Freedom vs. Security

by Joseph S. Pete


A car crash in the streets of London killed three, and the knife-wielding terrorists took two more lives while shouting “Allah Akbar.”

A pub-goer four or five pints in claimed he tried to stop them on the street, but got stabbed for his troubles.

Dozens ended up in the hospital. It was a low-rent, almost slapdash attack, but still an effective one. Cops vanquished the threat in eight minutes, but it still captured the popular imagination. Cable news talking heads focused on it nonstop for days.

Halfway across the world, the tech executive stared blankly, dead-eyed at the television screen.

“We could cut off their recruitment right now,” he said aloud, to no one in particular. “We could flag users based on their posts, based on their messages, based on any red flags we might detect. We’ve got algorithms we could adjust to pinpoint such behavior. We could squelch new recruits, crush any neophytes. We could shut these terrorists down, their social media outreach anyway. We could hamstring their recruitment, cut off this pipeline of fervent young idiots.”

A wild-haired coder who happened to be in the room protested that such detailed information gathering easily could be abused. He said it was a slippery slope and unlikely a government would ever relinquish such power once they gained it.

That’s when a text arrived from a Washington insider the tech exec met at a recent fundraising gala down in the valley. They awkwardly exchanged business cards at the end because that was de rigueur.

“Call me.”

The text executive’s hand hovered over his smartphone. He had his inklings and he had his inclinations.

The text message chirped again, annoyingly.

He reached a decision. He was resolute. His thumb felt final, had a predetermined trajectory, fell like a mortar round.

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