Two years ago, I noted a chilling exchange from a 2002 FISA suit argued by Ted Olson. Laurence Silberman was trying to come up with a scenario in which some criminal information might not have any relevance to terrorism. When he suggested rape, Olson suggested we might use evidence of a rape to get someone to inform for us.
JUDGE SILBERMAN: Try rape. That’s unlikely to have a foreign intelligence component.It’s chilling not just because it suggests rapists have gone free in exchange for trumping up terrorist cases for the government, but because it makes clear the kinds of dirt the government sought using — in this case — traditional FISA wiretaps.
SOLICITOR GENERAL OLSON: It’s unlikely, but you could go to that individual and say we’ve got this information and we’re prosecuting and you might be able to help us.
~ from Imagine the Informants You You Can Coerce When You Can Spy on Every Single American by Marcy Wheeler ~
This right here underlines the danger of mass surveillance. It makes blackmail by the government as easy as child's play!
This brings me back to a point that I think too many people don't understand. The average Joe or Jane will say that they aren't engaged in illegal activities and so, if the government wants to snoop into their lives, have at it. They have nothing to hide.
But here's the thing. Almost every person who has walked the face of the earth has skeletons in their closet. While these skeletons may not involve anything illegal, they would be quite embarrassing, if revealed in public. It might involve something uttered, written, viewed or done. In a world in which the government KNOWS each person's skeletons, those skeletons can be used against us.
Maybe the government is interested in your sister-in-law or next door neighbor. Maybe the government is interested in your drinking buddy or the gal in the next cubicle at work. Would you mind doing a little spying for us, they ask. "Hell, no," you respond. Well, they tell you, it would be shame for your friends and family to learn that you did this or said that a few years back. Hmm, that would be quite embarrassing.
Since most of us care about our self-image, what would you do in such a situation? We might like to think that we wouldn't succumb to such tactics, but, if push came to shove, who can say?