Spying Doesn't Violate Your Privacy Unless You Find Out About It, Says House Intelligence Chair

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 31 2013 2:34 PM

House Intelligence Chair: "You Can't Have Your Privacy Violated if You Don't Know Your Privacy Is Violated"

Anyone have some naked pictures of Mike Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee? Want to send them to me? Don't worry, we won't be violating his privacy unless he finds out about it. 

Thanks to Techdirt's Mike Masnick for highlighting this fascinating bit of sophistry from the Michigan Republican and former FBI agent, who is running the hearings charged with reviewing the National Security Agency's mass-surveillance programs. Rogers reportedly plans to introduce legislation that would keep those surveillance programs largely intact, while adding a little more transparency. By his own logic, though, wouldn't that transparency actually harm people's privacy?

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Perhaps we should call this little philosophical conundrum "Rogers' paradox" and bring in some of our deepest thinkers to have at it. Or perhaps we should just rephrase the Congressman's stance as, "what you don't know can't hurt you," and recognize it as an age-old excuse for people in power to trample on the rights of those without it. Either way, we should definitely discuss it over wine. What's the ideal pairing, do you suppose, for a little friendly repartee about how best to justify a vast government surveillance program?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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