Re: Potty Trouble is
Absolutely correct, but the ability to stuff up O2's network is not on the same scale as a nuclear attack, and you fucking know it.
Worst case scenario, a few people die because they can't reach 911 and a small hit to the economy as corporate chaos reigns for a few hours. That's not even on the same level of risk or threat as millions dead and tens of millions more dying horribly and overwhelming the medical systems of entire nations.
I am entirely willing to risk some spotty teenager stuffing up the phone network in order to know what my government is up to. Quite frankly, I think someone has to stuff up the phone network from time to time so that we don't get complacent about technological security, and pay the coppers to protect critical infrastructure. (See: asshats attaching SCADA systems on the interbutts without UTMs in the middle.)
Liberty isn't an acceptable price to pay for the illusion of security.
There is, of course, a balance. We shouldn't make fissionable material available to anyone who asks. We shouldn't be selling strychnine or TNT to those who don't have a damned good reason to use it, and preferably licensing and safety training. Guns should require licensing and safety training to acquire and guns that have no purpose other than war (such as full auto rifles, rocket launchers, etc) absolutely shouldn't be allowed in the hands of civilians. (Or even Police!)
It is a question of risk management. Public safety is important, at a large enough level. By the same token, civil liberties are not "mere conveniences," but of fundamental importance. That means we must find a balance.
Absolute security is impossible. So is absolute liberty. So we must take a pragmatic approach to finding the balance. Restricting the availability of fissionable material is not a major restriction on liberty: it's dangerous even to those who know what they are doing, and there are very few legitimate uses for such material in the civilian sphere. By restricting the availability of fissionable material we gain a huge amount of security, and we do so by giving up virtually nothing.
This story changes dramatically when we talk about government surveillance. Knowing that you are watched at all times is a massive psychological burden. It absolutely changes what you are willing to say or do. Anyone with even the most basic understanding of history lives in fear because we know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and those in power do not tolerate dissent.
So allowing our government to surveil us - and more horribly, allowing them to do so utilizing unknown methods at unknown times, with unknown capabilities - places the entire citizenry on the defensive against their own government, even if we aren't rounding up jews in the streets quite yet. It becomes an exercise in terror by the state when suddenly those who are rounded up using these secretive powers are tried in secret courts and given unknown sentences, especially when combined with laws that allow the police to pick up anyone they want and detain them without arrest (or the right to call family/employer/etc) for 30 day. Or 90 days. Or more!
The "security" purchased here is minimal, but the loss of liberty is profound. In the name of "protecting" us, the government has created an environment in which the only thing that prevents them from rounding up every political dissenter and "dissapearing" them is the magnanimity of those currently in power.
And those currently in power have absolutely no moral qualms about sending UAVs to kill people. By the thousands, if necessary. Death by robot without trial, a judgement made at the executive level, in secret. The claim is that they are killing to protect us, but there's no way to be sure. It is one more example of "the citizenry are allowed to exist and go about their lives only because the state chooses to allow them to."
Do you not understand the difference? One thing - restricting access to fissionable materials - is clearly a very minor loss of liberty for a very clear security benefit. The other amount to the use of secrecy and murder-without-trial by the state to generate terror amongst the citizenry in order to keep them in line out of fear. That is the exact opposite of liberty.
And Obama is one of the good guys.
If McCarthy or Hoover were alive today with the sort of power now held by the American government that society - all our societies - would be much, much darker.
So who's next? Every 2 years congress shuffles. Every 4 years the executive does. If we give up the liberty of "knowing what the hell our government is up to, why it is up to that and how it is accomplishing that" then we are handing a cowed and defeated citizenry to the next group of power hungry narcissists that happen to buy their way into the beltway.
What would you call an Islamic nation with that kind of control over it's people?
Now, imagine that the next president - and most of the next Congress - were ultra-right-wing fundamentalist Christians. How is that any different?
We probably shouldn't tell the people the exact model number and firmware of the devices used by the NSA to scan the stream for keywords. We probably shouldn't tell the citizenry the details of how the FBI pull up phone records at a moment's notice.
We absolutely should tell the people that it is being done, why, and with a general idea of how. That way the people can have an informed discussion about the risks, pressure their representatives to set limits, create oversight and demand adequate transparency. We can build a society where we are all aware of the compromise between liberty and security, and where we don't have to live in fear of the government listening to everything we say, where dissent isn't suppressed and the ghost og McCarthy will never again be allowed to haunt us.
If the risk taken for that level of liberty is that some spotty teenager might be able to down the cell network for a few hours, so be it. We'll figure out how he did it and prevent him from doing it again.
But I, for one, do not acknowledge the "right" of the state to incite terror amongst it's subjects in an effort to cow them into submission. I will not allow my nation the ability to spy on me without a warrant in the name of protecting me.
If you cannot understand the difference between the levels of risk discussed then quite frankly you shouldn't be allowed anywhere near government. Or computers, for that matter. Your ability to understand the basic concepts of risk management are at best compromised...but in reality, damned near non-existent.