Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance

Safe and Sorry – Terrorism & Mass Surveillance


Terrorism is very scary, especially
when it happens close to home and not in some faraway place. Nobody likes to be afraid, and we were
eager to make the fear go away. So we demanded more security. In the last decade, it’s become
increasingly normal for civil liberties to be eroded and for
government agencies to spy on citizens, to collect and store
their personal information. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of
right- or left-wing policies, this affects every one of us. So we have to take a look at the data
and ask ourselves honestly, “Has all of this actually made us safer?” In the aftermath of 9/11,
the US government concluded that the law had not
kept pace with technology. It created the
Terrorist Surveillance Program initially to intercept communications
linked to al-Qaeda. Officials were confident that if the
program had been in place before 9/11, the hijackers could have been stopped. But soon the new powers were also used
to prove guilt by association. The FBI used immigration
records to identify Arab and Muslim foreign
nationals in the US. On this basis, 80,000 individuals
were required to register, another 8,000 were called in
for FBI interviews, and more that 5,000 locked up
in preventive detention. Not one terrorist was found in
what’s been called the most aggressive national
campaign of ethnic profiling since World War II. How commonplace it’s since become
for government agencies to collect and store
the personal data of citizens was made plain by the leak of
the Snowden documents in 2013. They showed how the NSA
can demand information about users from firms
like Microsoft or Google in addition to their daily collection of
data from civilian internet traffic such as email content and contact lists. So, instead of focusing on criminals, governments are increasingly
turning their attention to everyone. But if you are looking
for a needle in a haystack, adding more hay to the stack isn’t going
to make it any easier to find the needle. On the contrary, every recent success
announced by the NSA has come from classic target surveillance. Despite high hopes,
the NSA surveillance program has not stopped any
major terror attack. For instance, one of the Boston Marathon
bombers was already a target of the FBI. So what we need is not even
more random data, but better ways to understand and
use the information we have. Spy agenices are also pushing
to cripple encryption. In early 2016, the FBI asked Apple
to produce a backdoor program to disable the encryption
of a terrorist’s iPhone. Apple publicly declined, not only because
this tool could be used to permanently weaken the privacy of
law-abiding citizens worldwide, but fearing to open the floodgates for
governments requesting access to a technology used
by billions of people, a fear shared by security
experts and cryptographers. A few weeks later, the FBI revealed that
they had hacked the phone themselves, basically admitting that they lied to
the public about the need for a backdoor, which questions how trustworthy
spy agencies are in the debate about privacy and security, especially considering that the NSA,
for example, already has the capability to turn on your iPhone microphone
or activate your laptop camera without you noticing. Concerns about this are often met
with the argument, “If you have nothing to hide,
you have nothing to fear.” But this reasoning only creates
a climate of oppression. Wanting to keep certain parts
of your life private doesn’t mean you’re
doing anything wrong. Right now, we live in a democracy. But imagine the damage the wrong person
could do with all our data and such easy access to our devices. Anti-terrorism laws allow the authorities
to investigate and punish non-terrorism-related crimes
more aggressively. If you give law enforcement powerful
tools, they will use them. That’s why democratic oversight
is so important: even if those tools and laws aren’t
used against you today, they might be tomorrow. For example, following
the November 2015 Paris attacks, France expanded its already
extensive anti-terrorism laws by giving law enforcement greater
powers to conduct house raids and place people under house arrest. Within weeks, evidence emerged that
these powers were being used for unintended purposes, such as
quashing climate change protests. The governments of Spain,
Hungary, and Poland have introduced more restrictive laws
on the freedom of assembly and speech. Freedom of expression
and the press in Turkey has been seriously undermined
in the last few years, with people sentenced to prison
for criticizing the government. None of this is effectively
helping us fight terrorism. The motivation behind this
might be good, even noble, but if we let our elected governments
limit our personal freedom, the terrorists are winning. What’s worse, if we’re not careful, we might slowly move
towards a surveillance state. The data is pretty clear: the erosion of
rights, along with mass surveillance, hasn’t led to significant
successes so far, but it has changed
the nature of our society. Terrorism is a complicated problem… …without simple solutions. No security apparatus
can prevent a few guys from building a bomb in their basement. We should keep the principle
of proportionality in mind. Creating master keys to
enter millions of phones is not the same as
searching a single house. In most countries, the law already
permits a wide range of actions, including targeted surveillance. To take full advantage of
this existing potential, we need better international cooperation and more effective security
and foreign policies, better application of our present laws
instead of new and stricter ones that undermine our freedom. Let us not, out of fear, destroy
what we are most proud of: democracy and our fundamental
rights and liberties. This video was made possible
by your support on Patreon.com and the European Liberties Platform,
. Subtitles by the Amara.org community