If you were to purchase $7 worth of Powerball tickets, your probability of winning the Powerball that drawing would be better than the probability of being killed by a foreign terrorist over a one-year period. And if you take 9/11 out of the equation, the chances of you being killed becomes absolutely infinitesimal, that is if you didn’t already think that one out of 100 million was very, very, small. Not unremarkably, this is also the odds of being killed per mile that you drove in Louisiana in 2003.
Are we so terrified of failure that we are going to trade our freedoms and privacy based on this minute probability?
The horrific Boston bombing occurred despite this surveillance, despite knowledge of the perpetrator traveling to territories sympathetic to radical Islam and despite a warning from our not-so-friendly friend, Russia. Is the answer to this failure more surveillance? Is there a point where we are secure enough — where we accept the risk? If not, where do we stop? Only government with the ability to grant freedom can deny it.
In the historic battle over the size and reach of government during the founding days between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, Jefferson often asked where we going to find these angels to populate these government positions. With each right that we grant to government, we submit not ultimately to the rule of law, but to the rule of man.
By disclosing the secret surveillance, Edward Snowden is neither a hero nor a villain, and as a friend said, “We need more like him, just not too many.” He has, however, pulled the curtain on our nanny state that tracks our comings and goings, as if it were an overzealously distrustful parent of a teenager waiting for us to fail.
Combined with the IRS scandal, the investigating of The Associated Press on dubious grounds, and facilitating sales of illegal guns to “see where they go,” this is a perfect time to debate how far we are going to let our government control our lives.
What level of dominion are we, as citizens, rulers of government, willing to accept? Many are accepting of the cradle-to-grave promises in exchange for their freedoms. In return they discharge both responsibility and hope. That is not an America I want to bet on.
M. Wesley Salmon