Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What if the alarms were turned off at the Watergate?

*I* haven’t noticed anyone talking about why specifically it’s a bad thing that the Bush administration is attempting to broaden their powers at the expense of our freedoms. Lots of generic complaints, but no specifics about real people. I think polling data reflects this, I kinda remember polling results showing a majority of people ok with the idea of giving up privacy rights if the goal is to spy on terrorists. Of course, the rights that are given up are nebulous things like Judicial and Legislative oversight. These ideas don’t mean much to average people, so why haven’t liberals given some concrete hypothetical’s (besides the fact that “concrete hypothetical” is an oxymoron)?
Suppose an NSA staffer decides to stalk an ex? Who would catch him/her? Suppose an NSA staffer, hired in the ‘90’s (democrat), decides to spy on prominent republicans, digs up or even manufactures some dirt, and send it off to Howard Dean (who screams with delight). There is no outside group to make sure to catch that kind of thing, and republican members of congress are too busy running everything to be able to devote the kind of attention needed (because those democrats are being so obstructionist). Putting it that way is a way of saying, hey, republicans, we care enough about you to want to protect you. Sure, nobody believes that, but it becomes harder to dismiss the concern about rights as simple democrat hysteria. Another way I think of it, without editorial comment, is to ask what would have happened if there were no alarms at the Watergate, no security guards patrolling in 1972? At least we wouldn’t have the word “gate” stuck on the end of every scandal. So we still need or need to restore those silly legislative or judicial oversight mechanisms.
Seriously, there is only a little outcry that we have prisoners being held indefinitely without trial in Cuba (not even over the irony of doing that in a communist country). Clearly a lot of people are thinking something like that any middle easterner we pick up must be guilty of something, our troops wouldn’t (deliberately) make a mistake. Also, detention by the US is probably no worse than their normal life. We need to be talking about some 1984-type stories, that is, coming up with some hypothetical’s that could fit into everyday life, to get people thinking differently. This should be more possible in the next few months as people start thinking about upcoming elections.

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