One Nation, Under Surveillance

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What have
you got to hide? The answer may shock you: If you’re like most
Americans, you have far more than you realize that you need to be
hiding, and not doing so may be putting you and your family in grave

In his new
book, Three
Felonies a Day
, attorney Harvey Silverglate holds that the
typical American professional commits an average of three federal
crimes a day, just going about their daily business, without even
realizing it. And the only thing keeping them out of prison –
make that keeping you out of prison – is the fact that federal
prosecutors haven’t looked at you yet. “No social class
or profession is safe from this troubling form of social control
by the executive branch,” reads a statement on the
book’s Web site
, “and nothing less than the integrity
of our constitutional democracy hangs in the balance.”

While Three
Felonies a Day illustrates the problem quite well, today I want
to talk about solutions. Likely you have never thought you needed
to protect yourself from the government. But you probably weren’t
aware that so many federal laws are “impossibly broad and vague”
that you were a “criminal” several times over today, just
for going to work, picking up your kids, and eating dinner. Moreover,
the concept of criminal intent has been largely removed from the
law, so you can be imprisoned even if you had no idea what you were
doing was against the law.

Under the
English common law we inherited, a crime requires intent. This
protection is disappearing in the U.S. As Mr. Silverglate writes,
“Since the New Deal era, Congress has delegated to various
administrative agencies the task of writing the regulations,”
even as “Congress has demonstrated a growing dysfunction
in crafting legislation that can in fact be understood.”
Prosecutors identify defendants to go after instead of finding
a law that was broken and figuring out who did it. Expect more
such prosecutions as Washington adds regulations. – Wall
Street Journal

One of the
most powerful solutions against the sorts of miscarriages of justice
that land people like you in prison is privacy. Privacy makes it
much harder for an overzealous prosecutor to spin your perfectly
innocent activities into “crimes.” Not to mention it also
provides protection against the more mundane threats of identity
thieves, psychotic ex-spouses, and so on.

A few people
figured out long ago that the federal government wasn’t actually
here to help, and one of them, “Boston T. Party,” (a pen
name) in 1996 wrote Bulletproof
, now out of print. The thin volume, most of which
is now quite dated, provided a how-to manual with practical solutions
for increasing your personal privacy. Boston has since rewritten
and expanded it, and the new book, One
Nation, Under Surveillance
, is three times the size, and
has at least three times the practical solutions for protecting

(I met Boston
at this year’s New Hampshire Liberty Forum where
he spoke on gun rights in the U.S.
after the D.C. v. Heller
case. He graciously sent me a signed copy of One Nation, Under
Surveillance for free. Unfortunately it got buried under a huge
stack of papers on my desk for several months and I only recently
found it again.)

Privacy is
an insurance policy against oppression. Privacy allows a tyrannized
citizenry to think independently, freely, and clearly. (Imagine
if book stores were regulated as gun stores!) To speak out, network,
and organize against unruly government – all of this in perfect
accord with your natural rights, and in tradition with our American
history and Constitution. We did not form the servile institution
of government for the goal of limitless obedience to that servant.
Neither did the States federate themselves under the Constitution
for the utter dissolution of their own autonomy and prerogatives.
. . .

A government
which knows everything about its people is an unassailable government,
for the people can no longer safely congregate nor precipitate.
In an Orwellian state in which all your communications, transactions,
and associations are monitored/approved, from whence comes any
possible readjustment – much less a successful revolution
from it? . . .

When privacy
goes, the people have in a sense “thrown away the key”
to their shackles. Think of your decreasing privacy as being measured
for a tailored straightjacket.

What do
you have to hide? Today, perhaps nothing. Next year, maybe a lot
depending on new information and revised priorities. Privacy is
a comprehensive insurance policy. Keep up the premiums, even if
you’re not quite sure why.

the rest of the article

17, 2009

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