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A Green Apple Until they Painted me Red

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Yesterday a colleague of mine and I got into a minor spat concerning the blanket surveillance tactics utilized by the National Security Agency. (Previously touched on by UnfoldedOP here) Both parties brought up valid points, yet he had one question that stuck with me, for its one I’ve heard asked often since the exposure of these programs by Edward Snowden: “I’ve got nothing to hide, so why should I be against spying measures that ensure my security?” 
Let’s first tackle that vagueness, what does it mean necessarily that you have nothing to hide? For the purpose of argument we’ll apply the simplest definition: having no plans to break the law or harm the general populace. The error with this mentality is that although we’d like to believe in consistency, people, government, and life as a whole do not tend to take the path of little alteration and least resistance. Most consider themselves law abiding citizens, the definition of which is subject to change each year as laws change. Take, if you will, the Russian American population during the current international struggle we find ourselves. Should the United States want to keep a closer eye on their Russian citizens they need only manipulate the info gathered by the NSA, in this circumstance no longer being used for anti-terrorism, now just the broad term of national security. In the 1940’s Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and at home we responded by accusing the Japanese American population of espionage as we rounded them all up into camps, because whats a safer place for your citizens than locked up where they cant compromise your other citizens, a distinction that should try to be avoided by the American Government if it truly wants to serve all of us equally. These Japanese Americans simply had to be registered with the government as japanese to be included in this stain on our nations history.Mass surveillance becomes a problem once it has left the realm of security reassurance for the public, and entered the realm of “tool of the state.” As reported by Human Rights Watch, concerning a similar situation taking place in Ethiopia, “authorities use access to mobile data and call recordings to harass and arrest people they believe oppose the government,” and granted at this moment in time America may not be spooked enough to look past the mass persecution of people in the interest of “security,” but September 11th, 2001 we were absolutely spooked enough and all it took was one attack. When the Boston Marathon bombings took place Mosques around the country felt an uneasy atmosphere surrounding their sites, with a suspicious population circling about with various accusations for the Muslim community. And what if the next attacker is of Irish descent? Or an extreme baptist? Our information is only safe in that massive meta-database so long as a member of our community, culture, or social circle is involved in activities disapproved by the government. Instead of waiting to get up in arms about the spying until the government has targeted you only puts the problem on the back burner, acting now allows for immediate remedy before a greater burn is felt.  The government of the United States having this mass surveillance capability is detrimental to our progress as a nation, for controlled growth by a ruling class becomes a stronger reality each day the NSA is allowed its blanket surveillance. Here’s to hoping Obama follows through on an end to these programs, and pushes towards a more positive international tomorrow. Cheers. -Shivite12

HRW article concerning Ethiopian Mass Surveillance, a great read: http://www.hrw.org/news/2014/03/25/witness_price-mass-surveillance

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The Pit; Syria’s Freefall

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While perusing the news yesterday I came across this article in The New York Times, touching on a concern I’ve had in recent months: how has the conflict in Syria lasted as long as it has? The reasons vary from the religious zeal of extremist ideology to the steadfast pursuit of power by the Syrian government lead by Bashar Al-Assad. In high school I recall learning about the tragedy of the Holocaust, and in my own case the plight of my Native American ancestors(though the information was substantially minimal I don’t mind noting.) When we were educated about these falls of man the underlying theme seemed to be that as a people we had a responsibility to never again let such travesty befall our fellow being. Yet here we stand idly by as a nation burns, children are left homeless, dead, or diseased in a conflict that’s no longer able to find a unifying cause outside of the lawlessness that plagues the land. As explained by Anne Bernard:

“It is not as if the world has no evidence of Syria’s ordeal, which has killed an estimated 150,000 people. Syrians have issued a sustained, collective cry for help from what is now probably history’s most-documented manmade disaster. They capture appalling suffering on video and beam the images out to the world: skeletal infants, body parts pulled from the rubble of homes, faces stretched by despair, over and over. Despite that, to the bitterness of Syrians, the world’s diplomatic attention is drifting. Even as Syria’s epic suffering is remaking the human geography of the Middle East and beyond, initiatives to ease the crisis have sputtered and failed to offer effective help. Already tenuous hopes for an internationally brokered peace settlement have further faded as Russian-American relations worsen.” -Anne Bernard, The New York Times

While the world watches Crimea, and the newfound Russo-US relations that are bound to follow, what will come of the chemical weapons disposal deal brokered by Russia and the US? What will come of Putins support for the totalitarian Syrian Government, let alone the United States’ for a rebel movement now principally inhabited by Jihadists? Whatever your poison, raise a glass in the hopes Russia and America can once again settle things amicably without having to dredge up cold war diplomacy. Evolution only moves forward right? -Shivite12

(Title link leads to Anne Bernard’s stunning piece on the Syrian crisis)

Whatever Happened to the Personal Bubble?

 

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All right readers, so what’s the deal with the NSA? In the name of precaution and security of the Nation, the National Security Agency (NSA) has stored millions of Internet and cellphone users’ data, along with monitoring phone calls and various other media activities of those it considers a threat to the safety of the nation. However, in defending their actions the NSA claims that their purpose is justified in the name of detecting foreign and domestic threats. While I concede weapons of mass destruction and terrorism are things I believe we all prefer were kept at bay, it is blasphemous to assert that tabs need be kept on close to a hundred percent of the Internet using population. The NSA’s existence stems from the signing into law of the USA-PATRIOT Act, which declared many invasions of citizens privacy constitutional, ranging from wire taps to invasions of homes and businesses in “sneak and peek” searches. When examining the act it is transparent that “the broad scope and full impact of the act’s provisions did not come to light until after it’s signing,” as stated by Andrew Walter in a review of the homeland security situation. In a haste to protect the borders of our nation from attack in face of a successful one on September 11th, we failed to foresee the results of the sacrifices to privacy that would be made in the name of security in the nation. How do we secure our privacy? At this years South by Southwest(SXSW) Tech festival multiple topics were discussed amongst Ben Wizner and Chris Soghoian of the ACLU, and their guest of honor Edward Snowden. Particularly, the point that mass surveillance can “become too expensive,” and this can be achieved through open ended encryption being provided by websites big and small, and putting security first when designing new apps, computer programs, etc. -Shivite12

Link to ACLU video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIhS9aB-qgU

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