Sunday, June 26, 2011

Freedom From and Freedom To: We're giving away our privacy and liberty, and for what?

Comedian Lee Camp riffs on the worrisome state of American privacy in one of his great Moments of Clarity.

I have long maintained that the concepts of Freedom From and Freedom To are both vital components of human liberty (and I thank Margaret Atwood for introducing this concept to my young feminist's brain via her masterpiece The Handmaid's Tale).

Indeed, without Freedom From, Freedom To--the necessary foundation upon which any bona fide pursuit of happiness gets built--becomes, itself, an untenable concept.

As our Freedom From is curtailed, so goes our Freedom To. When law-abiding citizens are increasingly prevented from traveling freely about their own country by air, and now by train, bus, and car--as they are searched, x-rayed, groped, and humiliated, absent probable cause, mind you, and even assaulted, and by agents of the We-the-People government that is supposed to be by, for, and of US--these selfsame citizens are also realizing a parallel curtailment of their human potential.

Think of all the opportunities missed, the creativity hampered, the activism delayed, the commerce sacrificed, and the education denied due to the vast reduction of our Freedom From unconstitutional searches and privacy invasions. Every former gypsy and rambling man I know--even people who'd consider themselves apolitical and TSA-agnostic--has drastically reduced his or her travel to a bare minimum these days, if they even leave home at all. And when you ask why, the answer will never be fear of terrorism, but rather, will almost invariably center around an extreme distaste for the overbearing and omnipresent Security State and its concomitant time-sucking nature. It's just not worth it, they say.

It's just not worth it. That sad sentence would break the hearts of our forebears, don't you think? And yet, it perfectly encapsulates the American mindset right now.

Whither Liberty, ca. 2011? Whither Justice For All?

Perhaps we should ask a Constitutional scholar and professor. He might know.


  1. Whither Liberty? Whither Justice for All?

    Down the rabbit hole. With the complicity, even eagerness, of half the population. Including so-called liberals. We've seen ample evidence of this.

    On a related note, take a look at Cindy Sheehan's latest column:

  2. The TSA plan to unionize, which was predictable, ought to seal the deal for anyone keeping a watch on civil liberties. I cannot keep up with Lisa, in this regard, but I can't help wondering if one of the reasons people are not more noisy, relentless, and up-in-arms about this creep in security potential-for-thuggery, is that the economy leaves many people (I'd include my family) in the "we don't travel anymore" category because the "discretionary spending" line item in the family budget has shrunk so dramatically. In other words, we've not directly experienced it. Yet.

    We used to vacation annually, and would have experienced these gropefests by now. I would never have allowed my children to be put through this, nor would I have permitted them to witness this happening to me or those around me.

    In that sense, I think we're all more beleaguered than we realize.

  3. Nancy,

    Alas, I think it's entirely down to "it hasn't happened to me, so what's the big deal?" I've actually been told this by people. Usually they try to couch it in less obnoxious terms, because even they know deep down that it's ethically indefensible, but that's what they're saying.

    My sister-in-law lives in Europe and has two small children. I figured that she might want to know what's going on here, especially since the last time she traveled here with her children was last summer, before the gropefests were instituted. I quote: "I don't have issues with the TSA. I don't share your concerns." Even when she read the accounts and saw the videos of children being groped, being taken aside and their parents' not allowed to touch them or comfort them, even then, she claimed she didn't care. Obviously, she'll care if it ever happens to her. She would go ballistic if one of those goons tried to touch her children.

    She's not beleaguered (or affected by the poor economy); she's in denial.

  4. The other attitude I've noticed--also among those who've been inconvenienced but not, as of yet, molested or groped--is one of "get it over with so I can move on to the next unpleasant phase of my trip" (squeezing into a miserably uncomfortable seat with people jammed next to me on either side, back, and front). For many, many years now, we've all been conditioned to endure, endure, endure, to view the entirre airline experience as a necessary evil if we want to get to the reward: our destination. The TSA's bullshit, for them, rerpresents just one more layer of awfulness, and they choose the stupid scanners because they are told they're faster, easier, etc., whereas if they want to opt out, oh dear, we're going to have to find a supervisor....this might take a while....etc.

    I don't think these folks are even stopping to consider that they're handing over their rights. They're beaten down. They're conditioned. And don't think the authorities aren't well aware of that--it's part of the calculus.

    These people of course are in additiion to the ones in denial and the ones who haven't traveled in a while due to finances and therefore have not yet experienced the "enhanced" stuff.

    By the way, Lisa, that horrible story out of Pensacola, about the 90-something woman forced to rermove her adult diaper, is ALL OVER Twitter. I bet the evening news programs pick it up.

  5. Deborah,

    Yes, it's been picked up all over the world. The TSA is, of course, defending its goons' actions. Even the language they use is obnoxious:

    "While every person and item must be screened before entering the secure boarding area, TSA works with passengers to resolve security alarms in a respectful and sensitive manner," the federal agency said. "We have reviewed the circumstances involving this screening and determined that our officers acted professionally and according to proper procedure."

    I'd say they are disgusting pigs, but that'd be an insult to pigs, who are actually sensitive, intelligent creatures.

    Why is it that people cannot get the lessons of Orwell through their heads??

    And re the whole "beleaguered" thing, sorry, but I've talked to journalists, people whose job it is to question authority, to demand answers, to actually do research and uh, investigate, and they can't be bothered. They are some of the worst TSA apologists out there. And they are the opposite of beleaguered -- they're highly privileged, highly paid, and travel with more perks than the average Joe. There is no excuse for their indifference to this issue and to fundamental rights, rights of which they seem to be ignorant.

    I can name names, as you know, but am keeping my powder dry on that one for now.

  6. Lisa--Just curious. Have your journalist friends gone through every gate unmolested? I should think that practically impossible, with the probability rising the more one travels. That gets me back to my suspicion that there's a reverse profiling going on behind the TSA counter [Grandma won't fight back-- guy in suit won't put up with a patdown].

  7. Nancy,

    "Have your journalist friends gone through every gate unmolested?"

    Yeah, back when they were pooh-poohing the whole thing, when the gropes had just started. By now? Who knows. If they did get singled out, they sure as hell wouldn't tell me! They're not going to admit they're wrong. No way. These are people who've publicly put in writing their disdain for the whole civil liberties question.

    But you know what their reaction would be as well as I do.

    As for "practically impossible," not so. 2 million people a day fly in this country. By the TSA's own estimate (as if we can believe anything they say, but for sake of argument that's what we'll go with here), 3% of those 2 million get groped every day -- whether or not they go through the scanner. That's 60,000 a day. So 1,940,000 aren't getting groped.

    Now, let's be outrageously generous and say that only 10% of those 60,000 are being what would legally be termed assaulted -- hands inside underwear, grasping genitalia, invading labia, taken to private room for god knows what, etc. So that would be 6,000 people a day. Still too many? Fine. Let's halve it. 3,000 people a day.

    That would still be 3,000 people a day who are being assaulted merely for setting foot in an airport and crossing the River Styx of security. For those who think all this is a mere trifle, they're saying that they're perfectly fine with 3,000 of their fellow citizens getting abused every day, as long as it doesn't happen to them.

    Oh, and re the whole power trip thing -- good point. Since TSA minions have absolute power, they can decide to haul anybody aside for any reason whatsoever -- don't like the guy in the suit, hate the whatever-color woman, woke up on the wrong side of the bed. And it's long been well known that you're in more trouble if you travel alone. You're more vulnerable to their abuse -- no witness on your side, no moral support, no one to watch your stuff as it goes on the conveyor belt and ends up unattended on the other side.

  8. New FOIA Documents Reveal DHS Social Media Monitoring During Obama Inauguration
    Deeplink by Jennifer Lynch
    As noted in our first post, EFF recently received new documents via our FOIA lawsuit on social network surveillance, filed with the help of UC Berkeley’s Samuelson Clinic, that reveal two ways the government has been tracking people online: Citizenship and Immigration’s surveillance of social networks to investigate citizenship petitions and the DHS’s use of a “Social Networking Monitoring Center” to collect and analyze online public communication during President Obama’s inauguration. This is the second of two posts describing these documents and some of their implications.

  9. New evidence. Wait a few years and watch the cancer clusters grow. The stupidity and barbarity of this nation will come back to haunt it.

  10. If the people perceive that there is a need for it then it will continue. That speaks more to the mindset of the people than it does to the imagined injustices of body searches, etc.

    And for what it's worth, it probably needs to be continued for Americans. They have firmly placed themselves in a position of being the recipients of revenge attacks. I would bet that future attacks will happen.

    Myself, as a Canadian I don't see the need nearly as much but still, we have also taken part in US led wars of aggression against innocent countries and innocents in the ME. Sadly, we are going to have to remain at least as partially vigilant as the US is now.

    Just ask yourself the question: Am I willing to get on an airplane with a buch of Muslim, Arab looking individuals who haven't been processed through airport security. Indeed, it's not a racism reaction, I believe all persons should be processed through security.

  11. And for what it's worth, it probably needs to be continued for Americans. They have firmly placed themselves in a position of being the recipients of revenge attacks. I would bet that future attacks will happen.

    I would also bet that there will be car accidents, plane crashes, flu epidemics, and random acts of violence in the future, too. There is no such thing as perfect security, but there is such a thing as placing things in their proper perspective as opposed to exploiting people's fear in order to force through policies that would otherwise be seen for the constitutional violations they are.

    Just ask yourself the question: Am I willing to get on an airplane with a buch(sic) of Muslim, Arab looking individuals who haven't been processed through airport security. Indeed, it's not a racism reaction, I believe all persons should be processed through security.

    First, I am not willing to get on an airplane with any one unless he or she has passed through a system of security that is as effective as can be and not just Security Theatre, which is what the TSA is. Metal detectors, bomb sniffing dogs, responsible behavioral profiling, and, most importantly, good police work before the would-be attacker(s) ever get near an airport.

    No-one is saying get rid of security altogether--that is a ridiculous strawman.

    Rather, we should get rid of the naked scanners, which are pointless and likely dangerous, and dismantle this staggeringly expensive, risibly ineffective, and scarily abusive, out-of-control agency.

    Second, I think you might want to double-check the definition of racism. White men of European descent have committed their fair share of terrorism, right here in the States, too, as have people, usually men, of various other ethnicities. Professional, well-trained screeners will look at behavior and travel patterns, among other things which can actually indicate higher likelihood someone is a terrorist. Not skin color. Not last names or outfits.

    Again, another straw man.

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