Thoughts on the surveillance state, in no particular order:
1. Every Republican, Glibertarian, and other opportunist screaming about this who was of voting age when the Patriot Act was passed and George W. Bush was re-elected can shut right up. I forget who said it when the FISA fight was first going on, but he or she said something about how “these are all powers you wouldn’t want Hillary Clinton to have,” which, as it turns out, was true from their perspective, and their outrage is just a little bit rich.
2. Which makes it not okay one little tiny bit. Democrats are, and have always been, just as capable of rolling over and playing dead at mention of the word “threat” as anybody else, maybe more so, because of Chris Matthews in their ears constantly about how if they don’t agree to attack everything all the time voters will think they’re pussies. And the way I know that is that we went to war in Iraq, didn’t succeed in that first FISA fight or in any subsequent one, and continue to do shit like this.
3. OF COURSE we continue to do shit like this. No one ever gives up power. No one ever says, look, you know what? I don’t actually want to be able to do whatever I want. That sucks. Here, take some of that back. Because what if you need it for something? That’s the problem, what if you need it? That question never goes away. It’s why you don’t hand over power like this in the first place. You can’t unfuck this dog.
4. Which again, makes it okay not at all.
5. Pressure on government in these matters works demonstrably not at all.Pressure on private companies, though?That may have a better chance of succeeding. Government don’t have to give a shit, honey badgers. Businesses that lose customers do, though I don’t know where we’re all going to go, other than Google.
It’s at that point, people, that law enforcement requires a full-throated argument of probable cause. It’s at that point that privacy rights must be seriously measured against the legitimate investigate needs of law enforcement. And it’s at that point that the potential for authoritarian overreach becomes significant.
6. Part of the problem here, though, is that we do not exactly have a track record right now, America, of using our power judiciously when it comes to vague threats of terrorism. The comparison above is David Simon on the drug war, and compared to the terrorism issue, we are models of human rights and above-board decency when it comes to the drug war. Simon goes on:
The question is not should the resulting data exist. It does. And it forever will, to a greater and greater extent. And therefore, the present-day question can’t seriously be this: Should law enforcement in the legitimate pursuit of criminal activity pretend that such data does not exist. The question is more fundamental: Is government accessing the data for the legitimate public safety needs of the society, or are they accessing it in ways that abuse individual liberties and violate personal privacy — and in a manner that is unsupervised.
And to that, the Guardian and those who are wailing jeremiads about this pretend-discovery of U.S. big data collection are noticeably silent. We don’t know of any actual abuse.
And we never will. My GRANDchildren will not know of any actual abuse. This will be classified until the end of time. That’s the point and the problem.
Since his next graf is about the model of oversight that is the FISA court, I’ll stop reading there.
7. You don’t wait for something to be abused before you decide it’s okay, because see point 3 above.