24 January 2008

If you frighten easily ...

If you frighten easily, you may not want to read the quotation below from Pulitzer-prize winning author Tim Weiner's thought-provoking (and disturbing) book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. Weiner describes a meeting after 9/11 between the assistant director of central intelligence, James Monnier Simon, Jr., and Attorney General John Ashcroft. They discussed national identity cards for Americans. Ashcroft asked Simon what they would contain and he replied:
Well, a thumbprint. Blood type would be useful, as would a retinal scan. We would want your picture taken a special way so that we could pick your face out of a crowd even if you were wearing a disguise. We would want your voice print, because the technology is coming up that will pick your voice out of every other voice in all the cell phones on earth, and your voice is unique. In fact, we would like to have a bit of your DNA in there, so if something ever happens to you we can identify the body. By the way, we would want the chip to tell us where this card is, so that if we needed to find you we could. Then it dawned on us that if we did that, you could set the card down. So we would put the chip in your bloodstream.
The card never appeared, but the CIA was compensated with a power they had never enjoyed before: the legal right to spy on Americans.

As the British plan implementation of their national ID card system, as the watcher state closes in upon us, can one imagine, I wonder, the day when we are all embedded with a microchip at birth, rather like the one described by Assistant Director Simon? Eat your heart out, George Orwell.

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