Sometime in the past month, there seems to have been a shift of sentiment in our government, and it’s finally become allowable to admit certain things, like the fact that the war in Iraq was an ill-conceived operation, based on entirely unrealistic ideas, and has ended in almost total failure. Of course, this doesn’t quite reach to the highest levels – Bush still makes speeches saying things like “Iraqis are taking control of their country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself. And we’re helping Iraqis succeed” – but there’s a remarkable willingness of officials involved to finally admit that we’re leaving in the foreseeable future, having achieved little or nothing of the lofty goals which were touted at the start of the war. This article from the Washington Post is a good example; lots of quotes from various people, mostly speaking on background but unusually candid.
At the same time, there’s no conjoint movement to cut back on the encroachments into American civil rights over the past few years, nor do I expect there to be one so long as this administration continues; people have come to expect continuous surveillance, background/credit/affiliations being easily investigated, in cases tagged as “relevant to national security” things like the detention of people without any of the protections we would normally expect in civil society. Recent more subtle changes seem to assist that; for instance, US cell phones are now required to transmit GPS locations (for emergency services, of course…), and Nokia’s latest mobile services API makes it possible to write server-side applications that use that location information – without any software being installed on the cell phone. (Nokia isn’t the only one, of course; that’s just the first example I found to hand) I’ll let the technically minded among you imagine a couple of uses for that; it’s sort of a fun exercise, if you think about it as though you were a police officer, a private investigator, a marketer, or simply an armed robber.