In an explosive speech yesterday at Boston College, FBI Director Comey essentially ended America as we know it. Or at least what those of us who were schooled pre-millennia, were taught America should be. Alluding to recent leaks of government overreach by the intelligence community, Comey just came right out and said it, Fox News reported.
“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America. There is no place outside of judicial reach,” he said.
The speech was at a conference on cybersecurity, less than twenty-four hours after the WikiLeaks revelation that intelligence agents can hack electronic devices and record without a person’s knowledge. It was also revealed that the CIA has just been hacked, and by extension, so have our entire lives. This was all in the same week that Trump claimed that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower during the campaign. It was a definitely a week to address intelligence and the digital age. Comey didn’t address any of these issues directly. But, the timing of his comments was clearly choreographed.
“Even our memories aren’t private,” he said. “Any of us can be compelled to say what we saw. In appropriate circumstances, a judge can compel any of us to testify in court on those private communications. There is no place in America outside of judicial reach.”
Thought police, anyone?
“Even our communications with our spouses, with our clergy members, with our attorneys are not absolutely private in America,” he said.
Comey did say the FBI is working toward new encryption methods, to strike an appropriate balance between privacy and lawfully accessing information. These come after the revelations that Edward Snowden brought to the public eye.
“All of us have a reasonable expectation of privacy in our homes, in our cars, and in our devices. But it also means with good reason, in court, government through law enforcement can invade our private spaces,” Comey said. “It is a vital part of being an American. The government cannot invade our privacy without good reason, reviewable in court.”
He did tie the whole speech back to essential American values, even throwing in a nod to the founding fathers, trying in an odd way to appeal to patriotism.
“We all value privacy. We all value security. We should never have to sacrifice one for the other,” Comey said. “Our founders struck a bargain that is at the center of this amazing country of ours and has been for over two centuries.”
Leave the founding fathers out of this. The event was swarming with reporters, none of whom he would talk to after the event. He even precluded the speech by explaining he wouldn’t talk to reporters or comment on anything he didn’t want to talk about.
“I’m very slippery,” he said.
While Comey’s comments ring as chilling, perhaps it is not the government’s fault at that we have lost our sense of privacy. Perhaps we’re are a victim of the monster of our own making. Americans have readily embraced the digital revolution, arms wide open.
Every toddler in America can operate a smartphone and we live and die by our apps and tablet computers. Many workplaces don’t even issue computers anymore, they expect employees to supply their own laptops, as well as work related use of their personal cell phone.
We have long since accepted that traffic cams monitor our driving behavior and routinely issue us tickets for violations. We readily log in to a system that pinpoints with dead accuracy what part of the globe we are in, tells us how to get where we want to go, and can even see an aerial view of anywhere in the world. We carry this in our pockets at all times.
We know that every time we go into a store, restaurant, or bar, or in many cases even walk down the street, we are being filmed, all in the name of security. Unlike in past decades, we know these cameras work and are monitored. Store security cameras are so advanced they can, by request, tell us where we lost our keys or misplaced our debit cards.
Most of our workplaces are filmed in the name of security and we can probably name people that have lost their jobs over being caught on camera. Everything for this is already in place and has been for a long time. It was just a matter of time before someone connected the dots. The villains of the world have done it for awhile. So, doesn’t it stand to reason, that our own government would have to do the same to stay ahead of them? We put these systems into place. We accepted these intrusions into our lives.
Perhaps it is time to stop being outraged and start talking about how we can integrate American values into the technology invasive world that already exists.