Jennifer Stoddart, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, has given her own Valentine to Canadian citizens: a 48-page report warning them that the RCMP (Canada's national police force) is keeping thousands of files on regular citizens in secret databases which cannot be seen by the accused. The news is perhaps unsurprising, given that the McDonald Commission reported in 1981 that the RCMP had been involved in all manner of illegal activity in their attempts to spy on Canadian citizens, including breaking into citizens' homes without warrants and even conducting electronic surveillance of a member of Parliament.
One of the many disturbing facets of Stoddart's report are the examples she cites of information for these secret files coming from citizen informants. In one case a man was put into the secret database because a resident of his daughter's school neighborhood saw him entering a rooming house and—believing drugs were involved—called the police. The police investigation concluded that the man had only stepped out of his car to have a cigarette, but the file was still in the national security databank seven years later.
Another incident cited in the Stoddart report involved a neighbour who saw two men carrying "something that resembled a large drum, wrapped in canvas" into their house. Police were called to investigate but found nothing resembling the reported item, yet the data was still sitting in a top secret databank five years later. As Stoddart points out in the CBC story on the report, this is potentially disastrous for the individuals named in the files, because it "could potentially affect someone trying to obtain an employment security clearance, or impede an individual's ability to cross the border."
This report follows on the heels of news from London that a man was arrested, fingerprinted and had his DNA stored in the British DNA database because a passer-by mistook his mp3 player for a gun.
What these seemingly disparate reports point to is a growing movement to turn the citizens of so-called free, democratic nations into a self-regulating secret police, saving the government the hassle of keeping tabs on everyone by delegating the duty to an unwitting public duped by a phoney war on terror. That this is a part of a concerted effort on the part of the authorities to inculcate paranoia in the public is suggested by this ridiculous police training video from Michigan, teaching people how to be good informants: report on everyone, everywhere for doing anything.
What this video and these recent news items highlight is a harmonized effort to turn the myth of the war on terror around and aim its machinery at the general public. The controlled corporate media has played along by dutifully regurgitating government propaganda that Al-Qaeda has recruited thousands of homegrown terrorists. Now that we know anyone, anywhere, at any time is potentially a terrorist, it is our civic duty to report everything we see to the police.