Privacy versus Security is the wrong debate

By Dean L

I'll make this relatively short.  President Obama said a while back that he welcomes the debate about how much investigative power and leeway the government has to combat terrorism.  On the face of it, that debate makes sense and in fact it is an important debate that goes all the way back to Ben Franklin's quote "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." That's a great quote but using it in this contexts overlooks one aspect of the situation that is a glaring problem.

Government is full of inefficiencies and its actions always result in some form of unintended consequences.  Therefore should the debate not focus on not what leeway we need to give the government to keep the people of America safe, but rather, why is the government so monumentally inefficient in collecting intelligence? Can they not do far better?

Should the discussion not be about how to make the institutions like the FBI, NSA and CIA more able to collect intelligence without having to cast such wide nets?

Are we not able to obtain more security without giving up essential liberty?  Out of laziness or a lack of critical thinking, these agencies have resorted to blanket searches.  They can, and should do far better.  In the case of airport security screenings in the past that refused to use profiling, the government had put political correctness ahead of simple and easily more effective countermeasures. In the case of eavesdropping they have refused to profile targets and instead violated at least the spirit of the fourth amendment to the Constitution.  Why not profile? It would narrow the scope of intrusion into liberty.  It would certainly be more time-effective (the Boston Marathon bombings prove that blanket tracking does not create blanket protection, despite the examples of successes being brought forward). It would save cost to the government too.

So why isn't that option on the table?  And I'm not suggesting that profiling is the best or only solution.   There are likely a lot of other unexplored opportunities that need to be considered or developed.  That's the conversation we should be having.  How can the government do better at ensuring our security without having to resort to unpalatable methods? The debate is instead being drawn in a direction that will pit conservatives and libertarians and many liberals into odd allegiances which may create some positives, but it derails the notion that libertarians and conservatives can agree upon entirely - that the government can be greatly improved and it does not need to impinge on your liberty to do so.   

Cross-posted here.


  1. Spot on analysis. "Profiling" used to simply be a synonym for good detective work, before it was apprehended by the Left as a PC synonym for racism.

    1. Yeah, they should have found a different term. Like "targeting" perhaps.

      Racism has always existed and it always has been wrong.

      Good detective work, guided by facts and blind to ethinicity and or race is something everyone should welcome.

      Unfortunately there are some,who are for whatever reason unable to distinguish the difference.

  2. Ask any street officer and he would gladly do profiling. In LA that stopped with the Christopher Commission, and the rest of the country fell in line. I think profiling is a great idea. People would be surprised how observant street cops really are, and how successful they used to be. Scared the bad guys to death. That's why it was abolished there. How? The bad guys complained. Well, so did Muslims, and now we can't even use the words like terrorist, Muslim, Middle Easterner, dark, swarthy, and a couple of others.
    Oh, yes. Profiling works very well. Cheaper, and more efficient. What's not to like? That's why the troll doesn't like it!

    1. Your rambling resolver. And 1) I did not say I did not like the concept as it should be applied. Re read and think my prior comment through. 2) By what definition would I be considered a Troll? Because I put a wrinkle in the argument?

      Guess you're one of those who just don't think outside of the box you've built for yourself.

  3. Good detective work is a good phrase for it. Profiling is not the only tool available, I simply used it as an example of what could work better than blanket searches by these government agencies.

    Good detective work is a more all-encompassing phrase that captures what the government is not doing effectively in combating terrorism. Or to be fair, it is something the not doing nearly as effectively as possible. To resort to capturing everything from everyone is a lazy short-cut that under-serves their efforts as well as the American people.


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