December 22, 2005

Domestic spying: Posner's take

It's a surprising one, at least to me.
These programs are criticized as grave threats to civil liberties. They are not. Their significance is in flagging the existence of gaps in our defenses against terrorism. The Defense Department is rushing to fill those gaps, though there may be better ways.
Read the rest here.

The power of a good argument: Posner almost single-handedly changes my mind.

The only argument against it is posed by this, the visit of two Homeland Security agents to the home of some student who put Mao's Little Red Book (the official version, mind you) on inter-library loan. Sure it's kinda creepy, but it's also just stupid. Potential terrorists aren't reading the Collected Quotations of Chairman Mao any more than Communists read the Koran. As Posner says, the people behind all this surveillance seem confused about who their targets are or should be. If the system is as benign as Posner believes, then that's fine I guess, but it wastes time, energy, and resources on certain dead ends.

Basically, I guess, I'd feel better if Richard Posner were running the NSA or the FBI or whatever it is that is monitoring my blogging right now.

More: The opposition here and here. The second one is quite a bit better.


  1. Mushett9:52 AM

    After the massive deception that brought about Gulf War II, I'm not willing to take anyone's word about what the government is or isn't monitoring. I'm especially reticent as we now know that the Pentagon and NYPD have been spying on peaceful protestors.

  2. Anonymous11:09 AM

    Well you are actually the opposite of "reticent" in posting these facts on the Internet. Look it up. I think what you mean is "reluctant."

  3. Mushett2:08 PM

    Thanks for the grammar lesson. My apologies to anyone who was confused.

  4. Seal--I don't understand where you're coming from. What part of Poser's op-ed wins you over? The part where he says that the government is "entitled" to monitor all e-mail and phone calls in order to stop terrorism? The part where he suggests that it's not a Fourth Amendment violation for the government to collect as much information as they want, as long as only computers are allowed to analyze it? Or the part where he insists that we don't need laws to protect our civil liberties, because media coverage will ensure that the government never goes to far?

    I'm just trying to figure out your frame of mind.

    Also--I'm really distrubed by your assertion that information is benign--which I interpret to mean that information is only good for the sake of "knowing stuff about a person". This is very naive. A lot of law is predicated on the assurance that certain information remains private. For example, I believe that because your BlitzMail password is private, any e-mail you send from your BlitzMail account is admissible as evidence against you in court. Your social security number is another private secret. That's the catch-22 whenever we talk about privacy in digital communications--if you learn too many secrets, you learn how to forge communications, and then you can't prove that those communications weren't forged.

  5. Anonymous8:07 PM

    This blog is right wing now.

  6. Sorry guys, rather than "almost single-handedly changes my mind" I meant to say "single-handedly almost changes my mind," which should be clear from the succeeding paragraph wherein I express reservations about the human portion of the programs. I don't agree with him but I think he has a point. I believe it's a certainty that we're going to be monitored; we should be worried about what is done with the monitoring.