Friday, May 12, 2006

The revenge of Joe McCarthy

The reaction among the monarchist right to the disclosure that all of our phone logs have been sucked into an NSA database has been a collective and damning yawn. ("Libertarian Republican" is now every bit as oxymoronic as "Log Cabin Republican.")

We of the left blogosphere have of course reacted with revulsion. But I'm not sure even most on the left have really processed yet why they are doing this -- the way the junta is envisioning the deployment of this new tool. I think I do see it, and maybe if we we make a stink about the imminent dystopia they are building we can convince people not to stand for it.

Think back to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Envision the newsreel footage of Joe McCarthy and Roy Cohn hounding hundreds of people by asking them, "Are you now, or have you ever been...?" Remember the way they threatened to destroy innocent people who refused to finger their friends. And why did they do it? They wanted to intimidate and frighten us, of course, but the method was adopted because it was pretty much all they had.

Now imagine how it might have played out if Joe McCarthy could have effortlessly generated a list of every person you ever talked to on the telephone. It would have given him instant access to powerful leverage points against anyone who had even the smallest secret. He could have threatened to expose your extramarital affair. He could have threatened to publicize your contact with a disfavored political figure or group. The opportunities for such intimidation increase by orders of magnitude when the government has access to so much personal data.

The danger here is that anyone who has access to this awesome database will be able to use it against any enemy for any reason. Can anyone doubt that they would use that power to silence critics and punish political enemies in a way Nixon could only dream of? (Hell, they even tried to blackmail Qwest.) The time-honored (and Constitutionally mandated) system that required probable cause to come before access to private information is inverted: private information is used to create the probable cause.

The whole battle is at core about executive power. The de facto power they gain from access to this information is probably enough to neuter what little power remains in other hands.

Update: Bilmon answers the call, comparing Bushworld to Hobbes' Leviathan.

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dead bodies
Dead bodies
Dead bodies

And I don't mean in Iraq/Iran/Egypt/Palestine/Israel, etc.

The founding fathers (not some outsiders, but the guys who actually put the U.S. together) said that anything less than BLOODY revolution (their literal words), on a not less than ten year basis, meant that the country was doomed. Look it up yourself. They said it.

The only thing likely to change a politician's mind is dead politicians. Otherwise, money wins every time.

Without dead bodies in the politician ranks, what else they got to lose?

Yes, I posted this before. When did it become irrelevant?

5:39 PM  
Anonymous JRW said...

I would like to propose a protest to this data collection activity. Call one random wrong number every day. Make them connect dots that have absolutely no meaning. Trash their data set by swamping it with false info.

Yrs,
JRW

7:25 PM  
Anonymous gmanedit said...

How about keeping tabs on reporters so they know who their sources are? That should encourage whistleblowers, eh?

12:12 AM  
Blogger <-<--esoder<---<----<----- said...

That first comment sounds a lot like THAT Anonymous. I wish I could go there with you, A, but it's that damned Buddha I've read so much about that tells me all violence is wrong.

Also, it would be great if you would just create a profile with bogus information so we could always seperate (that's how I spell it - it's valid, look it up) from the other lesser Anonymi.

Anonymusses?

Anyway - this is all great stuff, but what is worrying me more tonight is Monday Night's speech about deploying troops domestically to guard the borders. You add that to the Haliburton detention centers. And the phone tapping. And the call logging. And, well...

Let me just repeat, I believe violence is wrong. Oh, and did I say Buddha earlier? I meant Jesus Christ, the great philosopher, my Lord and Savior.

1:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

People are throwing their liberties away hand over fist. I don't get it. They seem to think that since they aren't doing anything wrong they don't need civil liberties...who would want to mess with boring old me? It makes me weep for the future of America. How can we make these people realize they are asleep at the wheel and we are going to lose something very precious....

3:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Numbnuts, Joe McCarthy was a Senator and not in the House. Additionally, HUAC was before his time.

If you must malign a dead man, get your facts correct.

5:20 PM  

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