There’s been a lot of news out this week about surveillance and the idea of the National Security State. Yesterday, it dropped that the NSA was grabbing logs of Verizon customers. Then today it came down that there was a system set up by the NSA called “PRISM” that was getting all the information it wanted from Google, Facebook, Microsoft and all the big internet heavies. There was also news that every cell company was giving up their logs, not just Verizon.
There are three parts of this whole mess. What is the government doing? How is the government doing it and Why the government is doing it. The government is, because of the Patriot act (And this 1978 law called FISA), spying on Americans. It has been for a very long time and, yeah, it’s probably legal. How is by technology. Why is, of course, because of terrorism.
The government spying on its citizens is a natural progression of technological advancement. Tools are created and the government uses those tools. Living in DC, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m constantly on camera. Everywhere I go, I’m being watched. You sort of get used to it after a few years. In real situations, I’m glad of it. Walking down a street and seeing a cop car is just fine with me. Things happen here. A taxi driver was killed a block from my house. That bothered me, especially when I woke up and heard the helicopters buzzing overhead, looking for the suspects at 3am. Good news. They found the guys that killed the taxi driver. All of them before I even woke up in the morning. They caught them, most likely, by using technology such as street cameras. This city would not be as safe without them. The cameras on the street, looking at everything, is a direct result of bad people doing bad things. Do I get mad at the cameras for existing? Or do I get mad at the bad guys? And, yes, if we worked on the roots of crime, fix the inherent issues that cause a person to commit crimes, this would be an none issue. I’m with you there. Not many people are with us, however.
You’re probably thinking I’m “Pro-Big Brother” based off that last paragraph, but I’m not finished. Technology can and is, often, abused. If the government is looking at every phone record, looking at every email and logging into everything I do online, it’s Orwellian. If the government is watching every digital move we make, it’s not very elegant or efficient It’s much better, and smarter, to only watch those who deserve it. If a guy is building a bomb and he’s buying bomb material online, please, for the love of god, someone be watching this dude so he doesn’t blow someone up. But, how do we do that? How do we know who to watch and who not to watch? Do we just not watch anyone? Do we wait until something happens, clean up the mess, hope it never happens again? Should we be proactive or reactive? Which one is more moral? Which one ensures our safety? Is our “safety” even possible anymore?
And why? Because of terrorism, whatever that is. If the government is doing some insane “Scourged Earth” policy, keeping tabs on as many people as possible, then the terrorists have won. Hell, the terrorists won the first time someone had to take their shoes off to get on an airplane. So, yeah, when you think about it, when you wonder if the “War on Terror” will ever be over or if we’re ever going to be safe, the answer is, “nope.” One day we will stop this huge net of surveillance. In the least, it will be toned down. No one is going to want it forever and public outcry will force change. I hope so. I genuinely hope we, the people, force our elected officials to repeal the Patriot act and everything it entails. When this happens, those who want to harm us will get away with something horrible and a lot of people will die. That’s the truth. That’s the sort of world we live in now. I’m sorry.