Since 9/11 the common mantra from our government at all levels is that “This is about protecting you from terrorists.”
This is a lie.
I’m going to prove it.
The odds of being killed by a terrorist over a five year period are about 1 in 20 million. This means the odds are about 1 in 100 million annually.
Now that would equate to about 3 terrorist deaths a year in the United States. There are, of course, monstrous spikes in that figure that make such a statement difficult to quantify accurately — such as 9/11. Then again there are plenty of years in which no American has died due to a terrorist incident on US soil (which means the odds for that year are in factzero.)
This is the nature, incidentally, of highly-unlikely but catastrophically-bad events.
Human beings have a terrible time with these sorts of risks; we grossly overstate the likelihood that we will suffer the bad outcome, in general, when we consider it at all. This makes manipulating the public very, very easy when there is an ulterior motive for anyone who might want to exploit such a risk.
Let’s take an extreme example — asteroid impact. There is in fact a rate of death by asteroid of about 1,000 per year. However, this doesn’t mean that 1,000 people every year get killed by an asteroid. It means that about every million years one billion people die at once from an asteroid impact!
Tunguska, in 1908, is one example that but for location would have been catastrophic. An area some 45 x 35 miles was leveled in a Siberian forest. Had that rock fallen on a populated area the destruction would been cataclysmic. It was by pure random chance that the impact occurred in an unpopulated area.
Chesapeke Bay, incidentally, was created by a (much) larger asteroid. While this happened some 35 million years ago when the impact occurred it flooded the land as far inland as the Blue Ridge mountains! Calculate the loss of life today from such an impact (perhaps 1/5th of the US population?)
The biggest problem with trying to argue that our “surveillance” is related to 9/11-style events is that humans, including Americans, suck at evaluating “long-tail” risks like this in the abstract but when faced with the concrete reality of the risk “in their face” right here, right now, today that tenor changes in a big hurry. 9/11 itself provides a perfect example; as soon as the people on United Flight 93 determined that they were passengers in a flying bomb they put a stop to it, even though they knew damn well their lives were likely to be forfeit in the process. As such the “use by” date of turning an airplane into a flying bomb delivery system expired as soon as it was discovered.
So because of the wide range of impacts from terrorism a 1 in 100 million risk of dying in America from such in a given year may be statistically accurate but it ought to havesome weighting applied for the wide variation in outcomes. In other words, unlike an auto accident where the impact is likely to involve only yourself or a couple of other people, terrorist incidents often involved dozens or hundreds of others. I’ll therefore give you a 1 in a million risk — 100 times the commonly-accepted actual risk — for death by terrorism in a given year.
Now let’s compare against some accidental and homicidal causes of death:
You are three times more likely to die if you ride a bicycle.
You are roughly 10 times more likely to die if you ride a motorcycle.
You are roughly 20 times more likely to die as a pedestrian (that is, walking)
You are roughly 50 times more likely to die in an auto accident.
You are four times as likely to die if you ride a horse.
You are twice as likely to die either boating or while riding in an aircraft.
You are more than five times as likely to die falling down stairs.
You are about three times as likely to die falling out of bed.
You are more than ten times as likely to acidentally drown, and twice as likely to drown in a pool.
You are twice as likely to suffocate in your own bed (accidentally) and about three times as likely to choke to death on your food.
You are about as likely to be accidentally electrocuted in your home.
You are ten times as likely to die in a fire (from either smoke or flames.)
You are four times as likely to die from a natural disaster (all causes.)
You are sixty times as likely to die from poisons, medications and similar causes, with more than half of that risk being from narcotics (both legal and illegal.)
You are more than one hundred times as likely to commit suicide (!!!)
You are 60 times as likely to die due to an assault committed by another person upon you.
You are 10 times as likely to die due to medical accidents and complications.
If you’re a woman and give birth this year you are 200 times more likely to die doing so (in the developed world generally); don’t even look at the numbers for places such as Asia and Africa (hint: It’s 10,000 times as likely in Africa!)
Your infant, in the first year of life, has a risk of dying that is 50 times greater by accidental suffocation than by terrorism — and is 20 times more likely to suffocate inhaling something that is not food.
Still afraid of the big, bad terrorists?
This doesn’t even register on the scale of risks to your life folks. It is an outright scam promulgated by the government that we are some sort of “extreme” risk from such an event.
Now does this mean we should not be vigilant at all? Of course not. For example should terrorists manage to get their hands on a nuclear device while the odds of them doing so in a given year are small the damage if they do so would be enormous.
But this doesn’t change the fact that to set off such a device in the United States they first have to procure it and then get it into the country.
We can (and damn well should!) control the proliferation of such devices and material inside the United States, and we can do that without any material infringement of personal privacy inside the United States.
We can also control our borders.
But focusing on threats such as this mean that we must stop the illegal alien invasion. It means we must apply vigilance in the places our Constitution permits and which raiseno Constitutional concerns.
The problem with this path is that there are a lot of people who like all the illegal immigrants and porosity of our border in the general sense. Rather than take both appropriate and legal steps to put a stop to it members of our government and intelligence apparatus argue that we must surrender our rights.
Sorry, but no — and if you wish to argue otherwise then go through the lawful process of amending The Constitution to strike the 4th and 5th Amendments.
Best of luck on that.
As I have often pointed out I can stop nearly every firearm death by gangs and similar. I simply need you to surrender your 4th and 5th Amendment rights. I will then go door-to-door, literally ripping apart every single home, apartment and other space large enough to conceal a firearm or ammunition and confiscate it all. If I do this frequently enough and with enough vigor the firearm murder rate is going to drop through the floor.
Of course the price is that you now live in a police state — literally.
This is unacceptable to the population and with damn good cause; there is no reason for me to suspect that a random person both has a gun and intends to (or is) keeping and using it for illegal purpose. I therefore have no justification whatsoever in searching for and seizing said property.
The same thing applies here.
The NSA has no reason to believe that every person who’s call data is grabbed and kept has committed a crime — or is about to. Indeed the NSA itself claims only thatone terrorist incident was possibly foiled on US soil by these actions. That is, 330 million Americans had their rights violated and one terrorist was identified and stopped.
This is exactly the same rubric under which I would take all the guns and it is equally outrageous — and unconstitutional — that the NSA would grab all the call detail records.
By the NSA’s own statements they have admitted to seizing the call detail records of millions of Americans who are not suspected of doing anything wrong — not under probable cause, not under “reasonable suspicion”, and not even under “just a hunch.”
This is neither reasonable or Constitutional. In fact it is flatly unlawful and a direct violation of the rights of all citizens of the United States under color of law or authority — and thus an act for which both civil and criminal liability attach under 18 USC 242 and 42 USC 1983.
Further, as an instrumentality of the Executive, and as these programs have featured prominently as admitted in The President’s “Daily Briefing”, culpability for this program reaches all the way to the President of the United States as Obama cannot claim that this program and it’s breadth and depth were “conducted by staff members without his knowledge or consent.”
This is an impeachable offense and, in my opinion, an indictable felony for each and every member of the government involved in it, including those members of Congress who have known about this program and not only refused to stop it but deliberately appropriated funds for its creation, expansion and continued funding.