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Please begin with an informative title:

I'm sick with a cold. Hard to think in subtleties. Some things are clear, but others are blurry. So I cannot be sure that the vision I have of a USA where the citizens just accept the government spying on (and recording) their coversations is likely to come to be. If it does, then what?

There is a strain in the American (& probably all other societies) experience that accepts in times of turmoil that civil liberties must be shed for the greater good. A good case could be made that we've been in that state country-wide since Dec 07, 1941. No sooner had we toppled the swastikas & eagles in Berlin (or was that the Russians?), then we found that the Soviets (who had been laid waste by 4 years of occupation & 26 million deaths) were international "terrorists" intent on (and capable of) world conquest. They also had spies all over America that had to be rooted out. Worse, they had "fellow-travelers" and "Pinkos" who were their "dupes" in unions and liberal organizations across the country. Some had even been "premature anti-fascists." The whole country could go Red in a single moment of neglect. Only constant vigilance and repression could save the republic. Hoover and his now archaic wire-taps were up to that challenge domestically. They had many allies on both sides of the aisle.
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That challenge turned out to be, to put it kindly, greatly exaggerated. To put it unkindly, it was paranoid hogwash cynically used by both the NSA and its precursors to justify expansion of their powers. When the Soviet Union fell, and it was realized that the threat had been exaggerated all along, there was some outcry for a bit. There was even talk of a peace dividend.

What we got instead were more war dividends. Reverting back to a theme popular in late 19th/early 20th Century English imperial circles, we re-discovered the threat of the "mad mullah." The horrorific attacks on September 11 ensured public cooperation and support.

What had at first been the noble Global War on Fascism (though taken on late in the game), became next the less-than-noble Global War on Communism, and now is the absurdly expensive and pathetic Global War on Terrorism.

If the public accepts the latest revelations about the NSA's universal spying, that will be a green light for further developments (if any green light is needed). What those next developments would look like are debatable. In fact, some will say there won't be further developments...as if technology will just freeze or our elected representatives will decide to do the right thing. Others see analagous developments in other societies and shiver. All that is debatable.

What also is debatable, is how many years would have to pass with the new developments in effect before we heard about them from some future whistle-blower...assuming they'll be opportunities for whistle-blowing. Obviously, the NSA is working at break-neck speed to try to prevent future whistle-blowing. If they succeed completely, then we as a Democracy may have failed completely. As perhaps will have other Democracies around the globe.

Will they succeed?

The question is will most American citizens accept these current revelations with just a shrug of the shoulders? If they do, will future generations then have merited by inheritance the consequences of our acquiescence to our "betters" in government? Will we have shut the door on the possibility of future activism?

Or is it possible that we can relinquish our rights to privacy, allow the NSA & their contractors access to all our communications, and still on a long-term basis be allowed to organize against government policies?

You tell me. What is the difference between an online activist and a cyber-terrorist? Please also tell me if that is how the NSA defines it. While you're at it, also tell me how it is that you know how the NSA and their contractors define it. Then explain to me how that will not change in the next 2, 4, or 10 years.

I hope I can shake this cold off soon. I hope the country can shake off the sickness of universal spying soon as well. I can admit I have a cold. I have no shame in it. I can take steps to get through this temporary illness. I'm not sure about the country. Then again, I'm an optimist. I believe if people realize the direction the NSA's programs are leading us, they will reject them. I'm just not sure when they'll realize it.

Somewhere between paranoia and Pollyanna there is reality. I'm not sure the questions I've raised reflect where reality currently resides on that spectrum. We can still discuss that though without the screen going blank. I hope that will still be true when my son is my age. I hope he'll be free to discuss the environmental impacts he'll be living through without a computer freeze, a black mark on his online resume, or a knock on the door.

My grandfather got those knocks. My mother got those knocks. I've known those knocks. Those sporadic knocks are bad enough, but that is old skool. We may not know what the new school looks like until either whistle-blowers (sooner and softer) or the NSA (later and much harsher) school us. Or school our children.

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