Citizens deserve liberty and security, not either/or

ReAnne Utemark

Last Monday was the fifth of November and the anniversary of the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. The Plot, which included conspirator Guy Fawkes, intended to blow up the English Parliament in protest of the Protestant grip on English politics. V in “‘V’ for Vendetta” reminded Evey to “remember, remember the fifth of November…”

This came to mind after an article from Yahoo! News surfaced with the headline, “Intel Official: Say Goodbye to Privacy.” After reading the article, one heard the faint sound of Benjamin Franklin whirring in his grave. According to the article, published Sunday, Nov. 11, Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence, said the United States should change its definition of privacy. He also said privacy could no longer mean anonymity.


An Associated Press article about the same event said young people have already “surrendered anonymity to social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, and to Internet commerce.”

I am not entirely sure what my being on Facebook has to do with the government infringing upon my privacy. My favorite movies and music are not exactly an indicator of my potential to be a terrorist threat. Facebook and MySpace should not be a gateway for the government to enter into other spheres of citizens’ lives.

So, the United States should give up a little liberty for a little security? This is not a new argument between the government and Americans who understand the spirit and philosophy behind the Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution was hotly debated because many colonists thought it would be too much government. After the colonists-turned-Americans fought a war against a government they considered tyrannical, they did not want to institute a government that would be equally intrusive. The debate about the power of the federal government has raged since the late 18th century and continues today. Obviously, the current administration has an overbearing concept of what the central government should do for its citizens.

While securing the country from threats is important, it should not be at the sacrifice of privacy and, ultimately, liberties. While my phone conversations consist of little more than what I am doing for dinner or how my mother is doing, it is still not for the government to obtain that information. Besides, it is boring and a waste of some poor FBI agent’s time. Doesn’t the government have better things to do? Those lead-laden Chinese toys are a bit of a problem, fuel prices are rising and the dollar is getting weaker. The argument is not about the government hearing about my dear old Auntie in Texas, but the slippery slope. If wiretapping becomes OK with the general population, it opens the doors for many other actions that one usually only finds in a George Orwell novel.

The government should not require Americans to redefine their idea of privacy, freedom or liberty. It is not for the government to decide if it is being tyrannical, but the people.

Perhaps we are not quite ready for a revolution, but it is our duty to remain vigilant. The government answers to the people under it, not the other way around. As yesterday was Veterans Day, I would like to take the time to thank veterans for aiding in the protection of freedoms in threatening times. However, the path the country is currently on will minimize those accomplishments by diminishing the principles of the foundation of the United States.

Liberty and security are not mutually exclusive, but they can come into conflict with one another. It is important to maintain the balance. In fact, it is absolutely vital that despite the fear of citizens, they do not lose sight of their liberties, even in the comfort of security.