Our surveillance state might be harming our economy more than protecting national security.
The debate between national security vs. individual privacy is as American as the fourth amendment. Yet it could not be more two-dimensional. Conservatives will stress the importance of fighting terrorism and protecting lives, even if that means ignoring the fourth. Liberals and Libertarians will decry the loss of privacy, liberty or death they say. Besides you wouldn’t want those sexts you sent to your co-worker to fall into the wrong hands would you? Ok so you’re not sending nude pics to your secretary (those seem to go public anyway), but it’s still kinda creepy with someone always watching you. Just when you get the overwhelming sensation of living east of Berlin, Conservatives reassure us with us with the classic soothing catchphrase “you have nothing to worry about if your not doing anything wrong.” But what if you’re not doing anything wrong? What if you’re doing everything right? What if your competition is not amused?
According to Bloomberg News:
“Thousands of technology, finance and manufacturing companies are working closely with U.S. national security agencies, providing sensitive information and in return receiving benefits that include access to classified intelligence, four people familiar with the process said…Makers of hardware and software, banks, Internet security providers, satellite telecommunications companies and many other companies also participate in the government programs. In some cases, the information gathered may be used not just to defend the nation but to help infiltrate computers of its adversaries.”
At this point, it should be clear that the debate about privacy is about more than your trivial Facebook messages. The NSA/CIA/FBI sanctioned transfer of business secrets to competitors is not national security, it’s theft plain and simple. Whether it’s research into the next iThing or information about tomorrows stock price, the security state has given a select group of insiders a definitive leg up. Like trying to beat the computer at chess, monitored business will face competition that always knows the best next move. While it is difficult quantify the full economic impact of the security state, supporters of free markets can see the writing on the wall. What happens to innovation when rigged markets are the norm (if there’re not already)?
If you’re going to cry economic wolf, then you need a cost benefit analysis. What in life is without it’s ups and downs?
According to USA today:
“National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander told a House committee Tuesday that more than 50 terror threats throughout the world have been disrupted with the assistance of two secret surveillance programs… More than 10 of the plots targeted the U.S. homeland, Alexander told the House Intelligence Committee, including a plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange. “
Unfortunately the secretive nature of intelligence exchange and the non-event of these prevented attacks make it almost impossible to compare their costs. Without greater discloser on these exchanges, we must make a choice blindfolded. In the dark liberty seems like death and serfdom seems like safety.