Sunday, June 9, 2013

Observations from the Window 6.9

I have to admit it was a fascinating few days watching the reaction of people to the NSA's data collecting and PRISM program. You had Senators who voted for the Patriot Act swearing they didn't know it made the NSA data fishing expeditions legal. You also had people who have fully supported the law, because they have no problem trading privacy for some sense of safety, admitting that they have never read even a part of it. Some Democrats are supporting something that is blatantly opposed to the fourth amendment of the Constitution while some Republicans call something initiated by Dubya unconstitutional because, well, you know, the black man is doing it.

For the record you can read the entire Patriot Act here.

I can't say I'm at all surprised that the data collection has been and continues to be done but because of President Obama I will admit to being a bit disappointed by it. Because it's being done with judicial oversight the Patriot Act makes it all perfectly legal and I doubt there has ever been a President who did use every last drop of power granted him. There is a good line in a Huffington Post column from 2011; "the surveillance state has nothing to do with the goodness or badness of the American people or our unseen protectors. It has to do with the psychology of power, and what power does to life." That says it all, it isn't about trust as much as what all the spying does to the country in the long run. Soon a whole generation will have grown up thinking this is the norm and once that happens there is probably no going back.

For the most part I think people will support the data collection or sadly just not care one way or the other. In all honesty if they want to watch as their privacy rights are slowly bled away in the name of safety so be it. There isn't a damn thing that you or I can do about it but I start to have a rather large problem is when these people are willing to give away my privacy with theirs. If only the Constitution's fourth amendment was as sacred as the second seems to be, something that will never be.

The always popular Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina voiced what is in all likelihood the average person's opinion. "I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government’s going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So, we don’t have anything to worry about."

I've been playing a game of sorts this week. I ask people to guess who said this; "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." Obama seems to be the popular first guess, I think just to shut me up.

It was written by Benjamin Franklin, in 1775.

6/10 update - I found another quote that makes one think a little harder about the NSA story. From the 17th century comes Armand Jean du Plessis, known simply as Cardinal Richelieu. "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." You can learn so much from history if you only take the time to look.