Earlier this year, we wrote about the psychological games
that surveillance state defenders play -- both on themselves and the public -- to continually ratchet up programs that show no evidence of working. In it, we pointed to a great post by the ACLU's Kade Crockford, highlighting a rare case where an FBI official was forthright
about what's really going on:
If you’re submitting budget proposals for a law enforcement agency, for an intelligence agency, you’re not going to submit the proposal that ‘We won the war on terror and everything’s great,’ cuz the first thing that’s gonna happen is your budget’s gonna be cut in half. You know, it’s my opposite of Jesse Jackson’s ‘Keep Hope Alive’—it’s ‘Keep Fear Alive.’ Keep it alive.
Keep fear alive. Keep it alive. And, apparently, one great way to do that is to basically get the NY Times to run pure government propaganda
in the form of simply repeating anonymous fearmongering from administration officials who set up a call for this exact purpose:
“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.
“We’re in uncharted waters,” another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. “We have not had to confront addressing the terrorist threat without these authorities, and it’s going to be fraught with unnecessary risk.”
First, note the anonymity, even though this isn't a leak or a reporter sniffing out a story and needing to protect sources. This is a "briefing organized by the White House" where they play stupid games in demanding anonymity for the sole purpose of avoiding accountability. Second, note the blatant fearmongering without any specifics. It's pure "keep fear alive" in action -- aided along by a stenographer at the NY Times.
All the propaganda that's fit to print.
As the Intercept rightly notes, this piece was published without even the slightest critical look
into the statements by those officials:
Worst of all, it’s all published uncritically. There’s not a syllable challenging or questioning any of these dire warnings. No Patriot Act opponent is heard from. None of the multiple facts exposing these scare tactics as manipulative and false are referenced.
It’s just government propaganda masquerading as a news article, where anonymous officials warn the country that they will die if the Patriot Act isn’t renewed immediately, while decreeing that Congressional critics of the law will have blood on their hands due to their refusal to obey. In other words, it’s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.
Once again, two separate government review boards, as well as judges who have looked over the program and Senators who have been briefed on the full extent of the program in question, have all said that the bulk metadata collection program has not proven useful
in stopping terrorist attacks. At all.
And, of course, blatant fearmongering without comparing the costs and (lack of) benefits is completely useless. Again, it could be taken to any extreme. Would putting real-time cameras hovering over every living human being 24/7 allow the government to find out who was plotting a terrorist attack? In theory, yes. But everyone would consider it a gross violation of privacy. Just because a tool might
be useful doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do. So, here we have a case of a "tool" that is both a clear violation of our civil liberties and
one that hasn't even been found to be useful.
Yet why is the NY Times -- the so-called "paper of record" -- repeating blindly government propaganda about how important it is to keep the program alive? Keep fear alive, NY Times. Keep it alive.