So I’m hearing and reading people who think that it is just fine for the government to “keep us safe” ™ by spying on the general public, culling data without a warrant as the Fourth Amendment dictates. “I’m not doing anything wrong,” we are told.
That doesn’t matter. The conservative groups who applied to the IRS for 501©3 status were not doing anything wrong either. But they were nevertheless singled out for harassment. The conservative groups who were trying to get documents from the EPA and had to pay more than liberal groups were not doing anything wrongs. Happily for the American people, the records of those instances are not kept invisible by a network of government secrecy laws. But what goes on with the NSA and related alphabet-soup agencies is covered by a camouflage of threats against people who want to tell us about it, as well as permitted lies to the American people.
What possible reason to we have to believe that the NSA bureaucrats will behave better under the cover of coerced secrecy than the IRS agents behaved in the daylight?
So what if you are a conservative candidate who had to, at one point, intervene in your daughter’s life when she was a young teen? The NSA knows what was talked about with that phone call to the suicide prevention hotline. The NSA’s data farm has all the phone records and debit card records to the counselor you hired to help her. Now, a decade later, on the eve of election night, suddenly all the dirty laundry is revealed with the worst possible spin. Before you can clear it up, you’ve lost your close election. You never learn how your opponent knew who to ask or what to investigate to find out about your daughter. The NSA never admits its involvement (in fact only one or two people even know that the scandal was first brought to light by a half-hour of data-mining). All you know is somehow your past history got pulled on you by surprise when there wasn’t time to do anything about it.
A government that knows the private information of the populace is a government that will never need to fear a “dark horse” candidate again. No one will be able to run for office except those already approved by the current establishment. Everyone else will find every problem or seeming problem in their lives or the lives of those close to them brought to light for voters to see at the most inauspicious moment. If this data collecting is allowed to continue, the Establishment will never need to fear an outsider getting into power.
What other leverage does the government give itself by having secret access to the people’s secrets? Back during the Clinton Administration, it was reported that the government was using Echelon—the super secret surveillance technology—to do corporate and industrial espionage. It was used to give advantages to US companies over foreign competitors. We know now that the government wants to pick winners and losers. Who is to say that well-connected friends of the administration won’t be given business intelligence to use against the companies whose owners and CEO’s make campaign donations to the other side?
We already know our government is corrupt with the power it admits to having. Giving it more secret power doesn’t make us safer. It just makes us more controlled.