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How you view secret wiretaps (authorized or not) depends upon how you view the role of government.

The naive view can be summarized as "you have nothing to fear if you aren't doing anything wrong". This presupposes a benign government working in the public interest. Along with this is the general willingness to excuse those cases of overreach that come to light. "It was just a mistake by over eager individual officials". I call this the civics 101 view of life, as taught in middle school.

The sinister view can be stated as that governments are always seeking to consolidate their power and that openness and the rule of law are the only defenses.

I've argued before for this latter view: Here's one of my essays as an example:

Surveillance vs Civil Liberties

History has shown that there is a steady progression from secret policing being started in response to real or perceived foreign threats which then morphs into a more general police state in which any political dissent is taken as a sign of a threat. There are numerous examples from around the world and the US has not been immune either.

I suggest looking at the history of the Palmer Raids during the WWI period, or the internment of the Japanese-Americans during WWII or the red-scares of the McCarthy era. The FBI spied on ML KIng and many others, not because they represented a threat from foreign powers, but because they were a threat to the status quo.

There is no objective evidence that the level of secret spying going on in the US is proportional to any foreign threats, but there is plenty of evidence of the civil rights of peaceful citizen groups being abridged when they have opposed the present administration. For a fairly recent example, just look at the mass arrests of protesters in NYC during the last GOP convention. The purpose was to stifle free speech.

The burden of proof is on the government, to show that their programs are benign.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Sun Jun 22nd, 2008 at 02:28:19 PM EST
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