Justice, freedom, and security

It is often touted that in order to have security, sometimes it is necessary to limit freedom. This is partially right, in that, as Bruce Schneier pointed out, security is always a trade-off: in order to get it, you sacrifice something else, whether is convenience, freedom, price, etc. But one should be wary of sacrificing freedom; as Ben Franklin put it: They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety. But why is this so? A very good answer came from a Canadian court of Appeal. Abdullah Khadr, a Canadian citizen suspected of having ties to Bin Laden, was abducted from the streets in Islamabad by Pakistani agents, at the behest of the US government. He was then tortured, but eventually ended up in Canada. The US filled charges against Khadr, and wanted Canada to extradite him, but a Canadian lower court denied the request. The Ontario Court of Appeals now upheld the lower court’s decision, justifying it like so:

“We must adhere to our democratic and legal values, even if that adherence serves in the short term to benefit those who oppose and seek to destroy those values,” said Justice Robert Sharpe, writing on behalf of Justices John Laskin and Eleanore Cronk.

For if we do not, in the longer term, the enemies of democracy and the rule of law will have succeeded,” he said. “They will have demonstrated that our faith in our legal order is unable to withstand their threats.”

And that’s why you don’t sacrifice freedom to get security, and furthermore, will lose both if such trade-off is attempted.

FInally, I previously said about the raid that killed Bin Laden, that he “probably doesn’t really fit the “come peacefully” type”. But in the face of growing evidence, I must now redact that statement. Quoting Noam Chomsky:

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them.

He goes even further and asks how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Violence only generates more violence, and two wrongs do not make a right. Bin Laden’s value to the US is only a symbol. The previous symbol was the 9/11 attacks, and now that its power is fading, they just got a new one, around which new war efforts can now be centred, reinvigorated by this “victory”, which the masses celebrated enthusiastically. European Middle Age rulers despots would have been proud.

Welcome to fascism

If there were times when I questioned the usefulness of twitter, believe me, they’re long gone. First I got this video of yet another interview with Assange. It’s overall very interesting, but here’s the real nice bit: “Facebook is the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented” (1:50 minute mark on the video).

Besides Facebook, he talks about his extradition case, Wikileaks’ relationship with mainstream press (viz. The Guardian and the NYT), but the most interesting bit is the final one: when he’s asked what is his greatest enemy, he replies “ignorance”. For in his view, peoples don’t like wars, so the only way to go to war, is to “fool the people” into going to war. I think he just revealed the true seed behind Wikileaks.

Moving a bit back to Facebook, also via twitter comes this pearl: Facebook’s form to law enforcement. In my most humble opinion, if this shows anything, it is that to Facebook at least, handling data to the authorities is no longer (if it ever has been) an exceptional event; rather, it has become commonplace, a routine task if you will. Adding the fact that this kind of disclosures do not add any value to Facebook’s shareholders, it is then an annoyance that has to be dealt with, preferably with the minimum amount of hassle. And thus Facebook becomes “the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented”.

Finally, I’d be remiss not to mention today’s main news piece: the assassination of Osama Bin Laden. I’d have much preferred to see him brought to justice and tried according to the rule of law, but then again, he is a (US-)trained Mujahideen, who probably doesn’t really fit the “come peacefully” type. But all that notwithstanding, given all the cheerful and sometimes outright extatic reaction to the death of a human being, one cannot stop and wonder: have we (and US people in particular) become that which we set out to fight against in the first place?

EDIT TO ADD: not even on purpose, Facebook deletes “We’re all Osama Bin Laden page”. I do not wish to moralize on merits or lack thereof of such page (which I have not seen), but just think about the fate of all the data related to it (e.g. the identities of all those who “liked” it). Chilling thought!


À semelhança do Kenny, eu também não gosto de escrever sobre política, mas desta vez tem que ser. Neste post do De Rerum Natura, vem este comentário:


José Sócrates governou quatro anos com maioria absoluta e agora ano e meio com os orçamentos aprovados. Sempre disse que estava tudo bem. Agora surge de repente a dizer que estamos à beira do naufrágio e é apenas desajeitado? A única solução razoável era mesmo o governo ser demitido. Vai-nos custar caro? Vai. mas mantê-lo seria ainda mais caro. E Sócrates também não queria lá estar sabendo que o dinheiro e o crédito acabaram.

O chumbo do PEC IV foi um dos poucos sinais de sanidade mental na política deste país nos últimos tempos.

Subscrevo por inteiro.

John Pilger

is an Australian journalist, who had this to say about Wikileaks et al:

Both videos add up to just a little over 15 minutes, but both are very much worth seeing.

More two videos

Given the shortage of time, I am yet to finish writing about a bunch of posts that are on the way. But despair not! I leave you with two videos, both muy awesome!:-)

First here’s a great TED talk by none other than Salman Kahn, the man behind Khan Akademy.

Next, for all the privacy nuts out there, here’s the very nice survey on the evolution of the crypto-wars of the 90’s, the current state of affairs, and pointers to future directions. Kudos to Kenny for showing me this!