I will be the first one to admit that I have had my head in the sand when it comes to my own government spying on it’s own citizens. There are two clear mindsets when it comes to this kind of thing: The people that are completely paranoid of privacy and think everything is being tracked and traced and those who think that as long as you aren’t doing anything wrong, let the government find the bad guys and process them through the legal system.
I was certainly on the later spectrum, until I watched #citizenfour.
Now, there is a third spectrum, I still believe that the latter should be the right approach to how we deal with surveillance, but the fact is that the government is tracking everything that we do both as a collective as well as individuals to track what you do, how you do it and where you do it. Sounds overly paranoid, doesn’t it? The argument that I used to use against these types of doomsday arguments was pretty simple– sure the government can and does collect the “meta” data that we are all on our smartphones and we are all doing these kinds of things and as long as you are doing what you are supposed to be doing, everything is fine, because at the end of it all, the government doesn’t have the resources it would have to have to segment the data into something it could build up a case against someone in a court of law, given our laws set to protect us.
Except during the Obama administration, that has all changed.
That’s right Obama.
Obama has allowed secret judicial courts, outside of the normal judicial branch, to authorize search warrants that a normal court would reject on the grounds that it would be considered spying on its own citizens. So its creates special courts that authorize such things in the name of national security, which supposedly allows them to use this “meta” data to find evil. Take the brothers who off those bombs at the Boston marathon. Those guys were caught and apprehended by use of the secret court system to authorize a data breach in order to find them as quickly as possible. Still, they were terrorists, right? An eye for eye, right?
What if this is just the beginning? What if these secret courts continue to grow and prosper outside of the normal judicial process, extending what information they can gather and pull data from? Computer information systems continue to get smarter by the ways that they are programmed for information, what was a massive pile of data just a couple of years ago can now be compiled to trace data right back to you, should the need arise.
Again, this all seems very doomsday to me, and it should. The final layer for me is thinking about my own finances. How much money do you have that is completely untraceable right now? How much cash, real cash, do you have? Think about that for a moment– if you were accused of any crime right now as you are reading this— anything that would warrant it– estimates that it would take 2-3 hours to have every electronic asset frozen through a search warrant. That means that all of your banking, credit cards and payments are on hold pending an inquest– and if it is serious enough, that could be a long time, all those assets aren’t accessible.
Again, paranoia…. I know… But here is what is scary: If you are in the right place at the wrong time and something happens and your particular profile in the meta data is pulled, your entire world could be frozen in a matter of hours. Now to an overweight, white male like myself, I am not overly worried, but I can think of any number of people I know, Muslim or foreign folks, if I were them, I would only start dealing in cash.. but then guess what? Yep, target. If your profile suddenly changes and you go from me, where I pay most things on a piece of plastic to paying off all my cards and not charging anything and only paying the minimum amounts via a bank account, you could end up on a watch list– and as #citizenfour points out, once you end up on a watch list, everywhere you show ID becomes a hassle– especially an airport.
The documentary does a great job of pointing all of this out– its all right there in front of us but we ignore it– we don’t think it concerns us and maybe at this point, it is for the greater good, but we have given up so many of our civil liberties at this point, pieces of government that people fought for generations before us to make sure we had freedoms that made us Americans– so in the end, the terrorists have taken much more than just innocent lives from us– they are slowing taking our free government away and leaving us with a paranoid government that will continue to make up the rules as it goes along and we accept it and that isn’t acceptable… My hope is that House of Cards eventually covers this– then MAYBE we might start to pay attention.
Watch citizenfour. Consider it your patriotic duty.