Security Blanket

Domestic surveillance is one of those issues that highlight the false dichotomy between Republicans and Democrats. Senior officials on both sides favor a surveillance regime which is illegal and unconstitutional. Opposing this bipartisan consensus are the usual suspects – Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, Justin Amash, and a surprisingly small cohort of American voters.

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The great state of Kentucky has two senators, both Republican. Of course, Senator Paul is a Republican in name only. He is the leader of that party’s emerging libertarian wing. The other is Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. McConnell supports a straight extension of the Patriot Act, including section 215 – mass collection of everyone’s phone records.

Siding with McConnell is the Obama administration, including newly appointed Attorney General Loretta Lynch – she of the civil asset forfeiture scandal – and Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush. At least Lynch is consistent. She has no regard for the Fourth Amendment at all. The quickest way to find out if your senator is among the “security hawks,” is to start reading Dan Froomkin at The Intercept.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Among TV pundits, Fox News is mostly in favor of domestic surveillance (as here) except for the occasional libertarian, and CNN – well, CNN is the administration’s lapdog. This chimes with the risible survey finding that Democrats and Republicans only resist surveillance when the other party is in charge.

Your government intends to spy on you, by which we mean Congress, various police agencies, and the Obama administration with its media lackeys. It is easier to count the people resisting, which still includes about half of the judges – until AG Lynch starts replacing them.

Using mass collection of phone records, the police agencies can put together a map of who talks to whom and, by doping out who your friends’ friends are, decide if they should obtain a secret warrant for your arrest, further investigation, put you on the no-fly list, have the IRS audit you, etc. This article from Ars Technica explains how the three hops rule makes everyone a suspect.

Why should you care? You are pretty sure you don’t know anyone who knows someone who knows someone else who might be on a secret list of suspected terrorists. If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear, right?

Wrong. In the real world, what happens when police agencies have vast power to investigate innocent people is that they end up abusing it. This goes all the way back to FBI harassment of Dr. King, and continues with the IRS selectively auditing political enemies.

… explicit allegations about King’s sex life … the letter offers a potent warning for readers today about the danger of domestic surveillance

Power corrupts. Surveillance power creates opportunities for blackmail and intimidation of political enemies – as well as vulnerable innocents. It is even conceivable that the NSA might someday blackmail its own masters in Congress. The FBI tried it once, under J. Edgar Hoover, and the CIA is not above hacking Congressional computers. This is a far bigger threat to America than the “war on terror” they claim to be fighting.

Domestic surveillance is a clear and present danger to our personal freedoms and the integrity of the republic. It is astonishing that young Americans – to paraphrase Paul Begala – don’t give a shit.

Activists in Europe hold their politicians to account. They march, they vote, and they ask tough questions. When was the last time you saw an American politician pinned down on this – or any – issue, and forced to give a serious answer?

Here, we are placated with an earnest speech or two – some waffle about “finding a balance,” and a committee to recommend someday making some changes. We’ll change the name of our writ from Patriot Act to Freedom Act, LOL.

Jeremiah blames public education. By negligence or design, we have raised up a generation that is self absorbed and easily led. One generation – that’s all it takes, and you will never get your freedom back.

See also: IRS Doesn’t Need a Warrant to Read Your Email

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