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Letter to a privacy guy

I don’t normally spend a lot of time writing letters to strange men in Congress, aside from authorizing the occasional form e-mail to be sent on my behalf. But I made an exception yesterday. Here is the letter that I sent to Rep. John Campbell (R-CA) in light of his recent appearance in the pages of Reason. Mainly because the argument in question is one of my pet peeves.

Rep. John Campbell
1728 Longworth Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Sir:

I notice that in a recent interview with Reason (??This Is John Campbell Speaking,? December 2007, pp. 16-18), you defended government surveillance of citizens’ telephone calls by saying:

I’m very much a privacy guy …. It’s something I feel very strongly about. But there’s something I feel even more strongly about: I don’t want to be blown up. I am willing to give them some limited access to my phone records because of this war on terror.

But, sir, the question was not about whether you, personally, are willing to turn over your own phone records for the government to sniff around in. If your your fear of physical danger is so strong that it overcomes your desire for basic privacy, then I’d be the first to say that you should feel free to give the government as much access to your own phone records as you like. But I certainly object if you intend to use your willingness to sacrifice privacy for protection as an excuse for having the government force me to turn over my records. If I have different ideas from you about the importance of privacy, then what have your own personal preferences got to do with how my records should be treated?

Just where do you get off, sir, proposing government policies to enforce your own cowardice on the rest of us in the country, whether or not we share your fear of physical danger, and whether or not we are as willing as you are to submit to protective monitoring?


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