Saturday, January 28, 2006

Homeland Security is anti-American

Wherein I'll also say mostly a waste of time and the claimed security is a sham and disgraceful window dressing

Photodude points out that Homeland Security is being used to spy on vegans protesting ham:
However … these people were protesting HAM. And I think you would have a very hard time finding someone willing to publicly take the position that these ham protesters are endangering our national security, or our soldier’s will to fight. Even here on the home front, I personally do not feel that my ham purchasing rights are threatened in any way. Nor is anyone forced to buy ham.

In America today, we just do not seem to have a ham problem.

Is it legal to take pictures of a legal ham protest? Of course. That’s not the question. The question is whether county, state, or federal resources that are supposed to be devoted to “Homeland Security,” i.e. protection from a primarily foreign terrorist threat, should instead be spent in a CVS parking lot watching vegans protest ham.

And the next question is, if they’re doing that, what the hell else are they doing that is so stupid it ought to be illegal?

Much news lately about wiretapping and privacy rights, but this is nothing new. The government, in an ever expanding need to "protect" us spends every year trying to reduce our liberty. Bruce Schneier is a security expert who spends much time detailing the differences between actual security and the perception of security. Privacy rights also factor heavily in his writing. The following quote is from Secrets and Lies (2000). Note this was written before September 11, 2001. That date was just an excuse for the newly formed Homeland Security to institute anti-citizen measures that law enforcement had already been asking for:
The government, and the FBI in particular, likes to paint privacy (and the systems that achieve it) as a flagitious tool of the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, money launderers, and child pornographers. In 1994, the FBI pushed the Digital Tekephony Bill through Congress, which tried to force telephone companies to install equipment in their switches to make it easier to wiretap people. In the aftermath of the World Trade Center Bombing, they pushed the Omnibus Counterterrorism Bill, which gave them the power to do roving wiretaps and the President the power to unilaterally and secretly classify political groups as terrorist organizations. Thankfully it didn't pass.

...The debate is ongoing. The FBI has been pushing for stronger anti-privacy measures: the right to eavesdrop on broad swaths of the telephone network, the right to install listening devices on people's computers--without warrants wherever possible.

...Also interesting (and timeless) are the philosophical issues. First, is the government correct when it implies that the social ills of privacy outweigh the social goods?

...Second, can a government take a technology that clearly does an enormous amount of social good and, because they perceive that it hinders law enforcement in some way, limit its use?

...I don't know the answers. A balance exists between privacy and safety. Laws about search and seizure and due process hinder law enforcement, and probably result in some criminals going free. On the other hand, they protect citizens agaisnt abuse by the police. We as a society need to decide what particular balance is right for us, and then create laws that enforce that balance. Warrants are a good example of this balance; they give police the right to invade privacy, but add some judicial oversight. I don't necessarily object to invasions of privacy in order to aid law enforcement, but I vociferously object to the FBI trying to ram them through without public debate or even public awareness.

In any case, the future does not look good. Privacy is the first thing jettisoned in a crisis, and already the FBI is tryng to manufacture crises in an attempt to seize more powers to invade privacy. A war, a terrorist attack, a police action...would cause a sea change in the deabte. And even now, in an environment that is most conducive to a reasoned debate on privacy, we're losing more and more of our privacy.


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