Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Government transparency and citizen privacy.

I just read a couple articles and was imagining my airport experiences coming up this holiday season. My day-dream first, then the articles and a few thoughts on them.

TSA: Sir, I'll need to take a pornographic video of you or cop a cheap feel because nearly 10 years ago some easily profiled terrorists managed to take control of a couple aircraft using box cutters. How would you prefer to be degraded?
ME: Can I ask what you were doing on Sept 11, 2001 when the attacks happened?
TSA: I'll humor you. I was sleeping soundly in my bed.
ME: When you found out about them, how was your life directly affected?
TSA: It wasn't really. I was upset and scared, but I went to work that day as usual and life went on aside from hearing about a few friends who knew someone affected. Mind explaining your question now?
ME: One more question then I'll explain if you don't mind. How would you describe my ethnicity or nationality?
TSA: Well sir, you appear to be about as "Caucasian" as is possible. Pale, freckled skin, reddish hair; what you have left anyway. I'd guess you're of German/Irish decent.
ME: VERY well done. So would you say it's pretty safe to assume based on flight-related terrorist attack history that I have nothing to do with the al qaeda? I mean, it's not that someone of my appearance couldn't be involved since it is a religious issue, but have you ever seen such a thing, let alone know of such a combination related to any attacks here in the US?
TSA: Well, no. I haven't. Come to think of it, it does seem a little odd that I'm being paid by OUR government to harass and embarrass you this way. Why did you ask me what I was doing on 9/11 though and how about you; what were you doing?
ME: I agree, that is rather strange. Essentially, I'm paying the government to hire you and harass me. Not that I had any say about such a thing. I asked about your experience that day because I wanted to know what it might be like for someone that wasn't in my shoes. I was awake and already at work, when the news spread. I was immediately told to go back to my barracks and prepare for a gear inspection. We didn't get much more news than most people, but being conditioned as we were, such a command in light of the news told us that there was a real chance that were about to get combat orders to go protect the citizens of the United States from one of the only real attacks on US soil in history. As a US Marine, I take that idea very seriously and though I was upset, I was more infuriated. I'm here today because during my service in the USMC I was injured beyond repair and as a result, was given an honorable discharge under medical circumstances. If you put me through that x-ray machine over there, you'll see quite a collection of hardware that wouldn't set off your typical medal detector, that I could easily hide inside any number of common devices that you would let me put on a plane.
TSA: (agent gets a very startled look on their face)
ME: So basically, I've paid my debt to this country for my freedom and yours, suffered significant personal loss and injury in the process, paid taxes to see that our government can continue to function, and now you're presenting me with two humiliating options despite both my constitutional right to travel and privacy and the fact that another such terrorist attack is statistically virtually guaranteed not to happen based on history.
TSA: (should have a look of embarrassment now, but instead is radioing for help so that I can be restrained for causing a scene)
ME: Do I have a grasp on the situation?

Sadly, that conversation is completely feasible. Check out the articles below to see why this came to mind and why I'm hoping it will soon change. I think that the world is getting tired of governments misbehavior, abuse, and lack of transparency while at the same time taking our privacy and forcing our transparency.

| Digging Into the WikiLeaks Cables
|   from the story-that-never-ends dept.
|   posted by Soulskill on Monday December 06, @13:33 (Security)
|   https://news.slashdot.org/story/10/12/06/1813236/Digging-Into-the-WikiLeaks-Cables?from=newsletter

A number of readers have sent in new WikiLeaks stories today, many of which focus on the content of the leaked diplomatic cables. The documents showed how the US government [0]bullied and manipulated other countries to gain support for its Copenhagen climate treaty (though [1]behavior from the US wasn't all negative), how copyright negotiations largely [2]meet the expectations of critics like Michael Geist, and how Intel [3]threatened to move jobs out of Russia if the Russian government didn't loosen encryption regulations. Perhaps the biggest new piece of information is [4]a list of facilities the US considers 'vital to security.' Meanwhile, the drama surrounding WikiLeaks continues; Julian Assange's [5]Swiss bank account has been frozen and the UK has [6]received an arrest warrant for the man himself; the effort to [7]mirror the site has gained support from Pirate Parties [8]in Australia, [9]in the UK and elsewhere; and [10]PayPal was hit with a DDoS for their decision not to accept donations for WikiLeaks.

Discuss this story at:

   0. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/dec/03/wikileaks-us-manipulated-climate-accord
   1. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/05/weekinreview/05wikileaks-sanger.html
   2. http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/5504/125/
   3. http://www.infoworld.com/t/regulation/wikileaks-intel-threatened-move-russian-jobs-india-621
   4. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-11923766
   5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11929034
   6. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-11930488
   7. http://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/12/04/229233/WikiLeaks-Starts-Mass-Mirroring-Effort
   8. http://pirateparty.org.au/wikileaks-mirror
   9. http://www.pirateparty.org.uk/press/releases/2010/dec/5/pirate-parties-mirror-wikileaks-support-whistleblo/
  10. http://www.thinq.co.uk/2010/12/6/paypal-ddosed-after-shafting-wikileaks/

| A Nude Awakening — the TSA and Privacy
|   from the keep-it-above-the-waist dept.
|   posted by Soulskill on Monday December 06, @17:08 (Privacy)
|   https://yro.slashdot.org/story/10/12/06/2045248/A-Nude-Awakening-mdash-the-TSA-and-Privacy?from=newsletter

DIplomatic writes "The Oklahoma Daily has a well-written editorial about the current state of airport security. Though the subject has overly-commented on, this article is well worth the read. Quoting: 'The risk of a terrorist attack is so infinitesimal and its impact so relatively insignificant that [0]it doesn't make rational sense to accept the suspension of liberty for the sake of avoiding a statistical anomaly. There's no purpose in security if it debases the very life it intends to protect, yet the forced choice one has to make between privacy and travel does just that. If you want to travel, you have a choice between low-tech fondling or high-tech pornography; the choice, therefore, to relegate your fundamental rights in exchange for a plane ticket. Not only does this paradigm presume that one's right to privacy is variable contingent on the government's discretion and only respected in places that the government doesn't care to look — but it also ignores that the fundamental right to travel has consistently been upheld by the Supreme Court. If we have both the right to privacy and the right to travel, then TSA's newest procedures cannot conceivably be considered legal. The TSA's regulations blatantly compromise the former at the expense of the latter, and as time goes on we will soon forget what it meant to have those rights.'"

Discuss this story at:

   0. http://oudaily.com/news/2010/dec/06/column-nude-awakening-tsa-and-privacy/


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