Saturday, August 10, 2013

What To Do With the Surveillance State

It is obvious that federal surveillance programs have gone beyond what the American people (not a high bar) and what they are comfortable with.  The President's announcement that he would seek reforms of the programs revealed by Snowden is proof of that. Not that I believe him, nor believe that it will solve the problem.  Zerohedge makes excellent has of the President's position:
Obama On NSA Spying: "I Would Be Concerned Too, If I Weren't Inside The Government" 
In what is as close to saying 'trust us, we're from the government,' as it gets; President Obama's traitor-identifying, blame-pointing, cover-your-assing speech on Friday has done nothing to end the supposedly "critical NSA counter-terrorism tool," from being used on American citizens. 
The President's proposals do not really change the fundamental problem with the program; surveillance is being conducted on U.S. citizens without warrants or probable cause.  Further, "incidental collection," data collected on other than the primary target, is being used to launch other investigations.

What should be done?  The issue is that we need to spy on foreigners as part of maintaining national security.  However, because the likes of Al-Qaeda have learned good operational security, the national security apparatus finds it convenient to collect information from American telecomms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs).  But it is the nature of computer systems that it is harder to delete information than it is to retain it.  Once a private citizen's information is in the system, even if unrelated to terrorism, court order or secret actions by law enforcement can cause it to be retrieved.  Further, given the way the IRS scandal has gone down, how can we be sure that this information won't be used for political repression?  Oh yeah, the President is just so darned smart and dedicated; maybe he should just be President for life, because no one else will protect our rights like he does.

But I digress.  These programs have to be shut down until there is both oversight and technical means to ensure that incidental collections and unauthorized collections are not happening or are deleted when they do.  We will have to fund an independent judiciary that has the technical means to do so and have periodic reviews, to the Supreme Court if necessary.

These programs didn't prevent the Boston Marathon bombing, so their efficacy is in doubt.  Their damage to liberty is not.

What You Should Be Reading:


  1. My thing with the NSA is its resemblance to the TSA. With the TSA, everyone gets groped because we're too gutless and politically correct to profile (thank you, compassionate conservative Bush).

    Is that what's going on with the NSA? Are they groping everyone's data because they're too "sensitive" to target mosques, Muslim students, the usual suspects? You'd think they wouldn't be afraid of politically incorrect snooping since they are (or were) operating in secret, but who knows? The government will certainly never confess to anything.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali made such a sensible suggestion about our naturalization process that it can't possibly be implemented. That is to replace Communism with political Islam on the application form where it asks about current and former associations. Which GOP candidate do you think might consider that?

    1. Author, unfortunately, I think you are correct. We have become too PC to ask the question of radical islamism the way we did of communism. But it makes sense to do so. What other nation allows people to enter that have a sworn allegiance to destroying our way of life?