You probably read recently of the San Francisco's Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART - good acronym, as in Simpson) shutting down cellphone service in order to thwart a rumored attempt to organize a flash mob attack. 1st Amendment groups have sued BART over the action. Also in the news has been the government's plan for being able to shut down the Internet in the event of a national emergency (defined as whatever they need it to mean). We already know that Big Brother has the capability to universally control both wired and wireless phone service. OnStar-equipped vehicles have been shut down remotely by law enforcement. It all seems very Orwellian, but it began before the publication of "1984" (in 1949). Did George just dream up the book's theme of total government control and a lemming populace, or did it come from astute observations of past behavior that was projected into the future?
On December 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the FCC issued a "Notice to All Amateur Licensees" that began thusly: "All amateur licensees are hereby notified that the Commission has ordered the immediate suspension of all amateur radio operation in the continental United States, its territories, and possessions." Compliments of President Roosevelt, this order took all Ham stations not ordained by the U.S. government off the air until further notice. Receivers were not specifically prohibited, and W1AW was allowed to continue its transmissions. In 1939, the British government had required amateur operators in India (not sure about in the UK) to surrender their gear to authorities as well as to halt operation, but they had no Constitution guaranteeing certain freedoms. Many advertisements were placed in U.S. magazines imploring Hams to donate or sell their equipment† to the War Department; citizens responded enthusiastically out of a sense of national loyalty. Hams were also recruited to volunteer for civilian and military duty†† because of their familiarity with radio equipment and operation. With their ability to operate prohibited as civilians, that created a great incentive to volunteer for the war effort. On November 15, 1945, amateurs were finally allowed back on the air, but only on the 10 and 2 meter bands.
That was not the first time, though, that the government issued such a broad order silencing civilian radio. On April 30, 1917, during World War I, President Wilson authorized Executive Order 2605A - Taking Over Necessary and Closing Unnecessary Radio Stations. In part it reads, "Whereas it is necessary to operate certain radio stations for radio communication by the Government and to close other radio stations not so operated, to insure the proper conduct of the war against the Imperial German Government and the successful termination thereof ....that such radio stations within the jurisdiction of the United States as are required for Naval Communications shall be taken over by the Government of the United States and used and controlled by it, to the exclusion of any other control or use..."
Ubiquitous installations of Smart Meters will allow both monitoring and control of your energy usage. Just as sophisticated algorithms are able to identify aircraft based on radar and electronic signatures, seismographic equipment can pinpoint and classify tectonic activity, and sonar can identify seafaring craft by the signatures of their screws (aka propellers), information about the type of electrical equipment operating in your home can be ascertained based on harmonics, power factor, current waveforms, frequency of use, etc. Baltimore Gas & Electric made headlines this summer by selectively shutting down AC units in peoples' home during the peak demand time - causing customers who ignorantly signed up for the PeakRewards program without knowing its implications to be left suffering in the record-setting heat (I sent a letter of refusal to my power company†††). In the future, if a silencing order is ever issued to Hams, the local electricity utility will be able to provide data to the Feds if your usage fits a certain profile. You might want to keep some batteries on-hand just in case...
I wouldn't have a problem with all this if I fully trusted the government to exercise its power within the strict wording and spirit of the U. S. Constitution, but it has proven itself untrustworthy on far too many occasions. Take a look at how the TSA openly violates travelers, and how when a new instance is publicized, rather than reforming and constraining itself, the TSA digs its heels in and announces that it has no intention to change. Having been a high-tech, futurist type of person my whole life, I suffer the dichotomy created by embracing and encouraging the incredible advances in technology being developed, while fearing - yes, fearing - the damage that can be wrought by men and governments with evil intentions.
None of this is new to humanity. Benjamin Franklin, our 18th century inventor-statesman aptly remarked, "Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety."
Posted August 25, 2011