NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

June 22, 2013

Big Brother, 2013 style: Can we believe anyone?

George Orwell’s “1984” is the expression of a mood, and it is a warning. ... We present our society as being one of free initiative, individualism and idealism, when in reality ... we are a centralized, managerial and industrial society, of an essentially bureaucratic nature, and motivated by a materialism which is only slightly mitigated by truly spiritual or religious concerns.

— Erich Fromm, 1961

Under construction by contractors with top-secret clearances, the blandly named Utah Data Center is being built for the National Security Agency. A project of immense secrecy, it is the final piece in a complex puzzle assembled over the past decade. Its purpose: to intercept, decipher, analyze and store vast swaths of the world’s communications as they zap down from satellites and zip through the underground and undersea cables of international, foreign and domestic networks.

The heavily fortified, $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cellphone calls and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails — parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration — an effort which was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.

— Jonas Bamford, Wired online magazine, March 15, 2012

Just as F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby” is back on the best-seller list because of the movie remake, Orwell’s “1984” is popular again, probably because of people who’ve been thinking about it while watching the news. I still have my aged paperback version, one of the books I read when I was young and first acquiring my fear of Big Government.

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