Monday, May 15, 2006

Big brother is watching, listening, and following you

I had a great time at the Braves game this weekend. Seeing Jeff hit that walk away grand slam was something to behold and experience, a perfect way to end my first baseball game at The Ted. Went to the aquarium on Sunday for Mother’s Day and enjoyed that as well. I must ask a question though to all of the parents who refuse to leave their strollers at the entrance to each exhibit. Why do you insist on pushing a stroller through the exhibits if you’re just going to carry your child? It just gets in the way of everyone else.

Now, a number of readers have asked me what my thoughts are on the NSA phone number database thing (this is a lie, no one has asked me jack about it). I’ve got a few issues with it, but they’re not going to be what your talking heads on the tele say. First things first, massive database of information in a secret government organization few have access to is a recipe for trouble. I don’t care about security in a post 9/11 world, you don’t need my phone records for your security. You already can wire tap anyone you want, my phone records are not going to help you. But that’s not even my problem because, believe it or not, I think they are acting in our best interests right now and they truly mean good by it. My problem is with the next administration, or the administration after that, who choose to abuse this list for one reason or another. I don’t want anyone to be able to go to the NSA and get a list of all numbers that someone has called.

“But how do you know they would do that?” some might ask. How do I know? I know because I thought of it, that’s why. If I can think of it, so can anyone else, which means that they CAN do it. That possibility is not something I want to have to deal with. If you think that The Feds wouldn’t have used something like this against Martin Luther King when he was around, you are terribly mistaken. Its exactly this type of stuff that is abused for “political’ reasons, warranted or not.

The main argument against this I hear is “if you’re not a terrorist you’ve got nothing to worry about.” I say, “You’re overlooking the point.” They respond, “But they’re only using this info to target the terrorists.” I say, “Define terrorist.” Think of it this way… we’ve got this huge database of millions of records that’s being used to target what, maybe a thousand people? Seems like a bit of overkill to me. And besides, the argument that they are only targeting terrorist and I have nothing to be afraid of is dumb. That’s like us telling the citizens of Hiroshima, “We’re only targeting the bad Japanese.” Unfortunately, the rest of them get caught up in the attack. Maybe that’s a bad comparison but I think you see my point.

Something of this nature is a bad idea, not even because we can think of the reasons why right now, it’s even scarier because there are things we can’t think up right now. In the future as computers get more and more powerful and things are infinitely quicker to comb through, what’s to say that this doesn’t spawn a whole new lock down on something, something not related to terrorism. Why not? They already have the data, might as well use it, right?

Anyone want to give me 5 to 1 odds that Rove is indicted this week?




Anonymous Ryley said...

First of all, I find your Hiroshima simile here both gross and fallacious. Almost as disturbing as you claiming you have “readers” that were “after your opinion on the issue.”

I too am disturbed, but not so much by these recent events specifically, but by the president they set. The fact is the average American has nothing to worry about…NOW. But…the government is on pretty shaky legal ground with this thing. If they haven’t broken constitutional law, they have definitely bent it severely. My question is: Where does it end? Will we see a snow ball effect? A journey of a 100 miles starts with one step. Is this the first step in a terrifying attack on our privacy?

Ultimately, though, the recent turn of events is a positive one. It has revealed a need. Like you said, Steve, one way or another, the Bush administration and the American intelligence community has our best interest in mind, but like I said, they are on shaky legal ground here. The reason? The new information age.

The current laws governing intelligence (as far as wire tapping and such) were written in the late 70’s and early 80’s and are grossly outdated, if not completely arcane. Lawmakers back then didn’t foresee millions of cell phones. They didn’t foresee being able to communicate instantly with someone halfway across the world with a couple of strokes on a keyboard. AND they didn’t foresee religious fanatic animals flying commercial jet liners into skyscrapers while screaming “Allah is good! Allah is great!”

Note to the Islamics: In no way do I mean to say that this is the norm. I realize this was the work of a few fanatics. Hey, I’m Christian. We’re worse. Ever hear of the crusades?

As stated above, Republican or Democrat, this recent revelation (oddly timed, don’t you think, coming just a week before the republican president is trying to get a new CIA director confirmed????) has shined a bright light on a dark and desperate need.

Law and policy must be updated to meet the needs of the current information age and to address a new evil. The Bush administration has our best interest in mind, but wire tapping must be regulated. There must be checks and balances. The main priority must be assuring that this doesn’t snowball, that our rights and liberties aren’t infringed upon more than is absolutely necessary.

As much as I hate how this issue, this “scandal” has been used as political currency, a lame attempt to stone-wall the confirmation of a highly qualified candidate for CIA director, I appreciate that it has raised the level of debate in this country. Ask 1000 Americans and 999 of them are all for unregulated, unrestricted wire tapping on international calls. And “unregulated and unrestricted” accurately describes our policy now and always. But…the issue of domestic wire tapping has never adequately been explored and/or debated.

It’s about fucking time.

I hear whispers, experts telling me that if such a program were in place before September 2001, that some, if not many, of the 911 hijackers would have been identified and captured. If this is the case, then such a policy should be strongly explored/considered. But obviously, the privacy of Joe American must be carefully protected.

This is not a black and white issue. The truth is somewhere in the middle. There must be a delicate balance. Don’t get caught up in the political mudslinging. Make your own decision.

I value my privacy, my “freedom” as much as anyone, my rights as an American, but what I value more is an America where you can head into the office and not be worried some maniac is going to fly a plane into it. An America where you can get on a subway and not be worried the brown man with the backpack is up to no good. That is freedom. Not having to live in fear.

Discussion is needed. Turn the TV off and talk.

Either way, I’m moving to Canada, land of hockey, Degrassi, the Mullet, and Allanis Morrisette…Fuck all ya’ll.

7:52 PM  

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