“Orwellian Government”

Cover Image for the 2009 Penguin Deluxe Edition of George Orwell's 1984--The Cover Text Reads "War Is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance Is Strength"

There isn’t much I agree with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer on, but his warning of the emergence of an “Orwellian government” is spot on. Putting aside the fact that many of his decisions have helped to create such a reality, his concern with the use of GPS devices to track “criminals” nonetheless is well based.

He is concerned that warrantless tracking of individuals by police constitutes a violation of the 4th Amendment and it’s prohibition of “unreasonable search and seizure.”

At issue is the use of a GPS device by DC police to track the whereabouts of a suspected cocaine dealer. They placed the tracking device on the individual’s car without approval from a judge. With the beacon the authorities were able to gain important evidence against the accused.

The easy thing to say is that the suspect involved was in fact breaking the law and so the use of such a tracking device was justified. But once we start to think that the means justify the ends we quickly tread into dangerous territory.

Said Breyer in reference to the above. “If you win this case, then there is nothing to prevent the police or the government from monitoring 24 hours a day the public movement of every citizen of the United States,”…“So if you win, you suddenly produce what sounds like 1984 from their brief.”

I don’t know about you, but that these words were uttered in the Supreme Court at all concern me deeply.

We are already solidly down the Orwellian path unfortunately.

This was very evident to me at 4:15 AM in the Omaha Nebraska airport yesterday.

On my way to a very early flight I was confronted by a veritable army of TSA agents at the security check-in. There must have been 20 or so people in bright blue short sleeved shirts keeping us “safe.”

Most of the time at Dulles, my airport of choice, one can go through security without walking through the radiation boxes.

In Omaha, in the wee ours of the morning however, the TSA wanted me to walk through the radiation boxes. I informed them that I was inclined not to do so and would prefer not to subject my internal organs to the blast of radiation the boxes produce. This is without mentioning of course that the device performs essentially a virtual strip search.

The TSA agent I was talking to then bruskly informed me that I would be subject to a pat down at his hands if I was not inclined to follow his suggestion. If I had to be patted down to avoid irradiating my liver and being virtually strip searched so be it I thought.

Let’s just say that if you have never seen a TSA pat down, or been subject to one, it is just as bad as many say. As I stood there with legs spread and arms extended in the air the message was clear to everyone else. Don’t buck at the radiation boxes or you will have a pat down just like this guy. Just keep moving along.

As I stood there with my shoes off, my belt off, with my wallet and luggage in the all too familiar grey plastic boxes, as a man with rubber gloves ran his hands around my waistline I thought about how far down the path Bryer was referring to we had already gone.

As the agent frisked my legs I couldn’t help myself.

I looked down and said, “I am sad that this is what has happened to my country.”

The guy looked up at me and said, “Well sir not everyone wants to be safe.”

You are darn right, Mr. TSA agent. Some of us know that life involves risk. This knowledge used to be what defined a free people.

“Move along or you’ll miss your connecting flight.” He said.

Nick Sorrentino 11-9-2011