The Horse Sense Blog compares the nonsense in today's news with good ol' fashioned horse sense


“…I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.… It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country. Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.” - Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775


"The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Security or Liberty?

Here's the Nonsense:  The U. S. government works to protect its citizens and we should trust what they do is in our best interest.

Here's the Horse Sense:  Throughout history we have seen governments trample the rights of their citizens.  What has happened elsewhere can happen here.  The new NSA Data Center in Utah is a good example that should concern every American.

By now many Americans have heard of the new NSA Data Center being built in Bluffdale, Utah.  But even as more people become aware of it, questions still surround this project and what it will mean to the liberty of Americans.

Surrounded in extreme secrecy, the NSA's huge new data center is supposed to be the place where the U. S. government can store data from around the world to help determine terrorist threats.  It is said that it will have the ability to store 100 years worth of communications data for the entire world.  And the obvious and real question is whether that data includes data on American citizens.

In recent years, mostly since 9/11, we have seen the government push the envelope, if not cross the line, when it comes to Constitutional protections of citizens' rights.  And, of course, there is no way to know for sure what this data center is all about.  But it gives rise to concerns that people have about privacy rights.  Imagine the government watching everything you do and what that information could mean in the future.

The response of the NSA when asked what the purpose of the site will be is that it will strengthen and protect the nation's cyber-security.  If that's true it is a good thing in this digital age where safety is much harder to come by.

However, there are real concerns being raised by individuals who are in unique positions to know whether there might be more to the story than is being told.

In a report on KSL.com, a Utah-based media outlet, it said:  "But a Washington whistleblower says that's just a cover story for a serious threat to civil liberties. William Binney worked for the NSA for 32 years. He still lives by the highly secure headquarters near Baltimore."  The article continues: "'It didn't take but probably a week or so after 9/11 that they decided to start spying on the U.S. domestically, on all U.S. citizens they could get,' Binney said.  He now suspects the facility in Bluffdale will be used to store incredible amounts of communication data so the NSA can sift through it, whether it's from foreign terrorists or law-abiding U.S. citizens. Emails, cellphone calls, Google searches; Binney calculated how much data such a huge facility could hold."

While some believe that questioning the government is nonsense and almost sacrilege, there is basis for concern.  As KSL.com also reports: "The veil of secrecy was pierced in 2005 when the New York Times revealed that NSA had been conducting wire-tapping, without warrants, on a widespread scale. That revelation touched off a fierce debate in Washington, D.C., over the rights of citizens — what the law is and what the law should be."

In a recent article by Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge it says many are concerned about the facility, even former NSA employees:  "'[It] raises the most serious questions about the vast amount of data that could be kept in one place for many, many different sources,'  Thomas Drake told Fox News."  And it goes on:  "'It's in secret so you don't really know,' Drake explained. 'It's benign, right. If I haven't -- and if I haven't done anything wrong it doesn't matter. The only way you can have perfect security is have a perfect surveillance state. That's George Orwell. That's 1984. That's what that would look like.'"

Herridge also talked to Bill Binney who told her:  "It's really a-- turnkey situation, where it could be turned quickly and become a totalitarian state pretty quickly," he said. "The capacities to do that is being set up. Now it's a question of if we get the wrong person in office, or if certain people set up their network internally in government, they could make that happen quickly."

The concerns of Americans should be great.  In this age of higher technology than any of us could have imagined just a few short decades ago there is great danger in allowing the government to go too far.  Many in Utah are in praise of the facility because it means good paying federal jobs for local residents.  But everything in our financially devastated economy is not about jobs and the economy.  We must decide what is most important to us and no matter what some foolish people may think, money does not buy us out of every problem.

Our best guide in times like these is to remember the wisdom of our founders who, while never imaginging any technology like we have today, certainly understood freedom and how easily it can be lost.  Ben Franklin's words should be an important guideline for us:  "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." (Franklin's Contributions to the Conference on February 17, 1775)