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Critique of Judge Richard Posner's defense of domestic spying

Critique of Judge Richard Posner's defense of domestic spying
Critique of Judge Richard Posner's defense of domestic spying

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Fw: Posner on the Panopticon
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 23:58:03 -0800
From: Fred Heutte  

fyi -- not for publication until the Post rejects this :)

Posner's piece is a masterpiece of propaganda.  It's at 


------ mail forwarded, original message follows ------

Subject: Posner on the Panopticon
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 20:35:45 -0800

One has to gasp at the slippery logic in Judge Richard Posner's
view ("Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis," Dec. 21) that the
government's "machine collection and processing of data cannot,
as such, invade privacy."

For those who have followed his writing, Posner is, unremarkably,
a supporter of the Panopticon, Jeremy Bentham's thought experiment
for a prison in which all actions are tracked invisibly by a
central authority.

Bentham justified his concept on the grounds of cost-effectiveness
-- prisoners would self-regulate their activity to the norms of the
unobserved authority.  But in a free society, it is we the people
who determine what is legal, and not an unaccountable central

The Founders of our nation knew that liberty must support the
necessary means for securing self-protection, while the tendency
of security is to find self-fulfillment through the suppression of

In an uncertain world, it is impossible to predetermine the
perfect mix.  Instead, our system of checks and balances was
specifically designed to allow that process to unfold as
circumstances change.

The likelihood, given the pervasiveness of electronic communication,
is that most of us will be caught in the drift nets of unimpeded
federal surveillance.  It may be that, as Posner suggests, no
federal agent will ever view our captured thoughts.  But experience
shows that unimpeded access leads to abuses of authority and
suppression of our great freedoms of speech and opposition to
arbitrary government power.

Following Posner's view, security always stands paramount,
and therefore liberty always loses.  But as Benjamin Franklin
wrote, =E2=80=9CWhoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must
begin by subduing the freeness of speech.=E2=80=9D

Fred Heutte
Portland, Oregon

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