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THURSDAY
SEPTEMBER 23
1999
         
     


FreeLife Claire Wolfe
WND Exclusive Commentary
Identity, privacy
and personal freedom



© 1999 Claire Wolfe

The attack on privacy by Big Brother and his Little Brother corporations is more than mere theft. It's murder. It's the murder of individuality. Once-free people are becoming mere resources to be tracked, cataloged and manipulated.

More people are waking up to the harm being done to their freedom by universal ID, surveillance and personal data-tracking. They're looking around, sleepy-eyed, and asking, "But what do I do about it?"

I've said before and I'll say again: There is no one answer. And there are no easy answers. The onslaught against privacy is such a blitzkrieg that humanity in general may be as helpless as the Poles were against Hitler 60 years ago this month.

But even if that pessimistic view is accurate (and I hope it's not) individuals can be privacy partisans -- if we're willing to make the effort and take the risks.

I have no silver bullet to offer in this fight against evil. (And beware of anyone who claims to.) You are going to need to examine a lot of options, weigh them against your own lifestyle and personality -- and run them through your own BS filter, besides (as there's a lot of nonsense out there, or a lot of techniques that may work for a short time, only to bring trouble down on you later).

But there are good techniques for those gutsy or determined enough to use them. Let me introduce you to a man who's got a lot of them.

Sheldon Charrett is a private detective -- a professional snoop. He's also "... an individual who's experienced a lifetime of injustice and finally got sick of it." He has written several books including The Modern Identity Changer and his newest, Identity, Privacy, and Personal Freedom: Big Brother vs. The New Resistance. Both books are published by Paladin Press.

New Resistance is a 225-page compendium of privacy how-tos. Some chapters -- like those on Internet and telephone privacy -- focus on commonsense advice anyone can use (like how to make sure your browser doesn't automatically give your name to every website operator). Other chapters are more hardcore -- like the one on how to obtain real government documents with an unreal identity (easiest if you're young), and the one that contains very detailed instructions on how to make your own ID, complete with homemade faux hologram.

The book is pricey -- $40 (Ouch!) -- and no, it doesn't contain any silver bullets. But it does hold a wealth of useful info -- info that's as up-to-date as any can be in this time of mega-encroachment.

I asked Sheldon about New Resistance and privacy:

Can you give me your pocket opinion on why privacy protection is increasingly important?

Privacy has been evanescing since the dawn of the industrial age. But with the recent quantum leaps of what I'll call the computer age, privacy is now violently boiling away -- evaporating before our very eyes. It's a classic case of technology far outpacing sociology. If we don't vigilantly protect our privacy today, our children will be born into a world where privacy can only be read about in history books -- if such books will still be allowed -- and ultimately be inured to further attempts to crush the spirit of the individual.

For example, can you imagine a congressman 200 years ago proposing to the House a numbering scheme for social security purposes? He wouldn't have gotten off the floor in one piece. But today, descendants of those congressmen routinely propose ways of using the Social Security number to more efficiently control the masses. Why? Because when they were born, the number already existed. For them, the number is a fact of life to be accepted. There is no longer a question of whether we should have such a number to begin with. Rather the question is, "How do we use it?" I think this is very unfortunate.

SSN issues are becoming more difficult every day. Do you have some recommendations for ordinary working people to avoid universal numbering in their lives?

To begin, I'd recommend not working for any large outfits unless you're willing to put up a large fight to keep yourself unnumbered. Work for small businesses and ask to be paid as an independent contractor. Many small businesses will actually prefer this arrangement. Medium-sized businesses will want to give you a 1099-MISC at the end of the year, at which point you'll have to provide a taxpayer identification number. Just tell them it has been "applied for." If you meet resistance, use the tactics from Chapter 10, "Banking Privacy." Many of those techniques will apply here.

What are the three most important actions (or attitudes) for guarding privacy?

One: Question authority. Two: Agitate, agitate, agitate. Three: If someone makes you feel the same way you feel when the doctor says, "Bend over and grab your ankles," then don't go along with it.

Give three easy techniques people can practice to guard their privacy in everyday life

Memorize a pocketbook SSN (a "stock" Social Security number that doesn't belong to anyone; several are listed in New Resistance) and use it on quasi-bureaucratic forms (apartment rental applications, patient "data sheets" used by dentists and doctors, video store applications, etc.) It saves you the hassle of explaining why you shouldn't have to give anybody a number and it won't ever be confused with a real SSN that belongs to somebody else.

On Internet forms that require a phone number, use your e-mail address, preferably an anonymous one set up through Yahoo!, Hotmail, etc. Most forms will allow an e-mail address in the phone number field. (Note from Claire: Also, I've never found a form that refuses to accept the phony phone number 555-5555.)

Open up an anonymous (new ID) bank account long distance. It's much easier to fake a photocopy of a drivers' license than the real thing. Of course, there's a bit more to it than that, and the details can be found in my book. But I've had some very good results using homemade docs to open bank accounts, etc.

I notice you don't spend a lot of time talking about offshore ID documents, corporations, bank accounts, etc., which many writers consider the potential salvation of freedom. Why is that?

I am definitely not opposed to any of them. But research and my own personal experience showed that the facts are changing almost weekly -- thanks mostly to our own fedgov who is pushing (if not blackmailing) foreign governments to relax their bank secrecy laws and privacy policies. I hope to see at least some of these offshore governments keep the starch in their laws and policies, but too many of them see the U.S. as the hand that feeds them. Sadly, I'm not holding out too much hope on that front.

What is the proper role of government in privacy protection?

Ideally I'd like to see national referenda to let the people decide the issues. Our reps are clearly not looking out for us. How many people would vote for a national ID card? How many people would vote in favor of continuing the random unconstitutional profile-based rectal and vaginal searches that happen every day to innocent Americans at airports across the country? I don't know of any, do you?

Government definitely doesn't belong in Internet encryption. I'm tired of all the privacy-restricting proposals in the name of the "War on Drugs." If they really want to stop drugs from entering this country, how 'bout targeting the cops and D.A.'s who accept payola from drug runners? Why not stick a few rubberized fingers in their body cavities? I think you'd see faster results.

What do you foresee for the future?

I see things getting worse -- much worse -- before they get better. I don't think I'll see a revolution in my lifetime. I expect a quiet upsurge of the New Resistance, movement toward more rural areas as they are still available, some attempts at new communities and secessions from existing governments. As a direct result of this: more Wacos. I expect the New Resistance to bubble like lava beneath the Earth's surface for a long time, popping up here and there, occasionally being quelled by the feds, but always gaining strength. I believe a revolution will come in the next or subsequent generation. I believe it will be violent. I do not know which side will win.

Anything else you want to add?

Only because that last answer seemed so cynical. I think we should all do our small part, but then I think we should live. The evanescing of privacy is tragic enough without each of us living a silent death opposing it. For every hour I spend fighting for my rights, I spend an equal hour enjoying the rights I have. Despite where we may be headed there's plenty to enjoy: mountains, beaches, small towns, eating nachos, ice cream, watching kittens -- whatever you like. I guess I just don't want folks to forget that.

My favorite Sheldon Charrett lines come in the concluding chapter of The Modern Identity Changer. Would you care to share them?

"You have one great advantage over the bureaucratic machine:
You can think.
And I suggest you do."


Additional resources:





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