Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Is the trade-off of civil liberties for security even a good deal?

The question of whether we should surrender a little in the way of civil liberties in order to protect ourselves from those who would harm us is a fair question to ask. After all, all the freedoms in the world mean little if you are dead.

However, there are more fundamental questions to ask before we even get to the question of what sacrifices we need to make. If we are to give up certain freedoms can we expect something of equal or greater value in terms of security in return? Does what we are being asked to give up our civil liberties for even work?

Typical for the Bush administration is the position that there is no effect on civil liberties in anything they do. Rather than engage in an honest debate about trade-offs, they just pretend there are none. That seems to be what the President is saying about the most recent revelations about NSA monitoring of telephone calls. Also typical for the administration that admits no mistakes is the position that this whole phone monitoring scheme is actually productive.

The FBI has already complained about being swamped with data from the NSA tying up agents searching out false leads. It seems the mantra of “connecting the dots” has become quite literally what the NSA is attempting to do. However, as mathematicians can point out, it is easy to make connections between people. The problem is almost all those connections are meaningless.

Every FBI agent tied up on a wild goose chase is an FBI agent not protecting the public from terrorists or criminals. There is a point this quickly becomes very counter-productive. What we need for our investigators to do is old fashioned and smart police work

These stories that keep coming out about what our intelligence agencies are doing are not only disturbing about their impact on civil liberties but raises questions if we are any safer than before 9-11 or not.

We deserve better.

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