, and even took on a slightly sanctimonious expression. ‘Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,’ he said sententiously. ‘It’s insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. Do you know how it got hold of me? In my sleep! Yes, that’s a fact. There I was, working away, trying to do my bit—never knew I had any bad stuff in my mind at all. And then I started talking in my sleep. Do you know what they heard me saying?’

He sank his voice, like someone who is obliged for medical reasons to utter an obscenity.

‘“Down with Big Brother!” Yes, I said that! Said it over and over again, it seems. Between you and me, old man, I’m glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I’m going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? “Thank you,” I’m going to say, “thank you for saving me before it was too late.”’

‘Who denounced you?’ said Winston.

‘It was my little daughter,’ said Parsons with a sort of doleful pride. ‘She listened at the keyhole. Heard what I was saying, and nipped off to the patrols the very next day. Pretty smart for a nipper of seven, eh? I don’t bear her any grudge for it. In fact I’m proud of her. It shows I brought her up in the right spirit, anyway.’ (2)

If we continue on this road, will it be worth 'winning' - if it will ever be won, as we have ALWAYS been at war with Eurasia EastAsia? If some one is smashing a jackboot into your face forever, does it matter much if they pray to Allah or they stop to sing God Save The Queen between bouts of stomping?

1 - "Anti-terror fight 'will need privacy sacrifice' by Rosemary Hutt, published in The Independent, 25th of February, 2009. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/antiterror-fight-will-need-privacy-sacrifice-1631507.html)
2 - From 1984, by George Orwell, Part Three, Chapter 1. Full text available online: (http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79n/)

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