mituns: (towers)
There is a movie called "The Lives of Others" which is set in East Germany and deals with the surveillance state that East Germany was, and how this surveillance got abused for personal gain. East Germany, of course, is not the only place where people lived with the constant threat of being overheard. Nazi Germany was another, and another was the Soviet Union. Reading the book "Everyday Saints - and other stories" one of the stories deals with a high official in the Orthodox Church, who was allowed make a trip outside of the USSR who wanted to relay information to a priest in the UK. Knowing that there was a very good chance that, even in London, he was being listened to, "In order for them to speak, they actually needed to lie down on the floor, so that the Secret Service agents tailing Metropolitan Nicodemus, and never once leaving him alone, would not be able to record their conversation through the windows."

Now it has been alleged that the NSA (perhaps in conjunction with the GCHQ) is basically spying on everyone in the United States. On one hand, we've been told that anything that the NSA (or any other agency) does is for our own safety & protection. After all, we 'don't want to let the terrorists win'.

Being a student of recent history, though, I have quite a different opinion. When governments feel the need to spy into every aspect of ordinary citizen's lives, it is never done for the security of the citizen, but for the security of the state. In a free country, those two things are synonymous; however, in a state that relies on the suppression of dissenting opinions to survive, the two are vastly different. The information gained from universal spying on one's own citizens is meant - by design - as a weapon to be used against the individual. That we have promises that it would probably never be used in such a way does nothing to allay my fears because the fact still remains that this weapon has been created and can easily be individualized for use against any one of us.

Am I being paranoid here? I don't think so. I already brought up the case of East Germany, but it is hardly the only example. When this type of information is collected, it not only becomes a weapon of the government as a whole, but also of any group or individual who might be able to gain access to it. So you tick off some alderman in your town. If said alderman can access this information or has connections to people who can, it becomes easy for these people to make your life a living hell. Furthermore, when government agencies collude to make themselves a burden to someone (see the case of Catherine Engelbrecht, who found herself a target not just of the IRS, but also the ATF, FBI, and OSHA ). How many of us have the resources to defend ourselves under such an onslaught?

(This isn't even mentioning how this information can become a weapon for other "less friendly" entities - imagine China hacking into a database of information on American citizens!)

Now, Google's CEO has said the following: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place." This is a ridiculous position to take. Just because you don't want people to know about something, doesn't mean that one is doing something illegal or even wrong. Look at how many people give donations to charities anonymously. Some of this may be done in self-interest, such as when people don't want others to know how "loaded" they are or something, but to give without wanting outward praise for something is specifically Biblical (Matthew 6:4). Should people not have this right? Furthermore, taking again the example of the alderman, isn't it the right of a free citizen to be able to express opinions contrary to the alderman's without fear of repercussions for holding a different personal or political belief? Yes, it is understandable that people generally don't want their misdeeds to be known, but there is other recourse for dealing with illegal activity without assuming that everyone is a criminal to begin with. (Then again, with the plethora of laws that get passed, in the eyes of government, everyone is a criminal.)

I cannot vouch for the motives of Edward Snowden, and I won't try to. However, whatever his motives, if what he is saying about what government is doing to people is true, we as a people - as THE people - need to stand up and say that this is absolutely unacceptable. The ramifications for continuing on with it are just too great.

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mituns

September 2013

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