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Is Big Brother watching too closely?

In National News, Opinion, Politics on June 19, 2013 at 2:06 pm

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In his book, “1984,” author George Orwell noted, “If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.” Even though he published his most famous work in 1949, Orwell seems to have had a sixth sense about the future of government scrutiny.

Orwell’s dystopian society may seem too dark and ominous to be believable, but given the recent events surrounding the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance operations, it may be more reality than fiction. As more information is revealed about these activities, congressional hearings are turning up little in the way of explanations by those in charge.

So why is it so offensive that the government would eaves drop on phone calls and emails to help prevent another 9-11 disaster? According to officials, hundreds of potential threats have been thwarted thanks to the tireless efforts of those who invade the privacy of law-abiding Americans. Unfortunately, since all of that information is classified, there is no evidence to show the public that corroborates their claim.

Civil liberties watchdog groups pounced on this story as soon as the information was leaked to the press. The question begs asking, however – under which rock were the leaders of these groups living where they didn’t think this was going on already? To the bigger point, who cares?

Modern society is full of surveillance cameras, listening devices and internet-based tracking systems, only a tiny fraction of which are used by government agencies. Most of them are operated privately to collect marketing or usage information or provide security. And people just accept it. It’s there, there’s nothing that can be done about it and just part of life in a technologically advancing society.

ringyIn the early 1900’s, “party lines” were the main method for which residential customers were provided with telephone service. Everyone on the same circuit would have to wait their turn to use the telephone and simply agree not to listen in on each other’s conversations. Of course, this was a source of great amusement in early radio and television comedy sketches. Today, it would be viewed as a huge invasion of privacy and thoroughly unacceptable.

Barreling through continually updated technology requires that people must adapt at a faster pace. Users of that technology should be aware that anything posted on the internet or passed through an electronic broadcast system (i.e.: cell phones, Wi-Fi, etc.) could be intercepted without their permission or knowledge. There’s no telling who is listening or reading any of it or what will become of that information.

If the NSA or other government agencies are tracking information, the assumption should be that there is something worth listening to. If they’re violating the law based on having no just cause for acting on that information then it’s probably best to let the courts iron it out, not congress. The last thing anyone wants is for the one group in America with the most detrimental secrets – and with the hardest time keeping them – to be in control of everyone else’s.

Whether there is legitimate cause for any branch of the U.S. government to spy on its own people is still debatable. As it is, President Obama now finds himself in defense of an administration whose platform for election included condemnation of the previous one for the same kinds of anti-privacy actions.

In a post-9/11 America, the Bush administration was constantly under fire for what liberals saw as a violation of privacy and infringement of civil liberties all in the name of national security. As it turns out, what’s good for the goose really does appear to be good for the gander. The truth is, Democrat or Republican, as long as terrorists threaten the free nations of the world there will always be some loss of personal privacy in the name of security.

In “1984,” Orwell presented a future devoid of personal freedoms and independent thought, not protected from terror but from free choice. America’s leaders have a choice – to be diligent or let history repeat itself in the name of popular opinion. In the meantime, the citizenry will have choices to make as well – in the next elections.

Gery L. Deer is an independent journalist and business writer from Jamestown, Ohio. More at the new website, http://www.deerinheadlines.com.

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