How Much Freedom Should We Trade For Our Security?

“By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen.” ~ George Orwell, 1984

Photo by the author.

While looking through some old files on my Mac I came across a number of quotes and notes that pertain to current events and the trade-offs we’re making today in the name of “National Security.” These notes and quotes must have been collected for the purpose of an article or essay I was attempting to assemble at one time. In light of our new world of Alexa, Siri and the universally interconnected Internet of Things, I added a few additional quotes in order to get us thinking about how much we ought to be concerned.

“He that’s secure is not safe.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Most people want security in this world, not liberty.” — H. L. Mencken

“For the Founding Fathers freedom was a preeminent value because they had experienced the heavy weight of tyranny first-hand. The growing power of the State is the biggest trend of 20th Century.” — Paul Johnson

1984 ~ Let’s work our way backward from this: Orwell’s “camera in every house” is definitely something we do not want. But are surveillance cameras themselves evil?

“I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes

Privacy as a Value

“For several decades political arrests were distinguished in our country precisely by the fact that people were arrested who were guilty of nothing and were therefore unprepared to put up any resistance whatsoever.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

“By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, Winston was able to remain outside the range of the telescreen… He could be heard, of course, but so long as he stayed in his present position he could not be seen.”
George Orwell, 1984

Thought Police re-writing history, controlling memories. (1984)

“Having just cast off an oppressive British monarchy in a bloody war for independence, many of the representatives of the 13 states attending the Constitutional Convention were reluctant to create what they feared would be an unrestrained centralized government. The authors of the Federalist Papers, John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, knew that without an intelligent and persuasive rationale for a federal constitution, the proposal would fail. To allay the fears of the representatives of the states, the authors laid out in extraordinary detail the central principles upon which a federal constitution would be based.”
essay on Zooba

“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false face for the urge to rule it.” — H.L. Mencken

“No system of mass surveillance has existed in any society that we know of to this point that has not been abused.” — Edward Snowden

“Not enough people know or understand just how little freedom we have left.”
Korban Blake

“These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.”
Edward Snowdon

“Every time I do an interview people ask similar questions, such as “What is the most significant story that you have revealed?” […] There really is only one overarching point that all of these stories have revealed, and that is–and I say this without the slightest bit of hyperbole or melodrama; it’s not metaphorical and it’s not figurative; it is literally true–that the goal of the NSA and it’s five eyes partners in the English speaking world–Canada, New Zealand, Australia and especially the UK–is to eliminate privacy globally, to ensure that there could be no human communications that occur electronically, that evades their surveillance net; they want to make sure that all forms of human communications by telephone or by Internet, and all online activities are collected, monitored, stored and analyzed by that agency and by their allies.”
Glenn Greenwald

Food for thought. What do you think?

Originally published at

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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