Sunday, June 16, 2013

You don’t know what you’ve got ‘tll it’s gone

A very discouraging article in today’s Star-Tribune: Minnesota Poll Finds Acceptance of NSA Data Collection Program. The “poll finds that 57 percent of Minnesotans approve of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) court-authorized dragnet of phone and Internet data to spot possible terrorist activity. Only 33 percent say they disapprove, while 10 percent are unsure.”

It’s interesting to read the comments of some of the people who support the eavesdropping, which run the gamut from fatalism (“It’s par for the course.”) to unquestioning loyalty (“I trust the President.”).  Even more surprising to me is that there was significantly higher support for the snooping among Democrats than Republicans. Huh?

The government is clearly winning the propaganda war on this one, and Obama’s “trust me” speeches seem to be enough to lull many Americans into complacency. I guess after 12 years of fear mongering about the threat of terrorism, it seems that our citizens will accept almost any form of government intrusion. At the same time, all of our sophisticated surveillance technology couldn’t stop a couple of yahoos from blowing up bombs in Boston.

I don’t think you’ll find anyone on my side of the fence arguing that there is no threat from al Qaeda or even home grown terrorists. And no one, myself included, would suggest that we dismantle our surveillance programs entirely. The issue, especially after Snowden’s revelations, is that government is ignoring the basic Constitutional rights of Americans to privacy by tracking everyone, regardless of suspicious activity or not.

The attitude of many people is, “Why should I worry? I don’t have anything to hide.” If that’s true, why do you have curtains on your windows? Why do you have password-protected information? Why do you close the bathroom door? We all have privacy concerns even though our actions may be totally legal, and, according to the Constitution, we have a right to expect the government to respect that privacy. As I’ve said before, Obama might be an honest and just President, but what will the next President be like? How will that person use the vast surveillance powers at his or her disposal?

I’m afraid Minnesota Nice is translating into a complacency that I find unsettling, and we tend to be a more liberal state than most. Where does democracy end and totalitarianism begin? I don’t know either, but it all reminds me of a line from Joni Mitchell’s great song, Big Yellow Taxi:

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone

No comments: