by Cal Thomas
In his classic novel "1984," George Orwell warned about the evils of a totalitarian state dominated by a single ruling party with total power over its inhabitants. Oceania, his fictional superstate, is under complete surveillance by the authorities. The character known as "Big Brother" reminds everyone he is constantly monitoring the citizens of Oceania, mainly by "telescreen."
At the end of 2013, the federal government may not yet have telescreens, which in Orwell's imagination had the ability to eavesdrop on people's conversations and broadcast propaganda, but it does have the nonfiction equivalent -- data collection, drones and other technological invasions of privacy.
Our government does have the
And because we have the NSA, and drones and all the rest, U.S. District Judge
President Obama has said, "Nobody is listening to your telephone calls." He named a panel to review the NSA's methods and the balance between privacy and security. The draft report, expected to be released next month, seems to favor privacy over security. A recent
So which is it?
How much privacy would Americans be willing to give up in exchange for a promise that the bargain will lead to more security? Our leaders regularly tell us they can't guarantee we won't be attacked again, so might this be a Faustian deal with the government "devil"?
Freedom is a precious commodity. Like virtue, once it is given up it is difficult, if not impossible, to regain. A government that regularly attempts to encroach on our right to privacy must be restrained by the people. Additional hearings should be held on this critical issue and they should be nonpartisan, as difficult as that may be heading into another election season.
Jihadists don't discriminate between political parties. They have vowed to kill as many Americans as possible. Striking the right balance between security and freedom is critical to both. Recent history provides numerous examples of nations that have traded freedom for security and gotten neither.
What must be avoided is the kind of thinking Orwell warned against: "Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them."
Freedom and security should not be contradictory, but complimentary. In an age of terrorism, this "devil" is really in the details.