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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  1. 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.

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