“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty nor security.” – Benjamin Franklin
“Well, in the end, and what I’ve said, and I continue to believe, is that we don’t have to sacrifice our freedom in order to achieve security. That’s a false choice. That doesn’t mean that there are not tradeoffs involved in any given program, in any given action that we take.” – Barack Obama
I, for one, am going to side with Mr. Franklin and not the President on whether to trust our government to decide what “tradeoffs” are appropriate when it comes to infringing on our civil liberties in the name of security. The broad scope of this data collection is concerning. There is always a good reason given by our elected officials to make an end run around the constitution and our civil liberties in the name of some perceived greater good. Whether due to malicious intent, good but misguided intentions or innate human dishonesty these programs invariably produce unintended consequences that threaten the very freedoms afforded us by our constitution. Patrick Henry stated “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people. It is an instrument for the people to restrain the government, lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” I concur and therefore I am going to reject the notion that we need to compromise our civil liberties for the sake of security. The current issue in regard to the NSA is owned by our current president and his predecessor. It is another in a string of programs that have allegedly necessary and good intentions. Unfortunately, programs like these have a history of producing counterproductive results. This isn’t the first time this has happened. Here is a list of just a few “necessary” programs gone awry throughout our nations’ history.
Conintelpro was a program instituted in the 1950’s to allow the FBI to collect intelligence on suspected communist agents in America. By the 1960’s it was used by the NSA to secretly collect 150,000 telegrams a month from American citizens while the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover used it to build files on suspicious people like Martin Luther King, Jr. and help Richard Nixon build his list of “enemies.”
The Smoot Hawley tariff (tax) in 1930 was supposed to raise taxes on corporations to help balance the budget and pull the nation out of a recession. Historians now label it as one of the worst policy decisions in history and cite it as one of the chief culprits for turning a recession into a depression.
John Adams once warned that the “jaws of power are always open to devour.” Later as President he signed the Alien and Sedition Act into law in response to foreign subversives trying to topple the government. The act allowed the President to imprison for up to two years and/or a $2,000 fine (big money back then) anyone who printed content deemed malicious toward the President. When his chief critic, Thomas Jefferson, became President he stated that he now believed “a few prosecutions of the most prominent offenders would have a wholesome effect in restoring the integrity of the presses.”
The government says “trust us.” I don’t think I will.