Tuesday, February 11, 2014

You should probably call your senator

As a citizen, the most influence you have on laws is taking the time to speak with your congressional representative. The more effort you spend, the more your representative will listen. Sure, you won't actually get to talk them in person, but you will be able to talk to their staffers, which in some cases is even better.

Today, there is a widespread campaign by leftist groups asking you to inundate your representatives with robotic calls and emails. They use code to make this really easy for you. Sadly, your representatives will see it as easy, that you didn't care enough to take the effort yourself.

Instead of following the crowd, I suggest you spend the effort. Look up your representative's information (or senator) and call them or write them a handwritten (to show effort on your part) letter. Instead of repeating the phrases fed to you by activists, say in your own words what troubles you. This is especially true since the activists are feeding you misleading information (no, the NSA cannot monitor 75% of Internet traffic).

That's what I'm going to do today, speak in person with my representatives, partly to influence them to stop NSA surveillance of citizens, but mostly so that I jam the line preventing the robotic callers from getting in.

By the way, the issue that is important to me is the same sort of issue that provoked the Boston Tea Party of 1773. Britain had repealed the onerous taxes, all except the insignificant tax on tea. The reason the colonists rebelled was not because of the amount of money, which was tiny, but because "taxation without representation" was an intolerable philosophical idea. It meant that the colonists were "subjects" to be exploited by Britain, and not "free citizens" of the realm.

The same thing is true here with the Section 215 collection of phone records. In truth, the impact on citizens is insignificant and there are extensive safeguards to prevent this from being abused. None of that matters to me, as it's still surveillance of innocent citizens suspecedt of no crime. It subjugates us, and is an intolerable infringement on a free person's rights.

Anyway, those are my words. Call your representative and give them your words.


Unknown said...

The likelihood that you would end up actually talking to your rep is just as slim having an effect with a mass petition or email drive. You will 99% of the time talk to their receptionist, who will pretend to take down your info and your comment, which will in turn be discarded as easily as the online petition stuff.

Unknown said...

You spelled suspected wrong. Otherwise great article.

Anonymous said...

Well said, and I am with you on this; however, I do think there is some usefulness in the sheer quantity of response generated by these systems. I wonder if 100 eloquent, thoughtful letters would be meaningful enough to inspire change without the 250k canned responses online. Perhaps the canned group could just stick to email next time, though.

Unknown said...

I liked your comment here, but I've got to challenge you on one thing "the impact on citizens is insignificant and there are extensive safeguards to prevent this from being abused."

First, I'm not sure that the claim that there are "extensive safeguards" is credible. For years we've been told that they weren't collecting meta-data at all. Now we're being told that meta-data is being collected, but there are extensive safeguards. If the first claim was false, why does the second claim have credibility? By whose standards are the safeguards considered "extensive?"

Second, I'm not sure that the claim that they're only collecting meta-data is credible. The Wall Street Journal reported that the content of all email and text messages sent in the Salt Lake City area during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games was monitored. That is not meta-data and none of the legal arguments about meta-data apply to it. Are the still collecting content now? If they denied doing so, would those denials be credible?

Third, I'm not sure that meta-data collection has an insignificant impact on citizens. Everytime you call someone, the government has a record. That record is kept. They claim that they only keep it for five years, but that could be a lie, and the record retention time could change at any point during that five year period into a longer retention time, and that change could occur without any public announcement. If for any reason in the future the person you are contacting comes under suspicion, either by this government, or by a future government that is more aggressive than this one, you are better off not making that call. If the person you are contacting is either a political activist or a criminal or any sort, your association with them could lead to assumptions being made about you by the authorities. Maybe the current restrictions make it unlikely that this association would be observed by the authorities, but if the rules for accessing the data change in the future, you won't get the opportunity to go back and delete the record. Therefore, reasonable people may choose to limit the exercise of their right to freedom of association as a consequence of meta-data retention.

I think concluding that the impact on associational liberty is insignificant understates the importance of a fundament Constitutional right.