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Bush's Data Mining Policy: A criticism

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The debate over the recent leak concerning the Bush administration's authorization of covert voice and e-surveillance, better known as "data mining," is interesting. Interesting, I say, because immediately following 9/11, few would argue with any tactic the administration chose to employ as a means of ensuring the safety of American citizens and the exacting of retributive justice upon members of the al Qa'ida network, both at home and abroad.

In fact, support for the controversial Patriot Act (
http://www.npr.org/news/specials/patriotact/patriotactdeal.html) was near universal, at least among all those who were not openly espousing libertarian sedition. And, although I have mixed feelings on both of these issues myself, like many Americans I can only say that if one has nothing to hide, then there really is little cause for over-exxagerated concern. Although I understand both sides of the debate, I cannot side with the alarmists.

True, there are still the subtle Constitutional issues to be addressed and resolved, and room must be left for bipartisan compromise. Undoubtedly, there is much to be said for the arena of public debate whether initiated by the powerful and famous or by average citizens like you and me. Our constitutional republic was, in fact, built upon the premise that one has the right to exercise freedom of speech whenever that freedom is not "used in such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent" (
http://supreme.lp.findlaw.com/constitution/amendment01/06.html).

Obviously, debating the legality or constitutionality of such things as covert surveilance and anti-terrorism legislation is no cause for concern: such a debate is arguably healthy in any democracy. And, some healthy concern over the use of power is not a bad thing. History has often featured examples of abuses of power when otherwise good and noble ends were derived through questionable means. C. S. Lewis once wrote, "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." (
http://www.wisdomquotes.com/cat_democracy.html)

Yet I cannot help but be dismissive of the intense level of apprehension within the media and in some political circles as to just how G.W. Bush's approval of covert data-mining undermines the rights of U.S. citizens in any appreciable, long-term way. I have spent quite some time researching and thinking about this issue, and I have come to the conclusion that the specific targeting of citizens who are in electronic and telephonic contact with known or suspected al Qaida members cannot reasonably be said to jeopardize our rights. Certainly it has been argued that this is a proverbial "slippery slope," but unless such presidential orders are abused by broadening the scope of the surveilance to include "wisking away in the middle of the night" legitimate, law abiding citizens simply because they browsed the wrong website or called a wrong number, there is little ground upon which to unnecessarily escallate the public's fear.
The slippery slope analogy has become a platitude.

I guess the heart of the debate for opponents of covert data mining is just how much power should the government exercise in invading the privacy of citizens to ensure the safety and security of the rest of us. It's a legitimate issue. Still, I am concerned that this has become nothing more than an issue of extreme partisan politics, where outspoken, public opponents of covert eavesdropping are often the same people who publicly lambast the current and former administration for not taking proactive measures to protect American citizens and prevent 9/11 when indeed it was discovered that the intelligence community was aware of suspected terrorists and terroristic plots. Logically speaking, can we really have it both ways?
I assert that if we knew about all of the undercover activities our government has employed over the past century in order to protect American citizens and American interests both domestic and international, why, George Washington himself would likely turn over in his grave, so to speak; yet none of these activities has led yet to the downfall of our great Republic, and until someone shows me concrete, conclusive evidence to the contrary, I am compelled to support the president and his staff in making America safer for me and my family.

Ask yourself this:
If an unexposed mass murder was living next door and was in regular contact with an internationally outlawed group of mass murderers who actively and financially support acts of senseless murder, would you like someone with the power to do something about it to know or not?

 

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