Friday, April 13, 2007

Thinking the Unthought about Thoughtcrime

Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime is death.”
– Winston Smith (from George Orwell’s 1984)

Yesterday afternoon when my telephone rang and awoke me from the stupor induced from a couple of less-than-restful nights of sleep and the subsequent hours spent staring at a paper that failed to produce itself on my computer monitor about Irigarayan deinos and the distance of home (philosophically speaking, of course), I was confronted by a recorded voice asking me this hysterical (in a philosophical sense, of course) question: “Are you concerned about children being preyed upon by child pornographers? If yes, then press 8.” My response was to shout, “No!” and hang up.

Now I am more-than-painfully aware that that experience was probably the first step on my slippery slope ending with my incarceration at Gitmo (unless, of course, that illegal and immoral branch of my government has been outsourced to the Egyptians or the Poles or some other “good” (as in ally) terrorist group). For today, Congressional Quarterly reports “New Homeland Security Technology to Detect ‘Hostile Intent’”:
The Department of Homeland Security is developing a technology that lets screeners at airports and border posts uncover deception and bad intentions with minimal inconvenience to innocent travelers.

The program, known as Hostile Intent, is developing technology to detect physiological characteristics that indicate nervousness in a person, such as body heat, perspiration and facial movements, said Bob Hooks of the department’s Science and Technology Directorate.

About 400 million people cross the U.S. border every year, and most of them have no hostile intent whatsoever, said Larry Willis, human factors program manager for the Science and Technology Directorate. This technology presumably will be able to screen people without slowing down traffic or inconveniencing travelers because it is non-invasive.

The core research for the program started about three years ago but has really ramped up this year, said Willis. It could be used in a wide range of settings beyond border entry programs, such as at the State Department during visa applications.

The program will eventually have two main tests — one in 2010 and the other in 2012. In the meantime, there will be smaller tests as research and development continues, Willis said.
Despite the attempt toward normative language (that is, “bad intentions”), any program named “Hostile Intent” belies it own true intentions. Hostile, in-fucking-dubitably! Just how “non-invasive” is a measure of one’s “body heat, perspiration and facial movements”? And how does such a measure necessarily denote intent to harm the United States, its citizens, or its government? [Please, please always distinguish between the citizens of the US and its government, for we are not the same!] Couldn’t a traveler just simply be tired from a trip spanning several time zones? Disoriented from jet lag and exhaustion? Worried about career or relationship or health issues necessitating a trip in the first place? [Hell, American Airlines claims in its ad We know why you fly; are they now expected to hand that information over to the authorities?]

Thinking back about all the international travel I’ve done, I can only remember one, perhaps two times I landed at a US entry point and wasn’t harassed either by a custom’s officer or an immigration officer. When I returned from Germany this past December, I was sent to the line for “bad intentioned” threats for not being able to understand the immigration officer’s questions. Landing in Texas after an international trip is always good for a culture-shocker, especially with a non-native English-speaker/fucker who speaks with such a thick Mexican accent that I couldn’t make out what he was asking. Perhaps I just need to throw in the towel and support—like the majority of my family—that damned wall that separates us (US) from Them. But They already knew that ... that is, if they’re reading my dirty thoughts already.

One final question: just when did intentions become criminal? Isn’t thinking about bombing a governmental office slightly different than planning to bomb or actually bombing a governmental office? And finally, yes! I really am concerned about children being preyed upon by child pornographers. I think. (And as long as I don’t think otherwise, then no action on my part is necessary....)

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