Dirty Bomb Blows Up Liberty

Dirty Bomb
Contact Your Elected Officials

It’s as if a terrorist set off a dirty bomb that is slowly spreading tyranny instead of radiation.

By Al Lewis – Wall Street Journal ~ Here’s how terrorism really works: Slaughter people on national TV, and watch a nation that prides itself on freedom as it shackles itself.

The feds at airports start patting privates and taking pictures with cameras that can see through clothes. Security cameras go up everywhere. The spooks in Washington set up massive Internet surveillance operations and obtain secret court orders to obtain everyone’s phone records. Once it starts, it can’t be stopped.

In 2007, candidate Barack Obama railed against the “false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide. I will provide our intelligence and law-enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining the Constitution and our freedom.”

Last week, the Guardian newspaper reported that the National Security Agency collected phone records on millions of Verizon customers, and the Obama administration defended the move. The Guardian and Washington Post also reported that the NSA has a top-secret operation, dubbed Prism, which taps directly into the servers of nine leading Internet companies. Does President Obama know something that Senator Obama did not? Or did the corrosion of our civil liberties take on a life of its own, independent of any elected leader?

It’s as if a terrorist set off a dirty bomb that is slowly spreading tyranny instead of radiation.

Access to phone data allows government officials to track individuals. It reveals who is calling whom, from where and with what frequency. Thanks to data-crunching technology, it can discover networking patterns in seconds—ferreting out suspected terrorist cells, criminal organizations or maybe just some people the government doesn’t like.

This is an administration with a taxing authority that has harassed politically opposed groups. It is an administration that wiretaps Associated Press and Fox News. Even the New York Times editorial board says President Obama “has lost all credibility.”

Maybe you still trust the current president, but will you trust the next one? Maybe you believe phone data will catch a terrorist today, but do you know how it will be used tomorrow?

“No one set of data ever stays by itself,” Ian Glazer, a security and privacy expert for global technology adviser Gartner, said in a telephone interview. “This Verizon data will be combined with other data. And when you start combing…it becomes more tantalizing, and potentially more privacy invasive.”

Some people aren’t alarmed, noting they’ve got nothing to hide. But they’re wrong to think it’s normal for the government to monitor law-abiding citizens. “There’s a reason why our toilets are not in our living rooms,” Mr. Glazer said. “You’re not doing anything wrong when you go to the bathroom, but it’s still something you want to keep private.”

Other people simply feel helpless in the face of authoritarian privacy invasions, whether it’s from big government or big corporations.

“People are in shock almost about the different ways information about them is being used,” Mr. Glazer said. “Then natural reaction is just to shut down. It’s too much to understand, and it can’t be stopped.”

Maybe the outrage over last week’s revelations will be enough to start the battle. The war on terror has demolished checks and balances in government. Technology has outpaced Americans’ ability to protect civil rights. It is time for patriots to reconsider the Patriot Act before the terrorists win.

—Al Lewis is a columnist for Dow Jones Newswires in Denver. He blogs at https://tellittoal.com/resume-1; his email address is al.lewis@dowjones.com

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