Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Fair Trade

Most Americans seem to understand the concept of a trade when an MLB team trades one player for another. However, the recent uproar over NSA surveillance programs makes me think that many Americans don’t seem to grasp that sometimes we have to make other kinds of trades too.

For the vast majority of us this means that at some point, the record of a phone call we place may end up in a file with a trillion other records. And that’s about it – no one is listening to you complain about your personal problems and there’s not even personal information (i.e. name and address) attached to each record. This doesn’t seem like an undue trespass if it provides valuable intelligence that makes us safer here at home.

While members of the media have overblown this story, others have tried to politicize it.  But national security does not have an R or a D on it and sometimes perspective changes everything. Despite Barack Obama’s pledges to close Guantanamo Bay during his 2008 campaign, there are still detainees there today.  Perhaps living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue made him realize that we are safer with some of the world’s terrorists behind bars. At the same time it’s amusing and infuriating to see Democrats rally around the White House now when some of the same folks – including then-Senator-now-Vice-President Joe Biden -- called for Congress to investigate the Bush administration when it was revealed in 2006 that NSA was analyzing at phone records. It’s funny how Bush-Cheney were “spying” and Obama-Biden are “protecting.”

I respect people who value privacy and to those that find my laissez-faire attitude towards privacy distressing, I say this: rant about it on Facebook, right after you check in at Aidan’s on Foursquare and share the latest photos of your kids on Instagram. While we demand privacy from government, so many of us give it away freely and could do so much more to guard it if it were truly valuable to us. Instead of criticizing programs that are designed to make us safe, we should discourage the glorification of leakers – like the traitor Edward Snowden – whose inflated ego and sense of self-importance has only served to undermine security for all of us.

And if I’ve not convinced you that letting the government analyze our phone records in exchange for keeping us safe is a fair trade, let’s go back two months and think about how much better life would be if the Tsarnaev brothers were apprehended before the 2013 Boston Marathon. Personally, I don’t care if the NSA knows that I order a lot of take out and talk to my sister 16 times a day.  If analyzing my cell phone records can prevent one act of terror, I’ll make that trade every day. And I’ll even throw in Pedroia.

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