Include appropriate nuance in debate
There are really two questions about surveillance, and Thomas Friedman addresses one of them (“This surveillance keeps our society open,” June 13). He talks about his opinion that we should use technology to gather information to protect us from those that would do us harm. The question he does not address is whether this should be done secretly. I may agree with him on the use of technology issue. What I disagree with is the belief that this should be kept secret from the American people.
I see no reason that these programs need to be kept secret. Knowing that they exist allows us to have the discussion we are now having and is healthy for our democracy. I also believe that the people operating these programs may have a greater temptation to abuse them if they do not believe that their actions will see the light of day. I doubt that the rest of the world is shocked by the admission of these programs, so what is the reason for the secrecy if not to limit open discussion in our society about the connection between our values and our actions?
James H. Michel, Minneapolis
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I was opposed to the Patriot Act when it first came into law, and I oppose it and all its adjoining laws today. To borrow an old expression, it’s a slippery slope we go down when we open the door to allow the government to intrude in our lives in the name of national security.
I understand that it is a different world today and that we need to adapt, but at what expense to our personal freedom do we give the government the right to listen in on our phone calls or read our personal e-mails?
I am OK with the fact that Facebook, Twitter and other such venues are open to examination. I bought into those intrusions when I signed up, but my mail, telephone calls and e-mail are private. I gave no probable cause for investigation, because I am not involved in anything illegal and I have done nothing that presents a national security risk.
Yes, we need to adapt to the world today, but not at the expense of personal freedom.
Mark Anderson, Ramsey
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A key court ruling will soon be made
Voting is the core of any democracy. That’s such an obvious truism that I almost feel silly typing it. Our government is better because we all have an equal say in it. But for many years, our fellow citizens were denied the right to vote by laws, ostensibly reasonably, but aimed at ensuring that certain people were barred from voting. Many, but not all, of those disenfranchised were African-American. Since 1965, they have been protected by the Voting Rights Act.
But in the next few weeks that could change. The Supreme Court soon will decide a key case on the Voting Rights Act (Shelby County vs. Holder) which could end all that. The court could decide that states — mainly, but not exclusively, in the South — can go back to passing laws that disenfranchise thousands of our fellow citizens.
Perhaps the court won’t act that way. Perhaps it will, but America’s urge to restrict the vote is in the past. I’m not hopeful on either count, though, and that saddens me. When we restrict the franchise, it’s not the people who lose the vote who are cut off from democracy. It’s all of us.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.