Part 8 of 8
The stunning finale to Dr. Albert A. Bartlett's presentation on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy."
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Part 8 of 8
...That is why the easiest way to transform purely visual or informational control into physical control is to cede the task of creating the latter onto external forces, especially those working at the behest of an impersonal and de facto ownerless entity. No other institutions are better suited for such a cession than the institutions of representative democracy--their character allows an envious and greedy individual to merge his own envy and greed with that exhibited by millions of others, and then use it as the material to forge a redistributionist system by the hands of those who can no longer be called robbers hired by Mr. Lazybones to loot the resources of Mr. Diligent, but should be called the executors of the common will instead. As soon as this happens, all potential pangs of conscience and fears of ostracism disappear--acts of plunder and predation (henceforth known as acts of rectification) are no longer committed by any particular, individual person, but only by a vast, collective immaterial entity, whose corporeal representatives are to be regarded as tools of historical justice. The whole process is complemented by far-reaching ritualization of the actions of the abovementioned entity, as well as by the attendant series of semantic distortions, which make unequivocal identification of aggression, violence, coercion, theft and enslavement (let alone successful elimination of these phenomena) incomparably more difficult than it was before...
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The days of police unlawfully collecting and holding personal information on individuals exercising their legal right to protest may be drawing to a close.
That, at least, is the conclusion of protest groups who have themselves been the object of police surveillance in the past – and judging by the response from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), they may well be right.
A key report – Adapting to Protest – was put together by Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Dennis O'Connor, and published today. It criticises Police forces that have failed to move with the times when it came to dealing with major political demonstrations, and raises a number of issues with which El Reg readers will be familiar. These include "an absence of clear standards on the use of force" and "inappropriate use of public order powers such as stop and search and overt photography".
Criticism is also levelled at differences between forces in their understanding of the law, inconsistent equipment and tactics and outdated training and guidance.
However, it is in the area of surveillance and data collection that this report may have its most far-reaching effect. It adds, almost as afterthought, that there should be a "Review of the status of the Association of Chief Police Officers to ensure transparent governance and accountability structures, especially in relation to their quasi-operational role of the commissioning of intelligence and the collation and retention of data".
This brings together two issues that have been increasingly troublesome to those who feel that the Police have been exceeding their brief in recent years and even acting unlawfully.
At present, surveillance of demonstrations and the collection, retention and dissemination of information is managed by three units, with an estimated spend of £9 million, set up and managed within ACPO. The largest of these is the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU), which runs a central database containing details of thousands of so-called domestic extremists.
Information is fed into this system from Forward Intelligence Teams (FIT), run by individual police forces – and fed back out again to police forces in various formats, including "spotter cards" which provide local police with a handy "I-spy" guide to potential troublemakers.
In addition, ACPO runs the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU), which advises companies on how to manage political campaigns, and the National Domestic Extremism Team (NDET), which pools intelligence gathered by investigations into protesters across the country.
Concerns over the legality of this data collection have been raised by the Information Commissioner. A spokesman for his office told The Register: "We do have genuine concerns about the ever increasing amounts of information that law enforcement bodies are retaining.
"Organisations must only collect people's personal information for a proper purpose. We will need to talk to ACPO to understand why they consider it is necessary to hold lawful protesters' details in this way, before considering whether this meets the terms of the Data Protection Act."
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