Does security trump other values or has reality TV eroded privacy?

Published 12:47 pm Monday, May 22, 2006

By Staff
The National Security Agency (NSA) wants to create a massive database of every call made in America.
Then what? The Detroit Free Press reported May 20 that federal authorities sat on a tip for several months about former Teamsters leader Jimmy Hoffa, missing since July 1975, being buried on a Milford Township horse farm.
Digging only started after a lawyer for the tipster, federal inmate Donovan Wells, 75, threatened to go public.
His was not the typical response, however.
Once upon a time, USA Today's revelation might have made for a constitutional crisis or, at the very least, a scandal, but only civil libertarians seem concerned, and nobody seems surprised.
Ironically, President Bush was poised for a political boost.
According to a next-day Washington Post/ABC News poll, 63 percent of Americans had no problem with the government rooting through their lives.
A newer survey from Newsweek and USA Today/Gallup finds that four of every 10 citizens are willing to surrender privacy and due process.
In the Washington Post/ABC News poll, 44 percent strongly approved of the NSA approach to fighting terrorism.
More than half (51 percent) also favor how Bush is handling the privacy question, which put his standing on that issue 20 points higher than his overall job approval rating, even lacking a clear idea of how all this information being mined from phone records is being used.
Apparently, that's how completely the landscape was remade by Sept. 11, 2001.
Security trumps all other values. Or, as the reality TV craze suggests, average Americans don't treasure privacy as much as civil libertarians.
Yet this is a nation that accepts 30,000 firearms deaths each year rather than to enact gun control.
The Bush administration has adeptly exploited American fears to win acceptance of things that were previously unacceptable, from domestic surveillance to secret prisons, no due process for “enemy combatants,” mistreatment of detainees and the furthering of the idea that 9/11 and war in Iraq were somehow related.
Ironically again, this cynical strategy has come back to bite the administration on immigration, where members of his own party are more inclined to insist on mass deportation of illegals than a guest worker program and a path to citizenship.
Bush has become a contortionist trying to calm irrational fears he has stoked on so many other issues.
As powerful as we are and as powerless and anxious as we feel, immigrants and Muslims become scapegoats while we remain firmly in the grasp of gridlock, even with one-party control.