According to Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of the King of Troy, captured the attention of Apollo with her beauty. But, after rejecting his romantic advances, some versions of the legend say he cursed her with the gift of prophecy, with the caveat that she would never be able to convince others of her visions of the future. Eventually, she was driven insane by the curse.
Over the past decade, privacy advocates repeatedly have found themselves in similar situations. In 2003, I sat down for an interview with Reason Magazine regarding my continuing work on privacy issues. “The [Bush] administration seems to be pushing [the USA PATRIOT Act’s] application as broadly as it can in non-terrorism cases,” I explained to Reason; noting that “it has become much more problematic because it's part of a growing list of privacy-invasive government programs.” The programs obviously continued.
More than 10 years later, prophetic warnings of the consequences of unchecked federal authority remain the same. Only recently are people starting to realize the folly of ignoring the alarm bells for so long.
As I and other privacy watchdogs explained for years, the triumph of Big Brother would not happen overnight or with a single piece of legislation. While it may appear as if the Obama Administration is the culprit on which we can pin blame for the massive federal surveillance apparatus under which we labor today, it actually is the result of the slow mission creep of anti-terror initiatives dating back to the Clinton Administration.
It has not been only constitutional encroachment at the federal level that spawned today’s culture of civil-liberties abuse. Power grabs at all levels of government have served as the incubator for an unprecedented scope of personal privacy penetration. Foolishly, many citizens appear to have concluded that if it was their local sheriff or police chief calling for such increased security measures – in the name of fighting crime -- they could be trusted.
We see now just how misplaced that trust can be.