Washington Post: Yes, We Need To Give Up Liberty For Security

by Mike Masnick
Oct. 30, 2012

By now you've probably seen the paraphrase of a Ben Franklin quote that those who give up liberty for security, deserve neither (he said similar things a few different ways, but the standard actual quote is: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.") Whatever the actual quote is, there is quite a lot of truth to it. Giving up liberty for the sake of security rarely works out as planned. Either way, it appears that the editorial board of the Washington Post is either wholly unfamiliar with the quote, or believes it to be untrue. It has come out with an editorial arguing in favor of extending the FISA Amendments Act (and against an ACLU/EFF challenge to the law, to be heard today at the Supreme Court, even with the crazy weather) saying that it is perfectly fine to "give up liberty" for security:
Discomfort with the government’s capacity, technical or legal, to collect and retain massive amounts of personal information is understandable. But the 2008 FISA amendments sought a compromise between two essential goals: preserving American liberty and robustly defending Americans’ lives and property. We favored the law and believe that it should be extended.
That's somewhat ridiculous. After all, as we've noted over and over again, almost no one seems to understand what's actually in the FISA Amendments Act, in part because there's a secret interpretation of it that only the government knows. This means that many, many people, including those in Congress, are clearly misrepresenting what's in the law. The fact that the NSA refuses to say how often it has used this secret interpretation to spy on Americans should be a pretty big warning sign -- especially as politicians who are either clueless or ignorant claim that it can't be used to spy on Americans.

And really, this is the root of the "don't give up liberty for security" quote. Once you do that, you're cooked, because it's a situation that only expands in one direction. Those who seek to hold back liberty will always make use of scare stories and FUD to seek to be able to spy further. You would think that the editorial board of the Washington Post, which has been covering this kind of mess for quite some time, would actually have some sort of ability to look back at history. Apparently its historical knowledge is close to nil.

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