Monday, January 14, 2008

Director of National Intelligence Wants to Spy on all Internet Traffic

From the WSJ,

Spychief Mike McConnell is drafting a plan to protect America’s cyberspace that will raise privacy issues and make the current debate over surveillance law look like “a walk in the park,” McConnell tells The New Yorker in the issue set to hit newsstands Monday. “This is going to be a goat rope on the Hill. My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens.”

At issue, McConnell acknowledges, is that in order to accomplish his plan, the government must have the ability to read all the information crossing the Internet in the United States in order to protect it from abuse. Congressional aides tell The Journal that they, too, are also anticipating a fight over civil liberties that will rival the battles over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Part of the lawmakers’ ire, they have said, is the paltry information the administration has provided. The cyberspace security initiative was first reported in September by The Baltimore Sun, and some congressional aides say that lawmakers have still learned more from the media than they did from the few Top Secret briefings they have received hours before the administration requested money in November to jump start the program.

This reminds me a quote from the Anti-Federalist Papers:
This power, exercised without limitation, will introduce itself into every corner of the city, and country -- It will wait upon the ladies at their toilette, and will not leave them in any domestic concerns; it will accompany them to the ball, the play, and the assembly; it will go with them when they visit, and will, on all occasions, sit beside them in their carriages, nor will it defect them even at church; it will enter the house of every gentleman, watch over his cellar, wait upon his cook in the kitchen, follow the servants into the parlor, preside over the table, and note down all he eats and drinks; it will attend him to his bedchamber, and watch him while he sleeps; it will take cognizance of the professional mail in his office, or his study; it will watch the merchant in the counting house, or in his store; it will follow the mechanic to the shop, and in his work, and will haunt him in his family, and his bed; it will be a constant companion of the industrious farmer in all his labor, it will be with him in the house, and in the field, observe the toil of his hands, and the sweat of his brow; it will penetrate into the most obscure cottage; and finally it will light upon the head of every person in the United States. To all those different classes of people, and in all these circumstances, in which it will attend them, the language in which it will address them, will be GIVE! GIVE!
In my post Hayek's The Road to Serfdom, I discussed how the government continues to undermine our civil liberties under the pretense that it's for our own safety. Benjamin Franklin said, "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

We must consider what ability would individuals have to resist a tyrannical government should one arise in the future. The Federal government can spy on our telephone calls and Internet traffic without a warrant simply by issuing a National Security Letter. It can label any of us an "enemy combatant" thereby taking away the right of habeas corpus and trying that person in a military court. It can prevent us from boarding an airplane by adding us to a "no fly" list and it has TSA agents stationed at every airport ready to enforce any future regulation along these lines. It now wants the power to spy on all Internet traffic meaning it will be able to identify any activity it considers suspicious. In a time of crisis as determined by the President, the federal government can now use the military to police civilians and already used Blackwater paramilitary forces to confiscate the guns of lawful gun owners in New Orleans. In addition, the Iraq war has been the perfect training ground for our soldiers to learn how to police a civilian population.

The founding fathers understand the dangers of a tyrannical government and designed many levels of checks and balances into our system of government. In the Constitution, they provided a strict enumeration of the powers of the Federal Government, but we all but ignore what is granted and allow the government to assume powers unimaginable just 100 years ago. They were so worried that people over time might infer powers that weren't granted, they made the first 10 amendments to specifically limit the Federal government's power in the most sensitive areas. So freedom of speech cannot be prohibited, the government cannot search us without a warrant from an independent judiciary and without probable cause, and the government must provide due process and a trial by jury. Through the second amendment, the founding fathers intended that a government couldn't become tyrannical against a well-armed population. Through the ninth amendment, the founding fathers reiterated that if they forgot anything, the government couldn't do that either. And through the tenth amendment, they made sure that the federal government knew that the people and the states reserved all other powers.

We have lost our way and we are steadily allowing all the pieces to be put in place to allow a future tyrannical state. I am not saying that the people in power intend this, but it's just the natural course of things. As Hayek showed in his book, all forms of collectivism lead logically and inevitably to tyranny.

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