“An Electronic Archipelago of Domestic Surveillance”

Hina Shamsi and Mark Harwood report, over at TomDispatch, on the various domestic watchlists that the U.S. government uses to keep track of “suspicious” persons, including the Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative (SAR program). They reveal a growing and Kafkaesque system of global and domestic monitoring.

The SARs program and the consolidated terrorism watchlist are just two domestic government databases of suspicion. Many more exist. Taken together, they should be seen as a new form of national ID for a growing group of people accused of no crime, who may have done nothing wrong, but are nevertheless secretly labeled by the government as suspicious or worse. Innocent until proven guilty has been replaced with suspicious until determined otherwise.

Think of it as a new shadow system of national identification for a shadow government that is increasingly averse to operating in the light. It’s an ID its “owners” don’t carry around with them, yet it’s imposed on them whenever they interact with government agents or agencies. It can alter their lives in disastrous ways, often without their knowledge.

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