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CBS’ "Person of Interest" suggests use of Predicitive Programming for Next Gen Identity

A long time ago media expert Edward Bernays exposed the moden method for propaganda in electronic media.  People can be lead to accept a radical idea; which is fundamentally not in their best interest.  Habitual suggestion in fictionalized scenarios in film and television is a marketing or spin practice called Predictive Programming.  One could make the argument that steeping communities to their eyeballs in unecessary surveillance is going to take some concession from the public or it won’t be going forward.
Person of Interest, a new series airing on CBS weeknights, depicts a two man Big Brother team using generalized mimicry of Fusion Center intelligence gathering methods: Next Gen Identity (NGI) technology, telephone surveillance, big data surveillance and CCTV in a comprehensive device they call The Machine.  At the beginning of the program it states “The Machine” was built as a US domestic surveillance provision in the War on Terror.  A two man team will use illegal information gathering practices by recruiting local police officers to “work” on whomever becomes their “person of interest”.   
The program’s introductory sequences feature a montage of different federal mass surveillance programs funnelling information down to an office belonging to two independent contractors. They operate without public oversight, as this is a secret federal program.  The good looking protagonist eventually hits on a defense lawyer he is targeting for surveillance, making him seem like a good guy and the surveilled subject is now trusted company.  Now that the two are on the same side of the panopticon, working for social justice, they appear to work to create transparency from the inside. In the end of the espisode, a crooked parole scheme using foster care to create welfare fraud is brought to justice by killing a vicious bureaucrat in a back office gunfight.  It only took overshooting the due process by way of dragnet surveillance and violating everyone’s privacy in the immediate vicinity unrelated to the case.  

If this were real life then “The Machine” would  be a not-so-secret program employing a staffed up Fusion Center. This machine combines the efforts of  FBI and local law enforcement personnel in the unnamed Metro area. The not-really legal Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and ADVISE protocols would substantiate the comprehensive profiling of anyone, anywhere for any reason. The NGI biometric tracing of perfect strangers would be in the test phase of implementation combined with maybe a LARIAT CCTV tracking technology, GPS targeting, license plate recognition (LPR) cameras and an ECHELON telephone dragnet.  

Unlike The Machine in Person of Interest, Fusion Centers are not a secret and are subject to some GAO oversight.  The FBI and/or DHS budget for mass surveillance programs can be transparent and are subject to FOIA requests.  The people on the receiving end of special interest target surveillance are ordinary citizens protesting Wall Street bailouts (Tea Party and OWS) and Muslim Americans.  Defense law professionals would find too many conflicts of interest to socially entertain prison and surveillance industry workers. 

The Machine or a Fusion Center would not be used to suss out welfare fraud from the inside.  In real life, it might be used to nurse support bids for even more federally funded urban blight technology in city government and to make local police compete with Big Brother’s robots for a beat.

The Machine makes CBS’ Person of Interest plausible but not believable. There is a great deal of money changing hands to get the State to deliver on surveillance. From here we could easily make the jump to Bernays’ Predictive Programming as a propaganda device manufactured to sell The Machine. 

Funding the American panopticon should not be a top priority. Most Americans would prefer a balanced budget to support existing infrastructure or create job incentives for local economies over increasing ways and means to indulge a more intrusive security state. 

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