There are people who will tell you that the fact that the Republicans now control 53 Senate seats as well as a large majority in the House, will lead to actual and meaningful legislative action, whether on immigration, tax reform, or infrastructure spending. Oh, those people are going to be so frustrated by the next two years.
Both Congress and the President have strong incentives to play to their bases so that the bases turn out in 2016, so they will still highlight hot-button issues that will activate them. The mysterious thing is that there is plenty of bipartisan consensus in Washington; it’s just that it applies only to certain issues, and doesn’t get reported on much because neither party wants to highlight it. Specifically, there is genuine, friendly, unstated bipartisan consensus on the set of policies that buttresses the party elites’ authority and prosperity.
What supports the elites? War; monopoly; a crisis-hungry unity between corporations and the state, in the name of “national security.” A revolving door between the two. Corrupt, no-bid contracts. Open bankrolling of political campaigns. And underpinning it all, mass, suspicionless surveillance to monitor any discontent with this state of affairs. It’s not a coincidence that new authority for a war of extirpation against ISIS is likely to be high on the new Congress’s agenda; without an external enemy, without war, looting the state gets much harder.
These matters will not fill the TV news, however – not when the much juicier stories of repeated efforts to repeal Obamacare and impeachment of the President are available as narratives. These narratives, at least, don’t require news outlets to examine their own complicity in in supporting the elites.
Continue reading Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part III: Congress & Obama At Daggers Drawn…Except Where It Counts
We lack in this country a major party that offers wholehearted and universal support for the protections embodied in the Bill of Rights, and the choices offered are often highly constrained. To take the last two presidential elections as an example, the more pro-civil-liberties of the major-party candidates has launched more Espionage Act prosecutions than all previous presidents combined; indefinitely detains legally innocent people, for fear of what they might do if released; allows agencies to gin up fake terror plots; calls the idea of actually prosecuting torturers “sanctimonious“; and would prefer a cosmetic surveillance reform that legitimates most of what the deep state is doing and that, of course, wouldn’t punish anyone. The less pro-civil-liberties candidates argued for unending war in the Middle East, invited warmongers and torturers to introduce them at campaign stops, and argued that affording due process to prisoners of war would be a kind of treason.
There’s a reason for this constrained choice set: The elites of both parties no longer, if they ever did, believe that laws apply to them, their colleagues, their funders, or the intelligence agencies. As a result of this culture of lawlessness, no candidate that genuinely seeks to have laws apply universally will garner the insider support needed to advance their candidacies.
We will see the effects of this constrained choice set in the new Congress most clearly in the field of prosecutions for US government acts of torture.
Let’s review the history.
Continue reading Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part II: CIA and Elite Torturers Win, The Rule of Law Loses
The midterms saw defeat of several surveillance reformers in the Senate, notably Mark Begich and Mark Udall, and the arrival of ardent authoritarian Tom Cotton. But even had reformers won, electing surveillance reformers does not of itself make surveillance reform more likely. There are certain policy outcomes that are not permitted, and real surveillance reform is not permitted.
Here at Digital Fourth, we offer a more radical and more realistic perspective. What is not permitted has in the past included ending Jim Crow, ending legal discrimination against gay and lesbian people, and electing professed atheists to public office. The parameters of the not permitted can shift more abruptly than it’s possible to imagine ahead of time. Ending the mass surveillance state may be not permitted, but it can absolutely be done.
In a global sense, as even the Boston Globe has noticed, the actual opinions of the people have had no measurable effect on US national security and foreign policy. The party in charge may change, but the deep state remains in power, and the fundamental assumptions of American imperial management remain essentially the same.
Despite this, the change in control of the Senate has meaningful strategic implications for how surveillance activists should be pursuing the battle against mass surveillance over the next two years, both federally and at the state level. So, follow us below the fold for the first in our five-part analysis of next steps for the movement.
PART II: CIA and Elite Torturers Win, The Rule of Law Loses
PART III: Congress & Obama At Daggers Drawn – Except Where It Really Counts
PART IV: Surveillance Doesn’t Pay: The New Massachusetts Political Landscape
PART V: And I Have Seen Blue Skies
Like our work? Donate today!
Continue reading Midterms & Mass Surveillance, Part I: End “Section 215” Mass Metadata Surveillance