Privacy is an illusion

I watch you

Apparently this is what my subconscious thinks because Stephanie said I was talking in my sleep (which I do a lot of) and that is what I said last night. Privacy is an illusion.

I am guessing that the privacy thing and all the domestic spying is on my mind more than I thought it was. Before my back decided to sideline me, I wrote this article Big Brother is reading your emails with the intention of a follow up explaining more about why privacy is actually important, and why we should be outraged (Janice actually touched on some of the more nuanced issues surrounding the issue in the comments of that article) and I had intended to touch on some of those things in another post.

You see, when I wrote the first article, I was more concerned with pointing out that data mining isn’t new, privacy is an illusion- even with the 4th Amendment and has been for quite some time, and that this “scandal” isn’t new and isn’t a scandal. We (the American people) gave up our freedoms for a false sense of security with the signing of the Patriot Act and then we collectively forgot that it even happened. Of course the Patriot Act with it’s catchy name was allowed with minor protest because we were running scared, and we had proven that our government agencies don’t, can’t, and won’t communicate with each other. So in the interest of “transparency” and “national security” the Patriot Act allowed our government to invade our lives and make several of our constitutional rights irrelevant – in other words, if you are suspected of anything your rights no longer matter in the interest of national security. The Patriot Act is chock full of ways the government can ignore the constitution and circumvent the laws that were in place to protect those rights. Obama didn’t do that – however, his administration is taking full advantage of the fact that it it there – as will the next administration, and the one after that; until we wise up and demand the repeal of the Patriot Act and find a better more constitutional approach.

Guantanamo is full of people who were imprisoned during Bush’s tenure who have YET to be charged with a crime. Any guesses as to how long these people have been held without due process? We are going on 12 years. 12 years imprisoned without being charged, without committing a crime. Some of those people are not American citizens so we turn our heads in the interest of national security – Islamophobia is so encouraged if a middle eastern American citizen has a phone conversation with their cousin in Iraq – well they are a threat and have been imprisoned without due process – without even being charged with a crime. It is okay though if we are listening to the brown people – now that it has come to light that not only brown people are being spied on – everyone is pissed.

Now I am one of those people who sits smack in the middle of the issue. I may be a crazy liberal on most issues, but you must remember that I also spent 15 years in the Army and I have an understanding of what security actually means especially in a time of war. Being secure means being aware. If we have no awareness, we are vulnerable. The Patriot Act allows the government to be aware of everything and everyone. I happen to think that some of the provisions in the Patriot Act are necessary – just not in the way it is written currently. The way it is written now allows our government sweeping authority to pretty much ignore our civil liberties and individual rights. I happen to think that we can be aware and secure without infringing on the rights of American citizens. There needs to be a balance – and the current Patriot Act has no balance.

In my last article I used the term that we hear a lot of right now, “If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” and while in theory that should be true, it really isn’t. We all have something to hide. Everyone breaks laws everyday. I have written about the laws I break and have made them public record; like admitting that I have in fact smoked weed. I’ll even admit that I stole pens from the IRS when I worked there. I am a lesbian, and here in PA I can still legally be denied housing, and can be fired from a job (should I ever get one) because of my sexual orientation. While none of the laws I break seem like a big deal – I am still breaking laws.

I am a firm believer that the lawbreakers are the ones who influence change – if no inter-racial couples ever admitted that they were together, those laws would still be on the books. If Rosa Parks moved to the back of the bus when she was told, civil rights for blacks would look quite different today. It takes law breakers to influence change. Gays coming out of the closet has influenced change all over the world because they were and are willing to face prosecution to bring awareness to unjust laws and that brings change. However those of us who “come-out” of the law breaking closet are pretty sure the government won’t swoop down and arrest us for being gay, or smoking weed, or stealing pens from our place of employment. We just figure they will only focus on those people who are radicals. Those people who support terrorists. Those people who plot against our government. That is the illusion. That is how we lie to ourselves and that is how we allow our government to “pick and choose” which laws to prosecute and pay attention to and those they choose to ignore. Weed isn’t going to be legalized because it is scientifically proven to be harmless and has health benefits – it will be legalized because people are “coming-out” from all walks of life that say they do it and are unashamed – the government will eventually realize that more people approve than disapprove and in order to secure votes – they will change their tune. That’s just how this stuff works. We take the abnormal and unacceptable and make it normal and acceptable. The government follows that.

Like I said in my previous blog post on the issue – I am still not surprised or overly concerned. I am just going with the flow so-to-speak. I have plenty to hide, but I don’t care to hide it. I spent a good majority of my life in the shadows, and while I won’t compare myself to Rosa Parks – I will say that I am willing to face the consequences of my honesty online. I am willing to say that smoking some weed made me able to quit narcotics for pain management. I am willing to say that I was an active duty Soldier who was gay when it was still illegal. I am willing to put out there that I drank more booze on deployment (where we aren’t allowed to drink) then I did at my home station (where drinking is just fine). I break a lot of laws. The thing is, we have a lot of laws that just shouldn’t be laws and it takes people to stand against them and fight them in order to change them. My relationship with Stephanie should not be illegal anywhere. It is a law that needs to be challenged and it takes people willing to openly break those laws to influence change.

So yeah, I think the government listening in on phone conversations and emails is an infringement on our 4th Amendment rights. However I also believe the quote, “Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry is own weight, this is a frightening prospect” Eleanor Roosevelt.

I am willing to take responsibility for my freedom of speech. Should I say something that the government finds threatening – well, I have to accept that as part of my free speech rights. I have the right to say that I want to overthrow the government – but I am not immune to the responsibility that statement implies. If I exercise my right to say it – they have the right to exercise their right to investigate and enforce national security against me. The onus is on me to use my freedom of speech in a responsible manner so that I am not threatening our security or the security of our elected officials.

This is where I think the real problem lies. We are all about our rights as Americans, yet we forget that with those rights come responsibility and accountability. If I email a friend and say that I want to blow up the white house – I need to be prepared for someone to ensure that threat wasn’t real. If that threat IS real – I think the American people would all agree that I should be locked up until the actual threat is determined. The Patriot Act however allows the government to hold me indefinitely without charge just for saying that – and THAT is the real infringement on our rights. If I say that (seriously) then I should be willing to be held accountable to that threat I made. I have to be held accountable to my words and the government should be able to be allowed to determine if I am an actual threat or just some nut-job spewing nonsense. There does however need to be rules and regulations determining what the government can and can’t do to ensure that awareness. I should not be able to be held indefinitely without charge for exercising my right to free speech – however, the government should be allowed to determine the actual treat level and act accordingly.

We ask the government to protect us and ensure our rights and safety, and then when they do that we resist instead of coming up with better, more plausible, and fair solutions. We complain about privacy, but then at the same time – these invasions of privacy have actually deterred national security threats. It is abused? Yes! That is what happens when we give power to people. Power corrupts. The Patriot Act allows the government to do much more than just listen for credible threats. As Americans, we need to demand better. We need to demand responsibility and accountability of our government, just like we should have responsibility and accountability as citizens. If we are going to run around and post how we want to kill the POTUS then we need to be prepared to face the consequences of those words. If you can’t face those consequences – then don’t say it out loud, don’t say it online, and don’t say it within earshot of any other human being. YOU have some responsibility in how much the government pays attention to you.

There is a fine line these days between privacy and security – and the American people need to be responsible enough to hold the government accountable to their actions. You can’t say that you want FULL security and then be pissed that they are listening to everyone and everything and determining a threat level. There is always someone who knows the truth. The 9/11 bombers had friends and family here in the States. Do you really think they were ignorant of their plans? Do you believe that none of those guys talked about what they were planning beforehand? Oh they did. They were as open about it as I am about smoking pot. The people in their lives decided to hear that information and ignore it – then we have the worst domestic terrorist attack in our history and wonder why we had no clue. It is because the people who knew – said nothing. Because they said nothing – the government intervened and decided that listening to phone conversations could negate the threat – and as much as you may hate it, they have negated the threat at least on a small scale. The government has a pulse on the enemy and they monitor it – and we feel safer. Of course, that feeling of safety comes at a price. That price is our own privacy.

If more Americans would speak up and hold each other accountable to their words and actions, maybe we wouldn’t need to government to do it for us. If we understood the implications that our freedoms provide instead of just thinking selfishly – we wouldn’t need government surveillance. WE the American people created this surveillance monster with our fears and our inability to be held accountable. We ask for protection, and then when we get it, we get pissed at the tactics. We can’t have it both ways. We get ultimate security, or we get privacy.

I happen to think there is a middle ground and lawmakers and citizens need to find that middle ground and demand it. As citizens, we need to be held accountable to our words and actions, and the government needs to provide security without infringing on the rights of American citizens. The problem is, for that middle ground to be realized, people need to take responsibility. They don’t, and so the government responded with one of the most invasive laws ever signed.

So even if you are just joining the anti-Patriot Act bandwagon – you need to know where this started and where it came from. You need to take responsibility for the fact that the government intervened because we demanded ultimate security that we were unwilling or unable to contribute to. Have you ever seen an unattended backpack somewhere? Did you report it? Have you ever been witness to a crime and said nothing?

We demanded action after 9/11. We demanded that the government protect us. They did that. They answered the call, and now we are pissed about how they are going about it. We should be. It is unconstitutional and infringes on the very rights and freedoms our country is founded on. However – our country was founded on these principles when the public was willing to take on the burdens of freedom. Freedom isn’t free – and it isn’t just service members who have lost their lives defending that ideal – it is the responsibility of every American citizen – and when we lost sight of that responsibility, we allowed the government to enact laws that take that responsibility from us. It is time to take it back and offer solutions and accept responsibility for our freedoms. If we don’t do it ourselves – the government will do it for us.






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