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    husband, dad, teacher, filmmaker, writer, film geek, musician, DIYer, vegetarian, Bulldog, Buckeye, Nighthawk

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Profiling and the Futur Anterieur

Unfortunate yet fascinating article from The Guardian about some corrupt policing and use of surveillance in the UK:

Police surveillance of Muslims set up with ‘no regard for law’

The short version goes like this. The West Midlands counter-terrorism unit, the Home Office, and MI5 “perceived” – not proved – there to be a high concentration of terror suspects living in a particular neighborhood in Birmingham. They lacked evidence to prove probable cause (the article doesn’t mention any effort to establish PC at all, but that might be the reportage) and thus couldn’t treat the situation as a counter-terrorist operation. So they concocted a storyline that there had been rampant vandalism and theft in the neighborhood (there hadn’t) and used that narrative to justify the installment of 218 cameras in the neighborhood, 72 of which would have been covert. They invented – yes, invented – an organizational brand called the Safer Birmingham Partnership, complete with new logos. The operation was still funded by a counter-terrorism division, yet it looked like community policing. After they had installed 29 of the cameras, The Guardian ran an expose and the operation was shut down.

This is obviously a case of profiling, police corruption, and CCTV surveillance run rampant. But underlying it is another, perhaps more profound issue. We have reached a point in the use of surveillance, the use of predictive computer algorithms, the spread of xenophobia, and the tenor of political rhetoric at which we are to accept speculation of future threats as foregone conclusions. Surveillance studies calls this state of mind the futur anterieur, or future perfect. In the U.S., the most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon is the strategy of preemption that has shaped our foreign policy over the previous decade. Our government perceived Iraq as an immanent terrorist threat and expected us to accept this future threat as not conditional, but inevitable. In other words, U.S. formulated actions as if additional attacks had already taken place. A perfect future, predicted by surveillance data, computer algorithms, and foreign policy strategists.

It seems in the case of the incident reported by this article that many within the U.K. intelligence and security apparatus placed more value in the futur anterieur than in the rule of law or ethical policing and defense strategies.

The bright spot of the article: the accompanying art shows a killer piece of graffiti.


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