NJ Gov. Chris Christie: Opposing NSA Surveillance Is A 'Strain Of Very Dangerous Thought'

from the because-protecting-civil-liberties-is-like-hugging-terrorists dept

New Jersey governor Chris Christie may be looking forward to a possible presidential run in 2016, which would at least partially explain his broadside attack on Justin Amash (of the "defund the NSA amendment") and Rand Paul and their "strain of libertarianism" that's now threatening established American institutions like domestic spying and fighting Wars on Stuff.

Christie invoked an old standby to criticize recent legislative activity like the narrow defeat of Amash's amendment and Rep. Rush Holt's recently introduced bill to repeal the PATRIOT Act.
“As a former prosecutor who was appointed by President George W. Bush on Sept. 10, 2001, I just want us to be really cautious, because this strain of libertarianism that’s going through both parties right now and making big headlines, I think, is a very dangerous thought,” Christie said.

Asked whether he includes Paul — a fellow potential 2016 presidential candidate — in his criticism, Christie didn’t back down.

“You can name any one of them that’s engaged in this,” he said. “I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and the orphans and have that conversation. … I’m very nervous about the direction this is moving in.”
Christie went on to characterize these debates as "esoteric" and "amnesiac."
“I think what we as a country have to decide is: Do we have amnesia? Because I don’t,” he said. “And I remember what we felt like on Sept. 12, 2001.”
For starters, debates pertaining to the rights of millions of Americans are hardly "inside baseball," indicating Christie isn't familiar with the definition of the term he chose to deploy. As for being "amnesiac," Christie might be best served with a blow to the head to jog his memory -- many aspects of these programs were in place pre-9/11. The 9/11 attacks ushered in the PATRIOT Act, something hurriedly passed with bipartisan support. Now that the bipartisan movement (a.k.a. "strain of libertarianism") is moving in the opposite direction, Christie suddenly feels this sort of cooperation is "dangerous."

But the most depressing part of Christie's rant is how completely rote the argument is, as Gene Healy at Reason points out:
[H]aven't the arguments for unrestrained spying gotten any better over the last 11 years? Talk to the "widows and orphans," visualize a smoking crater, and write a blank check to the Security-Industrial Complex?
At some point during any discussion of the NSA's programs, defenders invoke an attack that wasn't prevented and/or attacks theoretically prevented by this surveillance. Very occasionally another attack that wasn't prevented is dragged into the mix (the Boston bombing), its rare appearance largely due to the fact that all of these programs failed to prevent the sort of terrorist attack we're always being told the programs are in place to prevent.

Continually going back to the "9/11" well does very little to push the "discussion" forward. Defenders of the surveillance state obviously prefer it this way. If the discussion moves forward, the shortcomings of the programs are revealed and the abuses uncovered are left without a credible defense. Justifying future abuse using a past tragedy is nothing more than baldfaced attempts to guilt the public (and their representatives) into exchanging more liberty for security.

At this point, defenders like Christie are taking on the appearance of Sally Struthers stand-ins, dragging victims of terrorist attacks through smoking ruins, asking members of the public to donate some of their "excess" privacy in order to "ensure" a future free of further attacks. Obama has said he "welcomes" a debate on these issues, but then slams the door by calling legislative efforts like Amash's counterproductive. Other politicians running flack for the national security agencies have made no such overtures, but tellingly, their reactions and justifications are largely the same.

This "strain of libertarianism" doesn't threaten anything more than the growth of government and its intrusion into everyday lives of American. The fact that it has gone unchecked for so long is what's actually "dangerous," to use Christie's words. To derail the discussion by continually invoking 9/11 is nothing more than a cheap form a manipulation.

Filed Under: 9/11, chris christie, civil liberties, fear, libertarians, nsa surveillance


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  1. identicon
    PlayNicely, 31 Jul 2013 @ 11:06am

    We need to stop our daily complain-a-thon and replace it with an act-a-thon.

    We are at a stage where we seriously have to devise strategies on how to turn this around. Not just hypotheticals. Not just bemoaning the passivity of our fellow citizens. Not atrophy our ability to exercise our rights by receding into cynicism. Organize! We need to speak with friends, family members and coworkers. We need to convince them that this has gone too far. That our pet issues are not important anymore when the constitution can be so blatantly and openly ignored. Forget healthcare and how that makes Obama a nazi. Forget gun gontrol. Forget fiscal policy. Teach your younger friends and family members critical thinking. Teach them to recognize logical fallacies, faulty arguments and rhetoric tricks. Teach them to see through propaganda and empty political communication. Do this whithout pushing any hot-button-issue, just talk about the mechanisms of deception and self-deception.

    We must not vote red team or blue team anymore, because as has become painfully clear, both are part of the problem. Both are ruled by authoritarians and lobby interests and both are happy to gerrymander and fool you out of your effective vote. Do not make the mistake to accept the surveillance state because it comes with a number of your preferred policies. It is like accepting 1,000 $ in exchange for full access to your bank account. Call for the abolition of first-past-the-post (it can be mathematically shown to degenerate into a two-party-system with high entry hurdles). Vote third party, create incentives for competent people to join a third party or founding their own.

    Start using strong encryption everywhere. Help your friends use it too. Don't fall for the incentives that make you offer lots of personal information (like payback-schemes, insurance discounts for healthy living or voting-machines for convenience). Avoid services like facebook, skype and google. If you are an engineer build tools to replace them and make them trivial to use. Do not accept jobs that make you a cog in the surveillance machine, well-paying as they may be. If you are a researcher do not develop data-mining and face-recognition systems, however civil and benign a purpose they may serve, they will be part of your own future shackles.

    We also have to show presence on the streets, on a broad platform. This is about the surveillance state: Do not put off sympathizers by pushing other issues, however important they may seem. We have to create pressure, perhaps by striking, certainly by civil disobedience. While i am not calling for violence some laws will be broken. There will be even more laws - they will be treating peaceful protesters like terrorists. Yes we will have to sacrifice wealth, and in some cases a significant amount. Yes some protesters will get hurt, locked up or even killed.

    But we have to turn this around. If we don't a dystopian society awaits our children. It won't be as openly repressive as past dictatorships. It won't be like old-fashioned fascism or communism. It will come in the form of a supposedly benign totalitarian oligarchy that will still adorn itself with formally being a republic. It won't need as much in-your-face repression. It will have far more effective and subtler means to control you. It will still destroy lives, but public opinion will never be on the side of the victims anymore, not even in secret. It will know everything about you but you won't even think that's a problem anymore. It will sense and steer your political opinions before you have even formed them. It will still benefit an elite minority at the expense of everyone else and it will take away everybody's means to oppose it (including the elite that benefits from it).

    And remember: That it seems like there are too many issues to tackle and that every organized effort gets bogged down in the bureaucracy are deliberate tactics. There are paid shills all over the popular internet forums using both trolling and seemingly thoughtful discussions to stifle criticism. Your side-tracked discussions and waste of time by replying as well as your cynicism and misanthropy are their purpose, as these lead to inaction. We will need to be persistent. We must not give up.

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