Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Secrecy Syndrome

     To gauge from the Liberty’s Torch email-bag, something I wrote yesterday has struck a nerve, specifically this:

     Just as governments strive to do everything in secret, they strive with equal fervor to eliminate the privacy of their subjects.

     One correspondent pointed me to this article:

     Rather than ameliorate the situation, those in power have doubled down on the stupid. In what only can be described as a move of sheer brilliance, the Virginia Senate has already passed a bill to keep police officer’s names confidential. To my knowledge there is no state or national precedent for this, at least here in the U.S. Clearly precedents exist in such democratic strongholds such as East Germany, pre-1945 Germany, post-Czar Russia, Democratic Republic of China, Iran, and virtually every African country since the 1950’s.

     The issues are obvious. The potential for abuse becomes astronomically higher. It very nearly incentivizes lawless behavior from law enforcement....Becoming an anonymous badge removes an important impetus for morality and legal behavior. The Milgram experiment makes this point abundantly clear. Make the individual anonymous, put them in a room with an authority figure, and watch the magic happen. I have no doubt this correlates closely with the various threats and cries for the identity of Levoy Finicum’s shooter in Oregon. Like all things, it will be done in the name of safety, ‘for the children’ and wives of law enforcement and take us yet one step closer to the gaping maw of tyranny.

     Even in states without such legislation on the books, it can be extremely difficult to determine the identities of the badge holders. Indeed, as governments at all levels strain to expand their coercive powers – often by arming bureaucrats – they intensify their efforts to “protect” the identities of those who are sent out to wield “lawful authority.”

     Ponder that for a moment while I fetch more coffee.


     The attack on citizens’ privacy has been a headline item for quite some time. The Snowden revelations about the NSA’s wide-spectrum capture of cell phone and Internet traffic were only the most dramatic of the lot. The “Stingray” cell phone interceptor disclosures have commanded quite a bit of attention, as have the FBI’s recent efforts to coerce Apple into unlocking cell phones.

     The ATF’s “Fast and Furious” operation was intended to compel gun dealers to report multiple-gun transactions, in the name of preventing “straw purchases” of firearms for illegal purposes. Look how well that worked out. Several states now require the reporting of anyone who makes a bulk purchase of ammunition, under a similar rationale.

     Being married to an accountant makes me privy to certain other invasions of our privacy. We all know that financial institutions are compelled by law and regulation to report all the details on cash transactions above $5000, but did you know that the IRS requires professional tax return preparers who file electronically to register their computers with the IRS?

     Mind you, the IRS requires this in the name of “protecting taxpayer information.” But who – or what – has been responsible for the illegal disclosure of taxpayer information? Wasn’t it the IRS itself?

     For those of us who employ gold and silver as inflation hedges, the news is equally disturbing: Coin and bullion dealers must report all transactions over certain thresholds. Your hard-asset hoard might not be as private as you’ve thought.

     Remarkable how the government can screw up royally, then lay the penalties for the screwup on wholly uninvolved private citizens, isn’t it?


     Low intentions go hand in hand with a desire for secrecy. That’s so obvious it doesn’t require an explanation. The desire to penetrate the privacy of others kicks in when the holder of those low intentions is a government agency.

     Many are the areas of human activity where governments seek to pierce our privacy. However, their concentration will always be on those things that support the free action of private citizens:

  • Weaponry;
  • Communications;
  • Money.

     The citizenry can resist State coercion, if it has the resources with which to educate itself, acquire arms, and organize for resistance. But to be effective, resistance must be directed at the proper targets: i.e., those that seek to shackle us. A spirit of resistance that remains merely a targetless desire not to be coerced has very little prospect for success over the long term. As the saying goes, no one ever won a war by playing defense.

     When the State succeeds in penetrating the privacy of the citizen, it forearms itself against efforts to resist it. If it can shield the identities and activities of its own agents, it is largely immunized against counterattack. Under a regime that succeeds at both those things, there is very little prospect for freedom.

     The 88,000 governments – federal, state, county, municipal, and local – in these United States have proved adept at both tasks. In aggregate, they employ many millions of persons and spend more than $6 trillion per year. The most important details of our lives are laid bare to them. Yet, except for the half-million officials we elect to those governments, we know almost nothing about those who claim to act under their authority.

     It’s appallingly clear that a secret law is an instrument of tyranny, intolerable on its face. Why isn’t it equally clear that secret law enforcers are tyrants in their own right?

     Think about it.

3 comments:

  1. I notice a consistent pattern with all government. If the people complain or voice fears of the government restricting or removing rights or of increasing government tyranny. The people are first berated and accused of being paranoid. Then the government responds by passing law or performing actions that confirm the very fears voiced, thus proving the people are not paranoid but are actually correct in their assessment that the government moves toward tyranny, not away.

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  2. but did you know that the IRS requires professional tax return preparers who file electronically to register their computers with the IRS?

    I didn't know that. However, my Italian genes do not permit me to put anything in writing that could be misconstrued, used against me, or otherwise cause problems.

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  3. Adrienne,

    Don't mean to be rude or contrary, but what you just wrote is very easy to misconstrue: Since you are Italian, and obviously paranoid about what you write, you must belong to the Mafia. The FBI will therefore liaise with the IRS and check your tax returns to see if you have been involved in anything they can charge you with, and may freeze your bank accounts and any other assets you own while they investigate you.

    See how simple it is? The government can - and will - do anything it wishes, and can make any of us look like someone who is bad if they want to do so. If they can't find anything, they will simply have someone put some child pornography on your computer, or have you stopped in your vehicle on some pretext and "find" (plant) some drugs in your vehicle. I worked for the California Highway Patrol in Northern California, and we had a traffic officer who did just that. Fortunately, he was arrested for it (it hadn't been authorized by his superiors in this instance, but has been in other agencies and jurisdictions).

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