Monday, August 19, 2013

Quote of the Day: The Abuse of Domestic Spying

I continue to find the level of domestic spying on citizens in America frightening - not to mention a violation of the U.S. Constitution's provisions against unlawful search and seizure.  Yet Barack Obama and others have continued to defend the unconstitutional practice using the excuse that it is necessary to fight terrorism and national security.  The Nazi regime used the national security ruse in the 1930's and we all know what that lead to down the road.  The potential for abuse is simply too great and there are in truth no effective controls in place to prevent abuse should someone in the government decide to do so.  In a post Andrew Sullivan sums things up well after at first defending the practice.  The final straw for him was the holding and interrogation of reporter Glenn Greenwald's husband: 

When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.

Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.

What has kept me from embracing it entirely has been the absence of any real proof than any deliberate abuse has taken place and arguments that it has helped prevent terror attacks. This may be too forgiving a standard. If a system is ripe for abuse, history tells us the only question is not if such abuse will occur, but when. So it is a strange and awful irony that the Coalition government in Britain has today clinched the case for Glenn.

A disclosure upfront: I have met David Miranda as part of a my friendship with Glenn Greenwald. The thought of his being detained by the British police for nine hours because his partner embarrassed the American government really sickens me at a gut level. 

My obvious question is: what could possibly lead the British security services to suspect David of such ties to terror groups? 

[A]lthough David was released, his entire digital library was confiscated – including his laptop and phone. So any journalist passing through London’s Heathrow has now been warned: do not take any documents with you. Britain is now a police state when it comes to journalists, just like Russia is.

In this respect, I can say this to David Cameron. Thank you for clearing the air on these matters of surveillance. You have now demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that these anti-terror provisions are capable of rank abuse. Unless some other facts emerge, there is really no difference in kind between you and Vladimir Putin. You have used police powers granted for anti-terrorism and deployed them to target and intimidate journalists deemed enemies of the state.

You have proven that these laws can be hideously abused. Which means they must be repealed.

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