US Government Talks The Talk On Privacy & Civil Liberties, But Isn't Walking The Walk

from the some-good,-some-bad dept

The federal government very often seems to say one thing when it comes to privacy and civil liberties, while doing exactly the opposite. The Commerce Department has come out with a new report calling for a Privacy Policy Office that will look at commercial use of personal information, to make sure that privacy is protected. At the same time, President Obama has nominated Jim Dempsey to serve on the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which is supposed to "review the civil liberties impact of anti-terrorism policies and programs." There are few people who I think would be better for the job. For a while now, Dempsey has been president for public policy of the Center for Democracy and Technology, a group that has fought, quite strongly, for civil liberties in the technology arena. Apparently, President Bush also nominated Dempsey for the same board... but the Senate never bothered to confirm him (or anyone that Bush nominated for the board).

Of course, it seems odd to see our government pushing for privacy and civil liberties at the same time that it's been working so hard to dismantle many aspects of the 4th Amendment, which is used to protect Americans' privacy. It makes you realize that many of the decision makers in the government probably don't even realize how its actions have regularly gone against the 4th Amendment and basic civil liberties. The administration seems to be offering lip service to the concept of privacy -- and I have little doubt that they actually mean what they say. But, what they don't realize is how their actions, when it comes to specific situations, appear to violate those very concepts. In many ways, it's like those who crusade for stronger copyright laws, but regularly infringe themselves. They rationalize it away, by saying that there's a "good reason" for doing what they do, without realizing that it highlights what appears to be hypocrisy between their words and their actions.

Filed Under: government, jim dempsey, privacy

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2010 @ 10:13am

    The system is always a balance. There are the interests of the individual, the interests of the state, and the interests of the masses as a whole.

    Speed limits are things that are not in the interest of the individual (most guys speed given the chance), but they are in the interest of the state (traffic safety, transport, commerce), and they are in the interests of the masses as a whole (longer lives, safer roads).

    The balance between public security and individual rights will be a fight that likely will never end in the US until the US ends.

    Much of the early amendments of the constitution were written in anger against an oppressive british monarchy. The terms were relevant in those times (militias, anyone?), but have lead to many legal dead ends and disagreements.

    The current world situation, where war is no waged by huge armies but rather one idiot with a bomb at a time means that the entire premise of much of the constitution of the US actually makes it very much at risk for attacks from the enemy. 9/11 is an example of people using the US systems, rules, and policies to inflict death and suffering upon a significant number of people.

    Remember, more people died in the 9/11 attack than US soldiers in Iraq in 10 years. That was only a single attack.

    The rights you so cherish are also the things that could be used to kill you. That is a really painful piece of reality right there.

    In times of need, the government (not Obama personal, just as it was not Bush personally) need to push the limits of the constitution to try to find ways to fight crime, to do what is right for the masses, while sometimes having to box in the rights of the individual. That will always be the fight, it didn't start with Obama and it won't end with Obama. If you think voting him out (or keeping him in) would change things, you are sadly mistaken. Constitutionally, there is very little space for the Government to work, and no matter who is in power, the struggles will continue.

    Your enemies are loving it. Every 4th amendment win, every 1st amendment victory is also a victory for them, as they win the right to continue to make hateful speech, to hide their criminal activities, and to attack innocent people where they live.

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