A little sass goes a long way, Europe

It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

-Daniel Webster

The Tor Project (quite understandably under the circumstances) wasn’t willing to put anyone forward to discuss the matter of surveillance vs privacy in a debate on Euronews with Rob Wainwright – smoothest law enforcer in the world, and also the Director of the European Police Office, better known as Europol, who is currently trying to convince the European Parliament to grant police forces more power.

This offends me.

So, presented with the opportunity of a senior government official, I got a little cute, which is always a good idea. To the question:

You must appreciate, Preston Byrne, the problems the police are facing in this area? 

I replied:

I do. But I also appreciate the jurisprudence that most European and western countries have followed for the last 200 years. Which requires judicial supervision of these processes.

When a relative unknown such as myself is the only option to make this – in my view essential – point because a (major, globally-important) project like Tor is unwilling to stand up to a police force that is possibly investigating them with aforementioned extrajudicial powers, there’s a problem with the people’s relationship with the state. A big one, that – for the benefit of everybody – needs to be fixed. It won’t get fixed unless a consensus emerges for (a) law reform and (b) adequate budget provisioning for police retraining so they can work with advanced technology in the context of a more traditional policing model. Absent that, the police will have little choice but to continue to rely on the crutch of mass surveillance to make up the difference.

Preserving liberty is worth some additional budget. 

I know your typical natural-born European isn’t overly keen on standing up to authority, but when it comes to civil liberties, a little sass goes a long way. And American liberals do irreverent lip better than almost anyone else (n.b., I also hold an EU passport, so when I say “we” in the recording I mean “Europeans” – although America has a surveillance problem as well). Check out the programme and the highlights reel below.

When you’re done, read Hannah Arendt