Friday, January 20, 2006

What have you Googled today?

A report from (you guessed it) today says that the Justice Department wants to know what you and I have been Googling here lately. They say it's because they want to do research on the Child Online Protection Act.

We can trust the government, right?

Last night a comment appeared in the "voice of the people" section of our Jackson newspaper, and one local raised the often-repeated argument: "If you're not doing anything wrong, why worry about what they're looking for?"

Right. Okay, gotcha.

Let's remember, almost a week after Martin Luther King, Jr. day, that the FBI spied on the non-violent, progressive, and brilliant Dr. King. They spied on anti-war protestors.

And now they want to see what you and I have been searching for with Google.

Even if I haven't done anything wrong, I don't want anybody - much less a government who wants to be trusted, but has proven unworthy of such trust under any administration - spying over my shoulder.

I close my bedroom door each night because (a) people allegedly say my snoring gets ridiculous and (b) I want some privacy while I sleep. Looking at what I do on the internet is like keeping my door cracked just a little. No harm done, they're just taking a listen, right?

Privacy on the internet is a slippery topic anyway. Are you truly entering a private sphere - in your PJs, on the couch, drinking a beer - or are you entering a type of public arena, with a cyber-sidewalk and no-yelling-fire-in-crowded-theater rules?

For a country that believes that the rugged individual is king (or queen), the government is sure treating us like peasants.

As I've mentioned before, nothing can fight terrorism and crime better than people doing their job. You don't need all these extra powers if someone would just earn their paycheck. Spying has its place - there's a legal, ethical way to do it - but these shotgun, roving searches are out of line.

Remember when the government was encouraging our mail carriers and plumbers to spy on us, telling them to report any suspicious activity?

Well that must not have worked out so well, because now they want to know what books you're buying on Amazon or for how many years you renewed your subscription to Playboy.

Sure, they tell us that they're checking out kids' access to porn.

But they also told us there was no domestic spying at all.

The similarities to Nixon and communist Russia are astounding. Rights pushed back for an endless "war on terror," administration enemies outed in the press, secret spying, secret overseas bases, not-secret-anymore torture, secret energy meetings, no concern for international laws and precedents.

Why even have laws? The Bush administration will just do what they want anyway. Openness and accountability, with checks and balances by all branches of government, are at the heart of the American republican democracy. From now on, any claims to spreading democracy around the world by this administration will ring hollow. They can't even get it right here at home.

Perhaps Bush and company are forgetting who they work for. Us.

They need someone to remind them.

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