Standards of Outrage

   Posted by: Robert   in Uncategorized

Lately, it seems like every time I turn around, there’s a new government surveillance program to worry about.  This whole series of revelations started back around the time that the Democrats needed any excuse to get off the topic of Benghazi and, ever since, has blossomed into a full fledged story in its own right.

In the past two months, we’ve learned that the government wiretapped a Fox News reporter, routinely gathers metadata about international calls (this wasn’t news), metadata about purely domestic calls (this was), may or may not have direct access to the data we store on the internet through a program called PRISM, and stores the contents of every encrypted message they happen to intercept (even the completely domestic ones) until such a time as they break its encryption, and has pictures of every envelope sent through the mail since somewhere around 2001.  Looking further back in time, anyone who’s watched an episode of CSI knows that the government can track your cell phone, often without a warrant.  Less well known is the fact that the government can read your email, without a warrant, as long as you store your email in the cloud1 and it’s been more than 180 days since you sent or received that message.  Automated license plate readers store the passing of every car in a database for police to access and the data is considered so non-sensitive that private insurance companies are allowed access.

Despite voluminous reporting on the subject, it’s hard to see the overall response as anything other than a collective shrug of the shoulders.  The liberal media, for its part, has been more interested in playing a game of “Where in the World is Edward Snowden?” than it has been in investigating anything that he had to say.  Conservative media, too, seems far more interested in Edward Snowden himself than in any of the information he brought to light.  In typical fashion, Democrats have no qualms about invasive government programs as long as it happens to be a Democrat running them.  Somewhat surprisingly, Republicans — even the smart, conservative ones — are satisfied that the government is legally allowed to do these things, which makes the whole thing a non-story.

If there’s really nothing to see, here, how about we go back to talking about Benghazi?

The fact of the matter is, the story here is huge.  But it’s a story that nobody wants to tell, and it’s a story that most people don’t want to hear.  We are, for the most part, content to believe that the only people who have something to fear from government surveillance are people who have done something wrong: Our enemies, terrorists, and criminals.  But law abiding citizens have plenty to fear, as well.  After all, if there was no benefit to collecting data on law abiding citizens, what possible reason could justify its collection?

To even ask the question in that way — to ask the government to justify why it is doing something — is to defy the current prevailing wisdom.  We almost never demand to know why the government does something.  Instead, we’re content as long as they stay within the bounds of the Constitution, as we’ve come to accept those bounds, and accept them at their word that whatever they’re doing is important.

As recently as six years ago, our news reporting was filled with hard questions about whether or not the government had become too powerful for anyone’s good.  Time and again, liberals expressed their outrage in volumes about how the government mistreated its enemies; cried about how Bush’s actions were, if not unlawful, then at least unbecoming of the most powerful nation in the world; and ran to the courthouse demanding that any law which supported the military’s activity be stricken.  It simply didn’t matter whether or not the government acted lawfully, it didn’t even matter if what they accused the government of doing even happened; the one and only question was whether what the government allegedly did was right.

As I plan to explore in my next series of posts, there is absolutely nothing right about what the government has done to privacy in America.  Its erosion has been a long term campaign, waged by both parties, each one picking up where the last one left off.  In many cases, the encroachment by the government has been lawful, but that doesn’t mean we should just shrug our shoulders.  Instead, we ought to be out in the streets, in front of the Capitol, and maybe even in court to demand that the government step back.  It’s time we got pissed.

  1. This includes using a web mail provider like GMail, Yahoo Mail, Microsoft Live, or any of the hundreds of others out there; checking your mail using the IMAP protocol; or if you  have some other way of synchronizing your email between more than one device. []
This entry was posted on Monday, July 8th, 2013 at 7:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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