The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.
Homeland Security! By gosh, now that we have that, we won’t be bothered by those evil terrorists. But wait, we’re told that’s not enough. We need something called Total Information Awareness. This particular program, we’re told, would integrate information now held in all the various government and private databases so these terrorists’ economic activity profiles will be easily identified and they can be stopped before they can cause any harm. That sounds well and good, if the government could be trusted to only use it for such purposes. If you believe the government can be so trusted, perhaps you’d like to buy a former religious compound near Waco.
Knowledge is power. Fundamentally, putting such power in the hands of a government, no matter how scrupulous of personal liberties, is puts power in the hands of individual men. And we are told that power corrupts. How long do we believe even the most benevolent government will remain uncorrupted by the opportunity to exercise this power? This is the government that brought us Waco and Ruby Ridge. The one that sent the IRS to audit non-profit organizations and individuals who opposed a recent administration. The one that brought us Watergate and “dirty tricks.” The one that kept dossiers on civil rights leaders. The one that interned citizens whose ethnicity matched that of a wartime enemy. The one that created organized crime by banning alcohol (and even today gathers extraordinary powers in that carry-over from Prohibition, the war on drugs). The one that confiscated the property of and imprisoned people who were suspected of “disloyalty” because they believed that states should have the right to leave the union. The one that forced one-sided treaties on the native population then abrogated the treaties at will. The one that, even when the founding fathers were alive and still politically active, tried to enact laws to restrict criticism of the government.
The point of this litany of evils is not to say our government is evil. It is to point out that time after time, given the power to do so, men have succumbed to the temptation to act to the advantage of their own power and have suppressed those who might threaten that power. I fear that putting such knowledge into the hands of government will inevitably lead to its misuse. And that’s why I oppose Total Information Awareness.
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