Archive for the ‘Civil Rights and Privacy’ Category

After the latest major leak from WikiLeaks, everyone seemed very interested in the American government’s blatant overreaction, which even featured politicians demanding that Julian Assange be either detained or summarily executed. An aspect that most of the media, even the non-American media, seems to have missed is just why so many other governments were willing to go along with Washington’s immediate and unsuccessful attempt to censor the Internet and dig up dirt on Assange.

Of course the real story wasn’t (usually) about the American government, but about how other governments (including democratically elected ones) lied to their own publics about the extent to which they were secretly collaborating with the American government. A cable that’s getting plenty of press this week noted, for instance, that Turkey allowed the U.S. to use its Incirlik airbase for torture flights, which the Turkish government previously denied. The media has not been much concerned with another aspect of that cable: the role of American military and diplomatic officials in lobbying foreign governments on behalf of American defense contractors.

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In one episode of the old conspiracy series The X-Files, Mulder and Scully stumble across a vast collection of DNA samples in an old mining building. Mulder surmises that the government has collected a sample from every single American citizen born since the 1940s, using the smallpox vaccinations as cover. It’s fine conspiracy fare but something too massive to ever happen in real life. Unless, of course, you happen to have been born in British Columbia, Canada, in the past 20 years.

It emerged in 2010, as part of a new class action lawsuit, that the government of British Columbia takes samples from every newborn in the province (800,000 and counting, so far), without the parents’ consent, telling them as cover that the blood is being routinely tested for evidence of hereditary disorders. That’s what’s behind the innocuous name of the so-called “Newborn Screening Program.”

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