After the revelations that the US Government led by Obama had developed the wider and most advanced system of massive surveillance both in Internet and telephone calls, one could expect (making use of the common sense) that people would wake up from their lethargy and start requesting explanations and responsibilities to officials and authorities, the “watchmen”. Even if I was not totally shocked for the news (somehow you suspect it, it happens also in Spain), I would have liked to see this kind of healthy reaction in people. However, with the exception of libertarians all over the world, and some European leaders (guided for the jealousy of not having such a wonderful surveillance system I guess), most of the people reacted with total indifference (just 30% of Americans are aware of the case), they support the surveillance, or, what is worse, they reacted not against the American Government, but against the whistleblower Edward Snowden: he is a traitor. Not Obama, but Snowden.
Actually this case also reveals how weak are the beliefs of the people. Seven years ago, when Obama was challenging the surveillance doctrine implemented by his predecessor George W. Bush, the support among democrats for the State surveillance was just 37%. Now it is 64%. It is clear that some people don´t choose the person who defend their ideas, but they choose their ideas depending on the person they defend. Sad to say.
Some reactions went even beyond to the (deliberate) ignorance of the case or the support of surveillance to the detriment of their privacy. Some people started spreading the idea that “they don´t have anything to hide”, suggesting that if you don´t like to be spied it is because you have something (bad, of course) to hide. They don´t know how wrong they are…
The following passage is from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”:
- “But, after all, I did break one of your laws.”
- “Well, what do you think they’re for? (…) Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against-then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it.
You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted-and you create a nation of law-breakers-and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”
Is it not clear enough? Well, you have “nothing to hide” until the Government decides that you have something to hide. Actually the only way to have “nothing to hide” is when you are dead. If you are (still) alive, you always have something to hide. When you write an email to your wife with the place of your appointment with her for lunch, you have something to hide. When you send to your boss the new marketing strategy that will defeat the competition, you have something to hide. When you organize your holidays with your friends, you have something to hide. When you plan a secret party for you daughter, you have something to hide. When you tell your best friends the last problems you are having with your boyfriend or girlfriend, you have something to hide. When you share with your partner your sexual problems, you have something to hide. When you are telling your workmate how bastard and incompetent is your boss, you have something to hide. When you tell your mother that you have been diagnosed a serious disease, you have something to hide.
Something to hide not because you are a terrorist, but because that information may be used against you, and you don´t want anyone listen to or read it. Don’t forget that the people who read your emails, who listen to your phone calls and track your activity in Internet are people pretty similar to the one that you now are calling a traitor. They could be working under the orders of an officer of certain department in Washington or Brussels with connections with a competing company. Or they may be just perverts. Whatever. And they are reading your emails and listening to your conversations. Do you have anything to hide or not?
But things can be worse. Because you consider that your privacy is not important, you don´t have the right to consider that the privacy of others is not. And this brings to very dramatic situations: when you as journalist discover a new corruption case of the police or of the authorities, you have something to hide. When you are a victim of an abuse of the authority and want to make justice, you have something to hide. When you have a political different opinion with the authority and this could affect your life or even your physical integrity, you have something to hide. Don´t forget that in the USSR, the people who was not involved in political activities, or in the opposition to the dictatorial regimes, were not living extremely bad, because “they had nothing to hide”. Do you want that also for your country? Are you sure?
“No, no, but I give up my privacy in order to get the protection of the State against terrorists attacks”. Well, this could be the case. Even if I reject this argument, and even if I consider that the loop security/death of liberties are the best example of the self-fulfilling prophecy, let´s accept the argument… so far.
Imagine that you live in a great city, a marvellous one, with a lot of parks, services, theatres, cinemas, hospitals, nice prices, without traffic problems, etc. A wonderful city to live in. You and all the citizens are extremely happy. One day, and because a terrorist threat, the authorities close to access one district of the city (of a total of five). The people living there must be evacuated, and access to this area is prohibited. Many of the services, shops, hospitals, are not accessible any more. Some problems increase, there are no houses for all the people evacuated, traffic problems increase, delinquency, etc. But you accept it because it is for your security.
Some time later, and again, due to a terrorist threat the authorities are forced to close a second district of the city. The previous problems are now multiplied by two, more people living in less space and with less services like transport facilities, medical services, shops, etc. More homeless people, more unemployed people, more taxes to keep “the security system”, its officials and the services for the evacuated people… but you accept it, because it is for your security.
After a while, due to a new terrorist threat, a new district of the city, the third of five has to be closed. Until when are you able to accept this, in the name of “your security”? Does it make sense to live (and to survive to terrorist attacks) with this kind of life?
This is what is happening to your civil liberties. The terrorists did not win when they made the twin towers collapse. The terrorist did not win when they blew up the trains in Madrid, or the metro and buses in London. The terrorists did not win when they killed 4 people in Boston. The terrorists won when the Patriot Act was formulated. The terrorists won when Spanish people changed their vote after the attacks. The terrorists won when the surveillance in London was increased. The terrorists win not because of their acts, but because we accept to give up our civil liberties, our freedom and our way of life due to their threat. Then is when they win. And they already did it.
Source of the image.