Politics & Professional Judgement
Bruce Schneier: Crypto-Gram: February 15, 2004
In the last issue of Crypto-Gram I published a couple of security essays that had a political component. I was surprised by the number of e-mails I received from people accusing me of bashing Bush (or worse). American politics may be getting vitriolic, but I think it’s worth stepping back and looking at the political security landscape.
I believe that the Bush administration is using the fear of terrorism as a political tool. That being said, I’m not sure a Democrat would do anything different in Bush’s place. Fear is a powerful motivator, and it takes strong ethics to resist the temptation to abuse it. I believe the real problem with America’s national security policy is that the police are in charge; that’s far more important than which party is in office.
Some of the Democratic presidential candidates for president have been more rational about security, but none have discussed security in terms of trade-offs. On the Republican side, I’ve read some criticisms of Bush’s heavy-handed security policies. Certainly the traditional Republican ideals of personal liberty and less government intervention are in line with smart security. And have the people who accuse me of hating Republicans forgotten that the Clipper Chip initiative was spearheaded by the Clinton administration?
The Republicans don’t have a monopoly on reducing civil liberties in the United States.
Rational security is not the sole purview of any political party. Fighting stupid security does not have to be partisan. Bush’s White House has done more to damage American national security than they have done to improve it. That’s not an indictment of the entire Republican party; it’s a statement about the current President, his Attorney General, and the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. It’s a statement about the current political climate, where the police — and I use this term to encompass the FBI, the Justice Department, the military, and everyone else involved in enforcing order — and their interests are put ahead of the interests of the people. My personal politics on non-security issues are not relevant.
Bruce S’s position here is interesting. He’s a security guy. He makes assessments about security. To say that he makes an assessment and is then “bashing” or “anti-Bush” says everything about our current political climate.
We must be free to speak our minds and make criticisms without people assuming we are “bashing” everyone and everything about those we criticize.
In a country with free discourse, this is the baseline. Unfortunately, the way things are spun — by media, by politicians — everyone — this is getting harder.