The Surveillance Pendulum

Intel services not infrequently go too far. We are right to rein in the NSA. But it’s naive to suppose that the Boston Bombing is the last attack on the USA by terrorists within our country. We’re stuck in an awkward place. We’re going to endlessly vacillate, probably, between too much surveillance…and too little. Recently it was learned that jihadists have been actively trying to get cover jobs within the USA, as part of a plan to launch attacks from within…When outrage scales back surveillance, we’re more vulnerable to those attackers. There may well be an attack us, perhaps in some great mall or chemicals plant, and a great many will die. Then the average person will be outraged that “this was allowed to happen” and will demand to know why we weren’t protected…with more surveillance. But those who worry that surveillance could degenerate into a police state are *right* to worry about that. At the same time people at the NSA etc are right to try to do their jobs by surveilling as much as they’re allowed. And they probably *have* stopped some major attacks already. They missed one in Boston. They stopped others. So we’re all wrong and right at once and, as far as I can tell, we will swing pendulum like back and forth between the poles of denouncing internal surveillance and demanding more. Just do not imagine that more attacks–and more severe attacks–will not come. Sadly they will.

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