Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Liberty or Security...It's not that simple

Are you troubled by the Prism and NSA news?  How do you feel about what Edward Snowden?  Has government become the omnipresent Orwellian “Big Brother”?  Was Benjamin Franklin right when he said “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”?  Would you chose the blue pill or the red pill?

Whether it is the very recent news of the Snowden leak, the use of drones, political intimidation, extreme rendition, or enhanced interrogation,  the American public needs to come to grips with its identity.  These are potent issues that require serious dialogue and debate, and should neither be flippantly nor frivolously relegated to 140 character tweets. 

Each person will have to make up his own mind, but do not hold your breath for the truth, as history has told us when it comes to governmental controversy, truth is not singular.  But I would be remiss to leave you without the questions I have and what I question:

·         Remember when the Bush administration used its torturous circular logic when it claimed we don’t torture because torture is illegal?  I tend to be fairly cynical and skeptical when similar arguments are used by corporate or government officials. 

·         The above notwithstanding, who determines legality? A secret court?  Perhaps, as the ACLU has signaled, the question ultimately comes to constitutionality. 

·         While many Americans want to give President Obama the benefit of the doubt, and most democrats will stand by him (of course we know how democrats would react to the Prism disclosure under a Republican president) I also remember that we have a history of government overreach in the form of the Alien & Sedition Acts, the Espionage Act, the Palmer Raids, Japanese internment.  Yes, sometimes even under the best intentions, unintended consequences are unavoidable.

·         We live in a Republic, not a Democracy.  We elect representatives to create and enforce laws and the judicial branch to interpret said laws.  We do not have mob rule, but it is up to the electorate to act and sadly when only 41% of eligible voters turnout for a mid-term election, the majority of Americans forfeit their right to criticize.

·         I question the media and the sensationalism.  The NSA does not listen to everyone’s phone calls and it doesn’t read everybody’s emails.  Snowden talked in ‘coulds’ not ‘does’, heck a technician at the phone company or an internet service provider could do the same.  Court orders to capture metadata are not new, that being said collecting all metadata for later use has crossed a new line in Fourth Amendment protections.

I am not ready to bow to Colonel Jessep, but I can imagine debates in Washington on security versus liberty, I simply want the debates to be less secretive.  I also believe legal challenges to these ‘security requests’ and other government programs in the name of defense and security should not be kept from the public.


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