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Terrorism's first win? Bye-Bye crypto.
September 13, 2001 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Terrorism's first win? Bye-Bye crypto. The rubble is still burning and the Republicans are ready to strip of our right to use crypto products. Opportunists feeding off fear. That's how you win at the terrorist game.
posted by skallas (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
"Yay!" shout the terrorists. "American citizens cannot use cryptography products! We have won!"
posted by ericost at 7:11 PM on September 13, 2001


Show me a way to accomplish this that only allows the government access, and I might start supporting it...

As it stands, if the gov can get in, there is very little keeping the data/method/whatever from being leaked, stolen, cracked, whatever! If your algorithm has a backdoor, you migth as well use ROT13... This would seriously be equivalent to banning crypto altogether.

And it's not like this will stop people from using real crypto. It isn't too hard to write your own. The overused "If you outlaw [x], only outlaws will have [x]" comes to mind, of course.
posted by whatnotever at 7:15 PM on September 13, 2001


Well, if it's only a "quantum leap" forward, then what's the problem?? :::rolls eyes:::

This is brilliant. And prophetic:

"In coming months, politicians will flail about looking for freedoms to eliminate to 'curb the terrorist threat.' They will see an opportunity to grandstand and enhance their careers, an opportunity to show they are 'tough on terrorists,'" wrote Metzger, president of Wasabi Systems of New York City. "We must remember throughout that you cannot preserve freedom by eliminating it."
posted by rushmc at 7:18 PM on September 13, 2001


The only feasible way this could work is if everyone used the same, government provided strong encryption, keys for which were stored in some government run (and protected) database.

The idea that everyone who writes encryption software would open up a backdoor is asinine at best. I mean, I could write a different encryption algorhythm for each important email I send...
posted by benbrown at 7:19 PM on September 13, 2001


http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=steganography
posted by krisjohn at 7:20 PM on September 13, 2001


And it's not like this will stop people from using real crypto. It isn't too hard to write your own.

Nor is it too hard to be put in jail for doing so. The government already, by their own admission, scans a large number of emails daily; how difficult would it be for them to write an algorithm that looks for "crypto-like" properties, and then send agents to your door reciting Miranda?
posted by rushmc at 7:21 PM on September 13, 2001


"Yay!" shout the terrorists. "American citizens cannot use cryptography products! We have won!"


One small piece of the pie. Americans are attacking each other in the streets, the country is completely in idle, thousands have died, people are screaming for war, etc.

Even if you thought crypto was the most trivial thing in the world, the opportunist and reactionary nature of this is not something I'd like to see become the new standard in post 9/11 America.
posted by skallas at 7:22 PM on September 13, 2001


Ah yes, the spirit of bipartisanship thrives on Metafilter.

This is not "the Republicans." It's ONE GUY making a floor speech. And as the article clearly states, the Clinton Administration tried for quite a long time to enact the exact same plan.
posted by aaron at 7:26 PM on September 13, 2001



rushmc: It won't stop people in other nations. It won't stop people using anonymizing proxies and servers in other nations. It won't stop anyone who is determined to use crypto.
posted by whatnotever at 7:31 PM on September 13, 2001


As horrific as the terrorist attacks were, allowing the gov't to outlaw the use of crypto is a dierct attack on our privacy, which we cannot allow. They are already in the priduction/use (i haven't kept track for a while) of creating Carnivore which snoops all of our e-mails. This also a case of where we allow this to happen, who is to say the government will not allow further freedoms/privacy issues? Furthermore, as far the gov't having the key to read the e-mails, one has to be naive to believe that this key would not leak out and/or a crack could be made (doing so would be a giant bullseye for hackers and cryptologists). and a global ban on crypto? i just had to laugh at that
posted by jmd82 at 7:37 PM on September 13, 2001


Can't find a link to this so I'll just post the letter from EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow about civil liberties:


*DO* WORRY ABOUT US. AND, MORE TO THE POINT, U.S.

As most of you know, I believe that the United States has gradually, subtly, invisibly to most of us, become a police state over the last 30 years.


This morning's events are roughly equivalent to the Reichstag fire that provided the social opportunity for the Nazi take-over of Germany.


I am *not* suggesting that, like the Nazis, the authoritarian forces in America actually had a direct role in perpetrating this mind-blistering tragedy. (Though their indirect role deserves a much longer discussion.)


Nevertheless, nothing could serve those who believe that American "safety" is more important than American liberty better than something like this. Control freaks will dine on this day for the rest of our lives.


Within a few hours, we will see beginning the most vigorous efforts to end what remains of freedom in America. Those of who are willing to sacrifice a little - largely illusory - safety in order to maintain our faith in the original ideals of America will have to fight for those ideals just as vigorously.


I beg you to begin NOW to do whatever you can - whether writing your public officials, joining the ACLU or EFF, taking to the streets, or living visibly free and fearless lives - to prevent the spasm of control mania from destroying the dreams that far more have died for over the last two hundred twenty five years than died this morning.


Don't let the terrorists or (their natural allies) the fascists win. Remember that the goal of terrorism is to create increasingly paralytic totalitarianism in the government it attacks. Don't give them the satisfaction.


Fear nothing. Live free.


And, please, let us try to forgive those who have committed these appalling crimes. If we hate them, we will become them.


May God - or Whatever you want to call It - bless us all. We'll need it.


Barlow
posted by skallas at 7:45 PM on September 13, 2001


So I guess future editions of Neal Stephenson's "Cryptonomicon" will have the appendix amended so that 'Solitaire' crypto method has a backdoor for government.

For those who don't know, 'Solitaire' is a strong crypto method that uses a deck of cards for encoding/decoding.
posted by bobo123 at 8:15 PM on September 13, 2001


Like I said in another thread -- military and law enforcement are going to use this as an opening for a huge power grab. I am very, very afraid of what society will look like in 1 or 2 years.
posted by Potsy at 8:30 PM on September 13, 2001


This cannot happen... We must fight any law which restricts our civil liberties. Trading civil liberties in for gains on terrorism is a losing battle. For every step forward in the battle against terrorism, we must take ten steps back from being a free society.

This is not the way to do it.

I wrote a bit on this a day or two ago, if anyone is interested...
posted by fooljay at 9:49 PM on September 13, 2001


Rolling back crypto rights is stupid and insidious, and ultimately a useless gesture. The cat's out of the bag.
posted by brantstrand at 10:43 PM on September 13, 2001


Didn't Jefferson once say something to the effect that those who give up liberty for security do not obtain or deserve either?

Of course we can't have radicals like him running the country, now, can we? Oh, never mind...
posted by clevershark at 11:12 PM on September 13, 2001


There is probably going to be a battle for our civil liberties soon almost as nasty as the coming war. I was flabbergasted to see Leo Laporte on "The Screen Savers" the other night pretty much openly calling for a rollback of "some" civil liberties in order to increase security. He said flat out it was the bombing that made him change his mind.
posted by aaron at 12:28 AM on September 14, 2001


Clevershank, that was Benjamin Franklin in the Historical Review of Pennsylvania (1759):
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
posted by fooljay at 12:58 AM on September 14, 2001


Get over yourselves, guys. There are many parts of the world where children don't even have the right to clean water. Your rights, by comparison and in absolute terms, are many and protected. It is hubris, and insulting to those who gave up their lives to defend you liberty, to suggest that losing the ability to swap email cheesecake recipes with your mom "without fear of monitoring" is in any way equivalent to giving up that liberty!

Until Tuesday you lived on a protected island, largely free of the worries of external attack that the rest of us in the world have been living alongside for many years. Now you don't. It's time to grow up and deal with that fact.

(I apologise sincerely for what will be interpreted by many as a deliberate attempt to insult. It is not intended so. I don't understand American sensitivity to this issue but would like to.)
posted by RichLyon at 1:50 AM on September 14, 2001


To paraphrase G.W.B., Jr., "There should be limits on freedom."

To echo prior sentiment, a portion of Osama Bin Laden's modus operandi includes not using electronic transmission in favor of face-toface meeting and courier information transports. This would not prevent terrorism. The issue here is that if you possess an encryption program and this mockery of a law were to pass, you would immediately be arrestable for the possession of "munitions."

On a side note, government employees could then DeCSS.


RichLyon -- just because other people are worse off does not mean that we should volunteer to be slightly worse off in a way that would not benefit those unfortunate individuals in any way.

posted by j.edwards at 1:55 AM on September 14, 2001


Forgive me, j.edwards, but isn't that precisely the point? You are no longer in a position to elect to disregard the impression your acts make on the rest of the world. You cut Pakistan off cold once they ceased to be your cats paw in tormenting the Soviets. Now you need them. There was no longer a "special relationship" with Britain, now we are standing "shoulder to shoulder" (which I wholeheartedly endorse, by the way). You shot down an Iranian civilian airbus, now you need them for the Arab coalition.

In a word - you are part of the team now. That means, like in any team, you have to give some things up from time to time even if you don't happen to see the value of it so that the whole thing works.

You attempt here to circumscribe your Government's freedom to respond in the way it sees fit to the threat we all currently face, for reasons which appear facile and outmoded to those of us who don't understand your sensitivity. You state boldly your unwillingness to volunteer to be slightly worse off. This behaviour is not calculated to make me feel good about seeing my country placed in increased danger in supporting yours, at a time when you most need to look to ensuring that I do. It reveals to me how little you appreciate the true geopolitical significance of what has taken place here.
posted by RichLyon at 4:24 AM on September 14, 2001


Hrm?

This is strange. Those people already have crypto. It's not like we can stop them from having it.

Some people can be pretty stupid, I gues...
posted by delmoi at 7:32 AM on September 14, 2001


you are part of the team now. That means, like in any team, you have to give some things up from time to time even if you don't happen to see the value of it so that the whole thing works.

Rich, what does this have to do with our individual rights? Individual rights are the most important things to a lot of people in the world. What good is conquering one group of terrorists if we lose our rights in the process? A government with more power than its people is far more dangerous than a group of terrorists anywhere in the world.

This behaviour is not calculated to make me feel good about seeing my country placed in increased danger in supporting yours, at a time when you most need to look to ensuring that I do.

I'm not even sure what you're talking about here. In what way does my right to encrypt my communications put you in more danger, whatever country you live in?
posted by daveadams at 7:49 AM on September 14, 2001


I think what Rich is calling for here is a re-evaluation of our (Americans) perspective. I understand the importance of keeping an eye on our civil liberties; these are what make me so glad to live here. But one of the things I've come to understand better in the last few days is just how resentful people in other countries are of our tendency to become righteously indignant over things they see as utterly trivial, especially when the things they worry about (like lack of food or medical care, or the likelihood of terrorism) are so fundamental. Now that terrorism has "struck home," I look at places where terrorism is a regular threat with more understanding and sympathetic eyes; in short, I feel like we really are "on the same team" here.

No, your right to encrypt does not put anyone in more danger, necessarily. But your (our, my) lack of attention, compassion and understanding of people outside of our [pre-WTC] American experience puts us all in danger.
posted by arco at 8:43 AM on September 14, 2001


Dave/arco - thanks.

I read Ms Blood's confession of her greatest fear with horror - it wasn't of the deaths in the next terrorist attack, or the wild instability that had been introduced into world politics, or for the plausible scenario of the deaths of thousands of civilians in an ensuing war - but for the threat of more erosion of [American] freedom in the name of security. (my brackets).

Why should the temporary loss of marginal rights for the common good cause more fear for her than the prospective death and suffering of 1000's of people? Why does Dave believe that giving up one marginal right somehow equates to all of the individual's rights having been given up? (For that matter, what on earth does A government with more power than its people is far more dangerous than a group of terrorists mean?). I feel I need to understand these things if I am to approach arco's degree of insight.

The brutal fact of the situation is this: there are very, very few defenses against an implacable terrorist threat. We simply don't have the luxury right now to sacrifice any that we do have on the alter of Ideological Correctness. If you want me to fight shoulder to shoulder with you, I'll do it. But don't ask me to do it with one breath, and with the other offer anything that could be of advantage to our opponent, however minor.
posted by RichLyon at 10:06 AM on September 14, 2001


It is hubris, and insulting to those who gave up their lives to defend you liberty, to suggest that losing the ability to swap email cheesecake recipes with your mom "without fear of monitoring" is in any way equivalent to giving up that liberty!

Way to trivialize the argument!

I bet those Chinese dissidents sure would love to be free to send those cheesecake recipes without fear of monitoring and retribution...
posted by fooljay at 10:31 AM on September 14, 2001


There are many parts of the world where children don't even have the right to clean water.

You''re right lets poison our water so we can be on par with everyone else. Give in to martial law and when someone complains just come up with a worse example like so:

"At least you don't have flesh eating disease."

There's a lot of people who don't care about civil liberties during peacetime and now when we have the most to lose we've got people like you who want to bend over for whatever is coming.
posted by skallas at 10:55 AM on September 14, 2001


fooljay - it was foolish, I apologise. If you have reason to believe that your Government is poised to introduce censorship at the levels currently experienced in China, then I apologise even further, and begin to understand.
posted by RichLyon at 10:57 AM on September 14, 2001


RichLyon- You have my support.
I don't think Americans are truly able to comprehend what has happened to us. We don't have to live with the same fears that so many people in other countries live with every day. And now that we have been made to live with those fears, many of us are unsure how to handle it.

Our nation is so large, it's difficult to realize that someone who lives thousands of miles away from you is connected to you in any way. Most Americans go about their daily lives worrying about one thing: themselves. I think those who are equating "increased security" with "loss of freedom" are suffering from what many Americans suffer: being self-centered and naive.

I'm ashamed to admit it, but it has taken this unimaginable tragedy for me to realize that I am part of a greater "whole". And if supporting that "whole" means sacrificing some things that are trivial in the face of this destruction, then so be it. If that means "bending over and taking whatever's coming" (as Skallas so eloquently stated), then so be it. I will know that I am standing behind my country,and HUMANITY, at a time when it needs me the most.
posted by clpage at 11:51 AM on September 14, 2001


i'd rather live with more risk than less freedom.

the idea isn't that i want to "swap email cheesecake recipes" without monitoring. the government won't stop with a "marginal right." you have to draw a line somewhere, telling the government that you won't give up any more to it.

refusing to give up a freedom in the name of the common good is self-centered? asking me to give up a freedom just so you can feel safer is just as self-centered. so which of us self-centered bastards should win?
posted by tolkhan at 2:58 PM on September 14, 2001


richlyon: when I wrote those words the magnitude of the situation had not yet sunk in. I believe that it still may not have.

my greatest fear now is war, and that our government will engage in a response that will exacerbate what is clearly a terrible and dangerous situation, making the US a more hated target than ever.

having said that, clearly those who wish to monitor US citizens' activities will now have a field day pushing through legislation that will make it legal to spy on them and to prevent them from being spied on.

we have laws that regulate when the government is permitted to read a citizen's mail or tap their phones. we have no such laws in place for computers, and now we may never.

these laws are never temporary measures: they are put in place and then either forgotten or their advocates point to their efficacy a few months or years down the road, and they are kept in place.

this is the only note I'll be posting in this thread. today I have finally begun crying. while this issue is important to me, I don't have the time or emotional energy to engage in a discussion about it at this time.
posted by rebeccablood at 3:14 PM on September 14, 2001 [1 favorite]


I want you to understand that I'm not trying to belittle people's concerns about their freedoms. However, by placing such a profound emphasis on a single, fairly narrow freedom (in this case, crypto), you might be belittling the basic human concerns--the right to nourishment, the right not to live in fear, etc.--of others both around the world and here in your own country.

so which of us self-centered bastards should win?
If it's an either/or situation, I would choose to err on the side of safety. If heightened airport security could have stopped these terrorists, even at the expense of my "right" to not be hassled with detailed security checks at the airport, I'm all for the security.

the government won't stop with a "marginal right." you have to draw a line somewhere
I agree, and in light of recent events perhaps we should redraw where this line is.
posted by arco at 4:16 PM on September 14, 2001


There are too many example of when this sort of thing has been taken too far to allow any restriction of civil liberties. The plight of other countries may be terrible, and Americans certainly may still not be in a position to understand it, and I would certainly fear additional terrorist attacks more than losing my right to code, but the simple fact is that denying the public secure encryption will not stop terrorism, and only leads to the further degradation towards a police state. This link from startled is to a page on the WWI espionage act.

I do acknowledge that it would be nice if America could become aware of the problems elsewhere in the world -- but given the reactions so far, I can see that's not going to happen, and whether I can tell how bad it is elsewhere is irrelevant. There are enough people howling for revenge to drown out anything I can say on that topic. So I move to prevent the government from taking advantage of them while they are preoccupied.
posted by j.edwards at 4:40 PM on September 14, 2001


I was flabbergasted to see Leo Laporte on "The Screen Savers" the other night pretty much openly calling for a rollback of "some" civil liberties in order to increase security. He said flat out it was the bombing that made him change his mind.

Score 1 for the terrorists. Any more?
posted by rushmc at 5:17 PM on September 14, 2001


I don't understand American sensitivity to this issue...

Clearly you do not, which I guess is why America is what it is and Britain is what IT is.

i'd rather live with more risk than less freedom.

Now THIS guy gets it.
posted by rushmc at 5:19 PM on September 14, 2001


Clearly you do not, which I guess is why America is what it is and Britain is what IT is.

What do you mean by this? Seriously, I'm not trying to be snarky: what exactly are you talking about here? I don't understand...
posted by arco at 5:41 PM on September 14, 2001


A valid question, to which I wrote a long, thoughtful reply. I was surprised to see it become an impassioned paean to my country on the page before my very eyes, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. I'm not going to post it. But I feel better for having written it, so I thank you for your question.

Short answer: Despite any and all failings, America ROCKS, and the world would suck without us.
posted by rushmc at 11:58 PM on September 14, 2001


I also want you to understand that I'm not trying to belittle people's concerns about their freedoms, and apologise again sincerely for trivialising the discussion earlier. However, I meant it as a symbol of what I use email for. As a law-abiding citizen there is nothing I use email, the telephone or my PC for that I wouldn't be prepared to allow my Government to monitor in the cause of increasing our collective security. The same cannot be said of the people who would do us harm. That particular freedom has no value to me, but I am genuinely seeking to understand why it has value to those here who are seeking to protect it.

It would be unforgivable of me to draw comparisons between America and Britain at this time. All I would say is that America appears to be a nation that is not at ease with its Government. That is an observation (if its true) which has profound implications for the rest of us....
posted by RichLyon at 12:01 AM on September 15, 2001


Rich, I just want to thank you. You made me think and think hard. A ways back up this thread, I posted a link to something I wrote on the subject. After thinking about what you wrote and reading back over what I wrote in my blog, I realized something:

I didn't clearly explain why drawing the line in the sand is so crucialy important.

I've been noodling over my reasoning in my head and I'm happy to say that I've made a fairly strong case for why it is crucially essential for Americans to vehemently protect their civil liberties and not budge for the sake of convenience if in fact we wish to preserve the unique situation we have.

I want to write all of this down, but as you see, it's quite late. I will be writing about the issue in the coming days and perhaps I'll post a link here.

The short and long of it is that crypto is a very small issue in a comparitively large basket. Really privacy is a more appropriate buzzword. Here's the argument (again in short, sorry if it doesn't make sense in this form)

  • The government wants to find terrorists
  • They want to be able to listen in on everything and gather intelligence in order to identify threats.
  • Privacy (and forced privacy via Crypto) makes that impossible.
  • If those are thrown out of the window, then the government gets to decide what it considers a threat. Certainly planning an act is a threat. Perhaps giving aid to those planning such an attack is a threat. But what about sympathizing with the terrorists? What about disagreeing with the goverment actions? What about protests? What about planning protests? What about calling the president a bad name? It could go on and on... Slippery slope style
  • Once you give the government the ability to be completely inside of our lives, they get to subjectively decide when you are crossing the line. That is a very scary thing especially for a country that was founded on the premises that this country was founded on. I think that the Founding Fathers knew what they were talking about...

    There's so much more in there, but there's the stripped down argument.

    So anyway, thank you for making me think.
    posted by fooljay at 2:55 AM on September 15, 2001


  • Oh, and one more thing. Due to the nature of our republican democracy, debate is, has been and always will be (as long as we preserve our ability to speak freely) the force behind this nation's course of actions in the world. There can be no debate if dissent is not allowed.

    Limits on privacy combined with limits to free speech (which, as I've said, is essentially what banning crypto would do) makes that scenario easier to imagine.

    Constitutionally, this government gets its power only from the people. The people can never allow the government to turn those tables on them...

    id est: Who's your daddy?
    posted by fooljay at 3:02 AM on September 15, 2001


    Fooljay: if you could, please post a link to your essay here, when you finish it. I understand and, for the most part, don't disagree with the arguments of civil libertarians. However, I've found in the last few years that a lot of people who hold these strong opinions do not engage in a calm discussion of them (I'm thinking of the Freepers and John Birch Society, specifically). It's refreshing to see a thoughtful and intelligent discussion, and hopefully we can come to a better understanding of freedoms in a global environment.

    Rich: I think a lot of it does come down to a lack of trust in our government, and I'm not sure where what the full implications of that are, or how that might change (if it should) in the wake of the attacks.
    posted by arco at 9:52 AM on September 15, 2001


    fooljay - you say some intriguing things in your journal which, for me, shed much light on this issue. I do accept the validity of (and share) scepticism of authoritarian government, and accept the logic that if your current government were to abuse its powers in an authoritarian manner then the slippery slope you analyse would probably be descended.

    You make a value judgement I can't disprove that "there are people...in power who do not have the best interests of the citizen in a free society in mind" and I assume therefore you believe your government would abuse its powers in that manner etc.

    If these things are true, then you should defend your right protect yourself from that abuse. (Touchdown. The crowd goes wild).

    I'll tell you though, for what it is worth, why I believe in my part of the world those things aren't true (and like you I am precising like mad here in the interests of time). My wife is Norwegian - she comes from a country of 5m people. She went to school with some folks who are in government. I'm British - I come from a country of 50m people. I know some folks who went to school with some folks who are in government. You live in a country of 280m people. Disproportionately many people have no connection whatsoever at a human level with the people who run your lives.

    Is that it? Are you just so big that the body politic and its rulers are just too decoupled to allow for the natural trust-enabling processes that take place in smaller societies? The theory sounds too simple, but does at least have the merit of appearing to explain why you and I can arrive at opposed but valid conclusions from the same set of premises...(and neatly anticipates your worries about China ;-)
    posted by RichLyon at 12:51 PM on September 15, 2001


    Another thoughtful post, Rich. Thank you.

    You make a value judgement I can't disprove that "there are people...in power who do not have the best interests of the citizen in a free society in mind" and I assume therefore you believe your government would abuse its powers in that manner etc.

    I honestly don't know what it is about the American political system or the American culture (maybe it's not just America) that attracts these types. Strewn throughout our history are a few parasites who have done damage to the idealistic priciples of our republican democracy. They have used political office for satisfaction of greed, their own benefit or, worse, as an outlet for a desire for power over others. I'm sure that some of these people even believed that they knew best what we as Americans needed even though it was clearly not. The full comparison between our politicans and the Senatorial and Patrician classes in Roman culture is certainly not lost on me.

    I must stress that these types of people are in the minority, or at least my ever-optimistic and idealistic mind likes to tell me so. There are multitudes of truly caring, compassinate and intelligent individuals in our government who have been absolute stunning advocates for the people, as it absolutely should be. Politicians should be regarded as highly as firefirghters, policemen and others who give their blood, sweat and tears for public service. Unfortunately, this is not the case. It doesn't take many bad apples to undermine the image and sap the strength of those who operate under more pure motives.

    There's the old quote that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Perhaps it is that tendency multiplied by the American desire to preserve the ideals on which our country was founded which makes us ever vigilant for transgressors.

    I want to be able to trust that my government has my best welfare truly in mind. Unfortunately, I can't and I'm not alone in thinking that. If that is indeed the case, then we must draw a very definite line in the sand.

    Why has this happened?

    Even my optimism cannot thwart realization of the fact that the U.S. counts among it's citizens a HUGE number of absolute f*cking idiots. The people are people who think World news is what happens outside of the city limits, or worse, their own neighborhoods. Perhaps it is due to our relative geographic isolation and dominance in this part of the world that has rendered world affairs as being "not our problem". (The U.S. does have a very historically precedented tendency towards the idea of isolationism.)

    These people are not well read in current events and, most ominously, in history and geography. They can recite, in order, the list of teams who have won the Super Bowl, and the scores of each game of the 1977 World Series, but could not tell you the difference between Russia and the USSR, or point out Afghanistan on a non-annotated map.

    These are the people who vote for our elected officials.

    These are the same people who have made Jerry Springer a smashing success.


    As far as I'm concerned, that scares me more than a whole swarming nest of mouth-frothing terrorists.

    And this is why I, and others, must remain terribly aware of the actions of the people whom they have elected.

    I would dare say that the average level of knowledge about all the things I've listed above is far higher in Norway and Britain than here in the States. I would also venture to guess (correct me if I'm wrong), that by virtue of geography and the history of Europe, your governments are more genuinely concerned about survival and protection of its citizens than their expolitation.

    For these reasons, I can understand why some of our concerns may seem foreign or even trivial to you. I hope that, despite my meandering, stream-of-conciousness way of presenting them, my thoughts have helped clarified at least my own position and feelings regarding why things are the way they are here in the good ol' U.S. of A.

    Until we can raise the level of education in the U.S., and subsequently the quality of people elected into office, we cannot rest in assurance that our government will do the right thing for the country, its citizens and its position in the world. We must be the watchers.

    And wouldn't it be a terrible thing if our ability to watch and criticize our own government was limited?

    Epilogue

    I strive and struggle to believe that the American people are more educated as a whole than they are. I do know, however, on the whole, despite these things, Americans are genuinely good, hard-working, people, who want to do the right thing.

    I believe that the world view of Americans is due, in large part to the fact that they may not always know what the thing is...
    posted by fooljay at 3:04 PM on September 15, 2001


    arco, it seems as though I'm developing the essay here in this thread and simply compiling it on my site. I really would like to consolidate it and polish it up, as for the most part it has come, perhaps quite evidently, off of the top of my head. If I do polish it up, I will post a link (or send you and Rich emails). Either way though, I think you have the basis for my thoughts written in my two posts above.
    posted by fooljay at 3:11 PM on September 15, 2001


    BTW, I find it quite interesting on an intellectual level that the format of Metafilter has been the great "Fracturer of Thought" for me. My ideals are strewn throughout this site like shards of glass from a broken vase.

    It's kind of a shame really...
    posted by fooljay at 3:13 PM on September 15, 2001


    One of the fundamental philosophical underpinnings of the United States is that the government will always be controlled and contained by a series of checks and balances.

    The people are the final check, the ultimate balance. And the higher levels of government can never be allowed to take any action which would inhibit this prime mechanism from functioning as intended.
    posted by rushmc at 5:46 PM on September 15, 2001


    Dammit. How did you fit everything I wrote into three little sentances?!

    Brevity was never my strongest trait...
    posted by fooljay at 7:06 PM on September 15, 2001


    Heh. As I said, I had to delete my initial tome and go away and think about it for a day. :)
    posted by rushmc at 9:12 PM on September 15, 2001


    Yeah, but I did that too! Teach me your ways, O Holy Mystic...
    posted by fooljay at 9:18 PM on September 15, 2001


    Folks. This has been a hugely helpful debate for me. You've installed a series of hooks in my brain that will allow me to make much better associations now between fundamental American sensibilities on freedoms and the implications of what happened last week - thank you.

    So many notions have been introduced, though, that remain tantalisingly unanswered, each of which could spawn an entire debate, e.g.

    * The destruction of the concept of America as the highest point in the Geopolitical foodchain, and what "Geopolitical Symbiosis 101" class syllabus would look like.

    * Reconciling John Perry Barlow's injuntion to "Fear Nothing. Live Free." with Kahlil Gibran's "You shall be free indeed when your days are not without a care nor your nights without a want and a grief".

    * Getting to the bottom of the "all or nothing" perception of the nature of Liberty, that the loss of one freedom is the loss of all freedom. And fooljay's related notion that speech can only be free if it can be conducted in private (there are shades to this argument, fooljay, that seem to go beyond "Slippery Slope" theory).

    * Whether apparently overweening reliance on "a system of checks and balances" is actually what you have to have when your system is just too big to rely on social self regulation.

    * Amendment notwithstanding, whether an immutable political philosophical framework conceived in the 18th century is sufficient to serve a state operating in the 21st. What if the Declaration of Independence had been signed in 1576? Would Machiavelli's "Prince" now be informing our thoughts on encryption? (Wow.)

    I look forward very much to continuing our debate in other threads.

    rich
    posted by RichLyon at 2:35 AM on September 16, 2001


    All very good and intriguing questions, Rich. You should come over here and hold a discussion-style class on these. That would be interesting indeed.
    posted by fooljay at 4:05 AM on September 16, 2001


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