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Monday, August 26, 2013

"The Future Is Paranoia"

Peggy Noonan writes at the Wall Street Journal about the implications of the NSA domestic surveillance program:

If the citizens of the United States don't put up a halting hand, the government can't be expected to. It is in the nature of security professionals to always want more, and since their mission is worthy they're less likely to have constitutional qualms, to dwell on such abstractions as abuse of the Fourth Amendment and the impact of that abuse on the First.
If you assume all the information that can and will be gleaned will be confined to NSA and national security purposes, you are not sufficiently imaginative or informed. If you believe the information will never be used wrongly or recklessly, you are touchingly innocent.
 
If you assume you can trust the administration on this issue you are not following the bouncing ball, from Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who told Congress under oath the NSA didn't gather "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans" (he later had to apologize) to President Obama, who told Jay Leno: "We don't have a domestic program." What we do have, the president said, is "some mechanism that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack." 
Oh, we have more than that. 
... But democratic nations must always balance "the citizens' right to live their lives in freedom, with minimum interference with their privacy from the security agencies" against the governments' responsibility "to protect their citizens from harm." That balance, she [Stella Rimington, former director of MI-5] warned, had already begun to swing toward "more emphasis to our safety than our civil liberties." It has become more acceptable "for the government . . . to take more powers." She laments this. Pointedly: There is a danger, she observes, that "security can become an industry in itself and will not be protecting what is truly at risk." 
Terrorism will continue to appeal to extremists, to "weak minded" individuals drawn by passionate causes. But lack of attentiveness to our liberties will not help us succeed against them, and it can damage us. I wrote in the margins: "She's saying we can't become suicide bombers of our own rights."

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