Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Pro Publica:: FAQ: What You Need To Know About NSA Surveillance Programs ( + Inchoate Thoughts)


Nothing new there, but a good summary, IMHO.

I still don't know what to think about all this. Input requested...

My hazy inclinations are similar to what they've been for awhile now, and can sorta be summarized as follows:

1. I don't like this excrement one bit.

2. I am not at all surprised by it; in fact, this is a foreseeable consequence of the "Patriot" Act, isn't it?

3. And, in fact, I expected it to be worse. (see 4)

4. I'm am far, far less concerned about metadata collection than I would be about actual spying on the content of communications. (But see 1)

5. I don't think we really know what's going on yet. The NSA has lied about what it's doing, and Greenwald is largely unreliable, and has misrepresented what's going on at crucial points. We know enough to be worried, but not enough to draw firm conclusions. Or at least I don't... (Note: I expect Greenwald to distort things if it make the U.S. and/or Obama look bad; I don't see any reason to tolerate this from the NSA, however.)

6. It's good that this is now a matter of public discussion. However, it seems to me that this could have been done without making the U.S. look worse than may be warranted vis-a-vis countries like, e.g., Russia...  But these thoughts are garbled in my wee noggin...

7. We need reliable cost-benefit analysis here. In the absence of really big benefits, there is no way I can see myself acquiescing to programs like these. I think Americans have a strong prima facie opposition to such programs. And we're right about that. The NSA has a very weighty burden of proof. Has this program, for example, prevented New York from being disintegrated? Well, New York... Has it prevented D.C. from being disintegrated? Is it likely to do so? If not, I'm still against it.

8. I'm not outraged in part because I have no doubt that these programs were put in place by well-intentioned people. It seems clear that there are lots of solid protections in place. It seems to me to be a plausible, if misguided, attempt to respond to the fact that we are at odds with some murderous psychopaths. Don't freak out. This is not an evil government plot. Just walk it back. Or so I'm currently inclined to think.

8'. I'm not outraged also because I'm not surprised. (see 2). But if these types of surveillance are permitted by the "Patriot" Act, and they are impermissible, then we have yet another fine argument for the repeal of the "Patriot" Act.

9. It actually sounds to me like the current privacy protections are great. But I'm still inclined against the program, largely because of the danger of abuse by a rogue future government. I trust the government we now have--even the lunatic Republicans, for the most part. But I don't trust every plausible future government. So I don't want this easily-abused capacity in place. That may not be a good reason, or it may not be the best reason...but to the extent that the reason is good, it has some pretty significant consequences. For example, it seems to constitute an argument against having a large military as well--talk about something ripe for abuse by a rogue government...  This coheres with my long-standing reason for wanting a smaller government army...though perhaps I'm confused on that score already.

For the lova God, somebody straighten me out on all this...it hurts my head...


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