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“If You’re Doing Nothing Wrong….”

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How many are the times that I’ve heard someone excuse this government program for snooping on private citizens, or that alleged ‘need’ for the police to have the power to search ‘suspects’ homes and cars and financial records, with the assertion “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide and so shouldn’t object to the government’s exercise of these powers!”  Such times are many.  I’m sure that you, too, have often heard this excuse.

An entire book – a long book, not a short monograph – could be written to detail all the errors that are implied by this commonly heard excuse for state snooping and intrusions.  But I’m not the person to write that book.  Instead, I will here simply ask people who believe that this assertion is an adequate justification for state power to snoop how they would feel if

– the police broke down the doors of their homes at 2:00am in search of evidence of ‘wrongdoing’ and, to justify this intrusion, someone tells those whose homes are broken into, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide and so shouldn’t object to the government’s exercise of these powers!”

– the police pulled over their 18-year-old sons, merely because their sons fit some “profile,” ransacked their sons’ cars, detained their sons for hours, and asked their sons intimidating questions, someone tries to comfort the parents and sons by pointing out that “If your sons have done nothing wrong, they’ve got nothing to hide and so you shouldn’t object to the government’s exercise of these powers!”

– government agents secretly listened in for weeks to all of their phone calls, intercepted all of their text messages and e-mails, and opened all of their snail-mail, someone attempts to justify these intrusions by explaining that “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to hide and so shouldn’t object to the government’s exercise of these powers!”

Anyone who justifies or excuses government intrusions of privacy with the pathetic assertion “If you’ve done nothing wrong, then you’ve got nothing to hide….” is a dear friend, however unintentionally, of tyrants.

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