My father was a passionate man with strong convictions who never feared to voice his opinions. But some of his theories seemed extreme and without merit and so he came across as paranoid.
His greatest claim, which became his mantra, was that the federal government is taking away our rights and invading our privacy. He was angered by this and tried to instill this anger into me. And so as a young and aspiring independent thinker and non-conformist, I tried to build some of my earlier theories on these notions. But then I simply realized that I didn’t want to be anarchist – I just wanted to be a rebel without a cause – like most teenagers.
As much as I adored my father, as I grew older, I began to think that he was crazy. Take social security for example; he urged us to provide fake Social Security Numbers (“SSNs) on any applications that weren’t directly related to the Social Security Program. He truly believed that the government was using SSNs as a national identifier to promote invasive profiling, which was clearly an abuse of their original purpose.
Today not only does our government use SSNs as a way to track us, the private sector has adopted them as well – and as we all know, it is impossible to engage in any legitimate financial activities without one. Furthermore, credit bureau records that are tied to SSNs are sold and traded, virtually without legal limitations. Suddenly, my father’s theories don’t seem so crazy anymore.
In May of this year, government contractor and whistle-blower, Edward Snowden leaked classified information to the Press, in order to alert the public about the inappropriate surveillance practices of the NSA. The mission of the NSA is to protect US security systems against foreign threats, but their surveillance not only includes foreign individuals, it also includes all individuals on US soil. And despite having no authority to conduct human-source intelligence gathering, the NSA collects and stores all phone and internet records of every American citizen.
While the story about Snowden unfolded, I spoke with a friend of mine who works in this area of the US Government, in order to get his take. He was outraged by Snowden’s actions and assured me that the government only gathers this information so that it will be readily available when needed, in order to respond to a foreign threat, such as terrorism.
Hmm, I think that Dilma Rouseff, President of Brazil would disagree with that. President Rouseff blasted the US in her speech to the UN General Assembly in response to her discovery that the US government was reading her email. She stated that espionage among friendly nations is “totally unacceptable” and her call to action was stop US surveillance tactics.
But the US Government will not stop. And no country alone has enough power to stop the US. As an American, I believe in the ideals on which this country was built. I also understand that those ideals need to be balanced to prevent foreign threats. But somewhere along the way and under the veil of national security our government has lost sight of our principles. And as stated by President Rouseff “If there is no right to privacy there can be no true freedom of expression and opinion and therefore no effective democracy.”