Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Washington DC

On the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Justice it is worth remembering that Martin Luther King, Jr. is a prime example of why we should always remain extremely skeptical of the surveillance state.

Extraordinary powers that are meant to only be used against criminals if not properly checked will too often be turned on activists, political opponents and could even be used for personal grudges. King was subjected to heavy FBI surveillance. Almost every aspect of King’s life was monitored and recorded. The FBI planned to use the information in an effort to “neutralize King.”

In King’s day the excuse for this abuse of basic rights was to catch communists. Now the excuse is terrorists. Of course in both cases surveillance tends to take on a life of its own. Even when the original justification proves to be unfounded the practice continues. The logic ‘everyone must be hiding something’ is as alive today as ever.

MLK also shows that even if you thought you could trust the president to never abuse the incredible powers the NSA has developed into a program that can be abused by any individual that occupies the White House.

Photo by Scott Ableman released under Creative Commons License