Thirteen years after 9/11 Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton, former chairman and vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, respectively, say we must not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Amen to that.
Unfortunately, the lessons they say we should learn leave out a whole lot of history about the dangers of entrusting government when it comes to cyber security. As Kean and Hamilton write in the Wall Street Journal:
We are at war in the digital world. And yet, because this war lacks attention-grabbing explosions and body bags, the American people remain largely unaware of the danger. That needs to change. Only public attention can create the political momentum for needed reform.
I respectfully disagree. In recent years the American public—not to mention our allies abroad—have become keenly aware of the threats to our personal safety and privacy thanks to spying by our own government.
Last year the chief author of the Patriot Act urged pulling the plug on NSA eavesdropping on the phone conversations of American citizens. Yet other branches of government are getting in on the act, too, by collecting all sorts of personal information on taxpayers’ finances and schoolchildren’s families.
As Americans, we should not be handing over our God-given liberty in exchange for government assurances of security. But apparently that’s what Kean and Hamilton seem to imply by urging yet another expansion of government for the sake of keeping us “safe.”
Specifically, they urge the creation of a National Cyber Commission “empowered to evaluate the cyber threat to the U.S., both to the government and private entities.” Next, Congress should implement a National Cyber Center to ensure streamlined efforts between government and the private sector.
If we recall, 13 years ago the various federal security agencies couldn’t handle the data they had well enough to protect Americans from terrorist attacks. What reason do we have to believe that government is more skilled today than in the past to collect, analyze, and use mountains more data strategically—all without trampling on Americans’ basic liberties?
Yet Kean and Hamilton conclude that “we have heard time and again from leading experts that the cyber threat is serious—and that the government is not doing enough.”
On the contrary, our government has been doing plenty—starting with spying on American citizens as though we were the enemy.
NSA spying and eavesdropping did not prevent terrorist attacks (see also here, here, here, and here), but it should serve as a powerful reminder about why we have a constitutionally limited government to help us defend our rights—not one that’s so large and intrusive that it crushes them.