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“If they are innocent they should have nothing to fear” Check #1: Alan Turing

“Innocent people are sure to be spied upon, but if they are innocent they should have nothing to fear.” — Jack McCully, August 4 2014

“If you are innocent you should have nothing to fear and you will most probably not be noticed.” — Myrmidon, February 24 2014

“So this is surveillance! The innocent should have nothing to fear! Only the guilty!” — Osibisa, May 7 2013

“What some see as excessive serveillance, so long as we’re not filmed jacking off in the bathroom, and to use a cliché, the innocent should have nothing to fear.” — Magnetic North, November 8 206

Do the innocent truly have nothing to fear from intrusive surveillance? Let’s check that.

Check #1: Alan Turing, the cryptographic and computing expert who helped defeat Nazi Germany by cracking the Enigma code. He was more than innocent; he was a hero.

But the British government placed him under surveillance. Did they discover that he had committed any treasonous or terrorist acts? No. They only discovered that he was gay. For being gay Alan Turing was publicly humiliated, criminally convicted, chemically castrated and castigated so harshly that a few years later, desperately despondent, he committed suicide.

Alan Turing was innocent. But because his government was zealously bigoted, Alan Turing had a lot to fear.

“Commander Vimes didn’t like the phrase ‘The innocent have nothing to fear’, believing the innocent had everything to fear, mostly from the guilty but in the longer term even more from those who say things like ‘The innocent have nothing to fear’.”

— Terry Pratchett, Snuff

4 thoughts on ““If they are innocent they should have nothing to fear” Check #1: Alan Turing”

  1. Jack McCully says:

    Alan Turing was the victim of an outdated law which no longer applies.

    1. Jim Cook says:

      Thanks for writing, Jack. Follow the thought to its logical next step: those who are innocent should have nothing to fear unless the government is run by bigots, or the laws are unjust, or… can you provide any more examples of exceptions there? How exceptional are such exceptions?

      1. J Clifford says:

        What is the definition of “innocent”, anyway?

        In a town where one political party predominates, a person who attends a meeting of the minority party may not be regarded as “innocent”, and may face reprisals.

        In a country where only Christians have ever been President, many may categorize non-Christians as “guilty”.

        People in governmental positions hold huge power over people, and can ruin the lives of people simply because of their own twisted visions of what innocence is.

        A more honest rephrasing of “If they are innocent they have nothing to fear” is “If they are not in dissent against the majority they have nothing fear”.

  2. Jim Smith says:

    But Alan Turing was not innocent. He was guilty. Granted the law should never have been written, just like many other laws on the books today. But does not excuse the guilty, unless the law is challenged at trial as being enacted illegally such as being unconstitutional, either on its face or in application.
    Many laws, or at least how those laws could be applied, are not known to everyone. Only the il-legal establishment routinely gets a pass based on ignorance of the law. It is only those that are mere individuals that are assumed to know the law and comply.

    Because many are not innocent, even when they believe that they are, is the best reason to fight the surveillance state.

    In a book called Three Felonies A Day, Boston civil rights lawyer Harvey Silverglate says that everyone in the US commits felonies everyday and if the government takes a dislike to you for any reason, they’ll dig in and find a felony you’re guilty of.

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