Pro-freedom, anti-surveillance speech from an imaginary future US presidential race


In the Guardian, Dan Gillmor ghost-writes a speech for any presidential candidate who wants to enter the 2016 race on a freedom and transparency ticket. It's a stirring air and is an outstanding piece of design fiction that implies a specification for a new American politics of freedom and transparency set against the corrupt cesspit of total surveillance and lies. In Gillmor's upcoming race, it's Freedom versus the unholy trinity of Orwell, Kafka and Huxley.

Surveillance of everyone, all the time, may – may – lessen the risk of one kind of disaster. But it guarantees another kind. We know from all kinds of research that pervasive surveillance is bad for society. It fuels distrust. It chills free speech, the foundation of liberty. Massive surveillance isn't just un-American as a civic matter. By turning people who would be innovators into timid conformists, it is economically damaging as well.

When people say, "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide," ask them if it's fine to install cameras in their homes, not just in the living room but the bedroom and bathroom. Ask them if they'd mind wearing a microphone and video camera every day, so others can check on what they've said and done.

You are guilty of something. I guarantee it. Lawmakers have created countless new crimes and punishments, and allowed law enforcement to extend old laws in dangerous ways. Have you ever told anything short of the absolute truth when filling out an online form to use some service? We can charge you with a felony for that. And, by the way, we don't need to convict you at trial. If you are a target, we can ruin you financially if you try to defend yourself. This is what we expect in banana republics and police states, not here. And as the surveillance state expands, it will create more targets among people like you.

America's next president had better believe in restoring liberty

(Image: Inauguration Prep, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from repgeorgemiller's photostream)

Notable Replies

  1. But just because someone makes a speech such as the one contained in the article, it doesn't mean they're going to follow through. Politicians are, after all, notoriously untrustworthy.

  2. Obama said a lot of stuff just like this in 2008, and look where we are now.

  3. aikimo says:

    The NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Defense and reports to the Director of National Intelligence. The President decides who runs those departments.

  4. One of my biggest disappointments with the Obama administration is that they won't even pay lip service to stopping these programs anymore. I'm sure the guys who brief him on the programs are saying that it's saving Amercian lives every day and that if he stopped them we could have another 9/11 and that they're only targeting terrorists, but I think it's the President's job to think critically about the scope of these programs and what they mean about America in aggregate. Or maybe he has and this is just not the decision that people want to hear.

  5. Blockquote
    When people say, "You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide," ask them if it's fine to install cameras in their homes, not just in the living room but the bedroom and bathroom. Ask them if they'd mind wearing a microphone and video camera every day, so others can check on what they've said and done.

    Every time I see some quote like the above one pushed out I'm reminded of the simple and obvious paradox in the presentation of governments that want to control everyone through police state actions.

    Why not have the same attitude and conviction toward those in government? Who needs watching more than those with real power? Yet, as we've seen recently with the NYPD outrage at a judge's call for police to wear video cameras on their uniforms to verifiably document and record all their actions, it's only the weak that are supposed to be unafraid of total observation.

    We're told that the secrecy is absolutely necessary to protect us, though there are examples where decades later disclosures of demanded secrecy indicated that the secrecy prevented exposure of improper and even criminal government activity.

    Civilian review doesn't exist or in the few cases where it does is either powerless or a Potemkin body never actually providing real oversight. Remember the U.S. senators that were given inside information about "W" Bush's Iraq actions but were told that they could not disclose any of the information to anyone, under a very real threat of being charged and prosecuted for disclosing top secret material? U.S. Senators! U.S. President Obama has officially classified information related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Why, other than to prevent average people understanding how they will be screwed by any result? This is a treaty that will overrule U.S. laws and legal precedents. Somehow we're only supposed to be concerned about such overpowering treaties if they involve human rights.

    Why aren't crimes committed by those in government given extra harsh penalties, just as crimes committed by average people against government are? It's so difficult to get a charge, much less a conviction, against those with governmental power that there's laughably little deterrent to criminal activity in government. Oh wait. I forgot about Obama's harsh treatment of those whistle blowers that disclose government abuses and crimes. It's not the crimes in government that are investigated, prosecuted and harshly punished but the disclosure of those crimes.


    P.S. This comment system is terrible. Why separate the original post from the comments?

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