Civil Liberties vs. Child Porn ? ? !

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Current Events, politics

Ben Franklin once said, “Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither.”  Yes, Franklin.  You know, that guy who was the principle architect of freedom in the U.S.  The main man among those “founders” that the conservatives like to refer to all the time.

Currently the Canadian Federal government is proposing the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act  which will facilitate the ability of law enforcement agencies to track e-mail and cell phone use without a warrant.  When opposition parties stood up for individual civil rights, they were told by the Justice Minister and Conservative officials that to oppose the Bill is to support child pornographers.

Taking a page from the most ignorant branch of U.S. right wing politics, the Canadian Conservatives are trying to use fear as a vehicle for compromising our civil liberties. Such a simple minded dichotomy comes from either a very narrow minded or very manipulative mind.

Life would be much more secure and crime perhaps more easily controlled if law enforcers were able to read our mail from our mailboxes at will or enter our homes for inspections without a warrant.  If you’ve got nothing to hide why would you object to that, or to them listening in on your phone conversations, or being able to inspect the contents of your computer, or having access to your bank account statements.  It would certainly make their job easier.

And yet I’m willing to bet that most people would find that at least an uncomfortable infringement on personal privacy and freedom, if not an alarming step away from democracy.  Most people would notice the potential abuses that our far from perfect law enforcement agencies would find tempting.  Most would be concerned that a government with that much power would able to rationalize the scrutiny of dissenters and radicals in society, in the name of the “public good”.

Checks and balances exist in our democratic system for a reason.  I have no objection to lawful, court overseen warrants being issued to get private information in cases where the police have a viable case against an individual.  For the most part, that exists now.  A warrant can be obtained to enter a private residence or tap a phone.  This is as it should be.  To give this power to the police without the need for judicial oversight is to remove a layer of checks and balances, and my confidence in law enforcement agencies to do this unilaterally is not strong.

Even a law stating that Internet Providers must be required to retain a record of transactions is not out of line.  Businesses are often required by law to hold records for a given number of years.  Even individuals need to hold financial records for a number of years in case of a tax audit.  However, imagine that you were required by law to keep all of your personal letters for a number of years, in case they may be needed in a criminal investigation.  This is the other side of the law facing providers, and it is not as cut and dry.

I’m with Ben Franklin.  Law enforcement has a difficult job to do, but making it easy for them by sacrificing civil liberties is never the right road to travel.  It tends to be a down hill road and a slippery slope.  Trying to compare defenders of civil liberties to supporters of child pornography is a cheap, emotional and fear laden shot which I hope most Canadians are too educated to fall for.

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Comments
  1. Michael says:

    Agree. In the mean time, there is encryption. They can still do traffic analysis, something you can’t entirely stop, but they can’t read the contents.

  2. I agree completely. However, these days, private companies are the new Big Brother. Google and Facebook know far more about us than the government does.

  3. Michael says:

    Very interesting comment on /. (a geek newsletter) today on this topic:

    Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, refering to The “Act to enact the Investigating and Preventing Criminal Electronic Communications Act and to amend the Criminal Code and other acts” Said: “He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers,” “Lawful access will aid child porn investigations. I call on the NDP to stop making things easier for predators and support these measures.”

    Adolf Hitler himself, referring to such tactics, wrote: “The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. ” -Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Publ. Houghton Miflin, 1943, Page 403

    • pwiinholt says:

      Great comment Michael. Hope you don’t mind if I elevate into a main post if I do any follow up on the story. Crediting you of course.

      • While that is a great quote, it’s not to be found anywhere in Mein Kampf. Check this edition, for example: http://www.greatwar.nl/books/meinkampf/meinkampf.pdf (fortunately, a non-Nazi site).

        While there is a lot of rubbish, nuttiness, and general weirdness in Mein Kampf – it’s weirdly devoid of downright cynicism. Had this quote been attributed to Goebbels, on the other hand, I probably wouldn’t have verified it.

        Cheers.

      • The only passage that even resembles that quote is this drivel:

        “It [The People’s State] must make sure that the purity of the racial strain will be preserved. It must proclaim the truth that the child is the most valuable possession a people can have. It must see to it that only those who are healthy shall beget children; that there is only one infamy,
        namely, for parents that are ill or show hereditary defects to bring children into the
        world and that in such cases it is a high honour to refrain from doing so.”

        So, don’t use that quote in public, you’ll only embarrass yourself, and that would stink, because this bill is a travesty.

  4. Michael says:

    Claus:

    After posting the quote (which I requoted from elsewhere), I started to be suspicious. While I am no expert on what Hitler said or did, this was unfamiliar to me. So I googled it.

    It turns out that Wikipedia (temporarily) removed the quote from their page on Hitler, pending verification, which they said was extremely hard to find. Perhaps because it’s inauthentic.

    “Mein Kampf” may be devoid of cynicism (I never read more than excerpts), but Hitler was not. His comment on the armenian genocide comes to mind.

    • Oh, no doubt he was a cynical sob. But Mein Kampf was a piece of propaganda designed to present himself as a future leader. I don’t think he ever wrote down any of his more cynical ideas. Goebbels was less judicious that way, his diaries can be quite revealing. Cheers.

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