Future Harm

The discussion, debate, screaming and posturing over the Edward Snowden leak   about the NSA Prism program is at a fever pitch. I haven’t met anyone yet that doesn’t have an opinion on what “trade offs” are acceptable for the ongoing safety and security of the American people.

I don’t happen to come down on the side that thinks you should willy-nilly violate civil liberties with laws, policies and presidential powers that will never, ever be undone. If you have read my previous political rants this isn’t news. My inherent liberal biases aside, the case against Snowden deserves extra attention for a number of reasons.

First, for some perspective, its important to know that the Germans are accusing the US of Stasi-style surveillance which gives you an idea of the gravity of the choices our government is making right now. These folks know from privacy invasion! They think our government is getting into dangerous territory so perhaps we should take note. When Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel  scolds Obama later this week, because of political pressure or because of her real concerns, there will be no ambiguity about how folks over in the EU feel about these developments.

The folks who are downplaying the gravity of the NSA trolling through massive amounts of data are doing so by saying Google & Apple are already looking at every key stroke to sell you stuff so whats the big deal? This is a very weak argument that will still manage to reinforce the attitude of millions of average US citizens who just don’t give shit about privacy or civil liberties. I think of this as the “Nothing to Hide” crowd. Their letters to the editor invariably conclude with “If you have nothing to hide, it wont matter if [the government swabs your DNA, taps your phone line, puts you on a terrorist watch list etc.].”

Short-sighted thinking like this is best cured by personal experience.

Most disturbing to me is the post 9/11 idea that we cannot have security and civil liberties at the same time. This is a false dilemma. How can we continue to allow the government to continue to make choices to violate our liberties based on the vague fear of “future harm”? The absurd American privilege of being complacent and uninvolved in politics is changing the landscape of who we can be as a nation in the future.

I anticipate a run of political rants on this blog in the next few weeks.

And just between you and me Diane Fienstein calling Snowden’s leak “an act of treason” is grandstanding. Because she cannot reveal the information deemed treasonous (we just have to trust her) she should be more circumspect with the name calling. Future harm is speculative at best and does not constitute a reason for hyper vigilance in my book. I’m sure I am not the only one reminded of the “Minority Report” poster.

The Future Can Be Seen. Murder Can be Prevented. The Guilty Punished Before the Crime is Committed. The System is Perfect. It’s Never Wrong. Until It Comes After You.