Thursday, June 06, 2013

Shocked to learn there's surveillance going on in this place

Anybody who's old enough to have been paying attention shouldn't be surprised to learn the huge telecom data sweeps are still going on unabated. Adding, I'd be willing to bet it's not only AT&T who's cooperating on this. The only thing that's changed is now they do actually get a secret court warrant to conduct surveillance. Furthermore this didn't start with the bed wetting after 9/11 when the vast majority of Americans willing gave up their privacy rights for imagined security against those scary terrorists. Government has been spying us for as long as I can remember in some way or another.

I don't like domestic surveillance. I was out there ringing the alarm when they passed the Patriot Act. I begged the cons to fight with us when the Bush era warrantless surveillance programs were revealed precisely because nobody in government gives up a power once they get it. So I don't have much patience with the hysteria now and especially find those using this as yet another excuse for Obama bashing more than a little tiresome.

I would love to think this latest revelation would consolidate enough mass outrage to end the whole damn program, but I'd also love to think I'll be the next one to win a multimillion dollar jackpot in the lottery. Not going to happen. Still, it's useful to look at the facts about the program and consider exactly what we let happen right under our noses.

As Charlie Pierce so adroitly points out:
This is the surveillance state writ large, with large corporations and the government in close cooperation...

And because we are supposed to be a self-governing political commonwealth, we are complicit, too. All of the powers under which the NSA operated were approved, over and over again, by the Congress, the members of which we freely elect, and none of whom will ever win an election on issues like this because, all tricornered hats and the outrage of the Paul family aside, there is no electoral constituency for the Bill of Rights any more. All of the powers under which Verizon operated were approved, over and over again, by its customers, who now know what the company was doing, and who, I predict, will keep handing over the data. Given the dark, midnight nature of government secrecy, a lot of the infrastructure behind this current outrage was put in place in the daylight. The fault, dear Brutus...
Read Charlie's whole post to put this in perspective. This didn't happen in a vacuum. Corporations, under sanction of the courts, have been chipping away at our privacy rights for years. Drug testing in the workplace. Social media monitoring of employees even when they're off the clock. Kids being searched without probable cause in the schools. The list is nearly endless and we probably waited too long to stop it now.

Which is not to say we shouldn't try to stop it but it's not going to happen overnight because of internet outrage. It would take a sustained effort over years. Not sure we're capable as a society of pulling that off anymore. Meanwhile, I'll be over here sitting with Steve M. doing my best to at least minimize the damage by keeping people in government whom I trust marginally more with power I never wanted them to have in the first place. [graphic via]

Addendum: More from Charlie. Not to be expecting much help from Congress on ending the surveillance. Especially precious is when the Republican author of the Patriot Act is very concerned it's being abused by that uppity blah guy in their White House.

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