Our disappearing privacy
“Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.”
Those words were written by Benjamin Franklin and were never more true than today.
Where were you at 6 p.m. last Friday? You might not remember, but somebody does. Mobile wireless providers track your phone’s location from their antenna towers. Governments can then access that information.
Almost daily we hear about another incident concerning governments invading our privacy. IRS leaks, NSA data collection, domestic drones, local traffic cams, police car dash cams, smart meters and “black boxes” on most 2013 and newer vehicles are just a few instances of this intrusion. Thanks to a little-noticed court ruling, police can now demand that data any time they want. They don’t need a search warrant, either.
The most recent example of government intrusion is the FBI demanding that Apple give them access to the cellphone of the San Bernardino terrorist. The problem is twofold. First, Apple would need to give the FBI the “keys” that would allow them to access any Apple phone. Second, Apple set its newest phone systems up in a way that precludes even Apple from accessing them once the user changes settings.
It has now surfaced that the FBI could get into that particular phone in other ways. They apparently aren’t satisfied with that. They want to be able to access any iPhone at any time, so they are suing Apple.
I have tried to research this with the best information I can find. The result is a wide range of opinions regarding both the legality and constitutionality, which can be two separate issues. There are thorny problems with court decisions that address only bits and pieces of a large issue. Also, it seems technology moves faster than the court system so today’s problem may not be addressed for a year or more.
The issue boils down to transparency and trust. Do you trust any government, local, state, or federal, to do what they say they will? Recent revelations tend to throw cold water on that premise. Federal law enforcement and other agencies are becoming jack-booted thugs who have no qualms about lies and obfuscation under Congressional oath. In their minds, anything they do is acceptable as long as the goal is justified. They are becoming a world unto themselves, with no compunction in bending or breaking laws to gain their ends. That sounds eerily like Saul Alinsky’s theories.
I would like to blame Obama, but in this case, it was George W. Bush and the Patriot Act that set up this problem. The supposed safeguard, the FISA court, is a secret court. The public never sees the government’s argument for any request for information. For all we knew, the FISA court could just be a rubber stamp allowing carte blanche search warrants.
The NSA got a deservedly bad rap when the Snowden revelations came to light. What many don’t realize is that the FBI is probably even more intrusive. They often operate in a subversive and many times clearly unconstitutional manner. There is apparently little oversight of these activities or public push-back, probably from fear of retaliation.
The FBI’s laundry list of crimes against the American people includes surveillance, disinformation, blackmail, entrapment, intimidation tactics, harassment and indoctrination, governmental overreach, abuse, misconduct, trespassing, enabling criminal activity and damaging private property. Is information collection so far-fetched?
Their latest action, aside from Apple, is to recruit students and teachers to spy on each other and report anyone who may have the potential to be a “terrorist.” The definition of terrorist is strictly what they deem it to be. Remember the Hammond family in Oregon?
For example, you might be considered anti-government and hence a terrorist if you express libertarian ideals, exhibit Second Amendment-oriented views, expound about constitutional rights and civil liberties or dare to challenge the status quo. I guess I am a terrorist, based on that criteria.
Skeptical? Don’t believe me. Read “Battlefield America: The War on the American People” by John Whitehead. He is a constitutional attorney who established the Rutherford Institute. I have just scratched the surface of what he talks about and has documented.
Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” That may never be more true than today, as we gradually and complacently cede our rights to an ever-more overreaching and intrusive government.
Tom Riggins’ column appears every other Friday. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.