lördagen den 17:e december 2011

Two laws and four boxes - some thoughts

This post is mostly for me, to help gather some thoughts. It will be written in English, since the post that made me stay up and write this was in English, and since it deals mainly with US politics. Swedes usually read English fine anyway, and Google Translate does a crappy job translating Swedish.

This tweet pretty much says it all, doesn't it?

Put on your tin-foil hat, stock up on supplies and prepare yourself, and whatever you do, be very, very cautious how you use your First Amendment rights. There might be no Miranda, and no pleading the Fifth in the future. Sounds like paranoia, I know, and I hope that's all it is.

... Because you know there's something seriously gone rotten when even Fox - stalwart defenders of "Enhanced Interrogation" and incarceration without proper trial or evidence - calls the NDAA an outrage:

Yeah... That's actually Fox.

The NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), passed through US Congress with a stunning 86-13, might just be what Fox says: the bill that will give US Military the authority to arrest US citizens and imprison them indefinitely with no due process. There's been some debate around wether this would be the result, and Dianne Feinstein has added an amendment which is claimed by some to counter the threat of indefinite incarceration.

Other members of Congress insists that Feinstein's amendment will not change much, among them some strong supporters of the bill, leading me to assume that they want the bill to give the US Military the power to detain US citizens indefinitely. How's that for nightmarish?

I'm not a scholar of US law, but I do know that the more grave the potential concequences of legislation are, the more important it becomes to avoid leaving room for creative interpretation.

... And yes, I know the intent is said to be to fight terrorists. Al Quaida, Talibans or whatever. So how do you guarantee that this is not abused by the authorities? Power corrupts, and the possibility to put people that are considered troublesome away without a lengthy process, simply by sticking allegations of co-operating with terrorists on them will be very tempting to some.

Added to this madness comes the SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), which could potentially result in corporate powers being able to shut even major sites down on mere allegations of violation of intellectual property laws. I don't know about you, but when people put this one down to ignorance of how the Internet works on the part of the politicians, I get somewhat cautious.

The way I see it, politicians should always be held accountable on the assumption that they know exactly what they're doing, regardless if they pretend to be ignorant. It's their damn responsibility to know the facts. Sure, the politicians pushing this bill might very well be both stupid and ignorant, listening to their corporate sponsors rather than informed critics.

That doesn't make a damn bit of difference though - the effect will be the same, regardless, and the responsibility has to be on them as if they knew what they were doing.

So what do I care about the US, with me being Swedish and having no plans to visit the US anytime soon?

The short answer is that whatever the US does reaches Europe one way or another eventually, and we've had enough imported madness since 9-11.

The long answer brings me back to the post I mentioned in the introduction. A pretty chilling article by Rick Falkvinge. It deals with some of the causes to why not just the US, but a large part of the world including Sweden are seeing a very discomforting trend toward harsher legislation regulating the flow of information, and an equally discomforting trend toward an Orwellian surveillance state, where everyone's a suspect.

Rick lists a few ideas about the causes:

  • Technically apathetic politicians: Decisionmakers and policymakers who not just don’t understand the technical implications of their decisions and regulations, but who take pride in not understanding the infrastructure of society: as if that kind of effort was somehow beneath them. They also try to score points by serving the other three groups, and by taking cheap shots at ridiculing the few of their colleagues who understand the technical repercussions of the proposals on the table.
  • The Copyright Industry: An industry threatened with obsoletion by the very concept of civil liberties combined with today’s information technology. As advances of technology can’t be rolled back, that other thing is targeted for demolition.
  • Security Profiteers: A very few select people are making a killing off of striking out our civil liberties, one after another. Look at the nude scanners at airports, for example. The same type of people who create wars to make a profit; “who cares if some hundred thousand die”. Why not mention the names “Halliburton” and “Blackwater Security”?
  • Assorted Anti-Liberty Fundamentalists: There is no shortage of people who would aspire on telling you how to live your life. Whether they want to cut your liberties to preserve the values of Christianity or Islam or Socialism or some other external instruction manual that pretends to hold all the answers, they’re basically one and the same. The absolutely worst kind here is those who pretend to do it “for the children”, like ECPAT.
 ... And then he reminds us of some of the more dire consequences. I will not try and summarize his text here, because I don't want to risk warping his message by mistake, making it seem he's said something he hasn't. I'll simply encourage you to read what he has to say, and give it some thought.

Right now I'm watching Syria go for "the fourth box", this while 2011 draws to an end. 2011 has been the year that saw millions take to the streets to fight oppression and injustice all over the globe, even in places where no one would have expected it. Just like Rick, I have NO DESIRE to see things here get to the point where Syria is, or anywhere close.

... But if we want to be certain, isn't it about time we realize something has to be done? The EU and the US seem to be suffering from the same problem:

Our governments are responding to terrorism, financial crisis and just about every other problem with the same solution on repeat - giving themselves more power, at the expense of civil liberties. 

It doesn't matter if they are doing so out of conviction, ignorance, opportunism or some other reason. For the ones of us living in democracies, this would be an excellent time to NON-VIOLENTLY but LOUDLY remind them that they are working for us, wand not the other way around. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that waiting for an election will not be enough.

You still have the right to remain silent, but if you do, that right might soon be gone.

Like I said, this is just me gathering some thoughts. If I'm full of it, feel free to let me know where I'm wrong. From my perspective though, having been politically active - with Rick, among other people - for a few years, I'm looking back at the time when I started to dig my nose into IP and integrity-issues.

If someone had told me then, that what I'm seeing now would happen within a few years, I'd have been tempted to dismiss them as conspiracy nuts. Who's to say this is as bad as it gets? Can we afford to assume that?

2 kommentarer:

  1. Good post. Need to digest this a bit. I have always been aware of the risk of things going bad, but now it seems more real and immediate than before, and it does need attention.

  2. @Christer:
    Take your time.

    This perspective comes up a lot in more candid afk-discussions on democracy and internet-freedom, and I've been thinking about it some too.

    Now, I don't want to give somebody any bad ideas, but the pressure to limit people's privacy, to monitor and to register everyone and everything has been increasing both in the US and in the EU. I see no signs of it ending anytime soon, unless a lot of people step up and say "enough is enough".

    I think it's a good thing taking some time to think about where all this could potentially end, taken to the extreme. The earlier you ask yourself "what if?" the more room you have to make sure we don't get there.

    Me, I'm still on the soap-box, spoiled for choices of peaceful ways to act to defend my rights and my freedom. The more of us that get up there, the better the odds of that fourth box staying on the shelf to gather dust, hopefully forever.