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Hullabaloo


Thursday, August 22, 2013

 
Getting comfortable with Big Brother

by digby

This is rich.  President Obama has appointed Cass Sunstein to the new "oversight" board of the NSA. It's rich because of this, courtesy Emptywheel:
As Glenn Greenwald (yeah — that Glenn; did they really think no one would raise this point?) reported back in 2010, Sunstein wrote a paper in 2008 advocating very creepy stealth measures against “conspiracy theories.”
In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.”
And remember, a big mandate for this committee is not to review the programs to see if we can make them more privacy-protective, but simply to increase our trust in them. Which goes to the core of what Sunstein was talking about in his paper: using covert government propaganda to, in this case, better sell covert government spying.
It's just too perfect.

Marcy Wheeler is also skeptical of Richard Clarke's appointment because he's a big cyber-security hawk and she suspects that a lot of the NSA programs are actually targeted at hacking rather than terrorism which, after reading her posts, I think is a pretty good guess. So, I don't know exactly how Clarke will perform in this role.

However, he did write this immediately after the Snowden revelations:
My concerns are twofold. First, the law under which President George W. Bush and now President Obama have acted was not intended to give the government records of all telephone calls. If that had been the intent, the law would have said that. It didn’t. Rather, the law envisioned the administration coming to a special court on a case-by-case basis to explain why it needed to have specific records.

I am troubled by the precedent of stretching a law on domestic surveillance almost to the breaking point. On issues so fundamental to our civil liberties, elected leaders should not be so needlessly secretive.

The argument that this sweeping search must be kept secret from the terrorists is laughable. Terrorists already assume this sort of thing is being done. Only law-abiding American citizens were blissfully ignorant of what their government was doing.

Secondly, we should worry about this program because government agencies, particularly the Federal Bureau of Investigation, have a well-established track record of overreaching, exceeding their authority and abusing the law. The FBI has used provisions of the Patriot Act, intended to combat terrorism, for purposes that greatly exceed congressional intent.
At least he has a record of speaking truth to power, which should be the requirement of every person on that board.

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