More Surveillance Not the Answer to Terror Threats

Cindy Cohn and Trevor Timm have an excellent article at Electronic Frontier Foundation explaining why more government surveillance is not the appropriate response to the Boston bombings or terrorism.

The capture of the Boston suspect was made possible by old-fashioned police work and the willingness of the public to help in such a trying time. Technology surely assisted in this effort, but it’s important to note where it was and was not helpful, and to ensure that we don’t let the few dramatic situations lead us to downgrade our own privacy in everyday law enforcement situations.

Also, see Bruce Schneier in The Atlantic, who wrote after the bombing:

“When we react from fear, when we change our laws and policies to make our country less open, the terrorists succeed, even if their attacks fail.”

< Will Tamerlan Tsarnaev Be Sent to Russia? | Monday Night Open Thread >
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    Whether (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by lentinel on Tue May 07, 2013 at 09:24:16 AM EST
    increased surveillance is or is not the answer to terror threats, vastly increased surveillance is in our future.

    Indeed, I read a report the other day that practically all of our communications are being recorded for possible use by law enforcement after a terrorist attack.

    I think that a prudent approach to reducing the threat of a terror attack would be to be more compassionate to those who wish to do us harm.

    Guantanamo is good example.
    Can you imagine if there were a comparable camp in some Muslim country in which Americans "suspected" or even clear of a crime were incarcerated indefinitely without charge or trial or adequate legal council?

    Yet our government will do nothing to close it - or at least work to have those who have been cleared given their freedom and sent to countries willing to receive them.

    I just do not think it is an accident that the threat of terror attacks come from those who live or identify with countries in which we have slaughtered thousands - even hundreds of thousands. As if we have a right to do so.

    So we will not diminish the threat of terror attacks.
    Our only solution is to further diminish our freedoms for the illusion of safety.

    And, as Franklin said, we will wind up with neither freedom nor security.

    Welcome to the lowest common denominator, (5.00 / 3) (#2)
    by Mr Natural on Tue May 07, 2013 at 10:34:58 AM EST
    a nightmare world, in which no one is accorded more than the rights accorded the least trustworthy among us.

    Hey, I have an idea...why don't we try (5.00 / 3) (#6)
    by Anne on Tue May 07, 2013 at 12:26:45 PM EST
    treating the people who live here as if we actually care about them and respect their rights and freedoms?  Because, quite frankly, there's nothing quite as offensive and hypocritical as the US constantly touting itself as a beacon of democracy and protector of human rights while systematically working against those very things within its own borders, compiling kill lists of American citizens, detaining people indefinitely and cruelly at Guantanamo, and working hard to weak the safety net that helps support the least among its residents.

    How about if we try that?  See what happens when those in other countries look at us and see people who are flourishing at all levels of the socioeconomic spectrum, where the old are respected, not set out on the curb like trash, where health care is both affordable and accessible, where "minimum" wage doesn't require one to have the maximum number of jobs to survive, where justice and the rule of law apply to everyone, not just those who can't afford high-priced legal advice or have powerful connections.

    Yes, I'm probably dreaming, but - hey - at least I'm still capable of dreaming, huh?

    Our house is a mess.  The messier it gets, the more vulnerable we are; contrary to popular opinion - at least among the 1% - money will not buy them freedom from terror, power will not save them from the more powerful, and repression is not how you grow freedom.

    Up is still not down.


    Great (none / 0) (#7)
    by lentinel on Tue May 07, 2013 at 12:55:35 PM EST
    post Anne.

    I wish you were the President.


    Unfortunately (none / 0) (#3)
    by jbindc on Tue May 07, 2013 at 11:03:06 AM EST
    I think that a prudent approach to reducing the threat of a terror attack would be to be more compassionate to those who wish to do us harm.

    This ship has sailed.

    The whole "turn the other cheek" will not work against truly evil people and lunatics.  It doesn't matter how nice we play with them, they will still wish us (and do us) harm.  We could be as compassionate as possible, throw money at them, let them live in peace, and they would still hate us and plot against us.

    I believe MOST people are good - even if I don't agree with them.  But I think you waaaayyyyy overestimate the goodness in a small minority of people like Osama bin Laden, who would have used any excuse to kill us - it wouldn't matter if we blew sunshine up his butt.

    There are truly evil people in the world and we won't stop them by being Pollyanna.


    We also will not stop them by (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by MO Blue on Tue May 07, 2013 at 11:42:25 AM EST
    becoming a police state or by adopting the same tactics as they use.

    We rightfully mourn the deaths of the women and children killed by terrorists. Yet for the most part we justify or ignore the terror inflicted on populations and the women and children killed by our drone attacks.


    We (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by lentinel on Tue May 07, 2013 at 12:06:44 PM EST

    I don't think that anything can top the evil we, under Bush, reigned on the Iraqi people.

    But I'm not willing to admit that we are evil.

    As a nation, we have done unspeakably evil things - in Vietnam for example. And, although I can understand and sympathize with the fervor of the times, we have dropped an atomic bomb on a civilian target during rush hour - instantly incinerating 150,000 human beings on their way to work.

    But I am not willing to say that we are evil.

    But I can understand how others might see us that way and begin to get fed up.

    We used to talk about the balance of terror. Mutually assured destruction (MAD) as the condition that kept things cool. But "terror" has leveled the playing field. Anybody with a pressure cooker or a box cutter can immobilize a nation - nuclear power or not.

    So, although you don't like the idea, we must speak to people you don't like. People you think (and maybe are) evil. We must change our manner of dealing with countries that we have heretofore considered and treated as so much dreck. Either that, or we have a very very unhappy and uncertain future in front of us imo.

    And, would it really hurt us to end Guantanamo as a start?


    I can totally see... (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by kdog on Tue May 07, 2013 at 05:14:28 PM EST
    some AQ motherf*cker in a cave somewhere saying the exact same sh*t..."we can't make peace with these truly evil lunatics occupying our countries and bombing us with flying robots, we must destroy them".  Here I am, stuck in the middle with you...

    Who drew first blood?  Does it even matter at this point?

    My old man had a saying, "can't means you won't".  Surveillance, spying, taping, dossiering, tapping, hacking only hardens hearts.  If we put half the effort into peace and love that we put into creating a police state we'd be so much better off.  But we lack the courage and patience and demand a quick fix that ain't there out of fear.  


    What (none / 0) (#9)
    by lentinel on Tue May 07, 2013 at 08:03:40 PM EST
    Anne's comment brings to my mind is that we are primarily being victimized by our own government.

    The terrorists have killed but a fraction of our citizens compared to the actions of our own government. 55,000 American young people killed in the Vietnam. How many American lives sacrificed in the agenda-driven war in Iraq - or the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

    I, unlike just about everybody, never thought that the first Gulf war was the "good war" either. I felt that Bush let American soldiers be used as mercenaries by the Kuwaiti oil barons.

    Add to that the treatment accorded our government to the people victimized by Katrina. The abominable actions of the those two freaky kids in Boston pales next to it.

    And the proliferation of GMOs. Recognized as poison by civilized countries - but permitted here by a corrupt government with its hands in the pockets of Monsanto.

    Terrorist attacks are used as an excuse to further control and contain us. They will never be stemmed as long as the threat of their existence serves the purpose of a government which profits by our humiliation and dependence.



    You assume (none / 0) (#12)
    by jbindc on Wed May 08, 2013 at 01:29:04 PM EST
    That everything that happens to us is a result of our own fault.  In other words - "we asked for it." Sorry  - I don't buy it.

    You're right - we disagree.  Yes, some of our actions may have prompted how some in the world feel about us.  But I tend to think that the people who want to do us harm are opportunists and many will use anything they can as an excuse.

    But for the bad we as a nation have done, it's amazing how these same people who hate us so completely ignore the good we have done for the world.  Like I said - they will use any excuse.  By that token, we should never do business with, nor allow power to Germany (that whole two world wars and Holocaust thing), Italy (the whole Roman Empire), Africa (sold their people into slavery / modern-day warlords starving their own people), South and Central America (drug lords killing thousands of people), Japan (that whole Pearl Harbor, Bataan Death March thing), China, Vietnam, Korea, or Russia. To name a few.

    I guess we could have dealings with Canada and maybe Andorra.


    When (5.00 / 1) (#16)
    by lentinel on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:01:41 PM EST
    France was pursuing an aggressive military and colonial policy in Algeria they found that from time to time bombs were being placed in metro stations.

    When they ceased that behavior, coincidentally, the bombs ceased being placed their.

    Maybe there is a connection.

    But if you take the position that we are the subject of an unreasoning hatred, based on nothing in particular, then we should just hunker down, put plastic on our windows with duct tape, and bomb everyone who twitches.

    By the way, if it is true that "they hate us for our freedoms" (as opposed to our actions), as we surrender our freedoms one by one, that should make them real happy.


    I take the position (none / 0) (#17)
    by jbindc on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:03:03 PM EST
    That there are hateful people in the world.

    I don't (none / 0) (#19)
    by lentinel on Wed May 08, 2013 at 04:29:31 PM EST
    dispute that.

    They have theirs, and we have ours.


    It is not possible I will ever adopt the (none / 0) (#10)
    by oculus on Tue May 07, 2013 at 08:04:47 PM EST
    mantra that if we change anything in response to terrorism the terrorists will have won.

    There is a huge (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by sj on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:27:32 AM EST
    amount of space between changing nothing and the overreaction that we now live with.

    if we give up our freedoms (none / 0) (#13)
    by Jeralyn on Wed May 08, 2013 at 01:42:33 PM EST
    in response to terrorists who want to destroy our government and values, they will have won.

    I (none / 0) (#14)
    by lentinel on Wed May 08, 2013 at 01:55:25 PM EST
    am not at all convinced that terrorists are the least bit interested in destroying our government or values.

    I think they are interested in changing a colonial mentality which encourages exploitation and violence against them and their homelands.


    I think (2.00 / 1) (#15)
    by jbindc on Wed May 08, 2013 at 02:01:18 PM EST
    They are motivated by money, power, and the need to kill as many peeople they don't like as possible.

    "They" (5.00 / 1) (#18)
    by lentinel on Wed May 08, 2013 at 04:25:55 PM EST
    don't sound much different than us...

    Maybe we should join forces and go after the Mexicans.


    That's just digging in (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by sj on Wed May 08, 2013 at 06:03:14 PM EST
    your heels to hold on to a shallow thought for no good reason whatsoever. Which I just do. not. get. from someone like you who insists that actions have consequences and that criminal behavior should be punished. Apparently that only applies to low-level, garden variety actions and not the actions of nations.