“I don’t think I’d be hurt if the government or anyone else listened to what I said on the phone. I have nothing to hide.”
Judge R. Dixon Herman, 1972
U.S. District Judge, Middle District of Pennsylvania
Quoted in "The Harrisburg 7 & the New Catholic Left" by William O'Rourke
“US does not have a sense of any shame it threatens other Nations. Under normal circumstance at least in UK nobody can listen in to my telephone conversation. ... There is no honesty in this business. Probably terrorists will use pigeons.”
Post on Times of India website, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/opinions/20842568.cms
Enter Mr. Snowden and the revelations about Prism. Suddenly China (and the rest of the world) is paying attention and ready to talk. To be surprised about Prism is like being shocked to find horsemeat in France. Yeah, they eat horses. Yes, we here in the US are nosy. We want to know what's in your underwear drawer. More importantly, we want to know whether acts of terrorism are in the works.
The rule of thumb in deciding whether to grant search warrants for wiretapping used to be "clear and present danger." But how does one identify such a danger unless communications are monitored? Privacy can no longer be a priority. Should it be?
During the trial of the Harrisburg Seven, attorney Arthur Kinoy of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a member of the legal team for the Chicago Seven, was arguing before the US Supreme Court in Washington. He and Justice Department attorney Robert Mardian "debated the merits of the federal government's 26-year-old practice of wiretapping, without first obtaining court approval, domestic radicals considered dangerous to the national security" (quoted in "The Trial of the Harrisburg 7 and the New Catholic Left").
Many like Judge Herman can say they have nothing to hide. Even so the Constitution's Fourth Amendment must be respected. Wiretapping -- or surveillance of people's emails or text messages -- goes to the heart of the liberties of every single person in this country, and in the world (to paraphrase Kinoy). Terrorists won't be stopped by reading everybody's emails, or by listening to every phone call. Where inflamed and mixed-up people exist, ways will be found to bypass technology (hello, pigeons!).
To mobilize people to share or alleviate people's sufferings and aspirations, to paraphrase Eqbal Ahmad ("A Jihad Against Time") -- could mean the end of terrorism. Maybe even the end of hacking.