Washington Post: Yes, We Need To Give Up Liberty For Security

from the oh-really-now? dept

By now you’ve probably seen the paraphrase of a Ben Franklin quote that those who give up liberty for security, deserve neither (he said similar things a few different ways, but the standard actual quote is: “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”) Whatever the actual quote is, there is quite a lot of truth to it. Giving up liberty for the sake of security rarely works out as planned. Either way, it appears that the editorial board of the Washington Post is either wholly unfamiliar with the quote, or believes it to be untrue. It has come out with an editorial arguing in favor of extending the FISA Amendments Act (and against an ACLU/EFF challenge to the law, to be heard today at the Supreme Court, even with the crazy weather) saying that it is perfectly fine to “give up liberty” for security:

Discomfort with the government’s capacity, technical or legal, to collect and retain massive amounts of personal information is understandable. But the 2008 FISA amendments sought a compromise between two essential goals: preserving American liberty and robustly defending Americans’ lives and property. We favored the law and believe that it should be extended.

That’s somewhat ridiculous. After all, as we’ve noted over and over again, almost no one seems to understand what’s actually in the FISA Amendments Act, in part because there’s a secret interpretation of it that only the government knows. This means that many, many people, including those in Congress, are clearly misrepresenting what’s in the law. The fact that the NSA refuses to say how often it has used this secret interpretation to spy on Americans should be a pretty big warning sign — especially as politicians who are either clueless or ignorant claim that it can’t be used to spy on Americans.

And really, this is the root of the “don’t give up liberty for security” quote. Once you do that, you’re cooked, because it’s a situation that only expands in one direction. Those who seek to hold back liberty will always make use of scare stories and FUD to seek to be able to spy further. You would think that the editorial board of the Washington Post, which has been covering this kind of mess for quite some time, would actually have some sort of ability to look back at history. Apparently its historical knowledge is close to nil.

Filed Under: , , , , ,
Companies: washington post

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Washington Post: Yes, We Need To Give Up Liberty For Security”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Seegras (profile) says:

Re: I'm just gonna say it

And I’m going to amend it: If you do, you won’t get neither.

Security is also “security from being imprisoned without a charge”, security is also “security from not being taken out of your home at night by the secret police”, security is also “security from an unfair process”, security is also “security from not being bombed by a drone because your neighbour happens to host a wanted criminal”, security is also “security from being groped by some customs official”. And so on.

What you get if you give up liberty is a totalitarian state. And you’ll will find that in a totalitarian state, you’ve got no security at all.

ChrisH (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I agree. The real question we should be asking is if we are getting good value (in terms of lost liberty and monetary costs) for the security measures we have. For example I think the TSA is a complete waste of money and turns air travel into a humiliating experience but I’m perfectly fine with having to drive on the right side of the road instead of it being a choice.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I wouldn’t bother normally but…
Your adding nothing to the discussion, instead hoping to SEO your candidate to success. Its not going to happen.
I would hope that everyone just reports everything you post so it goes the hell away until such time your here to actually participate instead of promote your candidate.

Now DIAFIRL and go away, the grownups are trying to talk.

Anonymous Coward says:

They aren't even addressing the law yet

They’d love to get to a point where they can address the constitutionality of the law. This whole supreme court case is just to find out whether they can claim standing without absolute evidence that they were wiretapped.

(and we’ve seen previously where even absolute evidence is not enough if the feds are allowed pull out the state secrets card).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They aren't even addressing the law yet

In cases where the government is effectively arguing that there is no one that has standing to question a particular law, I think the concept of standing should be thrown out.

We are all harmed by the government doing unconstitutional things in our name, regardless of whether they are doing unconstitutional things to us, or others.

:Lobo Santo (profile) says:

How will history remember us, in this time?

(blurb from fictional(?) future historical article)

The Peoples’ Federal Republic of Amerika was one of the most successful fascist regimes of the 21st century, enduring primarily thru a campaign of relentless brainwashing where the oppressed citizens fervently believe in their ‘freedom’ despite ever-mounting evidence to the contrary…

out_of_the_blue says:

The "Naive Mike" makes an appearance.

Is it credible that you believe the Washington Post to be honest in any degree? To have any editorial policy except worship power? Do you NOT know that it’s the establishment paper just as Pravda? — No. — So why do you write as if you’re that naive? — It’s one of the humorous mysteries that hold me here.

At #3 AC: “Search Google, YouTube & Facebook” are just corporate fronts for the power structure that inflicts on us the “Patriot Act” and NDAA.

Let me give ya a sports analogy: The team owners not only own both teams, but the playing field, control the rules and the referees, get a slice of the concession, own the TV rights and all branded products, and get the gov’t to tax you to build the playing field and roads specially for it, while they (the NFL for sure) are tax-exempt. — It’s not juse win-win for them, it’s WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN in every area. So too has the ruling class got EVERY every area under nearly total control.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re: The "Naive Mike" makes an appearance.

ootb, you are going through an insanity surge. This one is particularly aggressive since you seem to be in a blind rage attack spree against Mike (amusingly you got it right this time, he actually wrote it!). I recommend you resume taking your medicine or the white clothing people will take you back to the insane asylum once again. Sure it was nice last time they did it since you stayed a long time away from TD not bothering us with the sewage you spew every time you post.. Never mind, forget the medicine.

ChrisH (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I doubt that it’s really possible today to go the other direction. Even if one country reverted to having a much smaller central government through a violent upheaval, it would eventually be conquered or absorbed by one of the remaining countries with a much stronger government. To truly go backwards, it would have to happen on a global scale, but what’s the point since the size and scope of government will just naturally increase again?

The Real Michael says:

Practically every major “news”-paper is filled with op-ed propaganda, hit-man pieces, agenda-driven columns, et al. That the Washington Post so readily disregards our rights and freedoms, i.e. the foundation on which this country was built, should come as a surprise to noone.

If you want to experience security (state hospitality at its finest), try living in a prison. There you’ll be fed, clothed, bathed, and closely monitored at all times — you’ll have everything you need, except freedom. This is in essence what the Washington Post and others are pushing for.

History doesn’t lie: most of the greatest atrocities were committed under the guise of peace and security, such as Hitler disarming the German people and putting up posters telling people to spy on and turn in dissidents, before all hell broke loose. Much like our country, the Germans were all wrapped up in their national pride, believing themselves to be the ‘superior race’ to the point where they became blind or indifferent to the atrocities they were committing.

As the old saying goes, those who forget about history are doomed to repeat it.

Josef Anvil (profile) says:

Why Terrorism?

Why all the focus on giving up liberties to prevent terrorism? Murder in the US over the past 10 years, accounts for about 100x more deaths than terrorism. If giving up liberties wasn’t necessary to combat murder then why is it needed in the “war on terror”.

Makes me laugh every time I see or hear “war on terror”.

Rob says:

Re: You make a good point about priorities

Maybe instead of wiretapping, obnoxious airport security, secret laws, etc., we could seize all the cigarettes

Am I kidding? Am I serious? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not.

But think about it. The CDC estimates 443,000 US deaths per year from smoking. That’s almost 150 September Elevenths every year.

If we were to trade some liberty to save lives, wouldn’t that be a better deal? I’m sure that a look at the CDC death statistics could suggest a few other better trade-offs as well.

Or is terrorism different somehow? Is it because 3000 people died spectacularly in just a few specific locations in one day, vs. the 6000 or so people who died that day of cancer, heart and lung disease, one-by-one, in hospitals, homes and hospices?

Rob says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think I agree with you about the Post’s viewpoint, but one thing that wouldn’t be reversed if we had a Republican administration is the “war on terror” and the associated infringements on freedom and liberty. Allowing the executive to get away with totalitarian BS is totally bi-partisan. Did Repub congresses try to stop Bush? Did Dem congresses, either? How about the Repubs’s stopping Obama? Or the Dems?

Congress has abdicated its role in providing checks and balances to presidential power, and neither party is interested in changing that. And Presidents like the power, and neither party’s candidates are willing to give that up either.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Congress has abdicated its role in providing checks and balances to presidential power, and neither party is interested in changing that. And Presidents like the power, and neither party’s candidates are willing to give that up either.”

And yet we are willing to elect and send the same @sshats back every cycle.

I don’t care what your party affiliation is if you want to send a clear message (If your tired of being fed the same crap year after year) don’t vote for ANY incumbent. Once we have cleared out the people that have been bought and paid for a couple of times, they might actually remember who they work for. [Hint: it isn’t all those suits that send lobbyists your way, it is the ones that pull the lever every 2, 4, or 6 years.]

So PULL A DIFFERENT LEVER THIS YEAR. Vote them all out of a job!


I now return you to your regularly scheduled OOTB rants.

Rob says:

Re: Re: Doesn't matter (even though you're probably right)

The president should avoid abusing the law and take pains to uphold the Constitution as promised, even when the going gets tough. But if the Congress and courts are asleep and unwilling to check his power, all bets are off.

If we knew that the cops would henceforth not enforce speed limits and traffic laws, we’d pretty much obey them, right? Except in extenuating circumstances, like, you know, we overslept. Then we might do 45 in a school zone and kind of sort of roll through a few stop signs where no one was probably coming. We’re good drivers, and it’s not like we do it all the time. But if we’re late, the boss is gonna get pissed, and he’s already in a bad mood this week.

Keeping the executive accountable isn’t just for the conscience of the president. It’s why we have 2 other branches of government. And they’re the ones who are really failing us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Doesn't matter (even though you're probably right)

I agree…
The demise of the United States started with the corruption of privileges. The founders of the country wanted a balanced government with three parties to balance the creation, execution and implementation of laws. Basically the high school teachings’ equivalent of our checks and balances system.
When exactly this started falling apart will probably be debated for years, but it’s a given fact that the Executive privilege has been used to conceal rather than protect during both the Obama and Bush administrations.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Like it wouldn’t spout fascist ideas of “giving up liberty”?

You’ve totally lost perspective. To you, this Obama Bush probably even looks “left-wing”. I only see authoritarian extremists. Including that looney that wrote the above Washington-Post article.

Behold: http://politicalcompass.org/charts/us2012.php
Where are there the champions of liberty? Well, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson probably, but they are both not extremely libertarian.

skinny poppy (profile) says:

We are turning into a nation of wimps and wusses by the idiots in government who insist there’s a terrorist/hacker/exploit/fill in the blank threat under the bed, around the corner, waiting for the flight/bus/train/subway you’re about to get on, bugging your phone/home/workspace, tracking your car, etc.

Excuse me, but those very government officials have no clue about the internets. Most of them probably believe Al Gore invented it. And their complete lack of knowledge is the best reason for them to leave their grubby little mitts and their increasingly ill-informed, poorly-intended laws as far away as possible.

Ser Korz says:

_____”Those willing to give up liberty for security deserve niether and will lose both” ! quote Ben Franklin . [ How true ].

_Land of the brave going to Hell? That where one goes when one becomes a Godless cowered; Sent there by oneself in ones foolishness. Not by God![ read the chicken little story] .

_”I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing:

therefore choose life,

that both thou and thy seed may live: {30:20} That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, [and] that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he [is] thy life, and
the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land ….” King James Bible Deuteronomy Page 136.
quote from I Am That I Am.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...