Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wiretapping is a dangerous extra-legal precedent.

So, I get that the police do need to sometimes be able to tap into private communication.  That's nothing new.  But the idea that the American NSA, department of Homeland Security and others are frequently tapping phones and email is simply indefensible if you believe at all in a free society.

It might start under circumstances that seem to deserve extraordinary measures, but once a precedent of this sort is set, further intrusions become much easier. Even if they are only monitoring the private conversation of likely criminals and terrorists, it does not take that many more steps for government to then be using their technology for all kinds of other purposes.  Of course, they may already be using spy-tech on people for other purposes.  But, even if they are not the precedent has been set and the next step is much easier to achieve for the Obama administration or for any future administration.

In fact, the fact that the Bush administration wire-tapped phones may have softened the impact that the current phone-tapping scandal is having.  If the public comes to think of this as normal then what comes next?  We already have a touch of that in Canada where the government frequently uses government information and equipment for partisan purposes.  The Prime Minister's own plane has just been repainted with what looks an awful lot like the official Conservative Party colours.  And, don't forget that this was the same government that once renamed the Government of Canada to Canada's New Government.

So, who's to say that those with access to private communications won't just throw those numbers into a program that can isolate likely voters?  And that's just the least scary possibility.

I think it's time that everyone reflects on why it is that we have the concept of a separate judiciary in the first place.  In the U.S, the powers are supposed to be very separate, but even in Canada where the Executive and the Legislative blends so frequently,  it is still the courts that have the ability to check government actions.

Executive agencies which are able to by-pass the legal system should give us all cause for concern.

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