I like Obama, but the info I’ve read so far about the NSA surveillance of phone calls and internet use worries me. After the Red Scare and the Blacklist of the 1950s, the wiretapping and surveillance of citizens by the FBI of J. Edgar Hoover from the 1930s to the 1970s, and Nixon’s enemies list in the 1970s, history shows that future administrations could use this NSA surveillance to spy on political enemies. Many people have argued with me that we need to sacrifice some of our privacy and freedoms in order to fight terrorism and prevent another tragedy like the bombing of the Boston Marathon. I don’t really have anything against their arguments, but I do think we should be wary about allowing the government to invade our privacy without first questioning the checks and balances to that government surveillance to insure that the government doesn’t abuse the information that it gathers. These thoughts inspired me to do this cartoon for the June 18, 2013 edition of the Philippines Today
Bill Keller wrote an article entitled Living With the Surveillance State that captures many of my worries about the recent disclosures of government surveillance. Keller wrote in his article:
The danger, it seems to me, is not surveillance per se. We have already decided, most of us, that life on the grid entails a certain amount of intrusion. Nor is the danger secrecy, which, as Posner notes, “is ubiquitous in a range of uncontroversial settings,” a promise the government makes to protect “taxpayers, inventors, whistle-blowers, informers, hospital patients, foreign diplomats, entrepreneurs, contractors, data suppliers and many others.”
The danger is the absence of rigorous, independent regulation and vigilant oversight to keep potential abuses of power from becoming a real menace to our freedom. The founders created a system of checks and balances, but the safeguards have not kept up with technology. Instead, we have an executive branch in a leak-hunting frenzy, a Congress that treats oversight as a form of partisan combat, a political climate that has made “regulation” an expletive and a public that feels a generalized, impotent uneasiness. I don’t think we’re on a slippery slope to a police state, but I think if we are too complacent about our civil liberties we could wake up one day and find them gone — not in a flash of nuclear terror but in a gradual, incremental surrender.
I’ve read a few articles that have good questions about the PRISM controversy and the NSA surveillance of our emails and phone calls. Alex Fitzpatrick wrote an article on June 9, 2013 where he asked:
Far from it. While PRISM doesn’t seem to be as nefarious as originally thought, it still poises myriad privacy and civil liberty concerns:
A secret FISA court approves targets for data collection. The court approves the vast majority of government requests. Government officials say it’s subject to oversight from all three branches, which are all briefed regularly on the program. However, because the whole process is so secretive, we have no way to verify the government’s claims.
We need to know more about how the NSA minimizes data incidentally collected from American citizens. It’s simply not enough to take the government’s word for it that minimization is happening at a satisfactory level.
While PRISM might not be targeted at United States citizens, that’s far from reassuring for non-Americans who use Google, Facebook, Yahoo and so on. The United States government is reportedly sharing information with the United Kingdom — it’s not difficult to imagine a rules-bending international data swap happening without the public’s knowledge.
Leslie Harris wrote an article for the June 9, 2013 Huffington Post where she asks important questions about the NSA surveillance, among them: What exactly is the NSA doing with the information collected under the programs disclosed this week concerning people who have nothing to do with terrorism? How is the information collected? What will be the impact of the revelation of these programs on the U.S. cloud services business? What will be the impact of the revelation of these programs on the U.S. cloud services business?
Daniel Solove wrote an article for the June 13, 2013 edition of the San Jose Mercury where he wrote:
In the wake of the leaks about government surveillance, writer and privacy supporter Daniel Sieradski started a Twitter account with the handle @nothingtohide and has been retweeting variations on this myth. A typical tweet: “I don’t care if the government knows everything I do. I am fully confident that I will not be arrested.”
When privacy is compromised, though, the problems can go far beyond the exposure of illegal activity or embarrassing information. It can provide the government with a tremendous amount of power over its people. It can undermine trust and chill free speech and association. It can make people vulnerable to abuse of their information and further intrusions into their lives.
Even if a person is doing nothing wrong, in a free society, that person shouldn’t have to justify every action that government officials might view as suspicious. A key component of freedom is not having to worry about how to explain oneself all the time.
This controversy is one of the few points of common grounds between liberals and libertarians, who share a concern about government intrusions into our private life. In Congress, liberals like John Conyers, Jerrold Nadler, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have joined socialist Bernie Sanders and Tea Party Republicans like Rand Paul in criticizing the revelations of government surveillance.
One of the big reasons for my worry about the NSA and PRISM is the past abuses by the government against its citizens. J. Edgar Hoover, for instance, often used FBI surveillance for personal vendettas rather than law enforcement. He used information gathered by the FBI to blackmail politicians, deny promotions for political enemies, and to harass individuals who had different political points of view. In one example, Hoover, who hated the civil rights movement, used FBI wiretap info to try to blackmail Martin Luther King Jr. and drive King to commit suicide. Seth Rosenfeld recently wrote a book titled Subversives: The FBI’s War on Student Radicals, and Reagan’s Rise to Power that talks about Hoover’s investigation of the Berkeley activists of the 1960s and his harassment of Berkeley president Clark Kerr and student activist Mario Savio.
Here is a youtube video of the history of the FBI
Here is a youtube video of a documentary of J. Edgar Hoover and his secret FBI files
Several people in the 1950s had their careers and reputations destroyed for being on the blacklist during the McCarthy era. They were on the blacklist for their liberal views and were suspected of being communists without any proof. If a person was in the blacklist, that person wouldn’t be able to find work in their chosen profession and their reputations were destroyed.
Here is a youtube video of interviews of people in Hollywood who were in the blacklist
UNL Film Studies professor Wheeler Winston Dixon takes a look at the causes and effects of the Hollywood blacklists of the 1950s and 60s
Nixon in the 1970s had an enemies list of his political opponents who were targeted for tax audits or trailed by private detectives. People like Paul Newman, Joe Namath, John Lennon and cartoonist Paul Conrad were on Nixon’s enemies list. Their only “crime” was that they disagreed with Nixon.
Here is a youtube video of Nixon and the enemies list
In the United States, a person shouldn’t get get harassed for expressing a different point of view.
If you enjoy this cartoon, take a look at these links for more of my political cartoons at Everyday Citizen. You could also join my Jasper the Cat facebook page. If you’d like to email me, you can write a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org
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