Re: Re : Libertarian viewpoint on "The new war"?

From: Anders Sandberg (
Date: Thu Sep 20 2001 - 02:56:29 MDT

On Tue, Sep 18, 2001 at 10:59:33AM +0200, Joao Pedro de Magalhaes wrote:
> Hi!
> J. R. Molloy wrote:
> >Invasion of privacy does not bring benefits in the fight against terrorism,
> >because terrorism operates openly, not privately. The purpose of terrorism is
> >to openly proclaim violence, with the intent to instill fear and brting about
> >submission. Terrorism only works when some group or organization claims
> >responsibility for it. Otherwise, how would the victims know who to submit to?
> Terrorists only operate openly when the death toll starts climbing. And if
> the objective is the prevention of terrorist activities, invasion of privacy
> could be an effective weapon.

Actually, it doesn't seem to be that effective unless you do sweeping
searches. Terrorists plan their deeds in secret, then act openly - which
means the privacy invasion would only prevent their actions if it could
with a high likeliehood find secret planning before the fact (which
requires sweeping a large part of the population, and the assumption the
terrorists doesn't communicate outside systems amenable for sweeping -
like writing letters or meeting face to face, assuming spooks are not
given the right to read letters and bug every location of course). After
the fact, privacy invasion might help track them down, but here there
are already an extensive pre-existing system of how this should be done
and no real need for new legislation.

The risk is that we get a lot of snooping that is technically legal
thanks to legislation passed in a panic (by politicians fearful of jets
falling on their own heads!), but which is not done for the reasons

As a libertarian and minarchist, my view of the current events is that
finding and punishing those responsible is actually the job of the
government - one of the few things it is intended for. It should have
the right legal powers to do this, and do it in a way that helps the
interests of the citizens. Nothing else. This means that 1) extending
legal powers after a terrorist attack should only be done if there is
compelling evidence that they will be necessary and useful in the
future, 2) hurting innocents in the process of finding and punishing
must be kept minimal. It is actually ethically better that a villain
escapes that you (or your government, acting on your behalf) kills an

Privacy might not be a sacred primary value, but there needs to be a
symmetry in power between the government and its citizens. If the
government is given the right to snoop, then the accountability of the
government must also be ratcheted up. This is not being done right now,
quite the reverse.

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y

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