Sunday, January 19, 2014

Drum: Obama's Surveillance Reform Plan is "Weak Tea"

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I'm pretty baffled by what's going on, but it sounded, on the face of it, like a pretty good start to me. This is the kind of thing that really does require expert opinion. The guesses of non-experts about this stuff just aren't very valuable.

One of Obama's best points, I thought, was that phone companies already keep the same kind of "metadata" that has generated this controversy. That doesn't mean that it's ok for the government to do so, of course, but it does help but the program in perspective, I think.

I continue to think the argument from potential for abuse is important here--roughly, that the problem with allowing the government to collect and retrieve such "metadata" is that, even assuming that the current government is not abusing it, the potential for abuse by a future unjust government is too great.

One perhaps interesting thing about the potential for abuse argument however, is that it seems to cut at least as deeply against maintaining a large, powerful military as it does against collecting communications metadata. I mean, the most powerful weapon that a theoretical unjust future government would have is our massive military. Right?

I'm actually sympathetic to both versions of the argument, and that's one reason I tend to favor a military that's no bigger than necessary. Though, of course, it's not clear what necessity amounts to here...  I think it's very clear that, say, China is a bigger threat than some theoretically unjust future U.S. government. At any rate, it seems a little odd to be extremely angry about the NSA program on the basis of the potential for abuse argument, but entirely unconcerned about our enormous military. (And newly paramilitarized police forces...)

Anyway, that's all pretty fast and loose, and just thinking out loud, really.

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