Little by little, like Obama and Holder’s vicious persecution of the reporter James Risen—a clear warning to other reports—and their vindictive treatment of whistleblowers like Thomas Drake. Though the claim is always to protect our security, in fact it is obvious that what is being protected is government incompetence, overreaching, and malfeasance: governments that do bad things really hate a free press, and our government is joining that crowd.
Indeed, Australia and New Zealand are somewhat ahead of us, closing down their open society in favor of an authoritarian national-security state, a step on the way to totalitarianism. And totalitarian governments do happen, as we well know.
Raymond Bronner writes in the NY Times:
Australia and New Zealand are not among the usual suspects when it comes to state suppression of civil liberties. But both countries, stung by Edward J. Snowden’s revelations last year about their intelligence-gathering efforts, have been cracking down on the press: Australia has passed sweeping secrecy laws, while police officers in New Zealand recently raided the home of a reporter who had published information regarding a government scandal.
There has been little international outcry, and Washington is hardly likely to be upset: The two countries harbor the only major intelligence gathering facilities for the National Security Agency in the Southern Hemisphere, and, along with Britain, Canada and the United States, are members of the intelligence-sharing arrangement known as the “Five Eyes.”
In New Zealand, the journalist targeted in the raid is the country’s top investigative reporter, Nicky Hager, who has been working with Mr. Snowden and the journalist Glenn Greenwald. Mr. Hager has “long been a pain in the establishment’s neck,” a former prime minister of New Zealand, David Lange, once said, admiringly.
In 1996 Mr. Hager published his book “Secret Power,” which revealed the relationship between the N.S.A. and New Zealand. Mr. Lange said that he learned more about what the N.S.A. was doing in his country from reading Mr. Hager’s reporting than he did as prime minister.
Across the Tasman Sea, the Australian government recently amended the country’s national security laws so that journalists and whistle-blowers who publish details of “special intelligence operations” may be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.
The measures are part of a groundswell of terrorism hysteria. September brought the largest counterterrorism raids in Australian history, in which some 800 state and federal police officers raided homes in several Sydney suburbs with large Muslim populations, acting on what officials said was an intercepted phone call about possible activity by allies of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.
For all the forces deployed in the raids, only one person was arrested and charged with a terrorism-related crime; in a court appearance in mid-November, his lawyer said the telephone conversation had been mistranslated.
The press has added to the hysteria, spreading a story that Islamic State followers were plotting a public beheading in a square in downtown Sydney — a claim no public official has made, and a claim for which there is virtually no evidence.
A week after the raids, the ruling center-right Liberal Party proposed the national security amendments aimed at the press and leaks; the opposition Labor Party supported them, and the changes passed with little debate. . .
And your privacy? It is to laugh. Read this Wall Street Journal story about how the US government is going to get around encryption so it can continue to be able to read all you digital history if it wants, including phone calls. From that story:
. . . Historically, prosecutors generally used search warrants to require companies to unlock phones. Apple displays required language for such warrants on its website and offers a fax number to more easily serve them. Sample search warrants directed at Google for Android-powered phones are easy to find online.
But Apple and Google complicated that process this fall by including new encryption schemes in their latest operating systems that the companies say they can’t unlock. If an iPhone user sets a password for the device, the data is encrypted when the phone is locked. The only way to decrypt it – even if police ship it to Apple – is to know the password, which Apple says it doesn’t record.
That technological shift prompted tense private meetings this fall between Apple and Justice Department lawyers, as detailed in a recent Page One story in The Wall Street Journal.
Amid that standoff, the government on Oct. 10 obtained a search warrant to examine the contents of the phone in the credit-card case. The phone was locked, so prosecutors asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Gorenstein to order the manufacturer to unlock it. They cited the All Writs Act, originally part of a 1789 law that gives courts broad authority to carry out their duties.
Judge Gorenstein agreed. “It is appropriate to order the manufacturer here to attempt to unlock the cellphone so that the warrant may be executed as originally contemplated,” he wrote on Oct. 31. The judge gave the manufacturer, referred to only as “[XXX], Inc.,” five business days after receiving the order to protest.
Much remains unknown, including the maker of the phone, and what happened next. The language of the opinion suggests it could apply to a company like Apple. The order is directed at the “manufacturer of the cellphone,” and Apple is one of the few companies that produce both the phone itself and the software that would manage the encryption. . .
Read the whole thing.
Some encourage calm acceptance of the direction. They advise, “So long as you don’t anything that displeases someone in government, then you don’t have to worry about a thing.” The problem is that some bureaucrats are very easy to displease, so giving them loads of unchecked power is not a good idea.