Kerger: National security vs. privacyWritten by Rick Kerger | | firstname.lastname@example.org
I do not think the National Security Agency contractor should have handled his concerns the way he did. He arrogated to himself the right to disclose information which those who employed him wanted kept secret. He did not have that right and the circumstances were not so grave as to allow him to kick over the traces and take off on his own.
That said, I think the government’s reaction is a classic effort to keep the public from looking at the “man behind the curtain”. The fact that NSA scrolls through cellular data and Internet activity to find people with bad intent toward the United States is not news. It most particularly is not news to the group the government claims to be most concerned about – the terrorists.
It took more than a decade to locate Osama Bin Laden because he knew exactly what the NSA was doing. He did not use cellphones. He did not use the Internet. He and the other terrorists know exactly what we are looking for, how we get it and what we do with it when we find it.
Moreover, if one were to watch any of the movies of the past several years concerning terrorism, these same spying modalities were featured there. So the “over-the-top” claims that the streets will run red with blood because of this disclosure, is, in my opinion, a bunch of hooey.
It is likely that we citizens of the United States were a little taken aback to think that sweet nothings between high school students and anguished calls to families who were devastated by accidents were being trolled through, however.
What the revelations brought to the forefront was how disturbingly close we have come to 1984 the famed book by Orwell, or indeed Fahrenheit 451.
I am not a supporter of the Second Amendment as interpreted by the National Rifle Association. But the prospect of the Government having all of our communications stored away so that they could be studied is troubling. Perhaps we do need to stress the individual right to bear arms in order to protect ourselves.
I am not worried about President Barack Obama nor would I have been worried about George W. Bush having this information. However vigorously I disagree with their policies, I find it hard to imagine that the data would be misused by them in a way that would be unfairly prejudicial to my interests.
I do worry about lower level functionaries, like the “leaker”, but with a different bent. What if such an employee felt the government was not being robust enough in its efforts in analyzing the data? What can she or he do with the data to which they have access?
Or if you want to be apocalyptic, imagine we have a financial collapse similar to Germany in the 1920s. Would not the National Socialist Party find this treasure trove of information of incredible value in restructuring our society to its model?
I am also old enough to remember the original Disney film showing Mickey Mouse as the “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”. Aided by the Sorcerer’s magic hat, Mickey undertakes to ease his task of mopping by animating a mop. In the course of his action, he animates hundreds of mops, which in turn create chaos. It is the sort of feeling I get when I think about what can be done through the Internet.
Is the Internet helpful? Of course it is. It makes my professional and personal life far easier. But we need to start making decisions as a people, not as a government, about what limits we want to impose.
When the “leaker” is arrested, he will no doubt be brought to trial and just as certainly convicted. A very severe sentence is likely. I am not saying that is a good idea or a bad idea. It is just what is going to happen.
But irrespective of what happens to him, we all still have the problem. We have a system with the potential to keep improving our lives or, at the other end of the spectrum, make us all hostages in our supposedly free society. We need to debate the point and we need to make decisions. If his actions drive that dialogue, I believe he will have succeeded in what he wanted to do. .
In closing, we ought to consider the fact that the government hired the leaker. I have heard many attacks on his character and his ability, but the fact is he was vetted by whatever security agencies looked at him and found to be suitable to receive the most sensitive information in our government.
That is not terribly reassuring. One could make the point that in fact all of the leakers charged with espionage were hired by our own government and given access to the information which they leaked. If the Government did a better job reviewing each of its employees, who would be receiving such information, it might not have this problem in the first place.
Tags: Rick Kerger