Saturday, May 13, 2006

Politics: If you use my tin can & string, can I tell Mom?

GOP apologist and popular ranter Kim du Toit has an essay up explaining and defending the most recent .gov brouhaha, involving the NSA's big 'ol phone database. He brings up several cogent points, but spoils his defense largely on a couple of things. First, the ol' "If you're not a terrorist, you don't have anything to worry about; frankly you're too unimportant for Big Brother to be interested in," angle is wearing a mite thin. It's just bound to set folks to thinking "If I'm so unimportant, then why are they copying my phone call data?"
As far as the vast majority of us are concerned, there’s not much to worry about. Nobody at the NSA is interested in the call you made to your Mom, or even to the call you made to your mistress. Don’t kid yourself: you’re not that interesting.
I've got news for Mr. du Toit: I'm plenty freakin' interesting. I'm so interesting that the Founding Fathers thought I was the most interesting person in the country, and they wrote a whole list of things the .gov couldn't do to me, some of which involved searches and warrants and stuff. Anything that makes folks twitchy on that angle deserves a better defense than "They won't stick it in too far."

Second, of course, is the whole usual "Terminally Stupid", "bloviating", "clueless" nature of folks on the other side of the debate. Now, I know that the whole vein-pounding-in-the-forehead, spittle-on-the-monitor thing is as much a part of his schtick as it is mine, but at the same time, one needs to look at the folks one is calling names. I mean (to use just a couple examples,) SayUncle and Marko are neither one of them exactly stool pigeons for the Democrat National Committee. Plus, I know them both in meatspace as well as via their writing, and would feel pretty comfortable putting either one up against Kim in a spellin' bee, so the "Stupid" insults ring a little hollow here.

A better tack to take would be this: 1) Does this really surprise anyone? I read The Anarchist's Cookbook for the first time back in seventh or eighth grade, and I clearly remember it saying "Never say anything on the phone you wouldn't say to a cop's face." Now, I wasn't particularly anarchic or criminal or anything as a middle-schooler, but that's the kind of advice that tends to stick with one. When someone tells me that Big Brother's been jotting down my call logs, it's hard for me to be shocked when I've subconciously held the idea from childhood that he was listening to all of them. And 2) Even in a perfect Libertarian wolkencuckcuckland, the telcos are private entities and you won't own the wire your call is going over or the electricity that's vibrating it. What's to keep Ma Bell from selling that data to a market research firm, or your boss, or Dr. Evil?

Anyhow, while I see where Kim's trying to come from, his last paragraph,
But I have to tell you, I am really glad that someone at the NSA was doing their job, and began to collect the data a long time ago—because otherwise it would now be gone, and we’d be behind the curve, just as we were on 9/10/2001.
stinks a bit too much of Victory Gin at the Chestnut Tree Cafe for my tastes. While I'm not as outraged as Marko or SayUncle, I wish I was.

18 comments:

Porta's Cat said...

But I have to tell you, I am really glad that someone at the NSA was doing their job, and began to collect the data a long time ago—because otherwise it would now be gone, and we’d be behind the curve, just as we were on 9/10/2001.

The funny thing is that I heard Shawn InSanity make the exact same comment on teh radio yesterday or the day before (I caught about 2 minutes of rant before I changed the station).

I can understand the idea behind some sort of statisitical tracking of phone calls (they areally don't have the time, in a few years of time to do it even to listen in and "hear" all the calls made in one day in and out of NYC, much less listen in on covnersations across the globe.). Looking for "patterns" of some sort of anomolies, etc. makes some sort of logical sense.

But, I am with you on some philosophic level. I don't really "have anything to hide", but if I have a bucket full of dildo's, 13 EBR's, and I like to wear womens underwear, while albeit none is "illegal", it is all potentially "private". So...John Law can't come in the house without a warrant, no matter how cool we are at the shooting range or donut shop. Nor is it up to a street cop, an NSA drone, or a Congressman/woman to decide, arbitrarily, what is "illegal" or not, based upon their nervousness about my possesion of the same, even though there is not "law against it". Let a cop into the house, so to speak, to make his own mind up about right and wrong, and you may be arrested and processed for tacky furniture and spend a day or year in jail til they figure out that bad taste isn't illegal.

"Having nothing to hide" as a rationale is pretty "1984-ish" in its simplicity and potential for abuse.

Standard Mischief said...

Bravo, I also saw a Red Curtain of Blood descend when I saw the other side of kim's rant too.

I'm not a 100% sure of what you mean here:

2) Even in a perfect Libertarian wolkencuckcuckland, the telcos are private entities and you won't own the wire your call is going over or the electricity that's vibrating it. What's to keep Ma Bell from selling that data to a market research firm, or your boss, or Dr. Evil?

My name, SS#, past addresses, who I call, what I like on my pizza, what brand of underooes I buy, ect. are all my private data. In my libertopia private companies may have acquired access to that data, but they in no way own that data. They are free to crunch that data, but they can't sell it or give it away unless they have my express voluntary permission.

Furthermore, they are fully responsible if that data somehow falls into the wrong hands.

I mean, if Ramada somehow is negligent in securing my credit card number and #SS number, they ought to be on the hook a bit more than one years' free credit monitoring service.

http://tinyurl.com/q3mkj

axrwawmb!

Chris Byrne said...

Whether it is morally right or wrong (I'm a libertarian, these issues get thorny), it is completely legal.

Read:

I always feel like somebodies watching me

Tam said...

"Whether it is morally right or wrong ... it is completely legal."

So are lots of other things that probably shouldn't be. :(

Randy said...

Tam said...
"Whether it is morally right or wrong ... it is completely legal."

So are lots of other things that probably shouldn't be. :(



I completely agree.
And further, whether morally right or wrong,...there are lots of things ILLEGAL that shouldn't be.

Ben said...

When did anyone assume that telephone companies were paragons of American Contstitutionalism? What entities have an investment in stringing the wire that conveys your most intimate thoughts?

Let big brother go hog-wild and go medieval on their asses...find another means of communication if all this troubles you.

B&N said...

"They won't stick it in too far."

That comment forced me to do the "spittle-on-the-monitor" thing, albeit differently. I Laughed my ass off, as I tend to agree, no matter how "legal" it may be. Stinks too much like Slick Willie for my taste.

Joe said...

I agree that the " if you have done nothing wrong " line is gone past worn out for me. I don't have anything to hide but I would prefer that groups not learn everything about me from e-mail, phone calls, and Shaw's shopping card ( I don't have one for that reason.)

It's bad enough in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts gives me a license for firearms and took a right index fingerprint for the 91/30 Mosin I bought today - they can look up anything that they want to on me as the gunowner/ potential terrorist without my knowledge or permission. Sad that we have degraded our liberties for the sake of convinence and a couple of bucks...

We the People said...

You make some very good points for anyone who will take the time to think. The "innocent" data collecting by the NSA or any other government agency is anything but. It is a breach of freedom that "we the people" have believed was a sacred right. This seems just a further extension of the new policy of pre-emptive strikes that the current administration has chosen as the correct method, only now the paranoia is extending to American citizens as well. I have posted a few questions about this issue on my blog site as well.

If some limits aren't imposed on the governments activities we will eventually find ourselves wearing locator tags each time we leave our home. Anyway, good posting.

phlegmfatale said...

I think it's heartbreaking that we even have to have this discussion - the erosion of freedoms is chilling, indeed.

pax said...

"You make some very good points for anyone who will take the time to think."

Not good enough. We need a majority.

;)

James J. Na said...

Didn't realize that we had a constitutional right to use the telephone as a secure means of privacy-protected communication.

If you are so conscious about privacy over your telco, you can always write and, even better, have a runner fetch it to the destination.

Or better yet: start running yourself.

As I always say, if you find searches at airports objectionable, for that matter, get in the car and drive as God intended you to transport yourself.

Many of these things we take for granted (like e-mail) are CONVENIENCES provided by a third party. And, for better or worse, such conveniences come with some tradeoffs, including loss of privacy.

bjbarron said...

...and when they came for me, there was no one left to say anything.

Boiling Frogs, Creeping Socialism, Death of a Thousand Cuts....what ever you want to call it.

Find your cause and dig in your heels. I dug mine in on guns. Others might dig theirs in on Fifth or First Amendment rights.

If everyone said 'this far and no farther' on an issue and banded with like-minded individuals....we'd have a chance.

Tam said...

" Didn't realize that we had a constitutional right to use the telephone as a secure means of privacy-protected communication."

...and "Freedom of the Press" refers only to screw-type presses?

The question is always "Where do we draw the line," and I'm of the firm belief that it should be drawn right on the .gov's hamstring.

James J. Na said...

...and "Freedom of the Press" refers only to screw-type presses?

Hey, everyone's free to mouth off. No one has the right to demand access to a media outlet that he doesn't own.

For the same reason, if Blogger decided to shut this one down, it's not censorship. It's exercising property rights.

The question is always "Where do we draw the line," and I'm of the firm belief that it should be drawn right on the .gov's hamstring.

As a fierce believer in the U.S. Constitution (and, yes, the Second Amendment), I am very sympathetic, and generally subscribe, to anti-statist views.

But... unless you own a particular means of communication from beginning to end, your beef should be with the third party whose service you use.

To re-phrase, if you are using someone else's property to communicate, you can only get mad at the someone else for voluntarily turning over information relating to your communication conducted on his property to the government.

Remember that real libertarians don't believe in public utilities.

Like I said before, if you want 100% private communication, you can always set up your own system. Then when the government comes by to ask for information without probable cause, you can show the reps of the said government a copy of the Constitution and tell them to f--- off until they get a warrant.

Tam said...

The rub lies in the .gov's involvement: I think that, by its nature, the government should be bound by strictures that are not applicable to private citizens.

I think Verizon should be able to sell your phone records to whoever they want. If you don't like it, switch to another service provider. At the same time, I don't think the .gov should be allowed to obtain that data without a warrant.

By virtue of the BoR, it's bound by chains not applicable to private entities.

Scout26 said...

It seemed like Obama had his fingers crossed when he gave his NSA speech.

Firehand said...

Every time I hear someone make the "If you don't have anything to hide-" 'argument', I want to ask them "When did your brain become non-functional?"

So, since you have nothing to hide, you won't mind the cops just walking in and looking around? You won't mind them searching your car 'just to be on the safe side'? You won't mind them (fill in the blank)?

That is just... I don't really have words for how freaking stupid that is.