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The Price of Freedom?

During the court-martial scene in the famous movie, “A Few Good Men,” Colonel Nathan R. Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) says, “I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner, in which I provide it. I’d rather you just say ‘thank you’ and go on your way.”

Now, where have I heard this recently?

In thinking about the federal government’s massive “cyber security” initiative, I wonder if we are at risk of losing some of our most cherished personal freedoms. Like most of you, I have several business and personal email accounts through providers like Google (Gmail) and Yahoo, as well as a LinkedIn account, a seldom-used Facebook page, and the usual Visa, MasterCard, Amex online accounts. I also have a mobile phone that’s supposed to be smart, a home phone, a few department store cards, a car with GPS, and a TV cable provider. I am a registered voter, and subscribe to several news services. I hold memberships in airline frequent flyer programs, memberships in frequent-stay hotel programs, and heaven knows what else I have forgotten. For all of them I have probably checked the fine print on the site authorizing the use of my behavior as a method for the provider to “better serve me.”  Like most of us, I usually don’t think twice about all the online information we are shelling out, while data mining and aggregation companies such as Acxiom are out there analyzing it.

Now, the federal government has gotten into the same game — in a very big way. As a U.S. citizen, I am perfectly comfortable with the fact that I might have to give up some of my “rights” in order to prevent a crime, especially against me, my family and my country. But is there a better way to protect our country than to trample on our individual rights without our consent?

As we all know, the balance between safety and freedom is very delicate, and as Great Britain’s Lord Acton once said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” That’s why we need well-trained journalists and a strong press who can ferret out wrongdoing. We also need our “check and balance” system of government, where the U.S. Congress and U.S. Supreme Court can watch over the actions taken by the executive branch.
Let’s ask our elected leaders to remember that one of the foundations of our country is the consent of the governed. We must always live up to that principle. At the end of the day, we will all have to answer for our actions.

Jacob Safdeye
Publisher & CEO

PS) For those not familiar with “A Few Good Men,” Jessup does end up being accused because of the “manner in which he provided said freedom.”

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