David Westerfield

Theology, Culture, Technology, Reviews, and Other Commentary

Police State Watch – FBI Data-Mining Program Expanding

FBI’s Data-Mining System Sifts Airline, Hotel, Car-Rental Records

The government’s ability to sift and sort through massive amounts of data is increasing at an exponential rate. The NSA is even launching a new, massive data-center just outside of Salt Lake City, UT. In the name of security, we now have an FBI and a federal security system that is taking unprecedented steps to protect us. Much of this is warranted, as there is a very real and present danger of terrorism, as the news has been reporting recently.

However, at what point does it all become invasive and move past the realms of security and morph into an unjust policing program in which the authorities gain control over average, law-abiding citizens? That is the fine line that is easy to cross. And at what point do these extra measures get scaled back after the initial threat has subsided? If history is any indicator, they don’t. They continue on and as other threats come up on the horizon, more power is gained in the hands of a few.

One of the unintended dangers of these measures, as indicated in the article, is the possibility of false-positives, where average citizens get arrested or flagged and have to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense to get freed from their sight. From the article, “‘We have a situation where the government is spending fairly large sums of money to use an unproven technology that has a possibly of false positives that would subject innocent Americans to unnecessary scrutiny and impinge on their freedom,’ said Kurt Opsahl, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”

I used to be very hard-line about this issue, during the time right after and beyond the 9/11 attacks. I believed it was absolutely necessary to have these technologies and human systems in place to protect us from these pervasive threats. I still hold to that to some degree, but also see the legitimate concerns of many about the potential for abuse, holding some of those concerns myself now. As I have said about other issues, it is my belief in total depravity that leads me to these concerns. The history of the Bible as well as the history of man after the Scriptures were written display man’s insatiable desire to pursue that which is evil.

The diagnosis of man in Romans 3:10-18 makes this abundantly clear. Man is not inherently good and in opposition to the insurance commercial, we do not “just want to do the right thing.” We inherently want to do that which is evil, and it is only because of God’s common grace that man doesn’t pursue even more wickedness than he does. This doesn’t negate the human-to-human good man does do his fellow man. But it negates the assumption that we are inherently good in relation to the One who matters: God.

As a result, the possibility for corruption is all around us and this is the very reason checks and balances were put into place at the founding of this country. Those men understood that humankind, when given absolute power without those checks and balances in place, will pursue power over the majority and become absolutely corrupted.

These powers the federal government is obtaining are no different. I’m not saying we have gotten to the point of despotism yet, or that it is even around the corner, as many are claiming. But corruption doesn’t always happen in a 100% rush toward tyranny, but rather happens in fragments until our freedoms are completely eroded one day. This could be 20 years or 50 years down the road or maybe never, but it is at least possible, and at some point likely.

No one wants to think it could happen, but no one wanted to think Hitler and Stalin would commit such evil crimes either, yet they did. And the devastation left in their wake was breath-taking, to say the least. As the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about at the end of his presidency continues to expand, we must be watchful that these powers not over-run the people for whom they are supposed to be protecting.

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