Liberty and Safety

LIBERTY AND SAFETY….Richard Posner’s op-ed in the Washington Post today has been pretty well picked over already, but this passage really floored me:

The information that enables the detection of an impending attack may be scattered around the world in tiny bits….Many of the relevant bits may be in the e-mails, phone conversations or banking records of U.S. citizens, some innocent, some not so innocent. The government is entitled to those data, but just for the limited purpose of protecting national security.

Entitled! The federal government is entitled to read my email, phone conversations, and bank records even if I’m not suspected of anything. As long as it’s a computer doing the sifting, and as long as there’s some alleged connection to “national security,” anything goes.

Ben Franklin had people like Posner in mind when he said that “Those who would give up essential liberty for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Sentiments like that made Franklin the greatest of the Founding Fathers, a man whose good judgment, good sense, and fundamental trust in his fellow citizens we would do well to rediscover.

Daniel Solove has more.

And Kieran Healy has yet more. Too many more op-eds like this and we’re all going to start becoming dues-paying member of the Cato Institute.