Brandon Smith
Alt-Market
October 6, 2011

At the very foundation of perhaps every modern day conflict between the expansive powers of unchecked bureaucracy and the dwindling freedoms of the ordinary citizen dwells the vital issue of privacy. Privacy and the right to hold personal and political views without being singled out and scrutinized by government is absolutely essential to any society which dares to deem itself “fair and just”. Ultimately, without the presence of these two liberties, and without people to defend them, a nation is ill equipped to circumvent the growth of tyranny, and anyone claiming to be “free” in the midst of such a culture is living a delusion of the highest order.

Often, social engineers attempt to direct debate over the issue of privacy towards rationalizations of relative morality, or artificially delineated priorities. We quibble over the level of government intrusion that should be tolerated for the sake of the “greater good”. We struggle with questions of bureaucratic reach, wondering at which point we should consider government a threat to the safety and liberty of the people, rather than a servant and protector. The dialogue always turns towards “how much” room government should be given to lumber about our personal lives. Rarely do we actually confront the idea that, perhaps, government should not be welcomed at all into such places.

Really, what makes a governmental entity so special that it should be allowed free access to the activities of the average citizen? Why should ANY intrusion of privacy be tolerated, let alone the kind that goes on today? Our most important concern is not how much leeway our government should be given to snoop into our pocket books, our medical records, our education, our political leanings, or our child rearing philosophies, but rather, whether or not they fulfill any purpose whatsoever through these actions. Is the government, as it exists now, even necessary, or does it cause only harm?

Under tyranny, privacy is usually the first right to be trampled in the name of public safety. Its destruction is incremental and its loss a victim of attrition in the wake of more immediate crisis. Disturbingly, many people become so fixated upon the threats of the moment that they lose complete track of the long term derailment of their own free will in progress. Government, no matter how corrupt, is seen as an inevitability. Conditioned by fear, desperation, insecurity, and sometimes greed, we begin to forget what it was like to live without prying eyes constantly over our shoulders. In the past decade alone, Americans have witnessed a substantial invasion of our individual privacy as well as a destabilization of the legal protections once designed to maintain it. Not just America, but most of the modern world has undergone a quiet program of surveillance and citizen cataloging that goes far beyond any sincere desire for “safety” and into the realm of technocratic domination.

Spying on U.S. citizens by a host of alphabet agencies has been going on for decades, but the actual cataloging of the public by government became most direct during WWII, which saw the use of the Census Bureau as a tool for collecting the names and residencies of Japanese Americans, as well as the highly illegal and unconstitutional internment of these innocents and their families:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=confirmed-the-us-census-b

The creation of lists designed to brand dissenters, activists, and even average passive persons has only become more prevalent since. From the McCarthy witch hunts (based on some real threats but skewed by McCarthy’s ignorance of the bigger picture), to the Cointelpro antics of the Vietnam era, government spying and cataloging has been a way of life and an expected prerequisite part of the relationship between citizenry and leadership. Though consistently opposed, surveillance has become ingrained into our social framework.

In 1978, the Foreign Intelligence Information Act (FISA) was signed by Jimmy Carter into law. The claimed purpose of this act was to confront the extensive abuses of power initiated by the Nixon administration, and to ensure that intelligence agencies were never used again as tools for suppressing political opposition or activist groups. Instead, the act merely became a cover for even more surveillance of American citizens. FISA’s use was expanded far beyond the realm of “foreign intelligence” by both the Bush and Obama Administrations to include vast warrantless wire tapping programs and internet monitoring against U.S. citizens in tandem with telecom companies who are now immune from civil litigation should their intrusions ever be discovered. In 2010, orders for FISA surveillance were up 19%, and not a single request was turned down. This included over 24,287 national security information requests by the FBI pertaining to over 14,000 U.S. persons: