Robert Stein 1924-2014

Contact Information

If anyone has comments, questions or condolences, please feel free to send a private message to the family at

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Security vs. Privacy Debate Begins

After all that indignation over “government spying,” there are signs that a true public airing of the tradeoffs is coming.

For a start, Pew finds “56 percent of Americans regard “NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic...Even If It Intrudes on Privacy,” a snap judgment that will no doubt be modified as details emerge but a promising openness to hearing argument on both sides.

That debate is not well-served by Rand Paul’s predictable outburst about Big Brother and his vow of a “class-action lawsuit to overturn the decisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court...I will take the fight all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

Maybe Sen. Paul didn’t get the memos, but the Administration reveals 22 briefings over 14 months for Congress on the law to justify the National Security Agency's email monitoring program under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Amendments Act, giving the attorney general and director of national intelligence authority to gather intelligence on non-U.S. citizens for up to a year.

Rand’s colleague,  Dianne Feinstein,  who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence, has paid closer attention and now wants to prosecute whistle blower Eric Snowden for treason as she schedules open meetings about the NSA in the coming months.

The President, while deploring the Snowden leak, has responded by calling the ensuing debate “healthy for our democracy.” But it won’t be easy to counter demagoguing the subject with material that has to remain classified.

Grown men in Washington should be up to doing the work on the balancing act that public safety vs. individual privacy requires.

I am encouraged by a term paper written by my 17-year-old grandson, exquisitely analyzing the benefits of drone observation against their intrusions into individual privacy, with sound suggestions for reconciling those contradictory goals.

In a couple of decades, his generation will take over the job of governing, but can we afford to wait?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Prism is not a direct threat to the citizens
But every elected official, every corporate manager, every influencer such as writers, etc, they all have files and the information about their lives is available to this program - in a way that J Edgar Hoover could only have had dreams about.

They will not be able to challenge the growing centralization of power. Eliot Spitzer challenged wall street malfeasance, and his own private secrets were used to destroy his credibility and challenge. All who challenge the abuse of power can be demonized by the information used out of context by this program. (how much alcohol does one drink? what does one read? what contributions are made to who?)

So yes, we can say this does not interfere in our own lives, but it does change the fundamental nature of our world, and checks and balances are being lost forever. "And they created a desert and called it peace"