By Fred Johnson
When I was in high school, we studied Halley’s Comet which passes near earth every 75 years. In 1910 the view was spectacular because the comet came so close, the earth passed through its tail. Our teacher told us, “You students will see this spectacular sight again in 1986.”
But when 1986 came, the comet and the earth were on opposite sides of the sun creating the worst viewing circumstances in 2,000 years. Most people, including me, never even spotted the comet.
Another thing we studied was George Orwell’s book, 1984, that described an all-powerful government, called The Party, that controlled everything. The Party leaders lived a life of luxury while the people struggled to survive. The Party watched the citizens through television screens and everywhere one looked they saw the Party Leader known only as Big Brother. The Party even controlled the people’s history and their speech which they called “Newspeak” which eliminated all words related to political rebellion. Even thinking rebellious thoughts was illegal and thought crimes were the worst of all crimes.
Well, 1984 came and, just like Halley’s Comet, none of those predictions came to pass. But almost 30 years after 1984, the dire predictions of the novel 1984 seem all too real. We learned that the government is not only watching us, but collecting and storing all of our e-mails, phone conversations, text messages and social media pages. They even have drones to watch us from the sky. Newspeak is here and it is called “Politically Correct” speech and there are words that you cannot speak.
McClatchy newspapers published a story describing “President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program that is sweeping in its reach. The program extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of ‘insider threat’ give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.”
McClatchy reports that some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
Employees must turn themselves and others in for failing to report breaches. “Penalize clearly identifiable failures to report security infractions and violations, including any lack of self-reporting,” the strategic plan says.
Wow! Government workers must watch their coworkers and face criminal charges for failing to report them and even face criminal charges for failing to report themselves. I believe that 1984 is here.