Slippery slope…

“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
Joseph Heller, Catch-22

Clearly I’ve struck some nerves recently and folks are beginning to ask for my opinion. That makes me feel less like I’m shouting into the wilderness. Which is good, except that this might be a very short term opportunity to get the point across if the government gets its way with Net Neutrality…But I digress.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think government is great for a lot of things, most notably caring for its citizens and ensuring that we’re treated fairly and safely. Except, well, when we’re not, because we’re not something we should be.

See, here’s the thing: This inconvenient clause in the Constitution that protects us from self-incrimination, the Fifth Amendment (part of the Bill of Rights) is supposed to keep us safe from harm. Combined with the Fourteenth Amendment, which covers equal protection under the law, and we ought to have ways to ensure that we are covered in case another citizen within the reach of government decides we’ve done something wrong.

Some of us have come to expect the safety of due process, and the value of privacy. Unfortunately, others view these same things as hindrances to Truth, Justice and The American Way TM.

We are seeing the argument play out right now, in the public eye, as the FBI exerts pressure on Apple to crack its iPhone privacy code, so that the former can investigate the contents of the iPhone discarded by the San Bernardino shooter whose name remains undisclosed here.

Well, okay, so maybe they have a point. After all, it’s possible the contents of that phone could hold valuable data. Certainly it was used for a variety of things, which the FBI wants to see. Even Bill Gates has some concerns about the issue, though considering the sheer weight of snoop involved in Win10, I’m surprised he was willing to weigh in at all.

The question is, where does it stop?

The FBI says it’s focused on finding and following any leads it can.

“Maybe the phone holds the clue to finding more terrorists. Maybe it doesn’t,” FBI Director James Comey said in a statement released Sunday night.

89.3 KPCC: What the FBI might be looking for on San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone

See, if it was just this one phone, and just this one time, it might be okay, just this once. But, and I can’t say this clearly enough, it’s NOT this one phone, this one time.

No. In fact, as far as we know right now, there are over a dozen phones IN ADDITION TO this one phone, that they’d love to check if they can only figure out how to crack Apple’s security.

And that, friends, is what has me worried.

Have you read the USA PATRIOT Act? The capitalization is not an accident. It’s an acronym that stands for Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism.

According to the Department of Justice’s archive, the Act was passed with bipartisan support by both the Senate (98-1), and the House (357-66). This legislation has damaged the right to privacy guaranteed by the above-listed amendments to the Constitution, and the Act’s provisions used repeatedly in controversial ways I’m certain the Founding Fathers would have rejected out of hand.

(Don’t like Wikipedia? Great. Follow the footnotes and go read WHY these items exist in the entries the way they do.)

Fast forward to December 3, 2015 and the guy who finally had enough of the racist remarks that he and his wife decided to make their Bonnie and Clyde-style exit, 2A-protected guns a-blazing, and now all of a sudden we see that we need yet another way to infringe on our rights to privacy because his phone might lead to other Lone Wolf shooters.

Not, you know, like this one, or this one, or even this one. Nope.

Tell me, because I’m really curious, just what unlocking one–or even a dozen–iPhones will do to protect your safety or mine? How much do YOU use YOUR cellphone every day, for all sorts of things, like figuring out how to get from Home to Work, or to the school, or the doctor’s office, or any of hundreds of different locations? How often do you search for things on your phone that might be questioned?

Imagine: I write these articles after I search for material. Sometimes Duck Duck Go won’t produce the results I want, and I don’t always (mostly never) remember to use Google’s Incognito function.

Am I a terrorist? Hardly. I don’t even own a gun, though I do know how to shoot and when I was younger I was fairly good at it.

Idealist? Yeah, but more pragmatic, really. Cynical, even, which is why I view this latest push the same way I view those innocuous cameras that watch us EVERYWHERE, on the road, at the ATM, at Walmart, buying dinner at McDonald’s. And why every time I pull out my ATM card, I worry that the next time I could make a mistake and discover that I can’t buy a thing because I no longer have access to my money.

It’s not that I’m fearing for my own life, really. I make a relatively small noise in a really REALLY HUGE pond, so I’m not that concerned I’m suddenly going to attract the sort of scrutiny that makes one fear jail time. Not at the moment, at any rate. But with the USA PATRIOT Act still in place, all this time, and knowing what we do know about the effects of extremism at home and abroad, it does make one wonder just what the authorities would do if they could peek into the dark corners. It certainly makes me think that curtains on the windows aren’t just for blocking sunlight.

If you think these issues of privacy are overblown, I invite you to (re)read George Orwell’s book 1984 and see if you still hold that opinion afterward. You could simply read this letter written by Orwell to Noel Willmett in May, 1944, three years prior to writing the book.

How did Orwell know?

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