by Devanshu Mehta

Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.

– William Pitt, House of Commons, 11/18/1783

The NSA wiretapping story is close to becoming forgotten (read: Valerie Plame), or worse, old news (read: Bolton) or worse still, political (read: everything else). I can deal with forgotten- this article should help- but if this story is slipping into either of the other two categories, we are in trouble.

Cowardice asks the question: is it safe? Expediency asks the question: is it political? Vanity asks the question: is it popular? But conscience asks the question: is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor political, nor popular – but one must take it simply because it is right.

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Schneier talks about the technology”:http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2005/12/nsa_and_bushs_i.html

The NSA’s ability to eavesdrop on communications is exemplified by a technological capability called Echelon. Echelon is the world’s largest information “vacuum cleaner,” sucking up a staggering amount of voice, fax, and data communications — satellite, microwave, fiber-optic, cellular and everything else — from all over the world: an estimated 3 billion communications per day. These communications are then processed through sophisticated data-mining technologies, which look for simple phrases like “assassinate the president” as well as more complicated communications patterns.

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed – and thus clamorous to be led to safety – by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

– H.L. Mencken

“Ars Technica”:http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20051220-5808.html did a great story on the technical background.

… so long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.

– Voltairine de Cleyre

Even devoid of the politics, “mass surveillance is a terrible idea”:http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20051220-5813.html. It reduces security to mathematical equations; even worse, the high tech solutions have the effect of providing an illusion of security. Everyone involved believes something has been done.

If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy. Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is perhaps the most to be dreaded because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.

– James Madison

It is for our protection. For democracy and liberty. Why do you fear it if you haven’t done anything wrong? And- best of all- freedom is on the march. As that great patriot, that man who knew how to throw a Tea Party, the only Governor of Massachusetts to have a beer named after him said much before Orwell spawned the word Orwellian:

How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!“.