Instead of letting you choose, the government has found it fit to force one potentially dangerous medication on you and your family. Where is it? In your drinking water. Even more outrageous: While Uncle Sam forces medication down your throat, he also says you have no right to choose your own milk. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
ISIS’ spokesperson is a kid from Calgary who wants to “paint the White House black.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell asks one question none of the “officials” seem to care to ask: Why? Why are foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight alongside ISIS? Why is Saudi Arabia so keen on getting involved? How far does Obama really want to go? Find out inside. Read on…
If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…
America has about 4% of the world’s population, yet houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated. What’s going on here? Chris Campbell digs deep into the industry to figure out the truth. While many blame the private prison industry, the real culprit, says Chris, begins right outside your door. Read on…
When Obama first announced U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, most people have no idea that it was to destroy U.S. military equipment in the hands of ISIS. How did ISIS get U.S. weapons? Chris Campbell blows the story wide open in today’s Laissez Faire Today. Read on…
Every 37 seconds, an American is arrested and criminalized because of one racist and ridiculous law. Join Chris Campbell as he takes you back to when marijuana became illegal… why it’s hurting America… and why you should fight to end the prohibition. And it’s not so you can smoke it. Read on…
An ancient guide has been in hiding… until now. As it dusts itself off, some early adopters are calling it “the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.” And, according to Chris Campbell, it could be the only thing you need to thrive in our day-to-day life of modern chaos. Embrace it, and become the hero of your own story. Ignore it, and risk living a whimper of a life on someone else’s terms. Read on…
Think it’s impossible to escape Obamacare? Think again. Laissez Faire Today reader David F. shares how he did it and how you can do it too. Don’t see another doctor, take another pill, or shop around for better medical insurance until you read his story. Read on…
“What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.
“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?
I have operated under the (apparently mistaken) impression that the Constitution of the United States prohibits the random, warrantless surveillance of ordinary citizens. In fact, I’m certain it’s written down somewhere… oh, yes, it’s the Fourth Amendment.
It specifically states:
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
So what am I missing?
Since Sept. 11, our government has acted as if security and privacy were an either/or proposition. In other words, an increase in one causes a decrease in the other. Like a seesaw, if one side goes up, the other side must go down.
As federal security consultant Ed Giorgio stated several years ago in a widely quoted New Yorker article, “Privacy and security are a zero-sum game.” Apparently, in order to be more “secure,” we must accept less “privacy.” That includes allowing increased warrantless surveillance and scrutiny by the government.
So is the government’s argument sound?
Before we can know whether it is sound, let’s define some terms. In particular, “security” and “privacy.”
Security is generally defined as “freedom from danger, fear, or anxiety.” And privacy is defined as “freedom from undesired outside influence or intrusion.”
But are those the right definitions?
Is “freedom from danger, fear, or anxiety” really the opposite of “freedom from undesired outside influence or intrusion”? In particular, are they mutually exclusive?
On the contrary, these limited definitions are not appropriate in this scenario. Security comprises more than a feeling that one is safe. In a broader sense, it represents tools and methods that you could potentially use to ensure your privacy.
Privacy, on the other hand, is different. It’s something you would want to make secure. Something you want to protect, like your car or home. That sounds a lot more like property to me. Embedded in this notion of property is the idea of ownership. In fact, an owner is defined as someone with “the right to exclusive use, use, or control of property.”
So can privacy, like property, be owned? If so, who controls it?
Current norms do not designate “privacy” as something you possess, but prior to 1890, privacy was not separated from your property.
In the Supreme Court decision Boyd v. United States, the court ruled that constitutional guarantees securing people in their persons, houses, papers, and effects transcend the concrete case. It goes on to say that it “appl[ies] to all invasions on the part of government and its employees of the sanctity of a man’s home and the privacies of life. It is not the breaking of his doors and the rummaging in his drawers that constitutes the essence of the offense; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property.”
If we accept the government’s initial argument, we are really giving up control of our privacy to others, and who then decides how much of it we deserve.
Under this assumption, privacy is meaningless. It holds that someone other than you decides what is or is not private to you.
As security expert Bruce Schneier would say, the debate is not really between security and privacy, but between control and liberty.
The government’s argument does not stand up to even the simplest logical examination. They argue that security and privacy are mutually exclusive without any proof and believe that statements like “Privacy and security are a zero-sum game” are true by default.
The government’s argument takes for granted acceptance of the government’s initial definitions. This implies that surveillance that reduces privacy automatically enhances security. It also takes for granted a complete lack of familiarity with history and our shared common beliefs that are implicit in the telling of that history.
The tension between control and liberty was without a doubt the fundamental concern faced by the Founding Fathers. They established the Constitution as the law to limit government interference in citizens’ affairs.
Recall John Adams’ sentiments on “a government of laws and not of men.” The Founding Fathers established the Constitution with a series of processes and a system of checks and balances. This was meant to restrain and replace the people in power because they feared the human tendency to seek and control one another.
Today, we share their deep-seated belief in limited government.
Although the government promises increased security, its tools of invasive surveillance and cavalier dismissal of rights protected by the Constitution are not in keeping with our common notions or our law. Accordingly, their argument fails on this count too.
The defense the government uses to justify more surveillance is twofold. First, they argue that unlimited observation provides the watchers with the opportunity to step in and prevent dangerous actions and events. (Of course, danger to whom does not appear to be relevant in their reasoning.)
Second, because of the potential for this intervention, individuals’ fear and anxiety about dangerous actions and events should be reduced. Because of this, actual encounters with such events will be reduced.
In support of this, the government regularly informs the media about how its increased surveillance has led to the discovery and neutralization of “terrorist” threats. This confirms its belief that security and privacy are mutually exclusive concepts.
However, unlimited surveillance is by definition incompatible with limited government. According to many security experts, it is also incompatible with enhanced security.
In today’s world, information can be misused or stolen more easily every day. Placing more and more information into gigantic government databases merely means that stealing or abusing information will become easier over time.
Creation of such data platforms merely creates another “one-stop shopping” experience so common in today’s convenience-driven world. And it’s ripe for exploitation. The possibilities for “insecurity” due to this are endless.
Although our grandparents kept their private information in their desks “with their important papers,” today, those records are a cornucopia of data about each of us. And they reside in computer servers and “in the cloud,” available to others without their knowledge or permission.
So how does subjecting yourself to such scrutiny make you safer or more secure?
A real-world example is in order here. Subsequent to the tragic event in Connecticut last year where an individual entered an elementary school and murdered students and teachers, The Journal News published an interactive map showing the names and addresses of all handgun permit holders in New York’s Westchester and Rockland counties.
According to Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, “Publishing gun owners’ names makes them targets for theft or public ridicule. It is journalistic arrogance to abuse public record privilege, just as it is to air 911 calls for no reason or to publish the home addresses of police or judges without cause.”
Exposure to theft of one’s firearm through disclosure most certainly would not “enhance” their security.
The privacy-versus-security dichotomy fostered by government presumes that the government will maintain control of your private information, thereby increasing the government’s security potentially. In that light, the revelations about the NSA’s trillion-dollar expenditures to spy on us make sense.
In the end, it’s really all just a question of whom they are protecting.