Tyranny, Mortality, and Resistance
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say goodbye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling in terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand. The Organs would very quickly have suffered a shortage of officers and transport and, notwithstanding all of Stalin's thirst; the cursed machine would have ground to a halt!
The Gulag Archipelago
The following excerpt from "Archipelago" comes from Solzhenitsyn's discussion of various interrogation techniques used by the state apparatchiks:
7. Intimidation was very widely used and very varied. It was often accompanied by enticement and by promises which were, of course, false. In 1924: "If you don't confess, you'll go to the Solovetsky Islands. Anybody who confesses is turned loose." In 1944: "Which camp you'll be sent to depends on us. Camps are different. We've got hard-labor camps now. If you confess, you'll go to an easy camp. If you're stubborn, you'll get twenty-five years in handcuffs in the mines!" Another form of intimidation was threatening a prisoner with a prison worse than the one he was in. "If you keep on being stubborn, we'll send you to Lefortovo" (if you are in the Lubyanka), "to Sukhanovka" (if you are at Lefortovo). "They'll find another way to talk to you there." You have already gotten used to things where you are; the regimen seems to be not so bad; and what kind of torments await you elsewhere? Yes, and you also have to be transported there. . . . Should you give in?
Intimidation worked beautifully on those who had not yet been arrested but had simply received an official summons to the Bolshoi Dom-the Big House. He (or she) still had a lot to lose. He (or she) was frightened of everything-that they wouldn't let him (or her) out today, that they would confiscate his (or her) belongings or apartment. He would be ready to give all kinds of testimony and make all kinds of concessions in order to avoid these dangers. She, of course, would be ignorant of the Criminal Code, and, at the very least, at the start of the questioning they would push a sheet of paper in front of her with a fake citation from the Code: "I have been warned that for giving false testimony - five years of imprisonment." (In actual fact, under Article 95, it is two years.) "For refusal to give testimony-five years . . ." (In actual fact, under Article 92, it is up to three months.) Here, then, one more of the interrogator's basic methods has entered the picture and will continue to re-enter it.
8. The lie. We lambs were forbidden to lie, but the interrogator could tell all the lies he felt like. Those articles of the law did not apply to him. We had even lost the yardstick with which to gauge: what does he get for lying? He could confront us with as many documents as he chose, bearing the forged signatures of our kinfolk and friends-and it would be just a skillful interrogation technique.
Intimidation through enticement and lies was the fundamental method for bringing pressure on the relatives of the arrested person when they were called in to give testimony. "If you don't tell us such and such" (whatever was being asked), "it's going to be the worse for him_. You'll be destroying him completely." (How hard for a mother to hear that!) "Signing this paper" (pushed in front of the relatives) "is the only way you can save him" (destroy him).
9. Playing on one's affection for those one loved was a game that worked beautifully on the accused as well. It was the most effective of all methods of intimidation. One could break even a totally fearless person through his concern for those he loved. (Oh, how foresighted was the saying: "A man's family are his enemies.") Remember the Tatar who bore his sufferings-his own and those of his wife-but could not endure his daughter's! In 1930, Rimalis, a woman interrogator, used to threaten: "We'll arrest your daughter and lock her in a cell with syphilitics!" And that was a woman!
They would threaten to arrest everyone you loved. Sometimes this would be done with sound effects: Your wife has already been arrested, but her further fate depends on you. They are questioning her in the next room just listen! And through the wall you can actually hear a woman weeping and screaming. (After all, they all sound alike; you're hearing it through a wall; and you're under terrific strain and not in a state to play the expert on voice identification. Sometimes they simply play a recording of the voice of a "typical wife"-soprano or contralto -a labor-saving device suggested by some inventive genius.) And then, without fakery, they actually show her to you through a glass door, as she walks along in silence, her head bent in grief. Yes! Your own wife in the corridors of State Security! You have destroyed her by your stubbornness! She has already been arrested! (In actual fact, she has simply been summoned in connection with some insignificant procedural question and sent into the corridor at just the right moment, after being told: "Don't raise your head, or you'll be kept here!") Or they give you a letter to read, and the handwriting is exactly like hers: "I renounce you! After the filth they have told me about you, I don't need you any more!" (And since such wives do exist in our country, and such letters as well, you are left to ponder in your heart: Is that the kind of wife she really is?)
"Relevance?", I hear someone asking.
Quite simple, actually. Freedom-loving Americans and others had damned well skippy better educate themselves on the workings of various soul-crushing totalitarian regimes while there is still time to learn and practice various resistance methods. The torrent of recent stories such as this one suggest that the hour is growing very late:
The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.
"Bigger. Faster. Better. That's the bottom line," said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.
The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. Critics say that such government initiatives should not proceed without proof that the technology really can pick a criminal out of a crowd.
The use of biometric data is increasing throughout the government. For the past two years, the Defense Department has been storing in a database images of fingerprints, irises and faces of more than 1.5 million Iraqi and Afghan detainees, Iraqi citizens and foreigners who need access to U.S. military bases. The Pentagon also collects DNA samples from some Iraqi detainees, which are stored separately.
The Department of Homeland Security has been using iris scans at some airports to verify the identity of travelers who have passed background checks and who want to move through lines quickly. The department is also looking to apply iris- and face-recognition techniques to other programs. The DHS already has a database of millions of sets of fingerprints, which includes records collected from U.S. and foreign travelers stopped at borders for criminal violations, from U.S. citizens adopting children overseas, and from visa applicants abroad. There could be multiple records of one person's prints...
As the Book says in Matthew 7:20, "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."