2001 : WHAT NOW?

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Chief Technologist, Federal Communications Commission
Federal Communications Commission

One of the most important issues facing the United States and its like is to prevent 2004 from becoming 1984 (Orwell's story of a dismal future). In defense of liberty and in order to defeat those who attempt to subvert it by terror, we must avoid so changing our society that they will have won.

It is very easy to demand changes in our laws and those of our friends that will "make it easier to protect ourselves". These laws now protect our citizens from excessive intrusion of government at all levels into their private life and their private thoughts. It is tempting to argue that the government needs to be able to listen to your phone calls, to monitor you email, to make sure it can by forbidding encryption etc. It will also be argued that having cameras trained on citizens in public places and keeping those records for latter analysis will help keep us safe. Picture a future politician who retroactively applies those records to a morality in the future and shows how you met a non-person years ago and thus you must be non-loyal. Ben Franklin said more than 200 years ago — "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We must defend our liberty not just now but we must realize that what we do now will define what nation we will pass on to our children and their children. Liberty, once given up, is almost impossible to recover. We must choose wisely and deliberately what we do to defend our democracy and our future — and our children's future.