posted on Jun, 23 2006 @ 06:22 PM
I can't believe this isn't a thread yet. If it is, I apologize, but I didn't see a post about it in this forum.
Okay, I'm going to present a shocking headline and try to present both sides to the argument as rationally and balanced as I can. I realize tempers
will flare on both sides, and a lot of people will be tempted to start a flame war, but please refrain from doing so and respect each other's
rational discussion on the issue. Here it is...
The U.S. Government acknowledged that it has been searching 10's to 100's of thousands of international banking transactions in the name of
That's the shocker. Now that the dust has settled, and questions about what else the Government has been monitoring are rising up, it is time to take
a very serious look at this issue.
At what point will the sacrifice of liberty in the name of security become too far removed from privacy to ever go back?
At what point will the pursuit of liberty undermine neccessary security?
According to Glen Simpson of the Wall Street Journal, here's how it works:
Anti-terrorism agents may query data from SWIFT, an international banking information traffic handler. The vast majority of their business comes from
international transactions, domestic transactions rarely go through them.
While an agent uses the database, an observer from SWIFT is monitoring their queries at all times and interjects if there is ever a question as to how
the query would help them fight terrorism. Though the information is still obtained, SWIFT may have the agent and query put up for review to his
superiors. This has already led to the case of one agent being removed for an inappropriate query in New York.
So what is appropriate for query?
If, for instance, I am a Pakistani immigrant cab driver in New York, and I had experienced trouble getting through an airport because my name was on a
list somewhere, and I wired money to my family back in Pakistan, would my transactions be monitored?
The answer? Probably not, unless there were a link to terrorism. Those facts alone being the only incriminating factors, my transactions would not
register a hit on a query or be monitored.
If, however, I were a caucasion native-born American professional who regularly wired money to a charity orphanage in Iran known for raising children
who become terrorists, then my transactions would merit a hit on the query.
What's that mean to me as a direct impact upon my life? Well, provided I'm never considered a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism, it means very
little. I can still commit all the tax fraud I want and never get queried (a nice perk for corporations). Not that I would, because I actually believe
my tax dollars do buy me a nice life, but I could. That's the important thing.
People need to be able to get away with little things sometimes. Something called "victimless crimes", like taxes, or running a stop sign, or
speeding, carries very little weight with the need to stamp it out. Terrorism as we see it today consists of bombings, ransom, extortion, killings,
robbery, and other crimes with a definite victim. Such crimes we would rather never occur again.
Yet the impetus used to fight terrorism is the very one which the United States has been bred for the last several generations to fight. Big Brother.
McCarthyism's demise left a lot of Americans bitter about profiling. We have been trained and bred to believe that the greatest evil was in the Nazi
SS, the Soviet KGB, the Pigs of Animal Farm, and Big Brother from 1984. That evil is a cage so terrible it needs no physical bounds. Those trapped
within will never escape short of the intervention of another enemy nation.
After reviewing what little public information has been released about the various U.S. Government monitoring programs, they sound quite reasonable in
what they claim to be doing. If that is all the government ever does, and all it ever intends to do, then I could probably live the rest of my
life content that maybe a few less people would die a horrible death at the expense of minor freedom for less than 0.0001% of the world's population
ever since the inception of the program. Especially if, assuming they were cleared of any terrorist connection, it represented no inconvenience to
anyone but those doing the investigating.
But anyone familiar with Maslowe's Hierarchy of Needs can understand the fear of a slippery slope in the sacrifice of liberty for security. How long
before the legitimate terrorists are finally reduced to the point that the institution itself must re-invent the definition of a terrorist to include
Government institutions rarely get disbanded. They are entities in and of themselves which seek the same thing everything else does, survival. The
entity survives on funding. the funding depends upon results. Results depend upon the number of available terrorists, the number of terrorists depends
on what is defined as a terrorist.
How long before not paying your taxes is not only considered a federal crime, but an act of terrorism? Do any of us really shed a tear if someone gets
busted for tax fraud? No. Our opinions range from "Don't do it" to "Don't get caught" for almost every victimless crime.
There may be some who feel that the Constituion of the United States no longer has meaning. I say it does. Regardless of who is running the show, as
long as there is a piece of paper we can point to and say "this, at the very core of Our Nation's constitution, is wrong," then I know there will
always be someone out there fighting for me, against tyranny both foreign and domestic.
Perhaps it is time we Americans consider the possibility that there is no turning back on surveillience of terrorists. It will continue to grow,
whether or not we are aware or whether we approve. Once terrorism is stamped out, it will be used, perhaps less often, but used nonetheless to prevent
Perhaps what must now be brought before Congress, to be inacted as a U.S. Constitutional protection for her own citizens, is a declaration of what
exactly constitutes a terrorist. Otherwise, through the natural course of institutional survival and evolution, we can expect to see the definition of
a "terrorist" to become so broad as to include anyone percieved as conspiring to break a law.
I open the floor to discussion. Please share with me your thoughts.
[edit on 6/23/2006 by thelibra]