No Matter Who's Elected, Surveillance Powers And Programs Unlikely To Be Scaled Back
from the sorry-constituents,-but-your-concerns-aren't-a-priority dept
The New York Times editorial board speculates on where we're going from here following President Obama's not-doing-much-until-forced-to approach to surveillance and surveillance reform. Two candidates -- neither of them improvements -- are roughly a month away from one of them taking the nation's top office. As the Times' board points out, there's not much in it for anyone hoping the incoming White House will push forward with more reform efforts or better oversight.
The Republican nominee, Donald Trump, has not substantively addressed any of these issues. But he has proposed draconian, unconstitutional measures to keep the nation safe, including carrying out surveillance of mosques and creating a database of Muslims. This is offensive and outrageous. “We’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” he said last November.
Hillary Clinton has been more measured in discussing surveillance and encryption. Her campaign has suggested creating a national commission to explore legal and practical questions surrounding encryption. Mrs. Clinton has also said she would like to foster a more constructive relationship with Silicon Valley leaders, who have often been reluctant to collaborate with intelligence agencies. But she has been troublingly vague on specifics.
The Times is far too kind to Clinton. (No one really needs to rehash Trump's inability to form coherent sentences when discussing policy…) Clinton may be more measured, but what she has discussed suggests a return to form when Obama exits office. A return to GEORGE W. BUSH form, really -- basically another 4-8 years of post-2001 fear-based legislating, like her predecessor engaged in.
After the attack in Orlando, Clinton joined Trump in calling for expanded watchlists and denial of Constitutional rights to those placed on them. She has occasionally hinted at vague surveillance reform, but has also made it clear Snowden should hop on the next plane home and spend some time in prison. She has also suggested tech companies partner with the government to create backdoors in encryption -- but in an imaginary "safe" way that won't threaten their customers' security. And she's made it clear that deploying the military is a perfectly acceptable response to state-led cyberattacks.
Either way the election goes, the surveillance business will remain as usual. This is troubling, due to the fact that Section 702 -- which authorizes the NSA's internet backbone-based surveillance dragnet PRISM -- is up for renewal at the end of next year. With recent revelations about Yahoo's very proactive surveillance assistance generating some interesting questions about what the NSA can or can't do under this authority, it would be nice to have someone in the White House that would amplify these concerns, rather than help drown them out.