Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Summary of Recent Developments in NSA Scandal (Updated and Bumped)

The whistle blower for the NSA scandal has revealed himself--it is Edward Snowden, a civilian contractor to the NSA. Snowden has fled to Hong Kong to avoid prosecution in the United States, and is hoping to find asylum in a less totalitarian state. (As a side note, it has been discovered that Former CIA Director Leon Panetta leaked secret details concerning the Bin Laden raid to a Hollywood director. There is no word on whether Panetta will be fleeing the United States to avoid prosecution). Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials were overheard joking about making Snowden disappear. (Nothing to worry about, though. I'm sure it was like Obama's joke about sicking the IRS on his political opponents and we all know that nothing came of that....).

Of course, now that Congress is concerned that the NSA has been tracking its members' communications, maybe something more will come of the whole thing. It's all fine when the government is only snooping on the peasants--it is another thing to spy on the aristocracy.

And a few words from Legal Insurrection for those naive people that believe that you have nothing to worry about if you have done nothing wrong:
But I’m also concerned with what could be done with the information gathered about American citizens not suspected of a crime if put into the hands of politicians and political groups, and bureaucrats who work for or are sympathetic to such politicians and political groups.

The threat, oddly enough, is proven by the leaks which (allegedly) exposed the programs and were provided to Glenn Greenwald. If some government employee who has sworn to keep information secret is willing to leak the information to Glenn Greenwald for (allegedly) good purposes, what’s to stop that person from violating his or her oath by leaking data-mined information to Glenn Greenwald or Media Matters or the Human Rights Campaign for other than good reasons about a Tea Party group, religious figure or conservative politician?

In the age of Obama and the unique mainstream media disinterest in anything that damages Obama, this already has resulted in a flourishing culture of intimidation directed at the Tea Party, traditional marriage supporters, conservatives, and other opponents of Obama and the Obama agenda.

A point discussed here many times is the criminalization of life, particularly with regard to gun laws. Professor Glenn Reynolds has made the point more generally in his paper Ham Sandwich Nation: Due Process When Everything is a Crime.

Prosecutors have become kings, with the ability to find a crime committed by just about anyone. Data mining and access to internet activity can help find terrorists, but it also can be used to find crimes which were not previously known to have been committed by political opponents.

A “find the target first, then find the crime” political approach requires access to information of an unprecedented level. Which is exactly what is happening.

The issue goes beyond the NSA programs. Obamacare is a form of data mining.

Obamacare will put into the hands of the IRS medical and health information of an unprecedented level. As bad as leaks as to which websites you visit would be, the threat of leakage of your medical information could be equally devastating to freedom of speech and the political process. It would take a mere nod and a wink to convince someone that participation in the political process was not worth it if the result was the exposure of sensitive medical issues.

You can’t separate the data mining, the culture of intimidation, and criminalization of daily life.

The answer to this problem is not easy, precisely because of the legitimate national security concerns. That where to draw the line may be difficult to ascertain does not mean that a line should not be drawn. The wholesale creation of a national database of everything electronic crosses any reasonable line.

Obama’s response is that we should trust the government.

The Obama scandals tell us otherwise. From the phony Benghazi talking points, to IRS targeting, to deceptive measures to obtain journalist phone and email records, the Obama administration at multiple levels and in multiple agencies has proven that it is not worthy of our trust. Or of our information.
I have some ideas on this. First, impeach the FISA judges that signed off on these programs. Second, we should abolish the FISA court (or at least rotate membership). Third, there should be an investigation (similar to the '70s Church hearings) into the NSA and FBI domestic surveillance programs, possibly leading to the termination and/or prosecution of NSA and FBI officials and Administration officials that participated. Like the Nuremburg trials, "I was following orders," should not be an excuse. If the information warrants it, RICO suits should be initiated. Fourth, Congress needs to create a Congressional investigative office to investigate and, if necessary, make arrests, of executive branch officials and employees. No more B.S. of officials refusing to respond to subpoenas if they are too busy with vacations. Congress should have the direct authority to bodily haul government officials and employees before its committees. Fifth, there should be yearly monitoring of surveillance and security activities, including the costs and benefits, and public summaries presented so the public can participate in the debate on what is appropriate and efficacious. Sixth, the Patriot Act needs to be repealed, or greatly cut back. Terrorists pose far less of an existential threat to this country and its people than a police state.

(H/t Instapundit and Weasel Zippers)

Update: (June 11, 2013): I'm not the only one suggesting using RICO to reign in the current administration. This op-ed piece at Canada Free Press suggests using RICO on the IRS employees.

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