Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why the FISA fight matters to you.

Over on Salon.com Glenn Greenwald has a piece on why the FISA fight matters, and what will happen if someone does to stand up and take leadership. I am not big on leadership, in the sense that I don't place my faith in leaders standing up first. This is because anyone who is important enough to stand up, probably got there by being a fast follower of public opinion, rather than an actually a leader. Jane Hamsher is asking John Edwards to lead on this one. but it is an issue that goes well beyond left and right, or rather, in a different direction than left and right.

However, I do believe that there can be a time when a combination of public activity, and leadership can come together to produce a barrier to the encroaching waves of the surveillance state, and the kind of knee jerk expansion of expediency over justice that is all too common in government. This is something many people care about. Once people have power, they then tend to make their lives more comfortable with it. But in the case of government, that power wasn't granted for their comfort or ability to act without thinking, but out of some public necessity. I don't see why there is any necessity that the United States government can peer into everything and everyone says or does.

Some fights in rl politics are left versus right. Others are cities against rural areas. This is a people versus sheeple fight. Sheeple want to have lots of time to watch American Idol or whatever it is they do with their sheepy time. That means they don't want to think about how the world works, they just want it to go away, with them waking up every so often to complain about how things aren't going very well, or smile about how things are going very well. They trust the people running the government, which is different from the government if those people say that they have to lock people away and torture them. The sheeple have a kind of conspiracy theory view of the world, and believe that they are surrounded by evil spirits that will take them away if every whisper is not recorded and vetted.

I think why this fight is important to Second Life players is simple. Many people justify domestic spying on Americans with the attack "if you have not done anything wrong, you have nothing to fear." This, is obvious nonsense. There are are many things that are wrong that aren't illegal. The government's job is not to keep track of everything that is done that someone somewhere doesn't like, but to do something about problems that can only be dealt with by the special powers that governments have. Whether you believe in expansive or minimal government, or some combination of the two, what you should not believe is that companies should be used as proxies to spy.

The reality of the FISA fight is that it centers on telephone companies handing over data illegally, in the face of warantless requests, and now wanting legal absolution after the fact. It isn't even a question of whose data is it, it is a question of what people who are in possession of data who don't own it can do with it. In this case phone companies in possession of your data gave it to someone because it is convenient for them. It would be like the person who walks your dog renting it out to make a farm porn video one Sunday morning.

Now people here do many of the kinds of things which, while not illegal, are potentially embarrassing, and which other people might think wrong. LL and others here have possession of that data, but they do not own it.

Do you want them turning it over without a proper request, and then getting immunity for it later?

What about your phone company?

While the people trying to ram this through will talk about the dangers, the fact is that a bill protecting us, assuming the rest of the bill does that,could be passed. It is specifically about the issue of letting the guilty go free that is the fight.

Is this important to you? If you play on SL, then yes, it is.

1 comment:

  1. The EFF has a lot of good info about the FISA situation, along with the amnesty debate: