In this third part of the series on privacy we talk about the second lesson I learned as an Intelligence Officer.
Intelligence gathering is an extraordinary thing for extraordinary purposes.
Spying is ugly, its exploitive, in many ways it violates human rights as we know them. We spy on other countries because to not do so would put us at an extreme disadvantage and ironically we would risk losing our freedoms. If nobody spied then the playing field would be even, but that is just not possible and of course, how would you verify without spying?
At the Agency we always knew in the eyes of the people on whom we were spying, we were the bad guys, we were the criminals. In many countries, spying is a capital offense and we were constantly wary that we could potentially be killed, officially or unofficially (like that mattered…).
One of the reasons intelligence professionals are vetted so well is because the tools and techniques they learn are exceedingly powerful.
It’s illegal in every country and it should be. When it becomes legal, it becomes a tool for oppression.
When you institutionalize the gathering of personal information and just say “we’re doing it, live with it…” you have changed society and have taken away from freedom of choice and morality. And the lack of extraordinariness of that action means its a permanent change. I accept the Patriot Act was a necessary measure, despite its infringement on privacy and possible damage to our freedoms. Let’s make sure it was extraordinary and replace it with something less intrusive.
Part 4 will cover the final lesson – It should not be the role of a government to spy on its citizens.