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Police state?

Sometimes I think the definition of a "police state" just means a country where the government is just a little bit more intrusive than ours. The beauty of this definition is that the USA can never -- by definition -- be a police state.

The New York Times reports that internet access providers are being required to "upgrade" their systems so that the government can monitor online communications:


If law enforcement officials obtain a court order to monitor the Internet communications of someone at a university, the current approach is to work quietly with campus officials to single out specific sites and install the equipment needed to carry out the surveillance. This low-tech approach has worked well in the past, officials at several campuses said.

But the federal law would apply a high-tech approach, enabling law enforcement to monitor communications at campuses from remote locations at the turn of a switch.

It would require universities to re-engineer their networks so that every Net access point would send all communications not directly onto the Internet, but first to a network operations center where the data packets could be stitched together into a single package for delivery to law enforcement, university officials said.

I'd like to know a bit more about what this turning of switches means. The article makes it sound like every packet of internet data will be routinely sent to a government "network operations center" and that we'll have to trust the government not to turn any switches until it obtains a court order. If that's true, will there be any way to monitor the government's behavior? Will anyone be able to tell when the government is listening in?

This sounds like a setup for abuse. If all it takes to intercept emails is a "turn of a switch," I'll bet a dollar to a donut that the government won't always bother with the court order. The best we can hope for is that we can catch them when they cheat.

Comments

Sometimes I think the definition of a "police state" just means a country where the government is just a little bit more intrusive than ours. The beauty of this definition is that the USA can never -- by definition -- be a police state.

From what you've said in the post, it sounds more like a "police state" is a country in which the government feels no need to claim that it will only use the power when proper procedures have been followed. I'm just happy that we haven't gotten *that* shameless yet.

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