“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience…” – President Barack Obama
President Obama and the rest of the NSA defenders in the media and the government have used some variation of this trope when discussing the Edward Snowden leaks. It’s been said that Americans need to have a discussion on how to strike the proper “balance,” between liberty and security. Liberty defenders have trotted out the old Ben Franklin quote in response:
“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Sometimes the word safety is used in place of security, but it’s the same idea. This entire argument is based on a false premise. Government does not exist to provide either safety or security. Government is also incapable of providing these things. What is written down in the law in this country is that the government was created:
“…in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity…”
The problem is that safety and security are vague terms. Are we talking about actually being safe and secure or just feeling that way? As long as you’re not locked up in a padded room under surveillance 24 hours a day, you’re not actually safe and secure and you never will be no matter how many words government puts on a page or how many bombs and drones it has. We all know that.
There is no imperative in the Constitution commanding government to make us safe. Legitimately, it is required to provide defense. Defense is a concrete thing that we can all understand. You form an army and a navy. When the enemy attacks, you attack them back. I fail to see any logical argument where anyone would have to choose between liberty and the common defense. In fact, they each ensure the other.
The problem is that the government has meddled in the affairs of other nations and created more enemies than security. The enemies are over here because we’re over there. Overwhelmingly, Americans are opposed to this policy. By doing this, the government and its contractors have created a market for their own services by making us more insecure than if they simply didn’t exist at all. Make Americans insecure and then sell them a false sense of security while violating their rights for no good reason: it’s great work if you can get it.