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MIT launches watch on US government

System to empower an informed citizenry
Sat Jul 05 2003, 11:05
"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." - James Madison

FITTINGLY ENOUGH, Wired chose yesterday -- July 4, the US Independence Day -- to run the story that the MIT Media Lab has built a fully web-enabled system promoting Government Information Awareness.

The MIT system's name consciously echoes the DARPA Terrorist Information Awareness programme. That's a comprehensive domestic snooping plan meant to collect and collate every obtainable scrap of data about everyone in the US population, as betrayed by the name initially given the proposal: Total Information Awareness. It is a chillingly Orwellian departure.

MIT's system is intended to counter-balance the US government's grasp of information about its citizens by providing them with effective ways to gather, organize and share information about governmental activities.

It will hold data about elected and appointed officials at all levels of government, political campaign contributions and legislative action (and the implicit links between those that now so corrupt American politics), regulatory affairs, defence contracts -- everything people can learn.

Given that the Democratic party -- the nominal opposition to the current US Administration -- is widely viewed in the US as subservient, impotent and co-opted by the same big-money influence peddling driving the ruling Republican agenda, such a countervailing populist tool seems timely. µ

MIT Media Lab


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