Telling It Straight

by digby

Intel Official: Say Goodbye to Privacy

A top intelligence official says it is time people in the United States changed their definition of privacy.

Privacy no longer can mean anonymity, says Donald Kerr, the principal deputy director of national intelligence. Instead, it should mean that government and businesses properly safeguards people's private communications and financial information.

Trust 'em?

If you think this isn't such a big deal, check out this post about what happened when we trusted our government with these powers just 37 years ago:

"For the past four years, the U.S. Army has been closely watching civilian political activity within the United States." So charged Christopher H. Pyle, a former intelligence officer, in the January 1970 edition of Washington Monthly. Pyle's account of military spies snooping on law‑abiding citizens and recording their actions in secret government computers sent a shudder through the nation's press. Images from George Orwell's novel 1984 of Big Brother and the thought police filled the newspapers. Public alarm prompted the Senate Subcommittee on Consti­tutional Rights, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina, to investigate. For more than a year, Ervin struggled against a cover‑up to get to the bottom of the surveillance system. Frustrated by the Nixon Administration's misleading statements, claims of inherent executive powers, and refusals to disclose information on the basis of national security, the Senator called for public hearings in 1971 to examine "the dangers the Army's program presents to the principles of the Constitution."

It's happening again only this time instead of insisting that the government reveal its activities, the US Congress is about to legalize it. Officials are testifying that we're just going to have to get used to it. No shudders through the press. If there is national alarm, it's being ignored --- constitutional liberties are seen as "political losers" for Democrats because we are engaged in a sophomoric schlong-measuring contest instead of a debate about the best way to defend the nation against threats.

One of the hallmarks of an authoritarian state is surveillance of its own citizens --- if you give them the power they will use it to gain more. It's inevitable. We Americans should be guarding our privacy more zealously than ever and insisting that our representatives find ways to ensure that the government does not repeal the fourth amendment in slow motion.

And once again, I'm shocked that a member of the government is just saying this kind of stuff outright in public and nobody seems to give a damn. If someone were to have asked you ten years ago what countries in the world had a doctrine of preventive war and used it to invade a country on false pretenses, spied on its own citizens, held people in jail indefinitely without due process and routinely tortured suspected enemies of the state, would you have ever believed the United States Of America was among them?

And in case you think we aren't normalizing these discussions, take a gander at this op-ed in the Wall Street Journal via LGM:

There are some who claim that torture is a nonissue because it never works--it only produces false information. This is simply not true, as evidenced by the many decent members of the French Resistance who, under Nazi torture, disclosed the locations of their closest friends and relatives.

That's allegedly liberal torture promoter Alan Dershowitz, who goes on to claim that anyone who doesn't support the president having the power to use waterboarding to "save American lives" has blood on his hands.

Our new American credo: if it worked for Hitler, it'll work for us!


Kerr said at an October intelligence conference in San Antonio, Texas, that he finds it odd that some would be concerned that the government may be listening in when people are "perfectly willing for a green-card holder at an [Internet service provider] who may or may have not have been an illegal entrant to the United States to handle their data."

Right. And when that "illegal entrant" green card holder has the power to come to my house and arrest me and throw me in jail I might get a little bit more worried about him.

He noted that government employees face up to five years in prison and $100,000 in fines if convicted of misusing private information.

Somehow this doesn't comfort me. If I recall correctly, the last guy who was convicted of lying about his involvement in a similar crime had his sentence commuted by his boss, the president.