It’s Our Democracy, Not Our Privacy, that the NSA Threatens

I was bothered by yesterday’s Sunday editorial in the New York Times about not letting fear of foreign hackers erode the move to reign in and put safeguards on the massive government spying program run largely by the National Security Agency. This is the one that Edward Snowden revealed with such success (although not for his own personal fortunes. He remains, sadly, in exile in Moscow.) What bothered me was not the overall sentiments or political viewpoint – yes, we need to reign in, a lot, the NSA – but the reasons the Times gives for doing so. It named respecting or not violating our privacy, twice, as the principal reason, along with unnamed other “civil liberties.” It’s not my privacy I worry so much about. I don’t really give a rat’s ass if the government is watching me watch porn, or whatever. What I worry is about is my democracy. A government cannot long endure, at least not one that is a government by and for the people, that has a situation where a small portion of the governed are spying routinely and massively on the governed. What you get at best is a kind of paternalistic managing class. At worst you get a semi or not so semi police state. Let’s not talk so much about privacy when we talk about how and whether these internal spying programs continue. Let’s talk about our democracy, and the right rules for a vibrant democracy.

 

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