Posts Tagged ‘Internet Surveillance’

U.S. Constitutional rights, on-line and off-line

May 6, 2016

internetcensorshipsurveillance20120202Source: Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.

The secret state and the Prisoner’s Dilemma

August 19, 2013

Ladar Levison, who closed down his Lavabit e-mail service rather than comply with a secret government order, is in the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma situation.

h-LAVABITHe and other business owners would be better off if they stuck together and resisted the government’s secret demands in the courts.  But because of the government’s gag orders, none of them has any way of knowing whether others are fighting the same battle or they are all alone.

Levison is forbidden to say just what the government ordered him to do and what his objection was.  His secret appeal against a secret order will be tried in secret.  This is crazy.   This is bizarre.  It is like some unpublished short story by Franz Kafka.

We have a huge national security apparatus which operates in secret.  The President of the United States issues secret orders for assassinations of people deemed national enemies, based on a secret legal ruling.  These operations are subject to review by a secret court.  We the people are supposed to be reassured by congressional committees which receive secret testimony they are not allowed to tell us about.

The philosopher Hannah Arendt, writing about the Nazi and Soviet regimes in The Origins of Totalitarianism, said that the aim of totalitarian governments was to destroy all institutions that stood between the individual and absolute power, so that any person who dared dissent felt helpless and alone.

We’re not in that situation in the United States—not yet.   But we do have a growing totalitarian mentality.  Washington is full of politicians and commentators who labels as a “narcissist”  anyone who defies authority in the name of conscience.

If the United States exists 30 years from now with liberty under law, it will be because of brave individuals such as Ladar Levison, who was willing to sacrifice a business he spent 10 years building up rather than sacrifice the liberties of his fellow citizens.


What we know and don’t know about the NSA

June 14, 2013

tmw2013-06-12small.nsaWe know that the National Security Agency has the capability of eavesdropping on our phone calls, reading our e-mail and accessing our confidential financial and medical records.   Spokesmen say the NSA doesn’t actually do any of these things.  They say the NSA may check who someone calls or e-mails, but not the content of the communication.

Maybe this is true.   There’s no way, except by way of future leaked information, to verify whether it is true or not.   It comes down to a question of trust.   President Obama draws up secret assassination lists, orders military interventions on his own authority and relentlessly prosecutes anybody who reveals what he is doing in the name of the American people.   Can we trust someone like that with this additional power?  Can we trust anybody with this power?  I wouldn’t even trust myself with the power that Obama claims.

The Pew Foundation’s public opinion poll, shown below, indicates that I’m not alone in distrusting the government.   Public distrust in government is long-standing and well-founded, going back to the Founders.   Government is a useful and sometimes useful means of doing certain things, just as corporations are.  What we distrust is government officials, or for that matter corporate executives, who exercise great power without accountability.