Privacy SOS

Obama administration wants school teachers to snoop on their kids?

Congress is meeting this week to finalize its terrible National Defense Authorization Act, which will undoubtedly include measures requiring military detention of "terrorism suspects," and leave the door open to the indefinite detention of American citizens without trial. Also this week, we have news from NPR that the Obama administration is pushing a "domestic radicalization" thesis extremely forcefully, and putting forth a truly disturbing new spying program to match the 'threat'. 

In another wave of nationwide surveillance orchestrated at the top of the federal government and pushed on state and local law enforcement, the administration has announced a plan for a youth-focused "see something, say something," citizen-Stasi campaign. This time the government is asking us — and the Department of Education — to keep an eye on the little ones.

What's the big idea?

The government wants you to spy on your kids — after all, the kids might be watching videos on the internet that the government doesn't like. Or, as the administration's spokesman for the program says, the kid might be watching said videos and "making statements that indicate a rejection of American society."

Let's take a short break here to watch a video depicting someone who made statements indicating a rejection of American society. He makes one of those statements here. I think you might recognize the man; he had some pretty important things to say. His particular critique — or rejection — of American society lives on today. Back then, this man was a target of sustained government repression. Today he is widely considered a national hero and mythologized accordingly.

Please note that by playing this video YouTube and Google will place a cookie on your computer.

Ok back to the story. Video break over.

What exactly constitutes evidence of radicalization that should be reported to law enforcement? A "key person on the White House's national security team" described the suspicious activities to NPR's Dina Temple-Raston as follows: 

It could be a combination between viewing that kind of violent, extremist material online at the same time as making statements that indicate a rejection of American society or hatred toward other groups. But again none of those would be in isolation from each other. It would be a combination of factors.

The strategy would "enlist whole communities, not just law enforcement," according to Temple-Raston. The administration officials told NPR that the program, based off of a UK project called PREVENT, isn't problematic because it is interested in targeting behaviors rather than kinds of people. 

That statement doesn't jibe with the tenor and content of the NPR piece, or with the officials quoted in it. The article repeatedly refers to al-Qaeda and to Muslims as the targets of the program. 

The man who has directed the program thus far is Quintan Wiktorowicz, a senior director at the National Security Council at the White House. He modeled the US program after PREVENT in the UK. Wiktorowicz said:

There are potential behavioral signals….For example, has someone in the community seen them watching violent extremist videos? Are they publicly coming out in defense of Osama bin Laden? Are they talking about the kuffar [unbelievers]? That's not enough alone, but if that is in a combination of other things, that's what we are looking for.

He also told NPR:

We see what we're doing as a public safety issue…If a community was being targeted by gangs, the government would have some responsibility to help them. The same applies to a community that might be targeted with violent extremism; we have the same responsibility to help them. All parents are concerned about these kinds of issues, not just Muslim parents.

It sure sounds like the program is directed at Muslims, doesn't it? If the training materials distributed to educators nationwide are anything like those used by the FBI, we are in trouble. 

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