COLUMN: Freedom or safety, we can’t have both

The case of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – who revealed the US government was spying on its own citizens – has ignited quite a debate.

The democratized world is at a crossroads, in which one route leads to freedom, the other to safety.

Embracing one comes at the expense of the other, and neither includes guarantees.

Such has become even more evident as we argue over the actions of National Security Association whistleblower Edward Snowden, who revealed last month that his own U.S. government was spying en masse on its citizens’ electronic communications and on its economic partners.

The debate crosses party lines, with nearly equal numbers throughout the political spectrum calling his actions either heroic or treasonous.

For many, loss of freedoms is far worse than a potential risk of our security. They heed the witch hunts of the past; they bemoan an Orwellian present; and they fear a dystopian future.

For others, giving up personal privacy is the price of protection in these turbulent times. They encourage the government to monitor our texts, emails and conversations, ensuring it’s on record who the bad guys are.

Both sides have merit. Yet both scare the hell out of me.

I don’t understand those who put all their faith in officials; so many conversations and deals are made behind the scenes. Nor do I understand faith in the rabble; again, you and I aren’t privy to the shenanigans of our leaders – self-appointed or otherwise.

Individually, we are so consumed with our own thoughts and fears that it barely registers that the enemy is already at both sides of the gate.

Most of us will agree there’s a price to pay for living in a civilized society. We obey its laws, we follow protocol and we understand that free speech and other rights have their limits.

Yet, those who have faith in the leaders of the so-called free world would do well to remember these 14 words uttered again and again not so long ago: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

Despite extremes in their partisan views, it wouldn’t be difficult – depending on which country you’re in and who’s in charge at any given moment – to imagine the word “Communist” replaced with “Labour…” Or “Liberal…” Or “Tea…”

Thanks to advances in technology, they no longer have to ask – and you certainly don’t need to tell – to have your politics, your faith and your sexuality on display behind what are, for now, closed doors.

Then again, do we really want independent whistleblowers like NSA leaker Snowden, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to decide our individual and collective fates?

Does it make sense that military secrets are transmitted to the masses, potentially endangering our loved ones? Should all investigative techniques be made public, driving would-be terrorists deeper underground?

In the days since last spring’s Boston Marathon bombing, we’ve heard of at least two planned terror attacks on Canadian soil – and others abroad – that were reportedly thwarted, in part, by surveillance and subterfuge.

In each case, cyberspace teemed with speculation and condemnation from all sides, questioning the veracity of official and unofficial accounts, labelling one another conspiracists and patsies, and accusing each other of groupthink.

Those same texts, tweets and posts are, no doubt, being filed away – along with our phone records – for later analyses, thanks to elected leaders that have lied for a greater good.

The question is clear: Do we trust the anarchists or our governments?

In one of these worlds, people fear misinformation; in the other, they fear too much information.

If you can answer unequivocally and without hesitation, you just might want to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Lance Peverley is editor of the Peace Arch News.

Just Posted

Charges dropped against officer who shot and killed Hudson Brooks in South Surrey

‘I feel like I’ve lost Hudson all over again,’ says mom

Here’s why you may not have seen many federal election signs in Surrey

Earlier this year, Surrey council banned election signs on public property, highways

Police, volunteers to deliver South Surrey students’ road-safety messages

Elementary designs aim to remind drivers to slow down, pay attention on the road

‘Jail’ time for Surrey business and community leaders in Crime Stoppers fundraiser

Metro Vancouver organization to host Jail & Bail event Friday at Central City’s outdoor plaza

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Break out the tiki torches: Open fires allowed again in B.C.’s coastal region

All open fires allowed effective at noon on Sept. 18

Rainbow crosswalk coming to Chilliwack school district parking lot

Fractious debate at school board meeting ends with 4-3 vote

Vaping-related illness confirmed in Ontario believed to be first in Canada

Middlesex-London Health Unit had no further details about the case — believed to be the first confirmed in Canada

Canadian stars Virtue, Moir say in video they’re ‘stepping away’ from ice dancing

The pair thank fans for their support in an emotional message

Woman held at gunpoint during carjacking in UBC parkade

University RCMP say the vehicle is still missing, and two suspects are at large

Most Read

l -->