The government has many responsibilities in the United States, and all over the world, including creating and enforcing laws, protection from enemies foreign and domestic, and controlling the actions of the population. In this article we will be exploring the effects of technology in the military and law enforcement aspect of government. The United States military is renowned for its military prowess, which can be attributed to the technological advances in the field. Additionally, law enforcement in today’s society is as important as ever, enforcing the laws created by the government.
First we will look into some technological advances in the military and how they further enhance the governing power of the United States. As previously mentioned, a major responsibility of the government is to protect its population from enemies, foreign and domestic. The focus of the military has been disputed for years. Anti-war advocates have stated that the main purpose of the military should be to defend the country, not carry out wars in other countries. Under what circumstances, and by what means, does a great democracy such as ours reach the painful decision that the use of military force is necessary to protect our interests or to carry out our national policy? 1) When the time comes to use our military, whether in defense of the country or not, technology plays a very important role. Governance of military technologies must reflect the legal and ethical concerns of the people the military is sworn to protect; yet it must also recognize the existential need for soldiers to accomplish a myriad of violent and dangerous tasks while at the same time look out for the welfare of the soldier. 2) Now we will explore a few technological advances that allow our government, and more specifically the military, to do its job of defending our country more efficiently.
We have all seen laser weapons used in movies as a thing of the future. However, a company by the name of Lockheed Martin created such a weapon. The laser system, called ATHENA (short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset), is capable of disabling a vehicle from more than 1 mile away. In tests, the laser burned through the engine of small truck, stopping it dead in its tracks. A powerful weapon like ATHENA improves the efficiency of warfare, and thus creates a safer environment for the population that is being governed. 3)
Another technological advancement is the bubble-filled rubbery coatings that have the ability to prevent submarines from sonar detection. These perforated rubber tiles are typically about 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) thick. In the past decade, research has suggested that the same degree of stealth could be provided by much thinner coatings filled with vacant cavities. When hit by sound waves, empty spaces in an elastic material can oscillate in size, “so it will dissipate a lot of energy,” said lead study author Valentin Leroy, a physicist at the Université Paris Diderot in France. 4)
From Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics, which works closely with DARPA, an amazingly agile “pack mule” robot will one day be commonplace on military missions in the field. The robot will carry gear, such as heavy backpacks that can slow down ground forces. The four-legged “mule” easily negotiates rocks and divots in the road and field. It is intended to follow a military unit of soldiers autonomously, catching up with the unit on field forays with supplies, including food and ammunition. Refinements have made the robot surprisingly quiet, an important characteristic on a secret mission. Future versions of the pack mule will be able to interpret verbal and visual commands. 5)
Law enforcement is a necessary aspect of any government. Law enforcement goes well beyond writing speeding tickets and directing traffic. A policing organization is necessary to maintain order and enforce the laws put forth by the governing body and the Constitution of the United States. Next, we will explore some technological advancements that have made law enforcement more efficient.
The Nassau County Police Department, based in Mineola, N.Y., uses a system from ShotSpotter that relies on multiple carefully placed electronic sensors installed throughout a neighborhood to help pinpoint the exact source of gunfire. It's especially useful in areas where shots are fired frequently and witnesses are scarce or hesitant to talk. 6)
Perhaps no police technology is more controversial today than flying robotic drones equipped with cameras that officers can use to get a bird's-eye view of a crime scene in an emergency. Critics say the use of drones raises major privacy concerns. 7) However useful this may be, there is always the issue of where this drone has access and whether permission is needed.
On television, CSI makes investigating crimes look like a walk in the park. In real life, however, typical tests on recovered evidence can take sometimes days and even months. Additionally, crime scenes do not always happen in convenient places. Now, with the arrival of a number of flashlights—each with a different preset wavelength designed to detect hair, fibers, and body fluids at crime scenes—these lights allow a crime scene to be processed faster and more thoroughly than ever before. Sites previously unreachable for powerful fluorescence examination are now accessible. The portability of today’s crime scene examination light sources makes the remotest of rural locations or the top floor of a city building highly accessible for search. 8)
In summary, how does all of this technology effect the citizens? Well, in regards to governing society, a more efficient police force and a more lethal military, the easier it becomes to fulfill the responsibilities of protection and law enforcement bestowed upon a government. The government's responsibility to protect its citizens from all enemy's, foreign and domestic, is made possible through these technological advancements.
Law enforcement and privacy have danced along a fine line since the creation of constables in the 5th century 9). With the development of technology, there are those who will use it for good and those who will use it to cause harm or break the law. As part of the duties bestowed upon the United States government, the people are to be protected from enemies foreign and domestic. In order to effectively perform this duty, the government, and therefore law enforcement, must infringe on personal privacy. It has been greatly disputed as to how far the arm of the law can reach. The focal point in that argument being the interpretation of the 4th amendment, which states, “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized” 10).
Current issues in this area are airport security checkpoints, medical records, and Facebook. At airports around the United States, safety has become more important than privacy, and the people are not happy. X-ray scanners, metal detectors, bag searches, drug dogs, and backscatter scanners that utilize radiation are some of the technology used in airports by law enforcement to prevent criminal activity and terror acts 11). When it comes to medical records, HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was put in place to protect them. However, law enforcement personnel have been accessing those records without consent of the patient or approval from a judge 12). The development of technology has led to greater means of effective communication, and of course social media. The most prominent being Facebook. Criminals often post online, bragging about the crimes they committed, and even posting pictures. Law enforcement personnel are able to view these statements and press charges against the suspects 13).
From a military standpoint, how much control should the government allow them to have? Overseas, the military utilizes technologies to protect us from terror threats. In doing so infringing on the populations privacy. The latest development being used today in warfare, as well as law enforcement, is the drone. Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles that provide surveillance, and can carry weapon systems, used by the operators 14). Not only do these drones go places they shouldn’t, but they have been brought under scrutiny for causing civilian casualties. From an international perspective, a recent investigation by the United Nations found 33 drone strikes from around the world that have violated humanitarian international law 15). Drones are used for a variety of reasons. As a technological tool, its purpose it to make things easier. Positives for using drones in a war zone is that they save lives, are cost efficient, and they are very deadly against enemy combatants. However, as a negative aspect, drones can kill noncombatant civilians, and more importantly can be taken over. Much like hacking a computer, commandeering a drone fleet is very possible 16).
Many law enforcement agencies have begun using drones in small numbers 17). Many of the same pros and cons can be applied to the law enforcement application of drones. On the home front, the privacy concerns involved with using drones will be more prevalent. Instead of seeing drones on the news affecting other people, the drones will be buzzing around our streets recording everything they see. As of February 2015, there has been no legislative actions against the use of drones by law enforcement on American soil. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows the use of drones on a national level 18).
The United States government has used technology advancements over the course of the past thirty years in attempts to increase efficiency, and control of the different facets that make up government. Record keeping has slowly made the switch from physical copies to data storage on large servers. Also with this advancement, the use of technology in governing has allowed advancements in the collection of information from the people governed. Taxes can now be collected online, and in rare cases, national and state voting has been conducted online through the use of email.
In 1986, the first e-filing of United States Federal taxes took place in three cities – Cincinnati, Raleigh-Durham,and Phoenix. At this time, the system was only able to process returns that were due refunds. This excluded the portion of participants who owed excess taxes. There were only five preparers in the three cities that agreed to participate in this trial. 19)
Over the course of the next four years, E-filing was utilized in more and more metropolitan areas until 1990 when it was released nationwide and 4.2 million returns were filed electronically. Throughout the 1990s, e-filing grew more and more popular, with Congress setting a goal in 1998 to have 80% e-file rate for all federal tax and information returns. Tax preparation software companies such as H&R Block and Intuit's Turbotax helped greatly popularize the e-filing format. These two companies along with CompleteTax, FreeTaxUSA,Liberty Tax, and TaxACT formed the Free File Alliance and teamed up with the IRS in 2003 to make free e-filing software available to most tax payers. Since the coalition between the Free File Alliance and the IRS, there have been 43 million returns filed electronically. 20)
Hurricane Sandy was the most destructive storm of the 2012 storm season and struck most damagingly on New Jersey and New York City, New York. It hit New York City and New Jersey on October 29, 2012 and cut power off to many people in across the region, flooded streets, destroyed houses, and in New York City specifically flooding of tunnels and subway lines.
There was a General election set to happen on November 5, 2012 for presidential, state, and local offices. In order to facilitate voter participation, Lieutenant Governor of New Jersey Kim Guadagno issued a “Directive Regarding Email Voting and Mail-in Ballots for Displaced Voters” that classified any New Jersey voter displaced from their homes as “overseas voters” which allows them to vote electronically, but also must mail in a physical ballot confirming their vote no later than two weeks after Election Day. In order to do this, they also had to include a signed waiver of secrecy with their vote. 21)
This occurrence marked the first time that the technology of electronically casting presidential votes was allowed for non-overseas and military personnel protected under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. Under the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act, military and US citizens living overseas are allowed to send in absentee ballots electronically through e-mail. 22)
Another form of collection that has recently taken place is the collection of data regarding cyber threats that may affect the well-being of United States Citizens. On February 11, 2015, President Barack Obama introduced the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center(CTIIC) under the Department of Defense. According to the White House, the purpose of the CTIIC is to “provide integrated all-source intelligence analysis related to foreign cyber threats and cyber incidents affecting U.S. national interests; support the U.S. government centers responsible for cybersecurity and network defense; and facilitate and support efforts by the government to counter foreign cyber threats.” 23)
The creation of the CTIIC is intended to provide relief for all of the Defense programs currently established so that there is one center with the sole purpose of focusing on cyber threats from data that was collected previously by other organizations. The CTIIC is able to work between the agencies to gather as much information as possible regarding cyber threats such as “identity theft, cyber-enabled economic espionage, politically motivated cyber attacks, and other malicious activity.” 24) Not only does the CTIIC have the ability to work between governmental agencies, but they will also be working as a go-between for private agencies and governmental agencies to insure that there will be a swift response to any possible threat.
According to Department of Defense Defense Media Activity personnel, “The Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center, she added, is intended to fill these gaps, analyzing and integrating information already collected under existing authorities, and is intended to enable centers that already perform cyber functions to do their jobs more effectively.” 25) If this center acts as it is supposed to, there will be a great increase of effectiveness and cohesion between agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, and the FBI.
With the ever increasing use of the internet across the world, cyber threats have become a very important security issue in the United States, and other countries. There have been many security breaches into the private companies that have come forward to the public and in part, the CTIIC is also looking into these threats to protect the citizens of the United States and help companies acting on US soil to prevent further cyber threats to its citizens.
Despite many of the topics discussed regarding collection efficiency ability to improve a constituent’s ability to efficiently provide data to the government, and the improve the government’s ability to collect and assess data, these new technologies have questionable implications towards the personal, communal, and general freedoms. Both online filing of taxes and the use of online voting when necessary provide an opportunity for a citizen to participate in government more conveniently than before, but with the convenience comes security issues, and trust put into the networks that are supporting this participation. With this increased trust needed, there is already an issue when it comes to trusting electronic voting machines when voting in person, but now the local, state, or federal government must place a very large trust in the network that they establish to secure these ballots. During the last US presidential election in 2012, election officials from more than 60 countries came to observe the election system that the United States currently has in place. Sara Al-Utaibi, IFES deputy country director in Jordan, noted “What’s very unique about the way the Americans do it, it’s not the process, it’s the confidence that’s placed in the process,“ she said. “This is what lacks in other countries. They say if this would happen in Arab countries it would not work the way it does in the United States.” 26)