Trust me. I’m a government spy.
If that didn’t make you cringe, you’re probably beside yourself with laughter.
But that’s essentially what one of this country’s highest-ranking spooks is telling us to do. He reminds me of one of those doctors who tells a kid, "This won’t hurt," while he’s thrusting a long needle into the kid’s arm.
Losing your privacy won’t hurt. And it will make you sooo much safer.
Riiight. Just ignore that voice you hear: "Those who are willing to give up a little freedom for a little security will deserve neither and lose both." Who was that — Benjamin Franklin? What did he know about tera-ism, anyway?
That little gem came from one Donald Kerr, the Deputy Director of National Intelligence. He oughta know a thing or two about keeping us safe from the bad boys, right? I mean, if he says so, you really have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide. If you don’t want to give your name and want a numbered offshore account, you must be up to no good. Really.
Instead, [privacy] should mean that government and businesses properly safeguard people’s private communications and financial information.
Run that by me again. Remember, I’m not an intelligence person; I’m just an ordinary gal who’s read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Oh — and FISA, too. Oh, gee (I’m blushing now.) I guess I shouldn’t get too upset about the government wiretapping my phone calls or intercepting my e-mails because someone even thinks I am or whoever’s on the other end is in another country. After all, you never know what those foreigners are up to, do you? Sammy’s gathering our personal information only to protect us, you know.
Those two generations younger than we are have a very different idea of what is essential privacy, what they would wish to protect about their lives and affairs. And so, it’s not for us to inflict one size fits all.
Oh, I see. It’s all those young whippersnappers who want to expose me. Such cheek — They have absolutely no respect for the privacy of their elders! Thank you for enlightening me, Mr. Kerr, you wise eminence gris you. I’m with you when you say you don’t understand why people are
perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an [Internet service provider] who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data.
I mean, really. Who would you rather see with your name, phone number, credit card, credit score, school transcripts and health records — one of those sneaky, shifty foreigners slaving away in front of a hot computer screen for less money than you spent for that slice of pizza, or nice, clean agents of a government that only uses intelligence to protect honest Uhmurrikun peeple. Uh huh — just like they did at Ruby Ridge and Waco.
Besides, what could that illegal at the ISP do to you, if he’s so motivated? He could steal your credit card number. But, you protest, that’s more likely to happen at a restaurant or store. OK, but that alien can always b-b-blackmail you. I mean, doesn’t that scare you more than what our government did to Maher Arar after they got his information?
Just listen to that nice government agent when he says
I think all of us have to really take stock of what we already are willing to give up, in terms of anonymity, but (also) what safeguards we want in place to be sure that giving that doesn’t empty our bank account or do something equally bad elsewhere.
Now, I’ll admit I’m not a tekkie. All I know about cell phones is that they come in my favorite colors. So please forgive me if I don’t understand how I’m safer when anybody I don’t know has my name, the numbers of my telephone, social security and credit cards, driver’s license, passport and bank account and my FICA score and lists of all books, magazines, videos and playthings I’ve bought and borrowed.
Then again, I’m sure Mr. Kerr knows better. After all, if we’d had the Patriot Act and other such laws way back when, there may never have been any Federalist Papers because everyone would’ve known who "Publius" was. Imagine how much easier Kerr’s job would be if there weren’t all those pesky debates about what the Founding Fathers wrote.
Oh, another thing: When Agent Kerr was at the FBI, he reminds us,
It was a felony to misuse the data — it was punishable by five years in jail and a $100,000 fine, which I don’t believe has ever happened
Oh, yeah. People really quake in their boots when they think about five years in Club Fed and handing over 100Gs when they know those things have never happened to one of their own. I feel safer already. Thank you, Herr Donald Kerr.
Justine Nicholas [send her mail] is the deputy director of the Office of Academic Achievement at York College in Queens, New York.