IF and the T Word

General Interest, Intellectual Freedom Issues, Privacy

OK, you ask, how’s he going to connect intellectual freedom and torture? Seems a bit of a stretch. Easy. Here’s how.

Intellectual freedom is concerned with the freedom of folks to access what ever information they wish without government limitation or intimidation. In order to ensure that folks are not encouraged to censor themselves we insist (and courts have held) that what we access is our own business and no one else’s — unless there is evidence linking us specifically to a crime (probable cause). OK, OK there is the little matter of the USA PATRIOT Act and NSLs but we’re working on that.

If we are concerned about the records of peoples’ reading habits being confidential, then we sure as heck should be concerned about the rights of people to think and believe what they want without fear of having it tortured out of them.

The fact that we as a society could even be having a public debate about the acceptability of “enhanced interrogation techniques” says something profound about how far our ethical base has eroded. Let’s be clear. Though I have no doubt that during many previous national crises some folks have stooped to torture, it has never, never been consciously accepted public policy to do so. In fact we have been in the forefront of international efforts to outlaw the very behavior now being justified as expedient. For example, after WWII we charged, tried, convicted and sentence at least one Japanese officer to 15 years at hard labor for waterboarding.

If folks can get away with justifying even just a little bit of torture, how much protection do you think will be left for reader privacy? If we can legally beat information out of someone, what’s wrong with a few subpoenas? Heck, why bother with a court order. Just let the government seize anything it wants when it wants it. It’s way past time for the average citizen to wake up and say enough, “have you no decency!”