Monday, July 08, 2013

Solely a Chinese problem?

Visitors to China take censorship and other abridgments of freedom for granted.  Many websites are blocked, including maps, Facebook, blogs, foreign news sites, and many scholarly resources. Gangs may be cozy with local government, and can thwart the rule of law, as my friend Carl discovered. In China, “information control” is an industry, and email routinely monitored in the name of national security.
To what extent is the US becoming like China? The email surveillance initiated here out of a putative need for homeland security, runs counter to constitutionally protected privacy rights.  While we do not torture prisoners within our borders we practice “extreme rendition” and detain prisoners without trial at Guantanamo.

I actually think the Obama administration acts as it does out of concern for public protection.  Much of the surveillance here occurs in response to what countries such as China are doing, but I know it is difficult not to react in this way. Ours is a global society, and we must take account of the dangers posed by our rivals and enemies.

But copying the practices of totalitarian nations is extremely dangerous.  The American Constitution and our Bill of Rights must be respected. Electorates make bad choices when they are fearful, and governments go bad when they have too much power. 

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