Let’s take a break from the festival of hope I’ve been championing in these pages, and talk about something much more insidious:

The FBI is gearing up to create a massive computer database of people’s physical characteristics, all part of an effort the bureau says to better identify criminals and terrorists.

But it’s an issue that raises major privacy concerns — what one civil liberties expert says should concern all Americans.

The bureau is expected to announce in coming days the awarding of a $1 billion, 10-year contract to help create the database that will compile an array of biometric information — from palm prints to eye scans.

Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI’s Biometric Services section chief, said adding to the database is “important to protect the borders to keep the terrorists out, protect our citizens, our neighbors, our children so they can have good jobs, and have a safe country to live in.”

But it’s unnerving to privacy experts. “It’s the beginning of the surveillance society where you can be tracked anywhere, any time and all your movements, and eventually all your activities will be tracked and noted and correlated,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Technology and Liberty Project. …

There remains the question of how reliable these new biometric technologies will be. A 2006 German study looking at facial recognition in a crowded train station found successful matches could be made 60 percent of the time during the day. But when lighting conditions worsened at night, the results shrank to a success rate of 10 to 20 percent. …

The FBI says it will protect all this personal data and only collect information on criminals and those seeking sensitive jobs.

The ACLU’s Steinhardt doesn’t believe it will stop there.

“This had started out being a program to track or identify criminals,” he said. “Now we’re talking about large swaths of the population — workers, volunteers in youth programs. Eventually, it’s going to be everybody.”

Perhaps we should all go back and re-read the novel 1984 which first brought the concept of the surveillance state into the minds of Americans. George Orwell wrote 1984 in 1946 and 1947 when Saturn and Pluto were conjunct in Leo. Saturn of course is the ruler of Capricorn which shares many of its characteristics such as, on the negative side, a somewhat ruthless and depersonalized methodology of achieving success. “The ends justify the means” is often said about Capricorn (although that phrase can really be the motto of all of the cardinal signs but that’s a story for another day).

Combined with Pluto, the force of Saturn/Capricorn can be a transformative process that breaks down the old order and brings about the dawning of a new day. But there is also a darkness to it that brings an awareness of the dark and secret side of power. It’s a frightening reminder that evil and darkness lurk in the corners of every political system, but under Pluto’s journey through Capricorn that evil can be vanquished.

We have the power at every moment to change our destiny – together we can alter the destiny of the planet. But we must remain aware and awake, and participate in the process!

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