Long Time Mass Surveillance Defenders Freak Out Now That Trump Will Have Control

from the shoulda-thought-of-that-before dept

The Lawfare blog, run by the Brookings Institution, has long reliably been a good source to go to for reading what defenders of mass surveillance and the surveillance state are thinking -- in a non-hysterical way. While I disagree with much of what's posted on there, it tends to be thoughtful and interesting reading. Its founder and Editor-in-Chief is Ben Wittes, who's always good for an impassioned defense of the NSA's surveillance on Americans, and was all in on forcing tech companies to break encryption. He wasn't worried, you see, because he was quite sure the NSA would never spy on him. Because, you know, he's a good guy.

And... yet. Something seems to have changed. And that something is who is suddenly about to be in charge of the surveillance state apparatus:
When we founded this site more than six years ago, I never in my wildest dreams imagined myself writing these words about a man who will take the oath of office as President of the United States. We began Lawfare on the assumption that the U.S. federal executive branch was a tool with which to confront national security threats. While I accepted that its manner of doing so might threaten other values—like civil liberties—or prove counterproductive in protecting national security goods, I never imagined I would confront the day when I ranked the President himself among the major threats to the security of the country.

Today, we have to confront that possibility.
Your lack of imagination is really fucking us all over now, isn't it Ben? This is exactly why so many of us -- the people he likes to mock -- have said all along that the concern with the surveillance state is always based on the fact that you have to imagine what will happen when the people you trust the least are in power.

Wittes is suddenly having something of an existential crisis about all of this:
So while I of course hope for a successful Trump presidency, I know of only one way Trump can succeed in the national security arena. And that is by radically changing the reckless persona he embodied during a long campaign—changing how he behaves, changing what he believes, changing what he aspires to do, acquiring a sense of restraint, and changing the way he talks about people and groups. And while I agree with Clinton that we owe Trump a chance to lead, the burden is on him to make these changes, not on us to suspend disbelief and pretend we live in the world he has described.

I will be candid and confess that, Clinton’s admonition notwithstanding, my mind is not entirely open about Trump’s capacity to do this, or even his interest in doing it. I have, in fact, deep doubts. And that leaves me, and I think most of America’s national security community, in a very strange position.
Maybe take the time to explore that strange feeling and you can start to understand why so many of us have been concerned about the entire apparatus that you've been cheering on for years, because, as you once said: "I have a great deal of confidence that the National Security Agency is not spying on me." There are an awful lot of people who haven't had that confidence for a while. And a great many more who won't have that confidence under the next administration. That strange feeling that Wittes has is finally a recognition that maybe he should be concerned about those people too.

This isn't a post to mock Ben, but to highlight why so many of us were so concerned all along, even as he mocked us. This is serious stuff and believing that unconstitutional warrantless mass surveillance is okay because you trust the guy in charge only works if you can always trust the guy in charge. And you can't... as Ben and others are suddenly discovering.

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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 9:47am

    Again, I told you so!

    I have been saying for a long time now that all parties should fear surveilance. Eventually a party will have the power to shut down opposition with these powers and data on everyone. Now people are starting to understand. I guess they thought "their guy" would be the one in power when it happened. Doesn't say much for that person that they thought "their guy" abusing power would be ok.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 10:01am

      Re: Again, I told you so!

      Wait until people start freeking out when Trump starts using Executive Power!!! Just doing the SAME THING as OBAMA which they didn't have a problem with. Even with Obama saying he has a Pen and a Phone, meaning he can pretty much do what he wants and who cares about congress. Sounds like a Dictator, but the Democrats were all for it. It's their guy!!! Like what, a Republican President was never going to get elected ever again?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 10:26am

        Re: Re: Again, I told you so!

        Even with Obama saying he has a Pen and a Phone, meaning he can pretty much do what he wants and who cares about congress.

        No, meaning he would do what was within his power since he couldn't get anything through Congress.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Wendy Cockcroft, 15 Nov 2016 @ 2:25am

          Re: Re: Re: Again, I told you so!

          Executive order =/= Royal Perogative.

          He can't act like a king, okay? Settle down.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Hephaestus (profile), 15 Nov 2016 @ 12:30pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Again, I told you so!

            "He can't act like a king, okay? Settle down."

            Actually he can, or haven't you been watching for the past 8 years. Once the laws are written it is up to the agencies to implement them.

            Who, by the way, can order the agencies to do things?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              nasch (profile), 15 Nov 2016 @ 1:17pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Again, I told you so!

              Actually he can, or haven't you been watching for the past 8 years.

              If he thought he could do whatever he wanted, why did he even bother with Congress at all? Just to keep up appearances?

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 9:49am

    Large stores of data

    Not to mention that just having giant databases of data on essentially everyone will be abused. It will start out as good intentioned breaks, but eventually local law enforcement will have access to everything down to how many cold meds your household purchased in the last year.... No wait, we are already there. Enjoy the future with the lack of privacy feature.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 9:49am

    Pure schadenfreude.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Derek Kerton (profile), 15 Nov 2016 @ 10:51am

      Re:

      No. Schadenfreude is pleasure at someone else's suffering.

      Masnick is not even slightly immune from the suffering of the surveillance apparatus.

      This is more of an "I told you so. PS. Thanks for f-ing us over."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 9:58am

    Hillary would have been better? FFS, she wanted to drone Julian Assange. I think we can basically ascertain that literally no one is going to disband the alphabet agencies. A certain Jack Kennedy started getting uppity against the deep state and look what happened to him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:04am

    Masnick on a tear today. Maybe time to revist Frank Church's 1975 warning:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAG1N4a84Dk

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:06am

    "And that is by radically changing the reckless persona he embodied during a long campaign—changing how he behaves, changing what he believes, changing what he aspires to do, acquiring a sense of restraint, and changing the way he talks about people and groups."

    So basically asking him to become a different person. Good luck with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:06am

    here's the problem, and it highlight Trump's presidency, and Sanders' run. Establishment politics. Legislators in Washington have tribal mentality, on BOTH sides.

    But really, this highlights what, at least myself, has been saying for a while now. It's about trust, we don't trust our government. And now the NSA/FBI surveillance defenders are learning that lesson the hard way.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:07am

    History Comes Alive

    Given the long-term records of rulers and ruling elites throughout history, 99.997% of the time you CAN trust the people in charge ... to screw you over.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:21am

    Well if I am going to have to live under a fascist ruler, I can take a little comfort that Benny Wittes appears concerned that the sword he has been defending for so long will soon be turned against him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:26am

    "This isn't a post to mock Ben...as he mocked us."

    Not all of us are as kindly as the good Sir Mikey O'Masnick.

    To Ben:

    Hoist on your damnéd petard.
    We offer no pity to you.
    Roister no more, you retard,
    But tremble at what we all knew.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      art guerrilla (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:38am

      Re: "This isn't a post to mock Ben...as he mocked us."

      cavil alert !
      actually, petard would technically not be pronounced with a hard 'd' unless there was an 'e' after the 'd'...
      but the point is still valid, if not the rhyme...
      i would further mention he IS a fucking tard if he doesnt realize that WE ALL are being spied on, only he is a suckup to Empire, so saurons evil eye will not be trained on him...
      they are still slurping up all his info, just The They wont do a ything about it unless he steps out of line...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Coyne Tibbets (profile), 12 Nov 2016 @ 4:39am

        Re: Re: "This isn't a post to mock Ben...as he mocked us."

        Ummm...[confused]..."petard" and "retard" both follow the same pronunciation rule?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Derek Kerton (profile), 15 Nov 2016 @ 10:55am

          Re: Re: Re: "This isn't a post to mock Ben...as he mocked us."

          Coyne, you're right, if said in English, which this is, since the "hoisted..." quote is not part of the English lexicon. Petard is also now a fully English word, pronounced in a way that rhymes with...um...retard.

          Art G's point (irrelevant in this case) is that in French pétard has a silent "d" at the end.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 12:59pm

      Re: "This isn't a post to mock Ben...as he mocked us."

      Ha!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Personanongrata, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:28am

    Not Me, Couldn't be, then Who?

    "I have a great deal of confidence that the National Security Agency is not spying on me."

    Ignorance is bliss.

    Have Ben Wittes and his US government total surveillance state cohorts been living in a vacuum chamber under a rock in a deep dark cave these past 15 years?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      sigalrm (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 9:14am

      Re: Not Me, Couldn't be, then Who?

      No, they haven't been living in a vacuum.

      Ben Wittes has (had?) a blind faith in the inherent "goodness" of the US Government, based on a vastly different set of starting assumptions.

      Now, he's being forced to revisit some of his first principles. This is a good thing, because he's respected in his communities in ways that groups like this one are not, which means in theory he has an ability to influences said communities.

      Expect some fairly sharp changes in mentality from pundits in the next couple of years. Hopefully they don't come too late to make a difference, although I expect that they have.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:42am

    That can never happen here.

    Famous last words.

    Saying "we told you so" is little comfort.

    Those in power always seem to have very little imagination regarding how power might be abused.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:44am

    Trust considered harmful

    I have usually been mocked whenever I point out that security based on trust is never trustworthy. Most people claim that there is no alternative: that all security ultimately relies on trust.
    My claim: We better find one that doesn't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 10:52am

    Here's a link to the piece, in case anyone's Google is broken:
    https://www.lawfareblog.com/burden-donald-trump

    One of his colleagues, Susan Hennessey, more or less says it's no big deal, all the robust legal and procedural will stop him if he tries. She must be new to government.
    https://www.lawfareblog.com/duty-serve-trumps-america

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 11:08am

    Trump provides motive & opportunity to restore Constitutional checks & balances

    (This just in: Repubs control House, Senate, Supremes.)

    Oops!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Annonymouse, 11 Nov 2016 @ 11:50am

      Re: Trump provides motive & opportunity to restore Constitutional checks & balances

      But what is the impact on our listening pleasure?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 11:47am

    Government mass surveillance would be a lot more difficult if it weren't for the assistance of Facebook, Google, and the rest of Surveillance Valley.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2016 @ 2:02am

      Re:

      Government surveillance would be a lot less pervasiveness if people restricted their conversation to actually talking to people in their physical presence, and didn't try us to use the Internet to solve their problems. That would also make it much easier for the politicians to rule the country for their own benefit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Eldakka (profile), 13 Nov 2016 @ 6:37am

        Re: Re:

        This is true...well except for the remote phone exploits that allow phones (both mobile and landline) mic's to be surreptitiously turned on to turn the phone into a bug even tho it's not being actively used.

        Or maybe you've got Siri or hello google on, which means the mic's has to always be on (to detect the spoken keywords) therefore available for eavesdropping.

        Or smart TV's or games consoles with embedded cameras and mic's also potentially always on by design listening in (or watching) any conversation in their pickup range. Tablets and laptops the same.

        Or hell, maybe they'll start putting mic's into smart light bulbs or toasters so you can voice control even more.

        Unless you consciously take steps to ensure there are no mic's in the vicinity, it can be pretty hard to actually have a completely private conversation these days even if you aren't specifically under surveillance (in which case there are bugs and shotgun/laser mic's to also content with...tho the latter are pretty easy to defeat if you are paranoid to be concerned about them).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    SpaceLifeForm, 11 Nov 2016 @ 11:57am

    Turtles all the way down

    You can not fix stupid.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 12:02pm

    somehow we have some of the stupidest people on earth in some of the most key positions. what a bunch of boneheads we are. those people can't see the ends of their noses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Stosh, 11 Nov 2016 @ 12:07pm

    What's the big deal...always heard if you're not doing anything illegal, you don't have anything to worry about.

    Chickens meet Roost

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 12:33pm

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    ...It'll be a hell of a ride to the bottom. :D

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    RR, 11 Nov 2016 @ 2:25pm

    Future elections

    Trump will have the power to sink any competitors in future elections - presidential and congress. Everyone has something embarrassing in their past. Maybe not "pussy grabbing" bad, but it's there, already stored away. It would take a "flawless" person or another Trump who doesn't give a shit to survive the kind of info "unknown sources have revealed".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 2:50pm

    They aren't freaking out, just being hypocrites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Nov 2016 @ 4:39pm

    BTW, I would be all in favor of getting rid of Donald Trump as president and signing that petition ... if Hillary Clinton is not his replacement. She is a liar and I do not care for her at all.

    As much as I'm not a democrat I'd vote Bernie Sanders over Trump. But between Hillary and Trump, for me that's a very tough decision.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 7:02am

      Re:

      BTW, I would be all in favor of getting rid of Donald Trump as president and signing that petition ... if Hillary Clinton is not his replacement.

      It would be Mike Pence.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 11 Nov 2016 @ 6:39pm

    "Now you know how it feels"

    This isn't a post to mock Ben, but to highlight why so many of us were so concerned all along, even as he mocked us.

    In which case you would seem to be a more generous person than I, as I certainly would take the opportunity to return the favor. He brushed aside concerns because 'his' guy would never abuse that power, and now that someone from the other tribe is in power, only now does he become worried, despite people trying to explain all along why the powers themselves were problematic and it was only a matter of time until someone he didn't like got them?

    He's not wrong is believing that Trump having access to such powers is a problem, he was wrong in believing that Obama having such access wasn't a problem, or that the powers themselves aren't a problem and mocking those that tried to point this out, as well as point out that so long as the powers existed it wasn't 'if' someone he didn't like would get them but 'when'.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2016 @ 6:28am

      Re: "Now you know how it feels"

      Maybe the spy agencies are upset because you can't blackmail Trump by trying to shame him with secret information that you may threaten to release since he essentially has no shame ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Giles Byles, 12 Nov 2016 @ 11:26am

    Oops, there was a headline fail:  longtime as a modifier (adjective) is one word.

    The time to de-fund the NSA was September of 2013 when our esteemed Congress came back from vacation.  We'd had all summer to digest the Snowden revelations.  But what happened on that day?  Nothing.  Deafening silence happened.

    Since then, thousands of photon splitters have been purchased by our esteemed government & Bluffdale is chugging away.

    The only upside is that the spooks' "collect it all" mentality has neutered their whole system.  They have too much data & no way to make sense of it.  They didn't listen to their pal Binney & instead made his life miserable for a time for being a "whistle-blower."

    Here's another grammar gotcha from a comment above:  "You can not fix stupid."  Cannot is (usually) one word.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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