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posted: 4/20/2014 5:01 AM

Privacy rights essential to a free society

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In an April 6 letter to the editor, Jeff Markarian, suggested that only people with something to hide would be worried about government surveillance. This cliché falsely conflates the defense of personal rights with being suspect. In the United States there should be nothing suspicious about demanding that the government respect the Fourth Amendment to show probable cause and obtain specific warrants before investigations.

In addition to being not suspicious, privacy is essential to freedom because it guarantees our security, happiness and ability to dissent. Privacy helps secure us from fraud and malicious influence such as blackmail. This is of growing importance as we confront a variety of threats from identity theft to industrial espionage. Unfortunately the government, by violating our privacy, has undermined our security by putting vulnerabilities into encryption protocols and computer hardware. This now leaves us open to political abuse, enemy intelligence operations and cyber crime.

Privacy is important to most of us because we need it to be truly ourselves. We can't do so if we're under the constant scrutiny of unaccountable bureaucrats who can freely search NSA databases to misconstrue or embarrass us with the intimate details of our lives. Under this pervasive surveillance many of us will anxiously self-censor and avoid controversial people and opinions.

This isn't freedom. All of this has a chilling effect on journalists, whistle-blowers, activists and others who would represent the common good. Without privacy we cannot dissent against the status quo. Protests can and will be thwarted, reputations ruined and political meetings discouraged. Not only is this possible with current warrantless domestic surveillance programs, it is inevitable as the sorry histories of our intelligence agencies can show. If the British crown had such technology in the 1770s, we'd now barely remember the Founding Fathers as terrorists hanged for treason.

Stephen Volkamer

Elk Grove Village

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