"When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done
|today, then any act of honour or restitution has to be hidden underground."
The government wants to spy on your communications and harvest your private details. Actually, they already consider they have the power to do that—and have done it to some—now they just want to do it legally.
Their argument is they need to spy on you to protect you.
But this argument falls at the first hurdle. If the “war” they are engaged in involves warding off terrorists, then that war requires naming and targeting the enemy. It does not require, and nor should it involve, a massive spying dragnet on New Zealanders.
The government says it will be careful with the information about us that it harvests.
But the kerfuffle over the public release of journalist Andrea Vance’s private details gives us a clue how little the agents of government value the privacy of our private details. We have their assurance this is not the tip of an iceberg. But people’s private details have been made public in vast numbers by ACC, by the Ministry of Health, and by Paula Bennett’s Ministry of Social Development. “Oops,” they say after it happens. But “oops” doesn’t help those who’ve been blundered upon.
And the news that government departments who extract private information from us will soon be sharing information with the Inland Revenue, the department dedicated to extracting money from us, gives cause for great alarm--particularly in an age when cash-strapped governments will do anything for money, and in the US the Inland Revenue Service has been used by Presidents past and present to frighten and scare off their political enemies.
This is just one reason to spurn the argument that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear from Big Brother monitoring your communications. Because those communications will more and more routinely be used against you to enforce, right or wrong,either the government’s will or the will of those in government.
Consider the revelations that the very journalist who broke a story about illegal spying was snooped on by Parliament’s bureaucrats. “The violation of Vance’s privacy is a prospect now facing every citizen in the country under the GCSB Bill,” says Gordon Campbell, and he’s right. Get offside with the government of the day, and don’t be surprised if your private details become public, whether by design or by incompetence. “The boundaries of privacy are being erased for no discernible reason, and in the absence of any proportionate threat… But who will be watching the watchers [under the new bill]? Why, it will be the same kind of people – in key respects, the very same people – who brought about the Andrea Vance scandal.”
Bullied investigative journalist Jon Stephenson is another local case in point. His communications were allegedly monitored on behalf of the very defence force that a leaked NZ Defence Force document reveals lists investigative journalists as subversive threats. Would you like to be surveilled by the American NSA at the invitation of our Army? Or bullied by the SAS because what you say makes someone uncomfortable?
Kim DotCom is another case in point. What he is alleged to have committed is a crime, fair enough. But while that crime has still yet to be proven, his life has been made public, his property has been stripped, and the NZ government has bent over backwards to give agents of the US government access beyond law, and without proof, to do over a New Zealand citizen.
Which makes the argument ‘we have nothing to worry about’ absurd. Because at the moment the US government’s departments and security agencies are going rogue. Journalists are bugged and surveilled; political campaigners are targeted by the IRS; air travellers are humiliated and delayed; and a programme of drone strikes controlled by the CIA, and apparently monitored by no-one, suggests any idea the powers given them by the PATRIOT Act to fight terrorists has long become simply power itself, exercised for the sake of itself.
Again, you may not like everything about Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, or even Nicky Hager, but if what they and others have been revealing does not leave you using the word “frightening” to describe many of those revelations, then your head is planted more firmly in the sand than Cameron Slater’s fingers are in his ears.
If it was disturbing when we learned Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World hacked people’s phones, then how much more frightening is it when folk are surveilled by people with an arsenal of guns, drones and IRS agents, and not just a basement full of printer’s ink.
When you realise what they can do to you, why would you not think twice about what you’re doing.
Whistle blowers like Manning and Snowden have become heroes to many because what they’ve exposed about
illegal hidden government operations would not have appeared in public without them—and what have exposed about legal government operations is frightening. As Ragnar Danneskjold says in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged,
"When robbery is done in open daylight by sanction of the law, as it is done today, then any act of honour or restitution has to be hidden underground."
That’s a dangerous place in which to operate.
The Ayn Rand Center’s Yaron Brook makes the relevant final point that only needs one addition to make it local:
A proper government is the agent of its citizens, not the master. In its role as the agent, the default should be openness, not secrecy; in very few contexts is it appropriate for the government to operate in secrecy. Only when the government can convince its citizens that secrecy is necessary for protecting their rights is it acceptable. With respect to the NSA [and GCSB and SIS] surveillance programs, that burden has not been met.
And nor is it likely to be.