My degree is actually in security and intel, so I have some definite oppinions on the matter, and in many cases I am probably more likely to favor surveilance and increased security than some might be comfortable with. That being said, I do feel that there are currently areas that we go way over the top right now.
Surveilance cameras are basically dirt cheap, easy to install, and usable by almost anyone who can attach a device to a TV. When they are used for such purposes as traffic monitoring on roadways to respond more quickly to accidents, or for surveilance in high security areas like banks or pharmacies, I'm all for them. They start crossing the line when you end up with things like "red light" cameras, or automated speed trap cameras. Those do nothing to increase safety, and are strictly a revenue source for unscrupulous government agencies. I also understand, but dislike the anti shoplifting cameras. The shoplifters who are good enough to get away with it are apperently not deterred by them, and at the same time you end up essentially "punishing" the lawful shoppers who intended on paying for their items by spying on them. There was a particular pizza bar restaraount that opened in Vancover a few years back. I always called it "fortress Pizza" because they literally had a security camera watching every single table in addition to the register, etc. I don't need some jerk watching me eat my food. Is pizza theft really that big of a problem? I ate their once, I never went back, and I warned everyone I knew away from it too. They went out of buisiness about 7 months later.
Random searches cost a huge amount of money. And according to Homeland security tests of airport security, even to this day Rarely find the planted items. We spend (and by We, I mean US taxpayers) Billions every year funding these obnoxious, inefficient searches, ran by the lowest bidder. The new milimeter wave x-ray 3d scanner devices also emit a form of radiation that is known to be somewhat damaging on the cellular level, and the effects of the devices has not been studied long term. There is a very real risk that these things will cause genetic defects or cancer. Plus the guy who approved them for use now works for the company. Pat down searches are also really useless. A truly determined suicide bomber who is willing to pack himself with c4 or some sort of ingestable explosive isn't going to show up by someone copping a feel. If you have probable cause, sure, knock yourself out. break out the arm length rubber gloves, etc. But until then, stay the heck away from my equipment, or at least hire someone more appropriate for the task. Like hot chicks.
Financial transactions, I'm really ok with. If its transmitted via the internet today, unless its very heavily encrypted, they can already see it anyways. Everything else should bepretty much public record for tax purposes, for corporate transparancy, etc.
National ID cards I am in favor of, for one reason. If you want government services, including use of tax funded facilities and transportation infrastructure, you should be required to present some form of documentation proving you are elegable to use those assets. If you want to stay in the back woods of tennessee and never leave the house or use the roads, then sure you don't need an ID card. If we pull you over without one, or without record of one existing, then we deport you to canukistan or something. This isn't the old german "papers please, citizen". This is "hey, i want a tax rebate", ok, show ID, or "hey, I just got arrested and i'm going to claim my name is bob when it's really george", ok, show some ID, oops, you just lied to a cop, etc. We already have these in large part via drivers licenses, or non driver identification cards issued at the state level. The reason I think a federal card of some sort would be a good idea in theory, yet horribly doomed to failure would be that some states, washington amongst them, have had issue with rampant illegal driver license creation, and starting a new federal ID database from scratch that doesn't use drivers licenses as a base would be horribly doomed to never actually working, and would only cost more money than it would prevent in fraud.
Racial or ethnic profiling is rarely effective, because the races and or ethnicites that wish to blow you up know you are doing it usually. For example, there are a specific set of extremely radical chechen muslims who look exactly like any other pale, white fair haired european you could cite as an example. They speak very heavily accented russian, look like russians, and wish to terrorize us. Looking for your typical "islamic" looking middle easterner would be next to useless. On the other hand, the twin tower hijackers were all very islamic looking. They didn't care, because they knew we were not watching the domestic flights. Terrorists do their homework too. They observe and compile information and look for holes in our defenses. Right now, we try to present the illusion of being strong everywhere, but it's all show and very little substance. It serves some real purpose in that it destracts from the real defenses to a certain degree, suh as the sky marshal programs, the plainclothes airport security details, the anti hijacking airplane modifications, the unobtrusive chemical and radiological detection equipment scattered throughout airports, etc. Security searches can be useful though, especially if you have a specific threat, or the occasional random search.
The mentality we have to get over is the one where we think we can stop that lone crazy gunman from taking out a target. We can't be strong everywhere, and at some point we have to figure out where the acceptable level of risk is. I garuntee if we were to cut billions from the airport security screening details tomorrow, we would be just at as much at risk now as we would be in a month, and after the initial panic airline flight dropoff, travel would go right back to where it was, even with the percieved increased risk. ****, take that same amount of money we are spending on screeners, and hire ex military and ex police officers to ride armed, in uniform on every possible flight that might go near a populated area or potential target in addition to the plainclothes sky marshals. I bet you could keep it under 20,000 people employeed, compared to the 40,000 airline screeners . Offer all law enforcement free air travel assiming the go armed and trained to respond to an airplane incident. Give the flight attendents swords or something. I dunno. Being able to respond to a threat quickly would make more sense than trying to prevent all possible threats, and would in the long run cost a huge amount less.
The patriot act also needs to expire. They had enough time. anything they don't know at this point they aren't likely to learn through it. If you can't convince a judge over a 20 minute phone call to fax you a provisional search or wire tapping warrent, you don't have a strong enough case to give you the right to inconveniance those people with a search. There is NEVER a scenario where that 20 minute pause to get authorization from judicial authority is going to negetivly impact your investigation. If you think someone is about to be in imminant danger, you already don't have to wait to go in even without the patriot act, so really it's just pure lazyness and unneccessary intrusiveness. And besides, the NSA is doing it already anyways.