We have been at the point of no return for quite some time now and blissfully ignorant of the fact, unfortunately. The revelation that the U.S government has tasked the National Security Agency with collecting data on telephone calls from U.S citizens, along with monitoring Internet use as part of the effort to combat terrorism has lead to accusations of unconstitutional spying on the part of the government.
The uproar about this latest “infringement” on civil liberties is reaching a fevered pitch across the political spectrum. Advocates of privacy see the writing on the wall of an impending police state, while law and order advocates see it as a necessary trade off in preventing another tragedy along the lines of 9/11.
The old adage of easiest way to hide something from someone is to put in right in front of them, seems to echo loudly in this instance. In an era of instant connectivity via our laptops, tablets, Smartphone’s and the like, keeping information away from the prying eyes of inquiring minds, is easier than it should be.
It was the contention of the Roman philosopher Cicero that “to remain ignorant of things that happened before you were born is to remain a child” that being said before people have an ulcer and declare the Constitution invalidated, I would hope that people would take a leisurely stroll down the annals of history.
To assume that this is the government’s most insidious or the first foray into overreach is nothing short of naiveté at its best.
The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was arguably the first test that our young nation had in flexing its federal muscle, when both houses of Congress passed a tax on distilled spirits as part of an effort to pay the debts incurred from the Revolutionary War. At the time, people screamed overreach and accordingly animosity simmered as the role of the federal government collided with that of states’ rights.
During the administration of the 2nd President, John Adams, the Alien & Sedition Acts were passed. Section II of the act made it a crime to write, print, utter or publish anything malicious about the government and people predictably screamed… Government overreach!
Moving ahead nearly 100 years to President Lincoln’s suspension of the Writ of Habeas Corpus during the Civil War, expectedly Lincoln was subjected to withering criticism across the spectrum for; you guessed it, government overreach!
More recently we have the infamous program run by the F.B.I under the leadership of the J. Edgar Hoover, this counterintelligence program was given the acronym of COINTELPRO and was utilized from 1956 – 1971, the stated purpose of the program was to increase factionalism, disruption and secure defections from groups that the FBI deemed “subversive”. Between 1965 and 1975, the FBI opened more than 500,000 intelligence files on more than 1,000,000 Americans.
The Patriot Act of 2001, was born out of the 9/11 terror attacks, with express goal of the law to deter and punish terrorist acts in the United States and around the world, at the time of its enactment it was not without its critics, who contended that the Patriot Act would undermine the civil liberties of Americans, predictably elements of the Patriot Act were renewed without much fanfare in 2010.
I cite the historical record to show the consistency of government overreach and how howling about the loss of liberties doesn’t amount to a hill of beans, I’m inclined to think that we abdicated them a long time ago to the “Powers that be” and we are merely living a illusion of having them.
Besides, when it comes down to it, I am at a loss at the overinflated view that many of us have of ourselves. Do we really think that we are that interesting that the government would use its bandwidth to listen the useless prattle that we send over the airwaves? What we had for breakfast, lunch, dinner and the like or our utter disbelief of who won on American Idol next week?
Seriously, people we truly aren’t that interesting, reading the Twitter feeds (including mine) of some of the users in the realm of social media serves as a testament to the sad reality of a yawnfest. Unless being “feloniously boring” becomes a crime, we shouldn’t lose any sleep over this latest “incident” because they will be another one and one after that and so on.