Friday 14 June 2013

Faint hope

Reason's Nick Gillespie explains what it'll take to curb the American surveillance state given that both Democrats and Republicans are totally cool with surveillance whenever their team's guy is in the White House:
More to the point, though, the virtually unyielding preference for partisanship over principle explains why regardless of which party controls the government, the surveillance state continues to grow. It’s totally different, don’t you see, when my guy is running the show!

That same dynamic also helps to explain what is arguably the single-most important political trend over the past 40, 50, or even 70 years: the rise in the percentage of voters who flatly refuse to identify with either the Republican or Democratic Party. In 2012, more voters—38 percent—called themselves independent than admitted to being Democrat (32 percent) or Republican (24 percent).
And it points to the only place from where actual relief from an ever-bigger, ever-more-intrusive surveillance state is going to come: oddball, ad hoc coalitions formed not by party apparatchiks but by rogue elements that somehow sneak into power and are buoyed by the plurality of Americans who refuse to be cowed by party politics. It is characters such as Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rand Paul (R-KY.), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO.) and Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI.), Thomas Massie (R-KY.), and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) who are lobbying for more government transparency, accountability, and restraint.

This crew has virtually nothing in common other than an inspiring streak of ideological independence that mirrors the plurality of American voters. (Paul, who has co-sponsored legislation with Wyden, did not even thank the Republican Party on election night in 2012, choosing instead to thank the “Tea Party.”) They will doubtless find themselves on different sides of the barricades when it comes to questions of taxes, regulation, and spending. But it is impossible to imagine any of them shifting their positions on ubiquitous surveillance of Americans or kill lists or torture simply based on which party controls the White House or Congress. Which, sad to say, is a relief in the current political climate. And the reason their efforts deserve not just our sincere thanks but our vocal support.
Yeah, I put maybe 25% chance on that panning out. Those odds drop to 5% if it doesn't come in the wake of the current and ongoing NSA revelations.

My normal line here is to recommend emigration. But where could you go? If anything, being outside of the NSA / Five Eyes arrangement could make things worse rather than better.

A loyal reader who should know about these things rather strongly insists that NZ's leaving that partnership would make it much easier for NSA to snoop on Kiwis. I expect that he's right. Our pulling out of that arrangement would likely result (my guess, not his) in a snooping box being installed somewhere along the line after the termination ends of the undersea cables that connect us to the world. NZ has direct connections only to Sydney and Hawaii.

Here's Tech Liberty's submission on the Telcommunications (Interception Capability & Security) Bill. I really hope that the Select Committee moves to fix things.

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