If You Have Nothing To Hide

Earlier this week, Reuters reported that certain information collected by the National Security Agency is shared with the Drug Enforcement Agency, allowing the DEA to arrest people on drug charges. Furthermore, in order to keep the source of the NSA information secret, the DEA commonly invents a “parallel construction”, i.e. an alternative history that can be presented as evidence in court. DEA agents claim that they discovered the subject criminal activity using ordinary methods, not information from the NSA.

That’s commonly called “lying” or “perjury”. 

From the Reuters article:

The unit of the DEA that distributes the information is called the Special Operations Division, or SOD. Two dozen partner agencies comprise the unit, including the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security. It was created in 1994 to combat Latin American drug cartels and has grown from several dozen employees to several hundred. 

There hasn’t been much reaction to this story so far. But it does raise some interesting questions. For example, is the NSA sharing information with other government agencies? Are other agencies, not just the DEA, using the NSA to keep an eye on people they have an interest in, like supposed tax evaders, members of organized crime, political activists and troublesome journalists? 

More generally, how much government surveillance should be permitted in a democracy, especially one as flawed as ours?

(Not that there’s anything wrong with secret, widespread government surveillance. Whatever the government is doing is perfectly fine with me. Keep up the good work, guys! I’ve got nothing to hide, so no complaints here. You can trust me. Really! But you should check out those odd people across the street.) 

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/08/05/us-dea-sod-idUSBRE97409R20130805

6 thoughts on “If You Have Nothing To Hide

  1. Do you really know that you don’t have something to hide? My concern is that the US Government uses contractors for much of their work. Do you feel comfortable that your personal data might be available to Halliburton (who I’m sure would never use it for its own purposes.) How about your voting or donation records (which probably already are publicly available?) Is it anyones business to know these things? Could these things be used against you in any way? Was Watergate really just a lark?

    Of course, our self-incrimination right is perfectly protected by our benevolent government (unless you’re into Machiavelli, which, I’m sure, Karl Rove isn’t!)

    [Comment edited to meet community standards.]

    • As they say, it’s sometimes hard to communicate irony in writing (so I’ve added a bit to my original post).

      Not that I have anything to hide. Really! You, on the other hand, well, mum’s the word.

      • Perhaps I should have read more carefully. I see now that your sense of irony is underwhelming, whereas I originally thought it was absent. My bad.

    • In case my meaning still isn’t clear, I agree with you. We all have something to hide in the sense that we have a right to privacy, even if we haven’t done anything wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of. (Maybe I’ll add an “irony alert” next time.)(But I doubt it.)

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