Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Reflections on the Google Subpoenas

Do I care if the government knows what I Google?

In a word, No. But should the government be looking at what I Google? The answer to that question depends upon one's definition of the role of the federal government and the parameters of the First Amendment. It also depends on your personal opinion of President Bush's justification of wiretapping and these subpoenas--that we're in a state of war and that he is merely assuming his emergency powers as the chief executive. In Post-9/11 America, it might be a bit short-sighted to dismiss Bush's apparent fearmongering as, well, only fearmongering. After all, who on September 10, 2001 or before would have anticipated the fall of the World Trade Centers or the wrecking of the Pentagon? Not even our own intelligence agency was confident enough in that point to ensure preemptive action.

So, while my gut tells me wiretapping and snooping into Google searches is intrusive and contrary to Mr. Bush's conservative ideology (bigger government? Republican?), I also cannot shake the feeling that our own CIA would have been/was performing these intrusive searches and background checks anyway, with or without public awareness. I hesitate, then, to lash out against these probably excessive measures of domestic espionage as I do not think that the government will simply arrest anyone who's ever Googled "Islamic Fundamentalism" or "suicide bomber."

Then again, I suppose if I were a bomb maker, child porn fiend, or of any other various and sundry illegal breeds, I'd be at least a little more nervous and opposed to such an act. Truly, I think there is very little room for the government to mistake an upstanding Googling citizen for a national security threat. I know that Michael Moore, producer of Fahrenheit 9/11 and ardent opponent of the also invasive "Patriot Act," would differ. To be sure, civil liberties are being trampled by the Google subpoenas, among other measures being taken. That is wrong. But trust me when I say that it will be done anyway. If the government needs information vital to national security, it will retrieve it with or without public sanction. Just look at the prisoner torture controversy. So the Constitution says no cruel and unusual punishment, huh? Well, let's ship our prisoners to countries equipped with no such clause and with plenty of torture instruments. Problem solved.

While that view may seem overly pessimistic, I think it is truly the victory of the terrorists to sit back and watch as Americans quarrel with their own government over newly-imposed anti-terrorist security measures. The government should not see what I Google, but they will. If Michael Moore is wrong, which I hope he is, I have nothing to hide and therefore nothing to worry about, right?