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OfflineRadioActiveSlug
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Registered: 03/14/03
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Last seen: 13 years, 6 months
Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost
    #1443312 - 04/09/03 03:51 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)


web page Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost
By Dan Gillmor
Mercury News Technology Columnist


NEW YORK - The lights of a magnificent, recovering city glittered from the 80th floor of the Empire State Building on Wednesday evening. The multiple ironies were not lost on the gathering of civil-liberties and public-interest activists.

The Empire State Building is now the tallest structure in the city, still half-stunned from the attacks that brought down the two taller buildings 18 months ago. As a new war raged in Iraq, the people in the room were acutely aware of the only slightly older war that has consumed their daily lives like nothing before -- the way in which the war on terrorism has also turned into an assault on individual liberties.

The activists were in New York for the annual Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference. They continued to take heart from small victories here and there, some of which were simply stopgap efforts to keep a bad law from becoming even worse. But the prevailing mood, even more so than a year ago in San Francisco, struck me as downright gloomy.

Maybe I'm projecting my own worries onto others. But I sensed a deepening fear that things are really different this time.

Liberties ebbed and flowed in America's past. Leaders curbed liberties, with the public's often ignorant endorsement, in times of crisis. But the rights tended to come back when the crises ended.

The fabled pendulum of liberty may not swing back this time. Why?

For one thing, the damage that one evil or deranged person or group can cause has grown. Even if America somehow persuades all Islamic radicals that we are a good and just society, there will still be some evil and deranged people who will try to wreck things and lives in spectacular ways. In other words, the ``war on terrorism'' can't possibly end.

Moreover, the architecture of tomorrow is being embedded with the tools of a surveillance society: ubiquitous cameras; the creation and linking of all manner of databases; insecure networks; and policies that invite abuse. They are being put into place by an unholy, if loose, alliance of government, private industry and just plain nosy regular folks.

Sure, Congress put a temporary halt to the notorious Total Information Awareness project. That Pentagon-inspired operation would have let government snoops scoop up all kinds of public and private data about all of us, then rummage through it with supercomputers to look for bad tendencies.

No sooner had Total Information Awareness been slowed than ``CAPPS II,'' a plan by the Transportation Department to scoop up and analyze data on everyone getting an airplane ticket (sound familiar?), hit the radar of activists. The particulars of CAPPS II are still under review, but it's blatantly obvious that the major purpose of this scheme is surveillance, not safety.

Meanwhile, under cover of a war that has caused the news media to ignore other important news, the Bush administration issued an order that will guarantee the wrongful arrests or harassment of innocent people. The Justice Department told the FBI it no longer needed to worry about the accuracy of its National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database containing 39 million criminal records, including some documents that would barely pass the gossip hurdle.

NCIC records are used every day by law enforcement agencies all over the nation. The accuracy requirement was established under the 1974 Privacy Act, one purpose of which was to ensure that federal records, which could have enormous impact on people's lives if misused, don't contain erroneous information. For more information, as well as an online petition asking for a reversal of this misguided shift, visit the Electronic Privacy Information Center Web site www.epic.org/actions/ncic/ .

The Bush administration's attitude, assisted by a Congress that long since abandoned any commitment to liberty, is that government has the right to know absolutely everything about you and that government can violate your fundamental rights with impunity as long as the cause is deemed worthy.

You, on the other hand, have absolutely no right to know what the government is doing in your name and with your money, unless the information is deemed harmless by people who have every motive to cover up misdeeds. Bush and his people have turned secrecy into a mantra, and too few people recognize the danger that poses to our freedoms, much less our pocketbooks.

Some civil libertarians profess a renewed aim toward practicality. Ira Glasser, former head of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it's foolish to accept the notion that the job is to strike a balance between security and rights. We always lose liberties when such choices are presented, but we rarely gain any significant security, Glasser observed.

I found that assessment strikingly cynical, worryingly short on principle. Maybe it'll work a few times, but in the end, if he's right about our basic motives, people are going to pick even the possibility of security over liberty if they get scared enough.

But the damage we will do to ourselves if we allow our liberty to disappear is incalculable. An entrepreneurial society can't exist if political freedom disappears, and if Big Brothers, public and private, are invading our daily existence with impunity.

The damage we'll do globally will be tragic. The world looks to America in large part because of our freedoms. We are a magnet, and a beacon, because liberty means something here.

So I deeply admire the activists who gathered in New York, because they keep trying even in the toughest of times. They are fighting for all of us, and for our future.


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"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned." -Buddha
www.impeach-bush-now.org


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OfflinePhred
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Registered: 10/19/00
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Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: RadioActiveSlug]
    #1443662 - 04/09/03 05:57 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

Dude, do you have any thoughts of your own? Why is it that the majority of the threads you start consist of an entire screed from somebody or other? Can you not just give us a link, or a brief excerpt and the link?

pinky


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InvisibleFloydian
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Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 1,022
Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: Phred]
    #1443693 - 04/09/03 06:07 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

you are transparent


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Don't squeeze the pancake batter


Edited by Floydian (04/09/03 06:17 PM)


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InvisibleFloydian
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Registered: 05/14/00
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Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: RadioActiveSlug]
    #1443699 - 04/09/03 06:09 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

"Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of the central government."

Aldous Huxley - Brave new World Revisted


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Don't squeeze the pancake batter


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InvisibleFloydian
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Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: Floydian]
    #1445699 - 04/10/03 05:44 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

.


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Don't squeeze the pancake batter


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OfflineAzmodeus
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Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 3,392
Loc: Lotus Land!! B.C.
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Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: RadioActiveSlug]
    #1446243 - 04/10/03 12:53 PM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I just keep thinking about the book 1984, and how close america is getting to it....quite scary really. :tongue:



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"Know your Body - Know your Mind - Know your Substance - Know your Source.

Lest we forget. "


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InvisibleFloydian
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Registered: 05/14/00
Posts: 1,022
Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: Azmodeus]
    #1449066 - 04/11/03 09:57 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I'd say we're getting closer to Brave New World than we are to 1984, but its very scary nontheless.


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Don't squeeze the pancake batter


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InvisiblePsiloKitten
Ganja Goddess

Registered: 02/13/99
Posts: 1,617
Re: Why we may never regain the liberties that we've lost [Re: Floydian]
    #1449094 - 04/11/03 10:11 AM (13 years, 9 months ago)

I should read Huxley again.

Im reading Atlas Shrugged right now, trying to start off easy :smile: 

It's so surreal, tho.  Ill give you that.  And transparent and just down right lemmy winked.


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