Up@dawn 2.0

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trading Liberty for Security

With our professor's generous offer some run support and his personal urging, I'm posting my extra credit submission for Exam 1.  I chose a DQ we had in class, but didn't have the time to discuss that is near and dear to my heart.

Is the threat of insecurity and fear of violent death great enough for most people to override their desire for personal freedom?  Is safety more important to you than liberty?  Does it bother you that the government may be monitoring your calls, emails, etc.?

The response to the Boston Marathon Bombing in 2013 was the apex of this issue in my eyes.  Over 11 years after 9/11, we allowed what were objectively two amateur terrorists with a pipe bomb they learned how to build over the internet to shut down a major metropolitan city.  Worst still, our response brought about the very tyranny we profess immunity from through our system of constitutional protections.  A picture speaks a thousand words, so I’ll put these up for viewing:

There may be the word ‘POLICE’ somewhere on the officers kit, but those are military tactics used on American citizens.  I know this from experience, because the tactics, techniques, & procedures used in these pictures are exactly the same ones I used in the Army while deployed to Baghdad and Mosul, Iraq.  House to house, entry with or without permission of the occupants, no probable cause or warrant present.  

Law enforcement officers treated U.S. citizens to the same invasive methods we used to combat insurgents among the population in war zones.  So yes, I would say as a society, we have unequivocally allowed fear to override our desire for personal freedom.

The tipping point in an orderly society and freedoms allowed is always a fine line, but in 1791, we set out the basic rules that established what that line is in the United States of America.  Judging by those pictures, we use them when things are going well and discard them when the going gets tough.  Shame on us for abandoning our principles. 

…as to the NSA and its mass collection program, it’s criminal, pure and simple in my eyes.  There is no ‘may’ in this question; it’s happening and the Snowden leaks prove it.  If their actions were legal, Presidents, Senators, & NSA officials wouldn’t be lying about the capabilities used in collection, and what they do collect. 

The NSA facility near Bluffdale, Utah that came online recently, has an estimated to ability to store somewhere around 12-billion gigabytes.  If that amount of data storage wasn’t scary enough, the ability to upgrade that collection capacity with future technology has to be.  Let's put the potential for growth in perspective.  Think about the flash/thumb drives many people carry.  When flash drives were first introduced in 2000, they had an 8-megabyte (MB) capacity.  Today the top tier flash drives have 128-gigabyte capacity.  That translates to an increase of 16,384% in less than a generation.   Moore's law tells us to expect even more storage capacity in the future, which will raise the ability of NSA storage capacity from what it has today to amounts that are unimaginable in our minds.  

So ask yourself the question, why does your government need that capacity?  Just the scope of this issue is overwhelming.  But it is, to my mind, the defining question of liberty in the 21st century.
Safety will never be more important than liberty for me.  There is only so much risk you can mitigate in life, and I for one, don’t want to voluntary give up any of my freedoms out of fear towards that risk.  Sorry to say, I don’t like the chances of liberty winning this fight.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Billy. I hope we'll all read it and think hard about the real value of security and liberty.

    BTW, everybody: Billy got all 15 available bonus points for this. With exam 2 coming soon I hope there will be many thoughtfully prepared (emphasis on PRE) extra credit mini-essays this time.

  2. Anonymous10:04 AM CDT

    Teddy go up 3 section 10
    FQ: Leibniz used his Principle of Sufficient Reason to come  to Alexander Pope's conclusion of "__ __,__ __."

    DQ: Do you believe this world is "The best of all possible worlds, the one with the least amount of evil needed to achieve that result?"

    Link: http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Leibniz.html