Source: Commonwealth Club, talk by Annie Jacobsen
Journalist Annie Jacobsen latest book, First Platoon, investigates “warfare, good and evil in the age of biometrics, the technology that would allow the government to identify anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
Discussion about the Pentagon’s abilities to utilize iris scans, fingerprint scans, voice patterning, detection by odor, gait, and more to track human patterns, as well as the ethical questions raised by what Ms. Jacobsen calls “a burgeoning surveillance state.”
This is a story that starts off close and goes very big. The initial part of the story might sound familiar at first: It is about a platoon of mostly 19-year-old boys sent to Afghanistan, and an experience that ends abruptly in catastrophe. Their part of the story folds into the next: Inexorably linked to those soldiers and never comprehensively reported before is the U.S. Department of Defense’s quest to build the world’s most powerful biometrics database, with the power to identify, monitor, catalogue, and police people all over the world.
Based on hundreds of formerly classified documents, FOIA requests, and exclusive interviews, First Platoon is an investigative exposé by a master chronicler of government secrets. Jacobsen reveals a post–9/11 Pentagon whose identification machines have grown more capable than the humans who must make sense of them. She says it’s a Pentagon so powerful it can cover up its own internal mistakes in pursuit of endless wars; and people are at its mercy, in the last moments before a fundamental change so complete it might be impossible to take back.
Annie Jacobsen is the author of the Pulitzer Prize–finalist in history The Pentagon’s Brain, the New York Times bestsellers Operation Paperclip, and other books. She was a contributing editor at the Los Angeles Times Magazine. A graduate of Princeton University