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Is Change Really on the Way?

In a story we posted on September 25th, we wrote: "The 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team will be deployed to the US mainland beginning on October 1 for 12 months." As if that wasn't bad enough, a New Scientist blog warns that the government is planning to use robots to spy on US citizens. As the New York Times points out, George W. Bush still has almost 80 days left in office, and he's hurrying to change rules and regulations on things like the environment, abortion rights, and especially, civilliberties, with new powers for the FBI.

In a New Scientist blog, Paul Marks writes, "The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to provide a 'Multi-Robot Pursuit System' that will let packs of robots 'search for and detect a non-cooperative human'?How long before we see packs of droids hunting down pesky demonstrators with paralyzing weapons? "

Marks quotes police technology expert Steve Wright as saying, "The giveaway here is the phrase 'a non-cooperative human subject'?What we have here are the beginnings of something designed to enable robots to hunt down humans like a pack of dogs. Once the software is perfected we can reasonably anticipate that they will become autonomous and become armed. We can also expect such systems to be equipped with human detection and tracking devices including sensors which detect human breath and the radio waves associated with a human heart beat. These are technologies already developed."

An editorial in the November 4 edition of the New York Times says that despite the fact that it will soon be leaving office, the Bush White House is currently trying to push through a number of controversial bills.

According to the Times, attorney General Michael Mukasey has set out new guidelines for the FBI that allow agents to use intrusive techniques to collect information on Americans even where there is no evidence of wrongdoing. They will be able to use "informants to infiltrate lawful groups, engage in prolonged physical surveillance and lie about their identity while questioning a subject?s neighbors, relatives, co-workers and friends. The changes also give the FBI?which has a long history of spying on civil rights groups and others?expanded latitude to use these techniques on people identified by racial, ethnic and religious background."

The Times also states that "the administration has been especially busy weakening regulations that promote clean air and clean water and protect endangered species" and they have also been addressing the abortionissue: proposed changes would "extend the so-called right to refuse [to participate to helping a woman have an abortion] to a wide range of health care workers and activities including abortion referrals, unbiased counseling and provision of birth control pills or emergency contraception, even for rape victims."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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