In this CBS interview of Julian Assange, the interviewers ask "don't people have a right to these secret programs monitoring phones to protect against terrorists?". In this interview with the German interior minister he declares that security/safety is a "super-right" that trumps all other rights. This thinking is wrong.
We know its wrong because this is always the argument that despotic governments use to suspend rights. Whether it's fiction like 1984 or real-world despots like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, national security is the primary reason they've suspended human rights. The evidence is clear: the more despotic a government, the more it hypes threats to "security".
That's how we know that the NSA surveillance is despotic. The government uses the threat of terrorism to justify the program. But here's the thing: terrorism is a minor threat. It's far down the list of threats we Americans face. You are more likely to die from your furniture falling on you than from a terrorist attack. That our government uses minor terrorism to justify the major intrusion on Americans conclusively proves that the surveillance is illegitimate and despotic.
The reason we have the Bill of Rights is that throughout history, your primary danger is has always been the internal threat from your own government. External threats are relatively minor. That means it's free speech and privacy that are the "super-rights", and security only a secondary right.
Terrorism is a minor threat for us but a major threat for government. It causes a major risk of not being elected again at the next election. So all means are justified to fight it.
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