Many Americans would find it disturbing to know that there is an active effort to collect information and “build files” on bloggers i.e. people who are typically engaged and involved in the political process.
At a hearing of the House Homeland Security’s subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence, Speier said that personal information of journalists is “irrelevant.”
Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-Pa.), the panel’s chairman, said collecting information on bloggers and people who comment on news could have a “chilling effect” on speech and violate their privacy rights.
Of course – this is nothing new; it has gone on for a very long time. Any student of history can tell you that there have been countless violations of civil liberties and many people have been victims of politically motivated attacks utilizing information gleaned from this file collection technique. Case in point – University of Michigan Professor Juan Cole was targeted by the Bush White House during the Iraq war because he was very critical of the decision to go to war in Iraq; so – they sought “damaging personal information” to discredit him. Says the CIA whisteblower:
In an interview, Mr. Carle said his supervisor at the National Intelligence Council told him in 2005 that White House officials wanted “to get” Professor Cole, and made clear that he wanted Mr. Carle to collect information about him, an effort Mr. Carle rebuffed. Months later, Mr. Carle said, he confronted a C.I.A. official after learning of another attempt to collect information about Professor Cole. Mr. Carle said he contended at the time that such actions would have been unlawful.
There is a fine line between protecting Americans and destroying their civil liberties. And it’s moments like these that remind me of a popular quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin:
“People willing to trade their freedom for temporary security deserve neither and will lose both.”
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