Monday, June 10, 2013

More On "Revelation" Of Government Intrusion

Interestingly, it turns out that Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower who formally revealed what I think most of us already suspected regarding how the U.S. government, using companies like Microsoft, Google, Apple and Facebook, monitors what we (including non-Americans) do on the Internet, was a Ron Paul-supporter who contributed to his Presidential campaign. Considering that Paul was the only candidate consistently defending people's civil liberties, that is of course very logical.

He is now in Hong Kong, and has applied for political asylum in Iceland, but the U.S. government will no doubt try to hunt him down for the "crime" of letting people know the truth about how it violates the right to privacy of Americans and non-Americans alike.

The irony here is that when concerns about the surveillance of people is being raised, government officials keep telling us "if you've got nothing to hide, then you've got nothing to fear". Well, that is obviously true, but "having something to hide" doesn't imply planning terrorism, or even less serious crimes. People can for many legal and legitimate reasons oppose that other people find about for example their sex life or various other offline or online activities. This is true for everyone, but especially much for people who for example face stalkers or others that could harm you if they find out where you are or what you are doing. And as there are always going to be government employees with access to the information it collects, these employees can use it for such purposes, either because they wish to harm someone themselves or collaborates with such people.

One example of this was how a doctor in Sweden of Afghan origin accessed the supposedly classified medical files of teen age girls of Afghan origin to see if these files indicated that the girls have had pre-marital sex, and if so pass on that information to the parents, something that could result in an "honor murder", or at best "only" that the girl will be disowned by her family.

The point is that even if the purpose if this surveillance is to track down terrorists, it can be misused by the government employees that has access to it. And as the case of the Afghan doctor illustrates, having rules saying it can't be misused won't work, because it will be the employees themselves who will decide what is or isn't proper use (at least when it is accessed).

And here is the irony, if it is really the case that only people who have something criminal to hide, has reason to oppose that others monitor them, shouldn't that apply to the government itself? If that is the case, then why should Snowden's actions be considered criminal? Either the Obama administration here concedes that what it has done is criminal, or it concedes that a key argument for its policy in this area is false.


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