Sunday, September 1, 2013

Secrets and Lies - Self Examination

In the wake of the recent scandals involving the NSA, and the governments hounding of both Mr. Assange and PFC Snowden, I have had to examine my own views on personal privacy, as well as that of the governments right to gather intelligence, before I can even decide if the reasoning behind the opinion I hold is even consistent. This is more of a conundrum than one would think.

In the former case, the government is spying on people and groups; gathering data; which they then keep secret, supposedly for use in the war on terror, or to protect our citizens. And, for the most part, people don’t have a problem with that. But, in the latter case, some of these same people are vehemently opposed to the government intruding upon their own privacy in the name of that same goal. Is this even consistent? Is there a difference in the 2 programs, and how do we tell what that difference is?

I like both Snowden and Assange, mainly because they let me know what the government is doing without my knowledge, or consent; just my money. But, at the same time, I want my government to gather intelligence from people who are legitimately trying to hurt us. The real problem is not in the moral question, as much as it is in the question of who is doing the snooping, and where does the line get drawn as to what will be done with all of the intelligence gathered. (Although you could argue, and I’d agree, that about 99% of calls intercepted would be very boring. Just listen sometime to the conversations people have at the grocery store, etc.)

I have no real answers to this question. It all boils down to whether or not you trust the government to do the right thing with the information they gather. So far, no one is knocking on our doors late at night to “question” us about any particular phone call, and I haven’t noticed any black helicopters hovering about, but it still makes a person feel a bit uneasy to know that you’re being monitored in some sort of way.

It hasn’t stopped anyone from writing down their opposition to the programs, but you have to wonder if someday what you write will be thrust in your face as part of a “re-education” program. Just as the potential for good is present in the NSA programs which monitor suspected terrorists, the same potential for misuse does exist and, as such, bears watching. So far, my money is on our government to use the intelligence they gather to protect us from harm. Only time will tell if these programs are being used for other, less noble, purposes.

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