Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For fear of terror...

As I have said before, I read The Economist.

Last week I saw an article that caught my attention: Liberty's lost decade.  I'm sure that without even looking at the text, most astute readers of ESE (are there any other kind?) can probably tell that it dealt with draconian, post-9/11 security measures in America, especially surveillance. That latter point has of course been in the news a great deal between the flight of Edward Snowden and the conviction of Private Bradley Manning in the WikiLeaks case, a conviction for which Manning faces up to 136 years in prison.

The clash over civil liberties versus national security is a sticky one.  A conundrum if you will.  America prides itself on individual freedom and privacy as a right.  At the same time, a primary role of any government is to protect its people.  How do those two ideas coexist?  Before you ask, it is evident that the complication is not due to any one party.  True, Bush et. al. did pass the Patriot Act during a time when much of the nation feared more terrorist attacks.  Everyone seemed scared enough to swallow anything.  But as the article points out, the Obama administration has failed to close the prison at Guantanamo and "has seized journalists’ telephone records and pursued leakers with a legal sledgehammer."

There are those who claim we live in a world envisioned by great writers such as George Orwell and Franz Kafka.  I can't say those opinions are entirely wrong.  At the same time, given the damage done to the intelligence community, I can't really embrace what Manning and Snowden did.  Okay, okay, I kinda dig Snowden.  How can you not like a story that reads, "In a world where information is power...a young, self-taught computer hack goes to work for a high-tech and super secret government spy agency.  But his conscience gets the better of him and he goes on the run, leaving his stripper girlfriend behind." The only way it could be better is a scene with him running down a city street, a laptop tucked under one arm and a 9mm pistol in the hand of the other.  But I digress...

If these leakers did any service, maybe it's that this conversation is fully a part of the national dialogue.  How far should domestic surveillance go?  How much say do we as a people have in it?  Who watches the watchmen?  What, if any, oversight is there on these activities?  Do I as a citizen have the right to see "my file?"  Can I even be sure you're showing me the entire file?  Democracy cannot fully exist in the dark.

Plus, isn't it impractical to gather what seems like too much data?  Seems like it would be a lot of work to find the true terror clues amid the texts of "Can you pick me up?" and guys like Wiener emailing their junk.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets


  1. On Facebook, MelissaPOE said: " LOL at the last line. Have you heard Naiomi Wolfe's talk on the "Closed State?" You would like it."

    No, but it sounds like I need to check it out. Thanks, Melissa!

  2. On Facebook, MelissaPOE said: " It's a doozey! She is spot on! This was a good one, Jon. Something I truly wrestle with. I really enjoyed the line about "swallowing anything" after 911. Dennis Kucinich is the only Congressperson who read the damn Patriot Ac, btw."

    Thank you, Melissa! I really appreciate it! Yeah I'm not a deep red communist or anything, but I'm starting to think I'd be just shifty enough to be taken up for investigation by HUAC. lol


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