Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen

These are self-explanatory, and would arouse rage in any but the most domesticated of subjects. These are brief excerpts. I esp recommend reading the first in full. Then doing something about it. Do something, anything. Passivity is our greatest enemy.


  1. Who’s in Big Brother’s Database?“, by James Bamford, New York Review of Books, 5 November 2009 –About The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, by Matthew M. Aid.
  2. Internet firms resist ministers’ plan to spy on every e-mail“, The Times, 2 August 2009
  3. Data Analysis Challenges“, MIRTE Corporation, December 2008
  4. Recommendations
  5. For More Information and Afterword

(1)  Who’s in Big Brother’s Database?“, by James Bamford, New York Review of Books, 5 November 2009 –About The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency, by Matthew M. Aid.  Excerpt:

On a remote edge of Utah’s dry and arid high desert, where temperatures often zoom past 100 degrees, hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build what may become America’s equivalent of Jorge Luis Borges’s “Library of Babel,” a place where the collection of information is both infinite and at the same time monstrous, where the entire world’s knowledge is stored, but not a single word is understood. At a million square feet, the mammoth $2 billion structure will be one-third larger than the US Capitol and will use the same amount of energy as every house in Salt Lake City combined.

Unlike Borges’s “labyrinth of letters,” this library expects few visitors. It’s being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency — which is primarily responsible for “signals intelligence,” the collection and analysis of various forms of communication — to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and data trails: Web searches, parking receipts, bookstore visits, and other digital “pocket litter.” Lacking adequate space and power at its city-sized Fort Meade, Maryland, headquarters, the NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome.

… In the near decade since September 11, the tectonic plates beneath the American intelligence community have undergone a seismic shift …  Not only surviving the earthquake but emerging as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree, despite public criticism of the Bush administration’s use of the agency to conduct warrantless domestic surveillance as part of the “war on terror.” The legislation also largely freed him of the nettlesome Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA). And in another significant move, he was recently named to head the new Cyber Command, which also places him in charge of the nation’s growing force of cyber warriors.

Wasting no time, the agency has launched a building boom, doubling the size of its headquarters, expanding its listening posts, and constructing enormous data factories. One clue to the possible purpose of the highly secret megacenters comes from the agency’s British partner, Government Communications Headquarters. Last year, the British government proposed the creation of an enormous government-run central database to store details on every phone call, e-mail, and Internet search made in the United Kingdom. Click a “send” key or push an “answer” button and the details of the communication end up, perhaps forever, in the government’s data warehouse to be scrutinized and analyzed.

… Unlike the British government, which, to its great credit, allowed public debate on the idea of a central data bank, the NSA obtained the full cooperation of much of the American telecom industry in utmost secrecy after September 11. For example, the agency built secret rooms in AT&T’s major switching facilities where duplicate copies of all data are diverted, screened for key names and words by computers, and then transmitted on to the agency for analysis. Thus, these new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America’s version of the “big brother database” rejected by the British.

(2)  “Internet firms resist ministers’ plan to spy on every e-mail“, The Times, 2 August 2009 — Excerpt:

Internet firms have condemned the government’s “Big Brother” surveillance plans as an “unwarranted” intrusion into people’s privacy. The companies, which ministers are relying on to implement the scheme, also say the government has misled the public about how far it plans to go in monitoring internet use.

The criticism, contained in a private submission to the Home Office, threatens to derail the £2 billion project, which ministers claim is essential to combat terrorism and crime.

Despite hostility from opposition MPs and civil liberties groups, government security officials want to be able to monitor every e-mail, phone call and website visit of people in the UK. They point to the increasing use by criminals and terrorists of internet telephone calls, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and online chatrooms to hide their communications. The government claims it wants simply to “maintain” its capability to fight serious crime and terrorism.

However, the submission — by the London Internet Exchange, which represents more than 330 firms including BT, Virgin and Carphone Warehouse — said: “We view the description of the government’s proposals as ‘maintaining’ the capability as disingenuous: the volume of data the government now proposes [we] should collect and retain will be unprecedented, as is the overall level of intrusion into the privacy of citizenry.

“This is a purely political description that serves only to win consent by hiding the extent of the proposed extension of powers for the state.”

The rebuke is the latest blow to the plans to allow police, the intelligence services and GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, to monitor all web communications. Ministers have already been forced to drop plans for a central database holding records of all e-mails, phone calls and website visits.

In April Jacqui Smith, then the home secretary, tried to salvage the plans. She announced that £2 billion of public money would instead be spent helping companies retain the information for up to 12 months in separate databases.

Here is the proposal:  “Protecting the public in a changing communications environment“, Home Office, 24 April 2009

(3)  Data Analysis Challenges“, MIRTE Corporation, December 2008 — Excerpt from the Executive Summary:

This section summarizes the conclusions and recommendations of a 2008 JASON summer study commissioned by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Intelligence Community (IC) on the emerging challenges of data analysis in the face of increasing capability of DOD/IC sensors. As the amount of data captured by these sensors grows, the difficulty in storing, analyzing, and fusing the sensor data becomes increasingly significant with the challenge being further complicated by the growing ubiquity of these sensors.

… Requirements for the handling of data (particularly wide area surveillance data) will differ depending on timeliness requirements. Where time permits detailed retrospective analysis, JASON recommends the use of homogeneous data architectures, “cloud computing” (the provisioning of services from a generic cloud of servers) and the use of streaming data analysis algorithms that do not tie the data to particular data base schema or to a specific set of queries. Such approaches are currently in wide use by information providers such as Google and others.

… As the greatest challenge will come from the need to automate analysis, the most immediate need is for algorithmic advances that can help cue the analyst and trigger closer observation as well as possible fusing of other relevant data. The notion of fully automated analysis is today at best a distant reality, and for this reason, it is critical to invest in research to promote algorithmic advances; one way to effectively engage the relevant research communities is through the use of grand challenges in the area of data analysis.


 Talk to your friends.  Write to your representatives and the media.  Get politically active, contributing time and (to the extent you can) money.  For a deeper discussion of this see section 6 — Some solutions, ways to reform America — on the FM reference page America – how can we reform it?

Some advice from the past:

“Anger is easy. Anger at the right person, at the right time, for the right reason, is difficult.”
— Aristotle, in the Nicomachean Ethics, book IV, chapter 5 (lightly paraphrased)

“Telemachus, now is the time to be angry.”
— Odysseus, when the time came to deal with the Suitors. From the movie The Odyssey (1997)

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the following:

Reference pages about other topics appear on the right side menu bar, including About the FM website page.

Since problem recognition is the first step on the path to reform, see these posts about the American spirit, the American soul :

  1. Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
  2. de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
  3. A philosphical basis for the Batman saga, 23 July 2008
  4. The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
  5. We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
  6. The intelligentsia takes easy steps to abandoning America, 19 August 2008
  7. The corruption of a nation is usually hidden, but sometimes becomes visible, 21 November 2008
  8. This crisis will prove that Americans are not sheep (unless we are), 8 January 2008
  9. About security theater, a daily demonstration that Americans are sheep, 25 January 2009
  10. Sources of inspiration for America’s renewal, 23 April 2009
  11. Are we citizens? Or peasants?, 21 May 2009
  12. A famous guest speaker visits the FM site to tell us that we are not weak — we are strong, 8 June 2008
  13. A great artist died today. We can gain inspiration from his words., 26 June 2009
  14. A wonderful and important speech about liberty, 23 July 2009


Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 word max), civil and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

23 thoughts on “Attention fellow sheep: let’s open our eyes and see the walls of our pen”

  1. Whats worse is it is near useless for the stated intent of “finding needles in a haystack”. Rather, what it is useful for is post-facto targeted analysis. Think J Edgar Hoover’s Wet Dream.

  2. A simple thought experiment. This will sound bizarre, but bear with me. What if, god forbid, there were an actual WAR. You know, the kind where USA had something to lose, or might even be in danger. Could we count on the NSA for a barrage of paperclips, rubberbands, and snarky email?

    Could we count on Beck and Limbaugh to lead a posse?

  3. Before we all get huffy and indignant let’s just hold on a minute and think about. I challenge anyone in this internet age to tell me with a straight face that you have an expectation of privacy in any electronic communication – cell phone, email, telephone in the VOIP age, whatever.

    And not just from government snoops, but from hackers, identity thieves, thirteen-year-olds looking Vice-Presidential candidates’ personal emails, etc. Communications like these are the electronic equivalent of posting on a bulletin board: they’re out there for everyone, not just the government, to see.

    The point is that there are laws against bugging without consent and protections against using improperly obtained evidence in a prosecution. THOSE are the protections that we need to be concerned about and strengthening. To say that we are defending “privacy” by trying to hobble the agencies that have a legitimate need to look at information that is already in the ether is just laughable. You need to pick the right target for your anger.
    Fabius Maximus replies: You must be kidding. I doubt that many “hackers, ID thieves, 13-year olds” can bug my phone, wire or search my home.

    “there are laws against bugging without consent and protections against using improperly obtained evidence in a prosecution. THOSE are the protections that we need to be concerned about and strengthening.”

    Perhaps you mean “restoring”, not “strengthening.”

  4. At present we see only the hazy outlines of future data collection. Ubicomp, ubiquitous computation, and augmented reality are coming soon. Ubicomp means that very soon essentially everything will have a microprocessor in it and probably and RFID, which means that it broadcasts its serial number to sensors which will be located in every doorway, every streetlight, every firehydrant, every curbside, every mailbox. Every object we own, from pants to bic pen to mp3 player to girls’ hair barette to handkerchief to dinner fork will broadcast its unique ID code, and its location will be tracked geolocatively 24/7/365.

    At the same time, since every device we use will broadcast its data and interact with the ubicomp environment, every activity we perform throughout the day and during the evening, including in our own homes, will be tagged and registered.

    This has positive and negative consequences. In the future, it seems highly unlikely that innocent people will ever get convicted of a crime. With ubiquitous tagging and constant monitoring it will be impossible for an innocent person get railroaded in court because the RFID geolocative data can be subpoened and will prove that the accused was (for example) watching “Attack of the Giant Leeches” at home during the time when he was supposed to have murdered the decedant.

    On the other hand, this giant database of persistant geolocative tags will identify the activities of every human being during every hour of the day or night everywhere in America (and elsewhere). So privacy as we know it will vanish. Some people will find thesmelves unnerved by this, others won’t care. (We can already see this outlines of this environment in the ubiquitous CCTV environment of London. Most people don’t care that they have no privacy when in public, surprisingly enough. There has been no outcry against the British CCTV cameras and the government has made no move to uninstall them.)

    Ubicomp has another upside: AR, or augmented reality. Move your smartphone over a cathedral and see it on your phone screen as it was 600 years ago, while listening to audio commentary. Dial up a smartphone app and it automatically tells which of your friends is out on the town and where they are. Move your smartphone over the front of a restaurant and read the last 10 reviews from people who ate there on your phone screen. And so on.

    While the world of privacy and anonymity is disappearing, many valuable new utilities and applications are arising courtesy of AR and ubicomp. Moreover, encrypted messaging will help protesters to organize rallies, and if people really truly want to keep their email private, there’s always PGP public key encryption and operating systems like Paranoid Linux.

  5. Yes I do have an expectation of privacy. But I also have a responsibility to employ the best current practices in the use of my digital devices. This requires constant study of how the devices work and how privacy can be breached. Most importantly it requires 24/7 self-discipline. I can never be sure if I am successful; but I would be a fool for not trying. Check this out concerning a proof of concept breach of wireless encryption:

  6. FM: “You must be kidding. I doubt that many “hackers, ID thieves, 13-year olds” can bug my phone, wire or search my home.

    You’re confusing a bunch of quite different things here. VOIP packets travel the interenet and are out there. In contrast, someone has to physically enter your house to wire or search your home. Unless you have a webcam or headset with a mike that they can take control of. Then I guess they can look around and listen.

    The point is, if you don’t want people to look at it, don’t put it on the internet. It’s the 21st century equivalent of speaking on a party line. (remember those?)

    Perhaps you remember the saying, “Never write anything in a letter that you wouldn’t want read in court”? I don’t know, maybe I’ve been watching too many episodes of “24”…
    Fabius Maximus replies: I agree. My point was that it is absurd to conflate the power of the government with those of hackers and kids. They are of grossly different orders of magnitude.

  7. To help get your creative juices flowing regarding grass roots counterinsurgency in this matter, allow me to recommend: “”Repent, Harlequin!” Said the Ticktockman“, Harlan Ellison (December 1965) — Link goes to Wikipedia.
    Fabius Maxmius replies: What a wonderful story, well worth reading! Thank you for posting this!

  8. Don’t worry, Peak Oil and similar items will render all databases, including these, nonfunctional. Government agencies would have to rely upon cuneiform to keep such records as it would be able to do so.

  9. Arms Merchants once again shows his ignorance of basic current technology when he claims: In contrast, someone has to physically enter your house to wire or search your home.

    Obviously and laughably false. Van Eck phreaking allows anyone with moderate knowledge of antenna theory to detect the EM emissions from your screen and computer keyboard and reproduce it in a van on the street. If you have a wifi router in your home, a simple homebrew 24 dB wifi antenna will amplify it, and, as everyone knows, WEP encryption is laughably easy to break, so if your home uses any kind of wifi router you are effectively broadcasting everything you say and do on the internet, including email, to the rest of the world.

    As for listening to conversation, laser mics allow that. And of course there’s the military’s wonderful millimeter-wave microwave technology that allows them to see through the walls of houses and identify who is which room, and what they’re doing. Lastly, of course, there are those wonderful IR scanners used by the police to detect hotspots in houses thought to be grow labs for marijuana.

    If you think you have any privacy at all, and that any police or government agency can’t overhead every conversation in your home and see exactly what you’re doing behind closed locked doors, you’re hopelessly naive. The only deterrant would to Faraday-cage your entire house. I’ve never heard of anone doing that, and in any case, it still wouldn’t deter laser mics which can eavesdrop on conversations in any building with windows from miles away.

    What, are you people still living in the 70s? Don’t you realize the kind of tech that’s out there? This is the 21st century, wake up, or at least watch one of Tom Clancy’s movies from the mid-90s.

  10. One of the many issues we face is that our ability to collect data is growing exponentially faster than our ability to use the data in meaningful ways.

    Speaking as a database guy who has spent a lot of years trying to help business management make meaningful decisions using large quantities of data; there really is such a thing as TOO much data when trying to correctly analyze a situation.

    Also speaking from personal experience, things tend down a certain path ,there is plenty of variation on the path but everybody who starts down the path tends to hit all of the steps eventually.

    The first analysis when you have too much information is that you just don’t have the right types of information. The most frequent solution is to massively expand your data collection and storage, which is where the NSA appears to be currently.

    The next step after that is to discover (through trial and error) that the mountains of data you have collected are starting impeding your ability to analyze it and react in a meaningful way. Put more clearly, your leadership has an absolute conviction that they now have the right pieces of data to solve the problem but they don’t know how to use it correctly and there’s so much data that efforts to use it in meaningful ways keep stalling out.

    This, in turn, leads to an enormous effort to figure out how the different pieces of data meaningfully relate to each other. The more data you have the more tempting this solution becomes and the harder it becomes. An NSA-specific example would be: “We need to identify ALL of the root causes of radical behavior among Muslims who live in the US and the ways we can use the data we’ve gathered to track people who are becoming radical so we can keep them from killing people.”

    On the surface this sounds like a huge but doable project that will yield useful Tom Clancy-like results. Initial successes from the first crude strolls through the massive quantities of data excite the leadership and cause them to imagine how impressive future results will be when they have better methods.

    But then things start to backfire. Analysts, to turn our example to the ludicrous, might discover a high correlation between radical Islam and the consumption of certain types of cereals. This discovery causes the leadership to wonder what it is about these cereals that causes radical behavior.

    They order more analysis, and much more data gathering to investigate all possibilities. Among other things, information is secretly gathered about the executives of the cereal company. Employee demographics are examined in detail. Emails, company accounting standards, and the stock price are all dumped into the database and dozens of analysts leap into the fray. Analysis paralysis sets in slowly, so slowly that the leadership doesn’t notice.

    Eventually leadership DOES notice the analysis paralysis and somebody in leadership decides to just “do something” on the grounds that doing something is better than doing nothing. So in our example, the NSA lets the CEO of the cereal company know that they know about his affair with his secretary and force him to change the top-secret formula of his cereal to reduce the number of radical Muslims in the country.

    This leads to the cereal becoming unpopular with a large segment of the cereal’s audience, perhaps including the radical Muslims, who switch to a new type of cereal and the whole thing starts all over again.

    With luck, eventually leadership realizes that they are spending huge quantities of cash to chase their tails and that they’ve been going about the whole problem in the wrong way.

    In the NSA example, they need to realize that there are a huge number of ways in which radical Muslims can be created and that you can prevent only some of them and can only successfully monitor the bad apples at a high level and that there are going to be some that successfully commit attacks that you can’t just can’t prevent.

    If things go really well for the NSA, leadership’s final analysis will be that they could be 95% successful in preventing terrorist attacks with 5% of the data. Any more data leads to decreased rather than increased performance. Usually organizations that start down the over-analysis road learn that they already had the information they needed before they started down the road.

    I’ve learned in my 20+ years of crawling through mountains of data that the easiest way to hide a fact is to bury the person trying to find out fact in trivia.

    The fact that the NSA is seeking to bury itself in trivia should be cause for alarm in many different ways but probably not for the people the NSA is trying to stop.

  11. “I challenge anyone in this internet age to tell me with a straight face that you have an expectation of privacy in any electronic communication – cell phone, email, telephone in the VOIP age, whatever.”

    Right on! After all, it’s not like I live in a country whose founders wrote “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” into its Constitution or anything. So why would I expect to have any freedom from government surveillance of my personal communications?

  12. Jason, the word “privacy” does not appear in the constitution. Whatever `right’ to privacy we enjoy today as U.S. citizens remains a recent purely judicial construction.

    Definitions of the term “search” remain subjective. Example: leave the curtains in your house open. Are people who drive by on the street performing an “unreasonable search” of your house by looking inside? Opinions differ.

    Courts have held that people who effectively broadcast their activities over the wireless spectrum have given up any expectation of privacy. Nowadays, essentially everyone broadcasts many of their activities on the wireless spectrum, and in the future, we will broadcast all our activities over the wireless spectrum.

    I’m not saying yea or nay about what constitutes “unreasonable search” according to the fourth amendment. All I’m saying is that reasonable people can differ in their opinions when it comes to many modern technologies. The police, for instance, have argued that only someone violating the law would show massive hot spots inside their house on an IR scanner, so cops should have the right to scan every house indiscriminately. Courts demur, requiring a warrant. The problem there is: how do you tell whether cops (or anyone else) IR scan your house if they don’t tell anyone?

    Given the march of technology, our children are going to grow up not knowing what `privacy’ is. They’ll think of it as a quaint antique thing like button hooks or hoop skirts that has nothing to do with their lives. I’m not saying this is good or bad — don’t know about that. What I’m saying is that this trend is inevitable and irreversible.

    If you don’t believe me, visit the site what the internet knows about you for a short sharp shock. Is a website that scans your browser history performing an “unreasonable search”? Once again, opinions will differ.

  13. McLaren: “The right against unwarranted search IS in the constitution. This is generally included as a search of communication.”

    As for your browser example, when a browser allows this, this is considered a security vulnerability and when possible, fixed. A web site should not know what other web sites you visit.

  14. “One of the many issues we face is that our ability to collect data is growing exponentially faster than our ability to use the data in meaningful ways.

    Speaking as a database guy who has spent a lot of years trying to help business management make meaningful decisions using large quantities of data; there really is such a thing as TOO much data when trying to correctly analyze a situation.”

    An example might be money laundering regulation, where banks are required to file Currency Transaction Reports for every $10,000 or over transaction. These are so numerous and so routine as to be useless ( I suppose they might be useful after the fact of detection for purposes of developing evidence for prosecution ). Therefore, there regulators also need Suspicious Activity Reports to flag unusual financial activity.

    Or consider chess, where each player has 100% information about the other’s position, but nevertheless generally cannot fathom what that position means. I suspect that chess was so popular in Russia because the game is an exercise in howto act effectively while being subject to total surveillance.

    In terms of OODA loops: there’s lots of Observation but this does not therefore mean good orientation. My prior post – about Peak Oil – referred to action. Yes, you may know what I am actually up to – but what are you going to do about it? A two-year-old, in his playpen, may be keeping a very close eye on his family’s activities – but he can do very little about it.

  15. Let’s go back to square one. The post was about large government databases, government looking at email, and the huge amount of data due to the ubiquity of sensors. Just about all of the information we are talking about today is traffic that is voluntarily written or spoken and passed across the internet. This is like writing a postcard. Without encryption, anyone can read it. With encryption, it’s still problematic.

    FM replied to my assertion that the issue is really strengthening (or restoring) legal protections for unreasonable search, because basic web traffic is pretty freely available to just about anyone with the motivation to get it (he seems not to believe this), and one is a fool for acting as though it is not.

    Are we now arguing that the existence of these large data storage capabilities will encourage government to collect even more information (e.g., more direct surveillance using the technologies that Mclaren outlines) and thus unequivocally violating our legal protections? Because that’s a little different from the thesis originally presented.

    Using wireless technologies to eavesdrop on private conversations or peek through your walls pretty clearly crosses the boundaries of what should be protected by the fourth amendment, so perhaps the very existence of huge data filtering and storing facilities are too much of a temptation for government to cross the line. I just don’t happen to think reading my email, is crossing the line because I have no expectation of privacy there. I do, however, in my home.

    And BTW, last time I checked, “wire” didn’t mean “wireless” and search usually means “go into someone’s house and go through their stuff.” Perhaps I wasn’t clear that the government deliberately taking control of your webcam and mike (equivalent of looking through the walls to peek on you) is obviously over the line.
    Fabius Maxim replies: I agree with most of this, but for his characterization of my reply. Which I find a bit odd, since I said two things.

    (1) “I agree.”
    Most folks would find this reply to be unobjectionable.

    (2) “My point was that it is absurd to conflate the power of the government with those of hackers and kids. They are of grossly different orders of magnitude.”
    Does Arms Merchant serious disagree with this?

  16. As a further elaboration upon the constraints facing the modern state’s ability to act, consider that gangs are able to operate quite effectively notwithstanding prisons. Indeed prisons arguably enhance their ability to operate.

    Do not think this has resulted from some flaky, limp-wristed, decadent Western liberal do-goodedness. The Russian mafiya flourished in Stalin’s Russia notwithstanding and arguably because of its imprisonment in the Gulag..

  17. Its a good way to end unemployment. (Personally , I think it would be healthier and more environmentally friendly if they were hired to hand hoe cabbage fields .)
    Once people are aware of these fabulous monstadatoriums they can work with them . Swop your mobile with a stranger , daily . Wear hoodies , gloves and mixed dandruff from the cornershop’s DNA-Beater Clothes Exchange . Everyone include words such as Hydrogen Peroxide , Centrifuge , Meet Abdul , H7N2StrainX , Enhanced Nitro Mixture , etc , in every electronic post they send. Download the latest computor viruses and their antisera on Special offer at Amazon ; only attatch the antiserum on emails to your friends .

  18. In fact , this could give a boost to the whole electronics home industry sector . Wave identification techology resistant tablecloths to swathe yourself in when you venture out from your boron-plaster lined home , to tap into the local gov offices old fashioned wired tecnology , from your mobile disposable roamer PC ( $10 for 7 , Walmart this week .)

  19. FM: “Does Arms Merchant seriously disagree with this?

    Of course not. But the power imbalance is irrelevant with respect to one’s individual expectation of privacy, whether it’s a government snoop or a hacker since the information is already out there. Are you suggesting that we keep law enforcement from sifting emails but it’s open season for hackers, jihadists, and identity thieves? This is somewhat akin to disarming the police, and then only the criminals have guns.
    Fabius Maximus replies: The old song — surrender your freedoms to provide security. After all, there are bad guys out there. Boogeymen under the bed. Unlike you, I do not believe they are such a threat that we need to unleash the government and trash our Constitutional protections. Our society is neither so vulnerable nor frail as you appear to believe. Each generation faces threats, and must resist such songs of fear and surrender. I suggest that you buck up.

    “somewhat akin to disarming the police and then only the criminals have guns.”

    No, its not. The analogy is unfounded. Criminals have the ability to wield guns, and benefit from doing so.
    * I doubt “hackers, jihadists, and identity thieves” have the ability to monitor a large fraction of our communications — while the government does (or is building to that end).
    * I doubt these boogeymen would benefit by doing so, certainly not proportionate to the effort required.

  20. Context, context FM. Go back to my comments #4, #7 and #18. Nowhere do I suggest trashing Constitutional protections. I say there is a line to be drawn and that the government looking at internet traffic is like the government reading a bulletin board of your penned messages. That is one side of the line. The other is spying on you in your home, on your private conversations, etc.

    If you want to argue that one inevitably leads to the other, fine, let’s have that discussion, but I’m just saying that reading my emails doesn’t cross the line because I have no expectation of privacy on a party line/bulletin board. Sheesh.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Perhaps. Everyone draws the line where they will. I believe your statement in comment #22 speaks for itself, clearly: “Are you suggesting that we keep law enforcement from sifting emails but it’s open season for hackers, jihadists, and identity thieves?”

    I’d rather draw the line at reading emails, and fight it out here. Otherwise next we’ll be debating the merits of spying on you in your home.

    Oh, this just in — under the Patriot Act the government is already increasing the use of delayed notice search warrants (you cannot fight them, because you don’t know about them). And not, as originally promised, to fight terrorism. Now on drug dealers, but if this follows the pattern of other cracks in the constitutional, it will widen to become a standard police tool. As seen in the increased use and abuse of asset foreiture (see Wikipedia and the Forfeiture Enganges American Rights website.

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