I’m not normally one to proclaim “this is it” about any supposed last straw in statist behavior, and I am hesitant to do so about surveillance. We’ve been living in a surveillance society for years. Privacy International ranks the U.S. as one of several “endemic surveillance societies” around the Globe. Still, one might figure that at some point the pinheads pushing for yet more ways to eavesdrop would grow tired of it. Doesn’t beating a dead horse get boring after a while?
Maybe not. After all, as C.S. Lewis noted some time ago:
Of all tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
It seems pretty clear that today’s agents of the State are pretty comfortable with the approval of their own consciences. (One might argue that there are those among us who consciously or unconsciously approve of what they do, but that was another essay.) Anyway, just when I thought it was safe to go outside, the latest copy of Bruce Schneier’s Crypto-Gram Newsletter showed up in e-mail in-box. Under the heading, “Building In Safety“, Schneier notes that China is “the world’s most successful Internet censor.” Not content with the steps they’ve already taken, China is taking it one step further. Writes Schneier:
Under a requirement taking effect soon, every computer sold in China will have to contain the Green Dam Youth Escort software package. Ostensibly a pornography filter, it is government spyware that will watch every citizen on the Internet.
Green Dam has many uses. It can police a list of forbidden Web sites. It can monitor a user’s reading habits. It can even enlist the computer in some massive botnet attack, as part of a hypothetical future cyberwar.
And then comes the punchline!
China’s actions may be extreme, but they’re not unique. Democratic governments around the world — Sweden, Canada and the United Kingdom, for example — are rushing to pass laws giving their police new powers of Internet surveillance, in many cases requiring communications system providers to redesign products and services they sell. (Emphasis added.)
Everyone who reads this blog, and pretty much everyone with a pulse in the U.S. knows that the NSA has been tapping phones for sport since shortly after 9/11. (Yes, I know. If you’ve got nothing to hide…) The government has repeatedly proposed measures that would enhance their ability to monitor the Internet for “suspicious” … something. So we all know, for a fact, that there is a move toward more surveillance versus less. Such a conclusion is rather pedestrian and frankly, doesn’t warrant a blog entry.
The important question is not when we’ll reach the tipping point where every citizen is under security lock-down all day every day. (Hell, one can already be stopped while traveling within the U.S. and questioned as if he was crossing the border! As I understand it, the current standard for these stops is “within 100 miles” of the border.) So, the important question is: At what point will the citizenry have had enough? At what point will the proletariat rise up and proclaim, “OK, that’s just about a-damned-nuff?” That’s the point for which I wait, and despite the recent shouting matches at the Obama town halls, I’m not hopeful that it’s close.
But hey, I’ve been wrong before!12:14 pm on August 15, 2009 Email Wilton Alston