Tuesday, February 11, 2014


If you read this blog, you're someone who understands creativity.  A designer maybe.  A writer.  An engineer.  Someone who appreciates art.  Someone who thinks for themselves.

So you know how important it is to have a free, safe, unobserved area to work in and to experiment in.

This free place may be a desk in a quiet room of one's own - with no nosy person going through your crumpled-up notes and sketches.  Or this might be a laptop in a cafe with no one watching over your shoulder, reading your first drafts and recording on a clipboard every website you visit for research.  And if your interests are social or political... well, you know just how important it is to make private phone calls.

Except the NSA has a Great Big Clipboard.

All our electronic communications - calls, emails, texts, web searches, everything on your cell phone - all are wide open to our nosy Big Brother.  They may not bother to listen to your calls or to rummage your trash, but only because they don't feel like it.  Today.  There's nothing else stopping them, because, under the Patriot Act and related law, it's all legal.  Or legal-ish.

Let's change the law!

Even the Act's original sponsor, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner R-WIS, now repudiates it, saying, "The NSA has gone far beyond the intent of the Patriot Act, particularly in the accumulation and storage of metadata.  Had Congress known... the bill would never have been passed."

Here's the actual Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

I don't know about you, but having the NSA able to take my personal phone book, log my calls, list my emails, and take my browser history... that seems unreasonable to me.

There is legislation pending to modify the Patriot Act and to restore judicial and congressional review to NSA spying and to strengthen due process on our rights to privacy and free association.  The USA Freedom Act is a start at reform.  It's supported by most internet freedom and privacy-rights groups as a start: as "A floor, not a ceiling," according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Today is a day of protest against government spying.

Please call or email your legislators and let them know that this is an issue important to you.  Urge them to support the USA Freedom Act.

(If you don't have them on speed dial, you can find your legislators HERE.)

"But I don't have anything to hide," you say.  Neither do I.  Neither do most people.  The point is that we shouldn't need to think about it, because calculating whether this or that call or email or website is "safe" is deeply chilling.  It's like designing, while knowing that every ugly scribble will be pulled out of the trash and graded by that snoopy Brother.  We need privacy!

And that's not even talking about our personal safety when the government has everything you've ever said handy on a clipboard, ready to use against you.  Here's a parting thought from Cardinal Richelieu - a man who understood the NSA mind-set:  

"If you give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest of men, I will find something in them that will hang him."

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