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The End Of Privacy And Personal Freedom In The United States

“Kathleen, your guy Lee Harrison wrote recently that he ‘had to wonder…if we Americans come from the land of liberty, then why do I feel like I have less freedom in the United States than anywhere else I’ve lived in the Americas?

“Really? He had to wonder about that? And you had to publish his confusion?

“Maybe you’ve already forgotten about 9/11. Maybe you didn’t lose any friends or relatives. Or maybe you just don’t have even the slightest bit of empathy with people who did. Lucky you, I guess, though I’m quite certain I would not want to trade places with you.

“You’re right about Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay, and this is not just true for the Americas. It’s true for a lot of places that aren’t the United States because (now pay attention) because those places aren’t targets of terrorism. Could it really be so simple? Well, yes, it could.

“Could the United States do this more effectively and less intrusively, say like the Israelis have been doing for many long years. Well, no, not really, we have this sticky problem with our own Constitution (maybe you’ve heard of it, it’s a document that kinda directs the way laws are supposed to work, though we do seem to be somewhat selective about how and when we apply it). But you see, the Israelis use a tool known as ‘profiling’ and that nasty old Constitution pretty much makes that tool against the law. So, we’re kind stuck with the blunt-edged tools of treating everyone equally instead of screening people out of the process.

“Let’s see how things go for Brazil when they host the Olympics. You might just see them break ranks with the lax security precautions of their South and Central American neighbors. The might have some concerns with becoming a target. I don’t know how the laws work in Brazil. Maybe they can profile, maybe they can use other sharper tools than we do.

“But that’s not really so much the point. Really the point was to put your tiny little mind to rest so you could stop wondering about these all too obvious things.”

–Peter G., United States

Our guy Lee Harrison responds:

“Thanks for writing. Oddly, I agree with a couple of your points; although I have a different perspective.

“The attacks of 9/11 had two negative impacts. One had to do with the individuals who lost their lives, their families, and the effect on the entire population who grieved on their behalf.

“The second impact was on American society, though not due to the attacks themselves but rather our government’s reaction to them. The loss of freedom we’ve experienced since 9/11 is the terrorists’ long-term victory. We now deprive ourselves of rights that we’ve had for more than 200 years. Bin Laden may have foreseen the loss of life…but I doubt that he foresaw the implosion of freedom that we’d bring on ourselves.

“And, yes, the United States is indeed a terror target, while places like Uruguay and Brazil are not. But this makes sense when you look at the actions of those countries abroad. There’s no reason for anyone to want to strike back at Uruguay, for example. They’re neither aggressors nor targets of aggression. Their self-chosen role in the world is different.

“It’s odd that you’d bring up the U.S. Constitution in this way. Yes, I’m familiar with what it is. The Fourth Amendment is a particular favorite of mine (along with the Second). If the U.S. government chose to abide by the Fourth Amendment as written–and upheld by 20th-century case law–I’d probably be happy with the levels of privacy that Americans would enjoy. Try having a look at it for yourself.

“Unbelievably, there are those who believe that real terrorists are still exchanging bomb designs via e-mail and planning terrorist attacks over their cell phones. Yet, as implausible as this is, this paradigm is being used to justify today’s citizen-spying.

“I’ve finally matured enough to realize that what I think, or write, will make no difference with respect to conditions in the United States. And I won’t attempt to pass judgment on U.S. policy. The actions taken by the government have causes and effects that are far beyond my understanding.

“But what each of us can do is decide whether or not we find the intrusion on our privacy acceptable. We can decide to remain at the center of the world’s conflict, or not. We can live with traced phone calls, scanned e-mails, tracked internet usage…or not.

“If you’re happy with the levels of freedom and privacy that remain in the United States today, then by all means, sit back and enjoy. More intrusions and restrictions are coming your way soon.

“But the people who want to enjoy the freedom and privacy of yesteryear need to know that those options are available, too. That’s a word I can help to spread.”

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