Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Freedom and Security

The Obama administration continues to double down on the Bush Department of Justice's legal cover for warrantless wiretapping and "sovereign immunity" from prosecution, expanding their scope far beyond that of the previous administration. As I've said before, this is why conservatives ought to have opposed these measures when they were introduced, something I myself am only belatedly realizing. While I might once have considered security justifications to outweigh the encroachment on individual freedoms, I no longer believe they do. Did these measures help keep us safe from terrorist attacks over the last 7 years? Quite possibly. But is that security worth several turns of the ratchet toward Panopticon?

If we have no degree of acceptable risk, if any posited successful attack is presupposed as a negligent "failure" of our intelligence community, what incentive do they have but to seek to know everything about everyone? We failed to "connect the dots" before 9/11, so now our agencies are coached that the "need to share" is as important as the "need to know". But the potential capabilities of a unitary intelligence agency are truly worrying: it takes at most 33 data points to identify a person statistically through mining of open-source data. A nation with a unitary intelligence agency mandated to prevent any conceivable security threat is on a dangerous road to becoming a police state.

And to what end? Should we really be letting the threat of terrorist attack define our society? Nuclear terrorism alone is the one threat toward which we should be putting greatest effort, but we can't seem to get our act together to deal seriously with the world's most dangerous proliferators. Instead, we spend billions on meaningless security theater. John Goekler nails it:

The only things that can truly make us more “secure” are not things. They are the courage to face whatever comes with dignity and intention, and the strong relationships that assure we will face the future together, and find comfort and meaning in doing so.

Imagine, then, what might happen if we simply quit listening to the scaremongers and those who profit from our paranoia. Imagine what the world could look like if we made a conscious choice to live out whatever time we have with courage, compassion, service and joy.

Terrorism is an act of the weak. But so is walking through the airport in our socks.


Elephantschild said...

"Well," she said, angrily brushing crumbs from the table as she stormed out of the room. "I'll sleep well tonight."

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Hahaha. Yeah, I'm starting to worry that I'm on a path that ends in a cabin in the woods.

But you know what? I like the woods.

Diane Meyer said...

Yup, a cabin in the woods is looking better all the time. I even know of where you could purchase a few acres in Northern WI. Have a relative within 40 mins that raises a couple pigs, some beef, chickens and turkeys.

Shane said...

I'm glad some prominent liberal voices are heaping criticism on Obama for this. And I agree with you - this never should have been a partisan issue.

All this talk of preventing an attack actually hurts our resilience in the event of an attack. I love the way the Brits and the Israelis have been able to shrug off terror attacks for decades, and think that Americans need to adopt the same "they can't keep ME from going to work today" attitudes.

I say we spend the money on the infrastructure to quickly survive and respond to attacks, which should create positive effects on our ability to survive and respond to accidents and natural disasters.

The goal of the terrorist is to incite terror. Preemptive fearfulness just plays into their hands.