Last post, I touched on the issue of electronic domestic surveillance by the federal government. I focused primarily on Edward Snowden, and his now international—for want of a better term—crusade to bring the extent of the government’s efforts to the attention of the American people (See: "Will The Real Ed Snowden Stand Up?"). Yes, I agree that Snowden’s since then escapades on the global stage have turned the issue more into a focus on his celebrity more than the issue itself, but there is a bigger picture within the “Edward Snowden Show” that needs attention. That often overlooked issue is that of the complexity of maintaining the balance between preserving the civil liberties and privacy concerns of Americans and working to preserve the security of the nation on the whole in the post-9/11 world.
How can Americans understand the necessity of this balance, and appreciate the need to go to extraordinary lengths in extraordinary times…especially when half of the people see the government in the worst light, and the other half rely too much on it? For the record, there are checks and balances built into the government’s efforts with regard to using electronic surveillance to thwart would-be terrorists. The information gathered tends to be peripheral rather than detailed content acquisition. Secondly, the focus is on those within the nation’s borders who might have contact with those outside the country, who are of questionable intent (yes, I’m fully aware and understand that those who might be able to cognitively process this concept may still harbor mistrust of the government—without a basis—based on preconceived thinking, some from the “they’re going to take our gun crowd” and some from the “this is another way the rich maintain power” crowd)
Now, with that being said, Friday night on HBO’S “Real Time with Bill Maher,” the comedian/social critic used the final segment of his weekly “New Rules” segment to speak a great level of level-headed sense into how we should approach the issue of the government’s eavesdropping policies. If you are willing to suspend your ability to be irritated by delivery and focus on the message (not the messenger), please give Maher’s cold-water perspective the government’s electronic surveillance a look…and maybe come away with something other than a bumper-sticker slogan about policy.