Terrorists vs. Bathtubs

Friday, June 21, 2013


In a Guardian livechat this week, NSA leaker Edward Snowden advised Americans to consider the trade off they make between privacy and security: "Bathtub falls and police officers kill more Americans than terrorism, yet we've been asked to sacrifice our most sacred rights for fear of falling victim to it." These "X kills more people than Y" comparisons crop up all the time, in discussions of terrorism, gun control, even obesity. Brooke talks to risk analyst Peter Sandman about why they aren't very persuasive.


Peter Sandman

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [3]

Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

The dangers of surveillance being in the wrong hands is also illustrated by this story: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-23033790

The dangers of laws being misapplied can also be shown by that of Walter Wolfgang (who was arrested under the Terrorism Act after telling a minister that he was talking "nonsense") and the story I believe you reported about a man who was arrested after turning his back to Obama when giving a speech.

Another thing to think about is that Turkey is looking to revamp its laws to make it easier to monitor Twitter (in light of the protests there). If that makes people feel uneasy, why is the NSA or GCHQ any better?

Jun. 25 2013 01:12 PM
Ramesh from Ny

Peter's comparison does not include economic aspect. Here is an example: US spends Trillions on 'homeland security' but more people over-dose and die.

I guess economic angle would be very appealing.

Jun. 24 2013 05:35 PM
Francisco from Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

I'm surprised that your commentator chose the examples he chose for ramping up anxieties against PRISM and other programmes. Saying that they could start looking for tax evasion still gives succor to those who say "if you've got nothing to hide...". The examples that were going through my head at the time were a lot more scary:

The House of Un-American Activities
The bugging of Martin Luther King Jr

The death of Jean Charles de Menezes
The death of Ian Tomlinson

Furthermore, I would advise anyone to read http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2013/jun/14/nsa-prism and Steve MacIntyre, in his comment on your "We Aren't Watching You - Yet", raises another case for being wary of snooping.

Jun. 24 2013 02:39 PM

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