worthless papers

i found an interesting article on foxnews.com today, and it got me thinking. in the article, andrew p. napolitano writes that given the various nsa and patriot act related scandals in the past decade, the fourth amendment (lawful search and seizure), among other parts of the constitution – chiefly discussed after snowden’s revelations and consequent government outrage was free speech – has become merely a list of words on paper, with no relevance or authority in modern society.

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i have conflicting thoughts on this. while it is true that many of our constitutional rights have been repeatedly violated under the premise of ‘national security’ by both the bush and obama administrations, it is also true that many people in the states are united in the belief that terrorism is the unforgivable sin, if you will, and must be prohibited at all costs, thus providing justification for all the past decade’s violations: widespread surveillance of common citizens, rash dealings with whistleblowers, yet more wars to add to the list of those unauthorized by congress (over 170, last time i checked). the chief debate in recent years has involved the nsa’s collecting of all information, sensitive or otherwise, from all american citizens and inhabitants, and storing them in national databases.

after snowden's big reveal, the hashtag '1984/2013' trended on twitter and tumblr, and sales of orwell's dystopian novel skyrocketed.
after snowden’s big reveal, the hashtag ‘1984/2013’ trended on twitter and tumblr, and sales of orwell’s dystopian novel skyrocketed.

this raises many dissenting opinions on what privacy should be defined as and just how far it extends. is privacy a natural right, given by God (or whatever source of morality you believe in) for all humanity? or is it a privilege granted by governments to citizens, trusting it will not be misused and taking it away if it is?

the nsa is doing its job. a bit too well.
the nsa is doing its job. a bit too well, some say.

perhaps an analogy is a good way to clarify my meaning here. look back on your school days. how many times did one or two rowdy students cause a teacher to have the entire class write an essay, take a pop quiz, lose talking or bathroom privileges, etc.? not very fair to the majority of students who were doing what was asked of them (or who were better at hiding the fact that they weren’t). yet the teacher’s reasoning never changed: ‘if one of you can’t handle this, it’s easier to take the privilege from all of you than to try to monitor who is mature enough for it and who isn’t.’ now apply that logic to the government – for instance, their dealings with internet security. since many terrorist threats and attacks seem to be made and planned online these days, the government, being the lazy, indecisive, shut-down prone installment it currently is, has decided it would be far simpler to deny all americans free, unsupervised internet usage than try to severely narrow the field of focus on truly threatening information. (which really should be none, in my opinion – i’m of the school of thought that we should only attack in self defense, and so far this decade no entire nation has directly attacked us.)

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but then we come to the privacy aspect. yes, there are certain things the majority of the government should not have access to, given the potential for corruption and misuse: credit card information, social security numbers, other financial information, etc. but we the people have chosen to put these things on the internet for the sake of convenience. and the government officials are citizens too: they are on the internet. and as we all learned from the target credit card hacks, among others, putting something in a website, no matter how secure the server, opens doors for potential fraud. so perhaps the real question is, if we are so enraged at having a government database hold all our secrets, why are we putting them in a place that is easily accessed? i’ve always lived by the philosophy that nothing should be done if it has to be kept secret. (permanently – obviously i love surprise parties as much as the next person.) perhaps this is a philosophy americans should adopt as well, amended to fit the situation: don’t put anything online that you don’t want the government to see. or, the alternate approach: stop being so concerned that the government sees it. this is not to say that what the nsa has been doing is ethical; i merely suggest that as long as this is an issue, it would be easier for us to recognize that we are being observed (while also recognizing that this is not a close, specific observation – no need to be paranoid when the field is so broad and those surveying it aren’t even close to omnipresent or omniscient) and move on. after all, the convenience of such things as online shopping, online bill-paying, and online resumes is commerce too valuable in this age of immediacy to pass up because of the nsa playing big brother. i mean, reality check here: if the information being collected were actually being used, i and most of the political bloggers i follow on tumblr would have been detained by now for being a threat to national security (read, a threat to the liberal agenda). also, if the nsa officials are anything like the imbeciles ‘running’ the country right now, they don’t have a clue where to begin using the data they have, much less how to specifically target anyone with it.

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as a bit of an afterthought, i didn’t really understand the shock of snowden’s revelations – not the shock of the scope of surveillance, but the shock that surveillance is being conducted in the first place. after all, the government did invent the internet.

– lexxie rae xx

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