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Here’s looking at you

Two clever commentators come to the same conclusion from opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both Bill Safire (from the right) and John Sutherland (from the left) reckon key civil liberties are at threat in the US.

Safire points to the establishment of the Synchronized Operations Command Complex in Washington, where surveillance cameras are knit together in the interest of increased security, but at the expense of creating a technological Big Brother. Sutherland singles out the appointment of John Poindexter to run the Information Awareness Office (Orwell couldn’t have done better with that name). The IAO will work with the Information Exploitation Office. Poindexter, Sutherland reminds us, was Ollie North’s boss and deeply embroiled in the Iran (aka axis of evil) Contra affair.

Here in Britain, we’re already accustomed to being the world’s most surveilled society (perhaps Singapore would pip us into first place).Because of the years of local terrorism, this development has occurred virtually unnoticed. It’s not that people don’t care about civil liberties: when home secretary David Blunkett made noises about a national identity card scheme as a security measure, there was a widespread hullabaloo.

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