Additional Clarification

2001-10-8 01:57:00

Larry asks:
"Do you not support giving police some additional powers to conduct surveillance of suspected terrorists?"

To such a question I would have to ask, what powers? What powers do you think the police forces currently lack that we should give them?

I think my point that caused your concern was that I do not see surveillance as the core threat to freedom for, as I said, in a society that is not corrupt and honors the principle of freedom we would have little need to restrict the freedom of police enforcement as far as surveillance goes because the power would not be misused.

In a corrupt state it wouldn't matter a lot how much surveillance power is delegated to enforcement officials for some will do what they think they have to do despite the law. Even now we have just launched a spy satellite that can discern images of only a couple inches in diameter from 200 miles in space. I don't think there is any law restricting them from watching you barbecue in your back yard if they desire On the other hand, this type of surveillance would cost many thousands of dollars so you would have to be an important person to warrant this type of attention. Hopefully they can use this technology to spot Osama Bin Laden.

The important points in the preservation of freedom are three things:

(1) Have a minimum number of laws.

(2) These laws should be accepted by the majority of people and be just.

(3) The people need to be educated on the principle of freedom and its value.

If a person raised a red flag with authorities in a state with too many laws and they decide that want to build a case they will do it no matter what the laws of surveillance are.

Just the other day an authority on TV was questioning why Bill Clinton did not indict Osama Bin Laden when he had the chance. Clinton said he did not have the evidence, but the retort was that we can indict a ham sandwich if we want it bad enough.

It doesn't matter which country you live in throughout the world, it is wise to not live life in such a way that would raise a red flag. Innocent or not, this could make a person's life very uncomfortable.

As long as there are people necessary to enforce laws this problem of overstepping bounds will never be completely eliminated for we are all human with flaws. The best we can hope for in the near future is that this problem will be kept to a minimum.

The free flow of information is the best insurance against this for when there is an injustice and it is exposed through the internet and other means this tends to hold the abuse in check.

The main problem presented in Orwell's Book 1984 was not that they had monitors in every room watching the people (as undesirable as this would be), but that they had hundreds of rules and restrictions that had to be religiously followed or Big Brother would come get you.

Eliminate the Big Brother rules and restrictions (unjust authorities) and you eliminate the need for monitoring the citizens.

As for as whether or not we should give authorities increased power of surveillance in the current situation, I would say this:

The government should have what it truly needs to prevent a disaster like this from repeating itself. The claim is that they need more power to monitor foreign nationals. I am not familiar with all the powers they have now by law, but if they really need more power to keep track of suspicious foreigners, I would support this action for a two year period. After two years, this would expire unless renewed for another two years by Congress. I do not think increased power of surveillance of U.S. citizens is necessary because of the current crisis.

The trouble with many laws giving authorities increased power is that they have no expiration date. We would be much safer if an expiration date was attached to every increase of power and only to be renewed by an act of Congress.

Every "temporary" tax increase should also have an expiration date.

The obvious question then is what "types of surveillance" does the government currently lack legal authorization to do that you would support giving them legal permission to do?

I would certainly not give them more than they ask. The main problem I have heard presented is that the terrorists communicated their plans via encoded e-mails. The case is being presented that if authorities have power to monitor e-mails of foreign nationals then the possibility of catching future terrorists or at least discouraging them is high.

I have heard the technology exists to read your hard drive at home even if you are not on line which means that we are not free from e-mail surveillance even if we use encryption, for as soon as it becomes unencrypted we are vulnerable.

This is perhaps part of the reason the terrorists used computers in libraries for their communications.

I think that in this emergency situation, that I would support giving the authorities all power possible to monitor foreign nationals for a two year period making it illegal for them to use encryption while living in this country. As I said I would not support additional monitoring of U.S. citizens and feel they should be allowed to use encryption.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before encryption software will be negated by software that can decode it.