Sunday, June 9, 2013

How Do We Get the pro-National Security 'Densans' To Understand What's At Stake?

"In the flash, 9/11 turned cocky. self-satisfied Americans into a mob of scared school girls. We went screaming to "Daddy" demanding to be kept safe from "terrorists." Spare us the details, we said, and just get it done, we demanded" - Steve Pizzo

Mensa is a high IQ organization for which all those with IQs in the upper 2% are eligible. The organization took some heat ten or so years ago when a number of their local Newsletters were seen to be referring to "densans" - meaning all those in the lower 98 percent of IQs.  But I want to suggest here that we need to find a way to engage and activate the (evident) majority of our ciitzens who are "densan" in terms of how they're reacting to the recently breaking NSA gobbling of telephone records, and vacuuming up online information in a program called PRISM.

How then do we light a fire under their butts and get them to express outrage, as opposed to the irritating nonchalant rejoinder: "Hey I ain't got nuthin' to hide! Why should I worry?"

Well, you ought to worry plenty, sonny! And if you believe monitoring law abiding citizens is normal, collecting troves on each one,'re a damned densan!

Security and privacy expert Ian Glazer put it in a straightforward way using a bathroom analogy: (Denver Post, today, p. WSJ 2)

"There's a reason our toilets are not in our living rooms. You're not doing anything wrong when you go to the bathroom, but it's still something you want to keep private."

Glazer also went on to point out no one set of data ever stays by itself - so the Verizon data will likely be combined with other data. Then when a determined snoop starts coming through it, well it becomes more tantalizing. We can have all the assurances in the world from the likes of NSA honcho James Clapper that no one will ever use the data and engender problems - but past history with "meta" data gathering is not encouraging. One recalls here the 1970s -80s PRIZM ((Potential Rating Index for Zip Markets)  program - not to be confused with PRISM, for which many innocent Americans were snagged as not having reported to their draft boards when they actually had.

As author Erik Larson observed in his '2nd law of data'  (The Naked Consumer), p. 99:

'Personal data has a way of being used for purposes that no one ever intended' .

This is a point reinforced by Glazer. Only an idiot then would expect such treasure troves of data to just sit there without being used to some other purpose later. Besides, as columnist Al Lewis has put it (ibid.),

"Maybe you trust our current president but will you trust the next one?"

It's all very well for Obama to explain there's nothing to worry about because responsible people are minding the store, but try to imagine if an ideologue like Ted Cruz or Sarah Palin was to occupy the Oval Office. Liberals, if any real ones are left out there, ought to be shitting bricks. They sure as hell shouldn't be complacent, unless they're willing densans on national security over reach.

Lewis used a chilling analogy when he wrote:

"It's as if a terrorist set off a dirty bomb that is slowly spreading tyranny instead of radiation."

Well, yes - because tyranny can prosper when too many are so consumed by their safety that they fear death - from any event- more than liberty. The fact is there is no way to make any system, town or nation 100% safe. A determined cabal of demented loonies with bombs strapped to them and willing to die themselves could still spread disaster. What are you going to do, hide in your house or piss in your pants while you wait for the government to hold your hands? As one poster on dailykos put it: "The reason this has no traction is that too many Americans are terrified of sudden death!"

Yes, but that is the nature of terrorism. My problem with the security meisters who patronize us with their regard for our safety is that they seemingly have NO regard when it comes to stopping gun killings, mayhem - such as just happened in Santa Monica, CA.  We lose over 30,000 each year from gun killings but where is the national security infrastructure to halt those? We're informed by the NRA that this is the price we must pay to ensure 2nd amendment freedom. But I say what about the price to have 4th amendment freedom?  I regard that as far more important. I would rather be much less "safe"  from a putative terror attack that has the same odds of an asteroid strike, than have gov't snoops trawling and scrolling through all my personal and other data, especially as we know future election cycles could bring real dictator types - who now have even more powerful machinery to weed out citizens they don't like.  But alas, it seems most of my countrymen are ninnies.

Sadly, as Lewis observes, "Technology has outpaced Americans' ability to protect civil rights". He adds:

"It is time for real patriots to consider the Patriot Act before the terrorists win."

My fear, as I noted earlier, is they already have. The 'horse' has already escaped the barn and it will be holy hell to find him and get him back in!

Followup: Edward Snowden who leaked the information to the Guardian has stepped forward, see e.g.

He is looking for a country to grant him asylum, preferably one that values openness and protecting civil liberties. I wish him luck, but also advise him not to walk too close - if he should land in such a place-  to any characters in black raincoats carrying pointed umbrellas!

See also:

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