Friday, May 12, 2006

Big Brothers

According to the latest poll, the majority of Americans don't have a problem with the government collecting data on our calling records (Poll: Most Americans Support NSA's Efforts). While I am very skeptic of the poll, since by the way polls are conducted, Americans who are most concerned with their privacy will not have their numbers listed and will not be included in the calling sample. Nor are young people who are completely wireless included.

But either way, for the sake of argument, let us assume the poll is correct and that the majority of Americans don't have as much an issue with this as with the NSA actually listening to our conversations without a warrant.

For me, this issue is almost worse than the NSA spy program for several reasons.

First, it is anti-capitalistic. As we have seen, paramount to a functioning capitalistic (i.e. publicly traded companies) is transparency. The shareholders have the right, and the board has the obligation to inform the shareholders of its business practices. Programs where the telecom companies cooperate, and apparently take money from the government to do so affects the bottom line. The telecom companies have opened themselves up to massive liability suits, as well as customer dissatisfaction with the government data mining. By making these secret deals with the government, the CEOs have shown a dereliction of duty to their shareholders.

What the CEOs have done is different than just accepting a contract to provide "classified" services. While the actual services provided are not disclosed, the contract itself is disclosed and the voting shareholders can act accordingly.

Second, we are seeing a merger of corporate America and the government. This is a regressive practice and aligns the interest of private corporation data collection with that of government. I have heard rumors of the NSA program for a while now and had no doubt that it was true. But, is the collection of phone records where it ends? And if it does end there, for how long? The next logical step would be to collect all of your credit card and debit card transactions, bank transactions, medical records. If it is ok for the government to collect "business transaction" data, there is virtually no limit to the amount of data - and thus a government profile - the government could collect on you. Every time you pass through a toll gate. Every time you use public transportation, what TV shows you watch, what web-sites you visit. So, not only do you have the government as Big Brother, you have corporate America as governments surrogate.

And if you don't think that corporations aligning their interests with government data collection by cooperating with the NSA that there will be no demand for reciprocity, you are living in a cave. While government demands corporations cooperate with its interest, corporations will demand that government cooperate with its interests. In essence, it will be just another form of special interest government lobbying. After all, leverage of this magnitude will be used, without question.

Third, not only do we have the merger of the corporation to the government, we are currently seeing the militarization of the government. It is impossible to say that the appointment of an active duty military man to run the civilian spy agency will not have an impact on operations. You now have the man, Mike Hayden, who led the NSA domestic spying programs, who is an active duty general, to lead the CIA.

Folding these three entities into one another is a danger to all Americans. Protecting us from terrorism is one thing, but this is a fundamental erosion of our civil liberties. I am disheartened to see that Americans don't care enough about our fundamental ideals of America to stand up and say enough is enough when every American has become a terrorist suspect in the governments eyes.

Data on Phone Calls Monitored

Lawmakers Call for Hearings


tommy said...

Well military men have run the CIA before so that's not new.

More importantly though, with the restructuring of the intelligence community, the job of running the CIA is not what it once was. Much of the importance of that job now belongs to Negroponte.

Dingo said...

I know other military men have run the CIA. That is actually the least of my concerns. While I disagree with Hayden and his interpretation of the constitution, I do have respect for his intelligence. I would prefer to have a competent military man than an incompetent civilian. But I am sure there are competent civilians out there also.

he biggest concern for me it the cooperation between corporate America and the government. I think the potential for abuses is even higher there.

Some Guy said...

Aren't you anticapitalist? It's pretty clear that it's a failed system, isn't it?