To those of you who haven’t been paying attention, a government organization has been authorized to track the frequency, duration, and recipient of the phone calls we make from cell phones provided by major cell phone companies. They claim that they don’t look into the content of the phone calls (meaning they don’t listen in).
The bulk of the US is pissed because it infringes on their right to privacy. Many also argue that one thing will lead to another and pretty soon we’ll have a big, nasty situation on our hands where the government is watching our every move. In political science this is the “slippery slope argument.”
I have also heard that it is unnecessary because it will be ineffective at catching terrorists. Is catching 1 or 2 terrorists a year enough justification for this action on behalf of the government? (I think yes; nothing happens to me, and a bad guy gets caught)
I do find it kinda spooky that people may be listening in on my phone calls. How dare someone listen in on me calling my 4-year-old nephew to tell him he doesn’t know anything because he’s cheering for the Red Wings!
Don’t worry: I’m not gonna go with the “well, I don’t have anything to hide” argument because I know that’s not what my opponents are saying. I certainly hope that my friends on Facebook wouldn’t have any terrorist actions they’d like to hide, anyway…
And I can also acknowledge that it’s a bit of an invasion of our right to privacy. However, this is pretty weak also since there is no guaranteed right to privacy written in the Constitution. There certainly is an implied right (which is why sodomy and birth control are now legal! Yay sodomy and birth control!) so I won’t dismiss this claim completely just yet. Part of our government’s job is to protect our people from bad guys. That’s a Constitution thing. When you have an explicit Constitution thing up against an implied Constitution thing, it’s hard for the implied one to win.
As for the slippery slope: that’s a tough one to prove. People also argue that allowing gay marriage will lead to people being allowed to marry their dogs. Prove it. Habeaus corpus, yo. And if it does lead to more blatant infringement on our rights, we will worry about it then. Right now the fact that the government is recording how long I tell my nephew he’s brainless doesn’t stop me from telling him he’s brainless.
It’s the principle of the situation that bothers most people. It certainly can’t be the consequences, because, there really aren’t any. We all still get to tell our nephews that they’re brainless. This government behavior doesn’t affect my life at all, actually.
Some might be concerned that life will go on as usual…until you make the wrong phone call to the wrong person and then Big Brother will wrongly prosecute you. Yikes; that concerns me, too. I just don’t know how likely this is. I’m not saying I’m gonna rely on the integrity of the government to keep me safe, because we all know that the government has screwed up quite a bit. I just don’t know how real of a concern this is. Someone getting wrongly thrown in jail because of a phone call they made to a Muslim thanking him for a kind favor sounds like the stuff of movies. Maybe I’m not paranoid enough.
Is it the government’s job to be our parent? Well…yes, actually. In a sense. They get to say things like “don’t kill people” and “don’t steal from people “and “don’t threaten our family.” Because people are stupid, and they do really stupid things sometimes. We all need a bit of parenting. We all need to have someone to punish us when we do something we ought not to. Like when I make my nephew cry. Perhaps if my sister-in-law was listening to our phone calls, she might not let me talk to Riley anymore.
Note: I am fairly certain that with the exception of the time I shot Riley in the eye with a Nerf bullet, I have never made him cry.
And finally, my friend Joe made a strong argument that this government behavior is an unwarranted search and seizure. They are taking down this information from us without warrant. Really, they aren’t taking anything from us. I still get to have that phone call with my dumb 4-year-old nephew who thinks the Red Wings are gonna dominate the Stanley Cup, even though they’re already knocked out. But yes, although we aren’t losing anything, it can be argued that they are doing something they ought not to without warrant, which is a blatant violation of Constitutional rights. Then it comes down to which is more important: protecting the country, or protecting its citizens from the government. Which is what Joe and I disagree on. I’m ok with that.
Oh wait as I was typing this a Facebook friend made the argument that if they have been collecting this data for years, why do major crimes still take place and no one has been caught yet? Lizy’s response: if they haven’t caught anyone yet…what’s the concern?
It is very unfortunate that the whistle-blower got in as much hot water as he did. I am not sure what his consequences were, and I appreciate that we had someone who risked everything to inform us of this controversial action.
One final thought: the government claims that they aren’t listening to our phone calls; just recording the frequency, duration, and recipient of them. Shouldn’t anyone who’s concerned about getting wrongfully prosecuted be arguing that they should start listening to our phone calls so that they know that we aren’t up to no good?