Modern Security

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Julian Sanchez notes today that 20-somethings aren’t as concerned about privacy as, say, 50-somethings:

On the one hand, this shouldn’t be terribly surprising. Quite apart from the recent proliferation of social networking technology, generational researchers have long contrasted the heavily supervised and scheduled upbringings of (middle class) Millennials born in the ’80s and early ’90s with that of their “latch key” Gen X predecessors. And for anyone currently of college age, post-9/11 levels of security theater are viewed not as a novel expansion of official intrusion, but as the baseline, as normal. This can’t be a matter of total indifference to the fogeys among us, because shifting norms will affect both legislators’ willingness to ratchet up surveillance and, at least potentially, judicial assessments of which “expectations of privacy” society is prepared to recognize as “reasonable” for Fourth Amendment purposes.

As a certified fogey, I’m obviously one of those who does view modern security theater as a “novel expansion of official intrusion.” And it bugs the hell out of me. But it’s easy to understand how it seems entirely normal to anyone born to it. I’m reminded of how surprised I was when I first read this passage from Bob Schieffer’s memoir, This Just In:

These days, friends are never really sure I’m serious when I tell them that the Pentagon, like most of official Washington, was still open to the public in the 1970s….No one was required to show identification to enter the building, nor were security passes required….During the time that Jim Schlesinger was secretary of defense, I would sometimes drop by on a Saturday morning, and if his door was open, I would stick my head in and ask if anything was going on.

Not only was I surprised when I read that, but at first it seemed almost shocking. Just leaving the Pentagon open to any citizen who wanted to walk in? That’s anarchy! In 20 years, I suppose that’s how a lot of people will feel when we tell them that, yes, we really were once allowed to bring bottles of water onto airplanes.

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