Decontamination, Surveillance and Ready Made Martial Law in the Anthrax Age

S. Mann, U. of Toronto
M. B\"{o}hlen, SUNY Buffalo and
S. Diamond, Banff Centre

Paper number 1716 (panel discussion) at ISEA 2002

ABSTRACT

We propose a panel discussion on surveillance versus sousveillance and critiques of both of these opposing viewpoints by artists, scientists, theoreticians and inventors in the wake of global terrorism, media frenzy and government witch-hunting. We propose elucidating both the reality of terror as well as the fabrication of its reality and all technologies that assist these processes. We will present strategies and preliminary responses to current surveillance issues and proposals, especially as they relate to surveillance in the Anthrax Age (mass decontamination, large-scale information collection, population control, quarantine, triage biometrics and mandatory medicinal control). The following submission reflects three reactions to this situation.

Background: Decontamination and Martial Law in the Anthrax Age

footnote These issues were previously explored by S. Mann. (Exhibit Curated by Kathleen Pirrie Adams, http://www.wearcam.org/dusting/tpw/ with help of James Fung, Sharon and Corey Manders, Felix Tang, Betty Lo, Chris Aimone, and Thomas Hirmer.

The threat of terrorism has made Martial Law seem acceptable to many. Thus in the event of a suspected release of a nuclear, chemical, or biological agent, the area, city, state, or the like, of the release, may be cordoned off to prevent victims, patients, suspects, or others who may be potentially contaminated from leaving the scene of the release without first undergoing decontamination.

Additionally, new kinds of decon facilities are being researched, and invented, as described in Canadian Patent 2303611 (anthrax-ready mailroom exhibit at Gallery TPW, July 2001, http://wearcam.org/bradecon.htm). Methods of statewide emergency evacuation by the armed forces are also well known in the prior art. For example, the Model Emergency Health Powers Act allows for entire cities to be cordoned off, in the event of a suspected possibility of a smallpox outbreak, or the like.

From fire extinguishers to riot extinguishers (big cans of pepper spray), the need for crowd control has been marketed as a new social order. And with fire hoses for crowd control the need for the fireman has changed from controlling fire to controlling people. Is he the firefighter cum people fighter? Or has his desire to control fire merely evolved into a desire to control people? [S. Freud, The acquisition of power over fire., Int. J. Psychoanal., 13: 405-410.]

hose people down both to decontaminate them and to discourage them from leaving the area. ... victims would be given Tyvek suits, spare clothing, or even garbage bags to wear... dozens of people could be herded through decontamination lines simultaneously. footnote See summary of government and industry documents on decon: http://wearcam.org/decon_summary.htm

And with that desire for dominance over people, comes the need for surveillance, to document the stripping and scrubbing of his subjects:

The identification of contaminated victims and their personal effects... Victims are also videotaped as they proceed through the decontamination line. footnote See summary of government and industry documents on decon: http://wearcam.org/decon_summary.htm

This being done in a mechanized and very efficient way:

The disinfection/decontamination process is akin to ``putting humans through a car wash" after first destroying their garments. Los Angeles World Airports have put in place a contingency plan to disinfect up to 10,000 persons who might have been exposed to biological or chemical substances. footnote See summary of government and industry documents on decon: http://wearcam.org/decon_summary.htm

Decontamination centers at secret locations, with the ability to run people through a central intake facility, are also known in the art:

The city has taken steps to establish decontamination centers at various undisclosed locations, he said. ``The equipment is in place. ... ``We have to be able to shut down the hospital, filter people through a central intake where we can shower and wash them down, footnote See summary of government and industry documents on decon: http://wearcam.org/decon_summary.htm

Intelligence-gathering systems, means of controlling large numbers of people, etc., can also be applied to the management of a large-scale involuntary labour force. Means and apparatus for compelling civilians to perform mandatory work is well known in the art:

Other outstanding legal questions concern the ability to isolate, quarantine, or detain groups or individuals; the ability to mandate treatment or mandate work; restrictions on travel and trade; the authority to seize community or private property such as hospitals, utilities, medicines, or vehicles; or the ability to compel production of certain goods
footnote Testimony of Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. Subcommittee on National Security, Veterans Affairs And International Relations Committee on Government Reform July 23, 2001

We now live in an era in which one spilled salt shaker can bring about Martial Law and strip hundreds of citizens of their civil rights, leaving us stripped naked, bleached, and bagged. The disinfection/decontamination process is akin to "putting humans through a car wash" after first destroying their garments. Los Angeles World Airports have put in place a contingency plan to disinfect up to 10,000 persons who might have been exposed to biological or chemical substances. Since a suspected terrorist incident constitutes a crime scene, all clothing removed from victims will be evidence. This means the clothing needs to be bagged, tagged for later victim identification (like triage tags) and set aside in a secure location until the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) determines its disposition.

Here are some detailed examples of strategies each of the panelists will use in addressing the Anthrax Age theme:


The above is only the introduction (approximately the first quarter of the paper). You can download the entire article (paper number 1716) in various file formats:
See also DECONference 2002