WHAT OTHERS SAY: In government surveillance, the horns of dilemma

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | 11:15 a.m. CDT; updated 3:43 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The current controversy over government telephone and Internet surveillance puts reasonable Americans on the horns of a dilemma.

We want to be safe. We understand that in order to deal with modern terrorism we must use modern methods. That includes monitoring the phone and Internet traffic of those who would do us harm.

Who would do us harm has become increasingly hard to determine. The Boston bombing points to a huge hole in our defenses. If we must fear some among us then we must monitor domestically, something we are very loath to do.

It has been a tenet of our republic from the beginning that the government should have as little intrusion into our lives as possible. There have been times — post Revolution, Civil War, the world wars — when our fear has overcome our loathing and Americans have acquiesced to things that in quieter times would be anathema.

No one is proud of sending thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent to camps during the Second World War but, at the time, it seemed necessary. Only in retrospect did our collective conscience turn our fear to shame.

So it is now. We are fighting a foe that apparently cannot even be won over by the joys of life in America as a college kid. That being the case, we cannot know who our enemies are and they are thus more fearsome.

One horn of our dilemma is our belief in the absolute right not to have our phones and Internet usage monitored. The other is our driving desire to have picked up a clue about the Boston bomber boys that would have saved our fellow Americans from that tragedy.

Until or unless we can find some middle ground we are condemned to be perpetually impaled upon the horns of our fear of terror and our loathing of government surveillance.

Reprinted from The Lake Sun Leader, Camdenton.

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Ellis Smith June 18, 2013 | 11:43 a.m.

Brilliantly stating what should be obvious.

Not certain I would point to the Boston bombing as "... a huge hole in our defenses." A hole, obviously, but compared to the prior bombings of our embassies and the World Trade Center act of terrorism the word "huge" seems a bit misplaced.

The real question should be this: At what point does our fear of terrorism (foreign or domestic) JUSTIFY turning this country into a police state? As far as I'm concerned there IS no acceptable point. Also, if we become a police state in our attempt to counter real or imagined terrorist threats, haven't the terrorists effectively won?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams June 18, 2013 | 12:42 p.m.

Ellis: Give the editorial author a break. Even pundits have deadlines and perhaps he was hard up for a topic. So he chose the "safe" path, similar to Hank Waters when he has to make up his mind between a lib and a conservative, the latter having no disqualifications but the former has a few, so he just practices "safe editorialism", punts, and says, "You can't go wrong either way." ;^)

There is a funny side to this. Well....kinda. Liberals that cheered for Senator Obama's skewering of President Bush/VP Cheney's Patriot Act (which is still in effect, btw) back in 2006 are finding it a mite uncomfortable that President Obama continued...and expanded...those SAME programs.

Uh oh.

What to do, what to do?

If they make excuses for the current President's actions, actions that are the same or worse than 2006, then they let the world know that back in 2006 they really didn't mean it....."It was just 'politics' and we really didn't care that we were being scrutinized after all. We were just funnin'." INO, they lied.

But if they skewer the current President, isn't that the ultimate public disloyalty? Won't the conservatives jump all over us (Probably)? Won't they laugh (certainly)? Which do we value more: Our freedom from gov't monitoring....or admitting that our American Idol lied to us and forcing him to fix this?

Of course, it's possible that liberals don't mind being scrutinized by a liberal president, but mind quite a bit if that scrutiny is by a conservative. Yeah...I can see that........

Too bad it's a loss of freedom either way.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith June 18, 2013 | 5:09 p.m.


I feel compelled to say one thing favorable about Hank Waters (and I am serious, not joking): I doubt there would ever have been an Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre* without Hank. That's one thing I'll miss this summer and early autumn. (MU's summer offerings have been good as well.)

Folks like Hank and our emeritus MU Journalism professor remind me of those in the 15th Century who believed no real estate existed beyond that which was already known to them. Their world ended, abruptly, not far west of their Atlantic coasts; for our two present day subjects it appears the world ends abruptly at the borders of the MU campus. Where's Chris Columbus when we need him?

If I must choose only between possibly perishing in a terrorist attack or living in a police state, that's a very easy choice: I'll take perishing in the attack. In my case the choice is made easier in that I may not live much longer in any case.

* Not a misspelling; MU does the same. Maybe that allows you to charge a higher ticket price. :)

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