Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What would Richard Nixon have done with the patriot act?

My biggest fear of government is of the well intentioned folks who are honestly trying to protect me. In their attempt to find the people who are truly trying to harm me they are putting in place an information collection process that puts my freedom at risk.

I remember an over zealous staff member under President Clinton who requested and received a series of FBI files on member of congress that he should not have accessed. The FBI kept the files as part of their ongoing tracking of threats to the members but, there was information that might be embarrassing to the individuals (like any of us might have in our backgrounds) but not really related to the performance of their duties or to threats against them.

The story at the time was that the staffer was looking for things to use politically. I believe the information would have been used, I would like to think without the President’s knowledge, if the press hadn’t gotten the story.

One thing history has taught us is that if something can be misused it will be. Can you picture a government official with access to information about the people he deals with (either personally or professionally) not accessing that information?

Remember that honest discussion of government policy can use a lot of the same vocabulary as the terrorists and that the people listening to a telephone conversation or reading an email are predisposed to put the statements into the most dangerous context.

It their job to see a threat so they will err on the side of caution and put the information in the database, just in case. Once it’s in the database it will be there forever.

No comments: