Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Dan Drezner on trusting the state

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Dan Drezner has a good post at Foreign Policy:

Your humble blogger will be attending a ridiculously well-timed conference on “The Internet and International Politics” for the next few days, so blogging here will be light.

Before departing, however, I do feel compelled (much like last week) to blog about Edward Snowden, his NSA revelations, the scorn heaped upon him by much of the foreign policy community, and the furious pushback by other quarters against that scorn.  This time, however, I’m going to resist blogging about Snowden himself, since that A) distracts from the larger question of whether the NSA revelations are truly scandalous; and B) leads to some really bad psychoanalysis-cum-social commentary.

Thomas Friedman captures the sentiments of a lot of the foreign policy community with today’s column.  This passage in particular pretty much sums it up:

Yes, I worry about potential government abuse of privacy from a program designed to prevent another 9/11 — abuse that, so far, does not appear to have happened. But I worry even more about another 9/11. That is, I worry about something that’s already happened once — that was staggeringly costly — and that terrorists aspire to repeat.

I worry about that even more, not because I don’t care about civil liberties, but because what I cherish most about America is our open society, and I believe that if there is one more 9/11 — or worse, an attack involving nuclear material — it could lead to the end of the open society as we know it. If there were another 9/11, I fear that 99 percent of Americans would tell their members of Congress: “Do whatever you need to do to, privacy be damned, just make sure this does not happen again.”That is what I fear most.

That is why I’ll reluctantly, very reluctantly, trade off the government using data mining to look for suspicious patterns in phone numbers called and e-mail addresses — and then have to go to a judge to get a warrant to actually look at the content under guidelines set by Congress — to prevent a day where, out of fear, we give government a license to look at anyone, any e-mail, any phone call, anywhere, anytime.

You know what?  Friedman’s going to earn a lot of calumny for this column, but at least he’s straightforward about his cost-benefit analysis.  And it bears repeating that the revelations to date involve programs that have been signed off by the relevant branches of government.

That said, here’s what I worry about:

1)  Friedman allows that these surveillance programs are vulnerable to abuse but says that, “so far, [it] does not appear to have happened.”  Here’s my question:  how the f**k would Friedman know if abuse did occur?  We’re dealing with super-secret programs here.  Exactly what investigative or oversight body would detect such abuse?  What I worry about is that we have no idea whether national security bureaucracies abuse their privilege.

The last time I trusted intelligence bureaucracies and political leaders that the system was working was the run-up to the Iraq war.  Never again.

2)  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2013 at 11:04 am

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