"It profits me but little that a vigilant authority always protects the tranquillity of my pleasures and constantly averts all dangers from my path, without my care or concern, if this same authority is the absolute master of my liberty and my life."

--Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Potential Implications of the NSA Scandal

A couple of days I cited Rand Paul's column in the WSJ about the NSA scandal:
How many records did the NSA seize from Verizon? Hundreds of millions. We are now learning about more potential mass data collections by the government from other communications and online companies....
These activities violate the Fourth Amendment, which says warrants must be specific—"particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized." And what is the government doing with these records? The president assures us that the government is simply monitoring the origin and length of phone calls, not eavesdropping on their contents. Is this administration seriously asking us to trust the same government that admittedly targets political dissidents through the Internal Revenue Service and journalists through the Justice Department?
That's the key point, and the key point hasn't changed since 1789 and the founding of our Republic... citizens shouldn't trust government not to abuse power, therefore government power must be limited.

Bryan Preston yesterday made an equally valid point about why this particular administration should be trusted even less than previous regimes:
Reading this story in the context of the just-concluded campaign, it all seemed mildly spooky. Obama’s campaign had built a massive and highly connected database that it intended to use to propel the campaign directly into everyday life. This database was far more comprehensive and sophisticated and even intrusive than any campaign information set that had ever been built before. Presidential campaigns usually disband shortly after elections, but this presidential campaign had found a way to live on in the very same legal code that was being used against the president’s enemies. That database would keep getting bigger, and it would remain a tool in what was now a permanent political army that answers ultimately not to a party but to one man, the president. 
In the current context, though, it comes across as more sinister. The Internal Revenue Service was literally policing the free speech of Americans who opposed the president’s agenda, while at the very same time it gave a free pass to a transparently political group that was slipping into tax-exempt “social welfare” dress and carrying the president’s massive political database along with it. OfA handed OfA the keys to the database kingdom. At the same time, the National Security Agency was allegedly building its own massive database on all Americans. The American people knew neither of the IRS nor of the NSA’s actions. 
The IRS became an arm of the Obama campaign, at least in practice if not in name, from 2010 to 2012. Did the NSA do anything similar? Was there any overlap at all between the data-mining tools and techniques used by the Obama campaign and the data-mining tools and techniques used by the National Security Agency?
 I'd like an independent prosecutor to investigate that question.

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