Information Age

Posted on Friday, September 30 at 10:43 by Reverend Blair

The war on terror is being used as justification for increased information gathering on private citizens and as justification for releasing information that the government has. In Canada, we have people being held on Security Certificates. They are not allowed to see the evidence against them. Mohamed Harkat, like others we are told pose a grave threat to us, has never been charged. Mohammad Mahjoub has been in prison for five years without seeing the evidence against him and also without being charged. Most Canadians know the story of Maher Arar, but more frightening than the brutal injustice suffered by Arar is how closely the information about him has been guarded by both Canadian and US authorities.

The Canadian government continues to seek new ways to gain information about Canadians under the guise of national security. They are currently pushing for police and national security agencies to have more power to watch over our internet and cell phone activities. Given their past records, it is unlikely that anybody accused of wrongdoing because of this type of surveillance will be allowed to see the evidence against them.

Canada is not the only country engaged in spying on its own citizens. Britain has being setting up cameras since the 1990s. Most of these cameras were installed in the name of fighting IRA terrorist bombings, but the cameras are also used for issuing parking tickets. The cameras have helped police piece together what happened in the July 7 bombings, but they did not prevent those bombings. Nor did the multitude of security cameras prevent the second, failed attacks. Even the Netherlands, noted for respecting individual freedoms, has approved biometric identification cards.

In the United States, the security issue has driven a multitude of information gathering initiatives that infringe on civil rights. The Patriot Act and Patriot Act II have given police and intelligence services unprecedented powers to spy on American citizens, landed immigrants, and those in foreign countries alike. Combined with the ability to hold people without trial and the institution of anti-dissent initiatives like the so-called free speech zones that keep protestors away from the government, it is doubtful that the average person living or travelling in the United States has ever been less free.

The collection of biometric data is becoming commonplace and no-fly lists, often based on erroneous data, can make travelling challenging for infractions as simple as having the wrong name or being a member of the anti-war or anti-globalisation movement. The amount of information being collected is immense. So immense that errors are common and people who have done nothing wrong find themselves accused.

The media, who are charged with both disseminating information and being critical of the government have remained largely silent, aiding the US government in the control of information.

As if all of the present information gathering isnít enough, there is now a wish for a intelligence agency. The rational for this new agency is that the CIA cannot operate in the United States and the FBI does not concentrate enough on intelligence gathering.

Meanwhile disinformation is being used as a weapon against threats both real and perceived, as well as being a tool to control people. In her recent Slate article You Canít Handle the Truth, Sharon Weinberger covers a service being offered by a small, UK-based company called Strategic Communication Laboratories (SCL). The service SCL offers is, to put it bluntly, lying to the public.

While the company spokesman, Mark Broughton, tries to downplay the deception by claiming to save lives, SCLís website proudly states, "Governments and Military forces worldwide are realising that communication can be a very powerful force. Those countries without the ability to control and respond to communications in a strategic capacity will be at a serious disadvantage in political and military terms.

"SCL is providing governments and military forces all over the world with the power to control their own communication messages and manage perceptions on the world media stage. Furthermore, it gives governments greater access to their own publics in time of crises and the military greater power to influence enemy disengagement in time of conflict."

Strategic Communication Laboratories understands the power of information. They also understand that one way of keeping real information from the public is to offer them false information.

SCL certainly isnít the only organisation that understands the importance of keeping the truth hidden from the general public. The US government and companies that contract for it like to control information as well. Consider Fallujah. What really set off the American destruction of that city? What lead to the deaths of untold civilians, the use of banned weapons such as depleted uranium and napalm, and at least one execution of a wounded, unarmed insurgent?

The destruction of Fallujah was set off by the killing of some US contract workers. Contract workers. That makes it sound like they were cooks or truck drivers or maybe some low-level Halliburton employees there to rebuild a school at inflated rates. The information was never really given in the media. The contract workers were employees of Blackwater USA. They were the kind of contract workers who kill for a living. The information that it was four mercenaries who were killed was not widespread. The information that the US is using loopholes in international law to employ mercenaries isnít given out readily, so perhaps explaining that it was four contract killers in the videos would have been a little inconvenient. Ensuring that the public had all of the information may not have garnered the public sentiment necessary to go in and flatten a city full of civilians.

A short time ago, we were treated to dramatic pictures of the British military rescuing a couple of their own from a jail in Basra. The military, for their efforts were pelted with rocks and Molotov cocktails when they jumped out of their tanks to rescue their captured comrades. What we were never told by the major press outlets of the world or the British government is that those comrades had been disguised as Arabs and carrying materials to make bombs with. They killed a couple of Iraqi policemen who tried to apprehend them. They were caught and jailed. It was a covert operation, itself designed to spread false information, gone wrong.

Since the beginning of the war on terror, governments around the world have become enamoured with the control of information. National identification cards have been proposed in some countries and introduced in others. The implantation of biometric chips to track people with have been proposed. We accede to iris scans at airports and thumb prints on driverís licenses. Security cameras have become the norm in many places and politicians talk openly about the need to be able to track citizens, landed immigrants, and tourists.

We would all like to think that Canada is different, that we havenít given in to the paranoia, but we have. In 2003 Denis Coderre, then Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, opened the debate on introducing a National Citizenship card for all Canadians. Apparently he was very happy with the information provided by the Permanent Resident card Coderreís department foisted on landed immigrants in Canada the year before.

The RCMP and CSIS partake in Echelon, a system that allows governments to sift through our electronic transmissions. The ability to do this, presumably more legally and more effectively, would be enhanced by the proposed expansion of electronic surveillance mentioned at the beginning of this article. While they cite national security as the purpose, such gathering of information can also be used to monitor and target legitimate political activism.

At the same time the Canadian government wants more and more information about us, they are less and less willing to share our own information with us. We are often told that certain documents are being kept secret for reasons of national security.

Our media outlets have been given censored documents on everything from Maher Arar to sixty-year-old UFO sightings. I donít happen to be much of a believer in UFOs; but I do believe that if a government is censoring sixty-year-old documents, they are hiding something. Maher Arar has been found to have had nothing to do with terrorism. Why does our government consider details of his persecution still secret?

Our government tells us that we are participating in the "war on terror." Really? Can we have some more information please? If we are aiding the US government in breaking international law, it is not a matter of national security so much as a matter of international criminality. That is information that every Canadian should have.

Until we regain control over the information, we will be controlled by the information. Without control over our own information and assurances that the information we are given can be trusted, information will be a weapon to be used against us.

[Proofreader's note: this article was edited for spelling and typos on October 3, 2005]

Note: Mohamed Harkat Mohammad Mahjoub internet and cell phone... intelligence agency. You Canít Handle the Truth SCLís website Fallujah. execution of a wounded... Blackwater USA. National identification... Echelon

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  1. by avatar Spud
    Fri Sep 30, 2005 6:00 pm
    Good stuff Rev,but we are fighting a war on terror.The terrorists are our own government people.
    The sad part is they have already won.The public refused to wake up.
    You always get the government that you deserve.

  2. Fri Sep 30, 2005 6:25 pm
    Great job on this topic REV.

    As one of the victims of Agent orange, we were pulling up much information about these nasty chemicals and
    many "government "document we were able to get access on the net.
    But lately the many PDF file and sites have and still are being pulled off the net. Thank goodness we have printed off and recorded the ULR's and document.

    What is happening here "government" never realized how much power and knowledge the people would have access to, thanks to the internet.

    I can sit at home research... request information ... document... track, email... fax ... view a person on another computer in China or the United States exchanging knowledge and points of view all on my computer.

    Political Parties who at onetime could steal us blind.. lie and ignore our wishes are scared as hell, because we are connected.

    We may not always agree, but our minds have been opened up, we are not as ready to take the garbage the main stream media have been shoving at us... we are turning more and more away from the media that is party driven.

    All you need to understand how the media works, is look behind these parties or the government bureaucracy ... you will find a former reporter or news anchor as their spin doctor , their spokesperson, speech writer or maybe their party cabdidate...GOD HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WEV ARE ?

    Good government is not a party government

  3. Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:18 pm
    Before you go running your mouth about people who gave their life in support of FREEDOM AND DEMOCRACY everywhere, including Canada you should learn the facts. HOW DARE YOU try to trivialize the lives of 4 brave men who didnt deserve to die.

  4. Fri Sep 30, 2005 7:33 pm
    Listen my good buddy Anonymous, when it comes to defending my rights in this country, I have to do that myself... not one person died for me. They might have passed on protecting someone else, but no sir... not me.
    I have lost more right under this flag, than I have gained... so please sit on it, you Anonymous sorry sucker. Oh yes rotate too!!!

    Good government is not a party government

  5. by avatar Spud
    Fri Sep 30, 2005 10:59 pm
    Anon,are you suggesting that the 4 dead "contractors"
    are better than Iraqi citizens?Should only Iraqi "combatents" die?What were 4 "contractors"doing in Iraq?"Contractors" are there only to kill.That is what they are paid to do.
    What do you think war is?You should check out a war zone or two.Do all the Iraqi citizens amount to nothing?Is it ok to kill Iraqi's?Says who?
    Those "contractors" were not there to help Iraq,they are there to help Uncle Sam and big business make money.

  6. Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:33 pm
    If the terrorists have no law and do not abide by law, national or international, how do you propose they be fought? Mr. A

  7. by avatar Spud
    Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:02 am
    How do you figure the Iraqi's to be terrorists?
    Iraq was invaded.The insurgents are the coalition forces.Iraq was/is no threat to anyone.Remember it was Uncle Sam who put Saddam in power.So if you mean that the 4 "contractors" were terrorists,I will agree with you.They were eliminated.Whats the problem with that?

  8. Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:12 am
    No. I never intimated that the Iraqis were terrorists. I'm talking about terrorists and terrorism in general. Mr. A

  9. Sat Oct 01, 2005 12:24 am
    If Iraq was/is no threat to anyone, ask the people in Kwait and Iran. Mr. A

  10. by avatar Spud
    Sat Oct 01, 2005 1:34 am
    Study the history of Kuwait and Iraq.You will find the seeds of terrorism.
    The first thing any government can/should do to eliminate terrorism is leave other people alone.Should a group or individuals decide they want to kill innocent people to bring attention to their cause,international laws exist,and all governments have emergency powers and militaries to deal with that.
    It is rare that terrorism comes about because people don't have better things to do.

  11. Sat Oct 01, 2005 2:57 am
    If we really want to combat terrorism, we need to stop voting in Liberals and Conservatives in Canada and Repiblicans and Democrats in the USA.

    These four parts of the same "Global domination" party are the greatest terrorists the world has ever know. Canada hasn't been as famous for its involvements in toppling progressive governments and democracies as has the USA, but we're learning fast. When you are murdering, torturing, disappearing and robbing millions of people, when you are manipulating economies to make the rich as rich as possible and creating a vast underclass of homeless and starving people, you get anger.

    Anger in response to US actions around the world is what is driving the resistance fighters in Arghanistan and Iraq. It is what is pushing South and Central America away from North America and into alliances with the middle east and China.

    These "Terrorists" are nothing more than the people the West have been waging covert war against for decades; they are fighting back the only way they can, by using irregular warfare.

    Oh, I know, a bunch of Anon's will spout off about how the West has been so angelic and so helpful to all the poor people of the world. They delude themselves, wrap themselves in the propaganda spread by the corporate governments through their pet media companies. It would be so refreshing if some of these anons would actually LOOK at the history of Western actions around the world instead of just watching the killers wrap themselves in their respective flags and spout off about how they are protecting freedom - which is 180 degrees from the truth.

  12. by avatar Spud
    Sat Oct 01, 2005 3:29 am

  13. Sat Oct 01, 2005 3:52 am
    Very good article. I learned something. I hadn't known the 4 who were killed were mercenaries. I wonder how many mercenaries the US has employed? And what is the National Guard doing overseas? The National Guard is intended for disasters such as Katrina. And here Bush has them all over in Iraq. These little statistics would be very useful information to know.

  14. by avatar Spud
    Sat Oct 01, 2005 4:10 am
    Well good people follow this link.<br />
    <a href=""></a><br />
    <br />
    <br />
    <br />
    Here we go again?

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