20 February 2011

Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel

So said Samuel Johnson. According to this NYT story it is the first - at least as it applies to the US Patriot Act, an Orwellian misnomer if ever there was one.
For eight years, government officials turned to Dennis Montgomery, a California computer programmer, for eye-popping technology that he said could catch terrorists. Now, federal officials want nothing to do with him and are going to extraordinary lengths to ensure that his dealings with Washington stay secret.

The Justice Department, which in the last few months has gotten protective orders from two federal judges keeping details of the technology out of court, says it is guarding state secrets that would threaten national security if disclosed. But others involved in the case say that what the government is trying to avoid is public embarrassment over evidence that Mr. Montgomery bamboozled federal officials.
Actually, if Samuel Johnson were alive today, he would modify his adage: what he meant was the abuse of patriotism that we now call National Security, in whose name so much evil has and will continue to be done for as long as we refuse to see that governments exaggerate external threats to justify internal repression.

Hat-tip Kinsla

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