Ink Paper Words' Profile

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Pacific Northwest, United States
In elementary school, I desperately wanted my mother to order books for me from those flyers Scholastic hands out to kids. She refused, citing the "perfectly good library down the street." I exacted revenge by becoming a card-carrying ALA accredited reference librarian. Ha! Take that!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

At Least Now It's Public Knowledge

Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act (and a suit filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center), the Department of Homeland Security recently released the 2011 edition of its Media Monitoring reference  manual  (I rather suspect that by the time of this release, the content had already been superseded and replaced with a newer edition, no doubt containing references to “Occupy,”  "Oakland" and “pepper spray.”

Yes, I know, everyone spies on everyone else, apparently all the time. The fact of the spying itself to me seems less shocking than the apparent extent to which DHS is concerning itself with personal communication.  The monitoring job itself seems like a real yawn, although admittedly similar to what I did the week AOL loaned out our tech support team to the Community Action Team to monitor AOL profiles for inappropriate content (“I'm Britni and I love my kids, Jesus and group sex” {goes on to describe the group sex in explicit detail}). I realize that intercepting planned domestic terrorism is a necessary job, but I question how likely such things are to be organized within a Facebook group or via Twitter.

But here's the thing: it seems to be a generally accepted truism that the US is “free.” So invested are Americans in this conceit that they rationalize Muslim anti-American sentiment as “they hate us for our freedoms.” This notion strikes me as patently ridiculous, particularly in view of the fact that it completely disregards the US meddling in the petroleum industry for the better part of a century. Tell me, DHS, how exactly the US government is any better than that of China or Iran?

Over the last year, the US seems to have supported and encouraged uprisings against the governments of Libya and Egypt while lambasting those governments for monitoring and censoring their citizens. I suggest, therefore, that by revealing the extant of their monitoring activities, the US has placed itself squarely in the same muddled ethical territory.

Land of the “free?” I think not.