Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Free Country Conundrum

No one likes the idea that the NSA is spying on them, but it is a natural outgrowth of the Cold War. In the 1950s the idea that spies and infiltrators could be undermining the security of the United States coincided with the growth of communication technology that could be monitored easily from a remote location. Government paranoia reflected citizen paranoia that the Russkis were going to get us if we didn't get them first.

As more and more communication lends itself to easily to surveillance and the enemies become more insidious, the urge to spy becomes unbearable.

In popular culture, the 1950s launched the Age of Espionage. James Bond debuted in print in 1953. The good guys went out and spied on the bad guys. It was something one country did to another country. And those other countries were under repressive regimes where most people had no freedom and no fun at all. Any technology we could develop to make our surveillance in those bad countries more effective was a good thing.

If one country is under relentless observation at the hands of another country where the citizens get to run wild and free, how long do you think it takes the masterminds of the "bad" country to figure out that the best place to hide their own observers is in the midst of that happy chaos? Substitute "stateless ideology" for "bad country" and you have the even more distasteful problem our security forces face today.

I would guess that the average citizen who appears unconcerned by the recent revelations of NSA spying feels, among other things, that there's nothing they can do to stop it. And they're right.

The people who believe that someone should keep an eye on things will keep an eye on things. If you make it illegal they will do it illegally. When surveillance is outlawed, only outlaws will surveil. And it will never be illegal, because who wants to sign off on the decision to quit looking, only to be asked later "why didn't you see this coming?"

The only way to do away with general information gathering is to go back to hand-carried letters and spoken communication directly from one human to one or more humans all present in the same space. And that would only mean that the spying would have to be piecemeal rather than broad based.

We are at the mercy of authorities who determine what is harmless and permissible. Even government of, by and for the people is made up of people who feel they deserve to govern.

1 comment:

Christel said...
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