That’s democracy, baby!

In the light of all that we have learned in the last few months, let’s recap where we are: We have a government that collects everyone’s communications data in secret and stores them, justifying the practice by using secret interpretations of the law and getting authorization to do so from a secret court that issues secret rulings, telling a handful of congresspersons in secret just a little of what they are doing, and putting people on secret kill lists and secret no-fly lists on the basis of criteria that are secret.

And this is supposed to make us feel safer?



  1. Lofty says

    Yup, because certain key words you type/say while being also guilty of being slightly foreign will send the beepers off at NSA central and they can save the grand ol USA after the fact.

  2. says

    And the best part is that we get to pay for it. Because we’d rather have a surveillance state than socialized medicine, decent infrastructure and education, and little stuff like that.

  3. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    .. this is supposed to make us feel safer?


    It often works and there is reason for it and if we hadn’t had secret agencies working -- risking their lives to protect ours -- to stop attacks, its almost certain a lot more people would have been killed by those around the globe who hate us.

    Among the lives they’ve (probably) saved may have been yours.

    Maybe we need to think more and not just assume that our government is evil and given to secrecy for the sake of it?

    I have a lot of respect for our secret services whether CIA, ASIO, Mossad or whoever and feel sure they are humans like us who are usually trying to do the right thing.

    If you’ve nothing to hide, not interested in supporting the other side, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

    Ultimately the secret services agencies are all responsible to the government and the government (in democracies) is responsible to the people -- us. So, yes, they’re held accountable and if telling everyone everything puts lives at stake, well, let’s keep a few secrets to save lives. Again among them could be yours.

  4. rq says

    I have a hard time believing that secret service agencies are “usually trying to do the right thing”. The whole ‘nothing to hide’ argument is bullshit. I have nothing to hide, but that doesn’t mean I want Government all up in my private life and day-to-day routine. That is my personal space they’re invading, without my consent, thank you. If they need specific information, they can ask for it, and I don’t mind providing it. But constant surveillance? Secrecy? Nope. And governments being responsible and accountable to the people is just laughable. Theoretically that may be true, but the practice is far, far from ideal.

    And why be secretive anyway?? It’s far more trustworthy to keep people informed, to explain things -- that’s the way to generate trust, not to go sneaking behind everyone’s back ‘for their own good’. The whole ‘we know better’ attitude is stupid and patronising, and, ultimately, creates more distrust and discomfort in the populace than it has benefits.
    I’d like to see their record on saving lives, too. I’m sure the Soviet regime saved a lot of lives, too, with their constant surveillance and secret panels and interrogations. Yah, that worked out well for all of the lives saved in the name of soviet security! … Oh wait. They kind of used the information for the opposite. Hm. Drone strike, anyone?

  5. doublereed says

    StevoR, are you for real?

    Incredibly high amounts of secrecy do not make you safer. Yes, certain secret keeping can keep us safer, but the blatant and high volume of secrecy makes everyone less safe. You are completely ignoring the security threat of the government, which can, has, and will continue to threaten people’s livelihood, including yours.

    The idea of people having “nothing to fear” if they have “nothing to hide” is painfully naive. Actually, you have lots of fear. I’ll take it from the ACLU article:

    The “nothing to hide” argument also has things backwards when it suggests that we are all worthy of suspicion until proven otherwise. Our system of justice treats us all as innocent until proven guilty. That applies in everyday life – when the government wants to spy on our daily activities and private conversations – as much as it applies in court. The state bears the burden of showing there is a good reason for suspicion, not the other way around. The refrain “nothing to hide” should not be a license for sweeping government surveillance.

    Even if you think you have nothing to hide, you may indeed have something to fear. You might fear for yourself. As Kafka so chillingly illustrates in “The Trial,” the prospect of unwarranted government pursuit is terrifying. Or you might fear for our society. Living under the constant gaze of government surveillance can produce long-lasting social harm: if citizens are just a little more fearful, a little less likely to freely associate, a little less likely to dissent – the aggregate chilling effect can close what was once an open society.

    Government surveillance can also have a direct harm on others – think of human rights workers or journalists who must work with people who fear government scrutiny, not because of wrongdoing but for political reasons. Imagine a liberal group arguing that in the wake of the recent IRS scandal, it has nothing to fear because the IRS is interested only in conservative groups. This argument would be myopic, missing the wider risks of government overreaching. (Need proof? The IRS has now admitted that it scrutinized liberal groups, too.)

  6. doublereed says

    It often works and there is reason for it and if we hadn’t had secret agencies working – risking their lives to protect ours – to stop attacks, its almost certain a lot more people would have been killed by those around the globe who hate us.

    Again, you are ignoring the security threat of the government.

    And it’s not “almost certain a lot more people would have been killed” Show evidence. Because the government can only point to “at most one” case where dragnet surveillance of everyone has done anything. And that’s the government defending itself. So you’re not just wrong, you’re hilariously wrong.

    The fact is that privacy and security is a false choice. Privacy improves security, much how transparency makes things more secure. In fact, if you know anything about cybersecurity, you know that computer security has become much stronger and robust over the years because everything has become more open and transparent. Companies don’t hide their security problems as much. Proprietary software is considered less secure because less people poke it (rather than more secure because less people know about it).

    A Vote for Privacy is a Vote for Security

  7. Loqi says

    Yeah, if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Unless those doing the watching decide you have something to hide and are free to destroy your life looking for it (after all, a lack of evidence just means you’ve done a good job of hiding it, right?). Or if a particular agent doesn’t like you and goes on a power trip. Or you routinely exercise your first amendment rights by criticizing a particular administration or practice that doesn’t exactly respond well to criticism. Or…

  8. 2up2down2furious says

    The CIA is in the business of saving lives? This is surely news to the people of the Congo, Iran, Indonesia, Chile, Guatemala, and many other countries. Anyone who thinks that the CIA is accountable to the American people is credulous to the point of absurdity-- and no, the CIA and NSA are hardly accountable to the elected officials in the US government. When Congresspeople like Alan Grayson attempt to find out what these organizations are doing, they’re met with misinformation and denial too.