June 11, 2013

"From what we know so far, Edward Snowden appears to be the ultimate unmediated man."

Writes David Brooks:
If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme. You’re more likely to donate to the Ron Paul for president campaign, as Snowden did....

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things....
Read the whole thing. This is an excellent column, and it's related to something I was trying to say here. In Brooks's list of what Snowden betrayed, there is:
He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else.
That's related to something I said in the comments on that earlier thread, here. A commenter, gerry, had said:
Humanity tends to be cruel, selfish, and morally confused and weak. If geeks save our asses from collectivists and power vampires like Obama, it likely will be an accident, with all the attendant unintended consequences.
And my response was:
See, that's the kind of thought pattern I suspect is developing out there in the minds of these computer technicians. Look at the contempt, the grandiosity, and the recklessness.

Obama was elected, twice, by the American people. We studied him. We listened to him. He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press.

[It's absurd to think] that some self-appointed altruist of the computer-fixated kind is going to save us.

It's like those movie trailers... in a world where etc etc ONE MAN...

You think that's what will save us?!

278 comments:

1 – 200 of 278   Newer›   Newest»
Ann Althouse said...

My original comment reacting to gerry misreads what gerry thinks, I believe. The bracketed material is intended to correct for that misreading.

Strelnikov said...

I love all these establishment types, like Brooks, whining that Snowden didn't follow the process. A process which, in this case, would have resulted in this being buried so deep no one would ever hear of it. When a man sees something inherently evil, he must speak out, not file Form 54267 and wait for a response.

kcom said...

"checked by ... the press."

Part of the trust problem is that there is no evidence that the press feels compelled to check much of anything Obama does. When the Fourth Estate goes AWOL, it's like a chair losing its fourth leg...the whole thing is in danger of tipping over. Does the press realize they're not helping by taking sides, even if they believe what's on their side is good?

Mitchell the Bat said...

"One person can change the world, but most of the time, you probably shouldn't."

-- Marge Simpson

tim in vermont said...

" He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press. "

HA HA HA HA HA HA! Good one.

Just like the press is all over his partisan abuse of the IRS....

rhhardin said...

We'd be saved by women not voting.

cubanbob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ann Althouse said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

tim in vermont said...

If we are living in East Germany, with our phone companies informing on us, I would like to know, thank you Snowden, thank you.

cubanbob said...

He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. Snowden self-indulgently short-circuited the democratic structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else."

That's a pretty good summation of the Obama Administration and the Congresional Democrats. If only Brooks worked for a real newspaper he would know that.

tim in vermont said...

The fact is that there is nothing real to prevent partisan abuse of this information and no reason to suppose it won't, or hasn't happened.

Simon said...

Brooks has just filed his annual "column that justifies my stature and billet" column. This is excellent. It's also a good explanation of why libertarianism is becoming so much more common, not only under its own banner, but insofar as libertarian ideas are increasingly dominating conservative minds.

Palladian said...

I'd call David Brooks a tool, but tools are useful.

YoungHegelian said...

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures. By deciding to unilaterally leak secret N.S.A. documents, Snowden has betrayed all of these things

I'm sorry, did Brooks sleep through the 20th century, where governments murdered over 100 million of their own defenseless citizens?

I'm not saying the US government is Maoist China, but does it look to you like many of the folks who staff our government feel they are bound to scrupulously follow the laws? Look around you -- do you see that folks who betray the public trust at the highest level receive the harshest penalties?

I'm sorry, I don't. I see again & again that those in positions of power get off with a slap on the wrist, and poor & stupid stiffs get the book thrown at them.

I'm not necessarily agreeing with what Snowden did, but Brook's Kumbaya can't-we-all-just-obey-the-powers-that-be just is just historical nonsense. The default historical setting for governments is to be the apex predator, and only staunch observance of the laws &, failing that, the blood of courageous men is the only thing that holds it at bay.

AReasonableMan said...

There are some pretty good take-downs of Brook's pop-pyschology in the comments section of this column. Many of the better written than the original column.

Edgehopper said...

"Obama was elected, twice, by the American people. We studied him. We listened to him. He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press.

[It's absurd to think] that some self-appointed altruist of the computer-fixated kind is going to save us."

And when Congress and the press don't work as a check, the system loses legitimacy and people have to "go rogue" to do good.

This is the problem I keep trying to point out to leftists who think that winning in politics is the only thing. When you win dishonestly, by using a corrupt press, persecution of conservative groups, and voter fraud to stay in power, people lose respect for the institution of government. And they don't go through the proper channels of civil society to air their grievances, because the proper channels have ceased to work.

The result is ideological leaks of classified information, nullification, rebellion, etc. The left seems to think that if they cheat hard enough, their opponents will just lie back and take it. The left is wrong.

Edgehopper said...

Incidentally, can anyone still say "Obama is checked by Congress and the press" and keep a straight face?

cubanbob said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet."

Although you are probably right but given the known scandals of this Administration and what more may come out its not a sure bet.

Revenant said...

This is an excellent column

If you're the kind of person who thinks "you have to trust the government" is an intelligent thing to say, I guess.

In reality, the founders would have laughed uproariously at the notion that society requires trust in government. And quite frankly they shot at people for smaller offenses than what the US government commits. :)

tim in vermont said...

I used to always be a little 'r' republican and usually a big 'R' Republican. Not any more. I just don't see the government as a legitimate democratic institution anymore. The IRS debacle was the final straw and this NSA thing is just confirming evidence.

Revenant said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

Do you realize what a stupid thing that is to say? The checks you cite are advisers (appointed by the President) and the press (self-appointed).

So some self-appointed checks on Presidential power are better than others, I guess. :)

Mitchell the Bat said...

You could tell what would happen next whenever Jack Bauer got arrested and ended up in an elevator with a couple of CTU redshirts.

Simon said...

Ann Althouse said...
"You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet."

Amen to that. I voted against putting Obama in charge of this program, but I did vote. We got to decide on the decider of this program's secrecy vel non. Who ever voted for Snowden to be the decider? An arrogant, mal-formed traitor. And as Brooks explains, we have every reason to suspect that there are many more arrogant, mal-formed young people. There are real social costs to the atomization of society that we're seeing.

Balfegor said...

If you live a life unshaped by the mediating institutions of civil society, perhaps it makes sense to see the world a certain way: Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

But these people aren't emerging in a vacuum. They're emerging in a context in which, on the other side, lots of people are trying to break the authority of those mediating structures. Are parents' allowed to discipline their children as they see fit? To feed their children as they see fit? To determine how and when their children will learn about sex? Can they even be informed when their own daughter has an abortion? Can the state force parents to testify against their children?

There are many people working with all their might to sweep away those mediating institutions. Maybe they don't realise what they're doing, but every step they take to inject the state into these relationships, to have the state mediate between parents and children, between neighbor and neighbor, between congregant and church -- every step moves us closer to a world in which we have only individuals standing alone in the shadow of the terrible power of the state.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Do you realize what a stupid thing that is to say? The checks you cite are advisers (appointed by the President) and the press (self-appointed)."

I had thought that the checks that Althouse has in mind are elections, the FISA courts, and Congress.

Revenant said...

It's also a good explanation of why libertarianism is becoming so much more common, not only under its own banner, but insofar as libertarian ideas are increasingly dominating conservative minds.

Libertarianism is becoming more common not because society is more fragmented (whatever that's supposed to mean), but because with each passing year the government becomes larger, less accountable, and more inclined towards abuses. The bigger government gets, the more people it hurts; the more people it hurts, the more people start to think "um, maybe somebody should reign this in".

Mogget said...

The self-appointed superhero is exactly what we get from the Left, I think. Manning and Snowden can't find an authority outside of themselves, which is a hallmark of the Left:

Marriage what _i_ say it is.
Life begins when _i_ say it does.
Justice is what _i_ say it is.

And so on. The self is the important thing.

X said...

He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed.

I have the exact opposite opinion with both of these sentences.

tim in vermont said...

Let's see, the next time a woman runs for president on the 'R' ticket, the partisans in the govt will have access to her health records and we can all read on the front pages about any abnormal pap smears or visits to the therapist.

Snowden may not be your hero, but he is mine.

Balfegor said...

Also, part of what makes Snowden seem like a fool with grandiose dreams rather than a good-faith whistleblower is that if he really wanted to blow the whistle on illegal or unconstitutional conduct, there was a way he could have done that while still keeping faith, in some degree. Congress is supposed to oversee many aspects of the operation of the government -- that's the check built-in -- so they're really whom he should have told.

But as far as we can tell, he never tried to tell them. Instead, he went crying to the media.

Nichevo said...

Ann,

Would you rather Mr Snowden had found a convenient clock tower, a suitable instrument, and awaited the opportunity of Mr Obama coming within range?

Because I daresay that is the next level of dissent, or the next after that perhaps, but what you don't seem to realize, is that the intolerable, qua intolerable, will not be tolerated. I wonder if "Unintended Consequences" is one of the NSA trigger words.

Just how far down does the rabbit hole go? Or does having been an Obama voter mean that you opt for the blue pill?

Ralph Hyatt said...

See, that's the kind of thought pattern I suspect is developing out there in the minds of these computer technicians. Look at the contempt, the grandiosity, and the recklessness.

If he did have the unfettered access he claims then that is itself an indictment of the NSA's management. No way should he have been able to do what he claims. If he could then the NSA's management is beyond incompetent.

However, I suspect he is lying. He most likely is suffering from some sort of narcissistic personality disorder and should not have been given access to classified material in the first place.

In any event, I don't think the issue is with "Computer technicians" in general, but with this particular individual who happened to work in IT.

But what do I know? I am only a lowly computer tech myself.

X said...

I had thought that the checks that Althouse has in mind are elections, the FISA courts, and Congress.

if we don't know, elections and Congress aren't a check. FISA courts are rubber stamps in practice.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"In reality, the founders would have laughed uproariously at the notion that society requires trust in government."

"The founders' were not a unitary entity. Tom Paine and Thomas Jefferson, doubtless, would have laughed at the idea. James Madison would have nuanced the question. John Adams, like me, would take Madison's nuancing for granted and would have agreed wholeheartedly. I've spent a lot of time in the founding era, and one thing that's quite unambiguous to me is that Paine and Jefferson were dicks.

The framers of the US Constitution were, by-and-large, men who regarded government as a dangerous servant and a fearful master. But for the most part, they concurred that government is a necessary servant, and they weren't beset by the neurotic, paralyzing fear of government that had beset the framers of the Articles of Confederation (and which besets libertarians today), the failure of which had required the services of more mature personalities.

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

So, Snowden should have trusted his CIA colleagues that getting a Swiss national to drive drunk on public streets, get him arrested and then released, was critical to national security threatened by those damn Swiss bankers?

That column was garbage, pop-psych invective against Snowden's mental state + "trust us instead, we're the establishment". Saul Alinsky would throw up on Brooks and his sycophants.

Mogget said...

If i am to trust these institutions, then the leaders need to understand that part of their job is to earn and grow that trust.

tim in vermont said...

Of course, if society later decided that this abuse was criminal, Snowden would not have been able to claim that he was "just following orders."

He is required to have a conscience and forbidden from having one, I guess.

Revenant said...

I had thought that the checks that Althouse has in mind are elections, the FISA courts, and Congress.

You are two-thirds mistaken. She listed advisers, Congress, and the press. Like I pointed out, the press is self-appointed; she literally cited self-appointed checks as a reason why we don't need self-appointed checks.

Congress is in theory a check, but in reality not. Both of their checks (defunding and removal via impeachment) require supermajorities, which means they require much of the President's own party to turn again him. That doesn't happen.

Elections are only a check during a President's first four years in office, and FISA courts are not a check at all; they literally approve 99.96% of all espionage requests. Which is unsurprising given that their sole source of information is the people requesting the warrant, i.e. people who can lie without consequences.

Simon said...

X said...
"if we don't know, elections and Congress aren't a check."

Of course they are. Barack Obama arrived in office promising to end such programs. He could well have done so. He didn't; you conclude that this means that the election was no check, but I say that it means that once privy to the information to which Presidents are privy, Obama grew up. If the intelligence case is so convincing that even Barack Obama will blench, I'm pretty sure that it's serious business.

"FISA courts are rubber stamps in practice."
You say that because they grant 99% most of the requests presented to them. That proves nothing. What do you suppose the conviction rate is for criminal cases in the federal system? Would it surprise you to learn that it is 99%? Are the federal courts, the analogous check on the authority of prosecutors, therefore rubber stamps?

cubanbob said...

I'd call David Brooks a tool, but tools are useful."

That's a keeper. Got to remember that line.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"You are two-thirds mistaken. She listed advisers, Congress, and the press."

Oh. Sorry, I missed that.

bagoh20 said...

If our safety depends on government programs collecting tons of data from private companies, and it only works if nobody ever knows about it, then why aren't we all going hang gliding today...without a parachute or any training?

The whole case for Snowden doing something terrible just for proving to people something every terrorist already suspected is simply hyperbole. If I had to write a Brooks column on the subject, I would have guessed it to be just this. It's boringly predictable from him.

Simon said...

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...
"That column was garbage, pop-psych invective against Snowden's mental state + "trust us instead, we're the establishment". Saul Alinsky would throw up on Brooks and his sycophants."

I'm sure he would, but the day that self-described conservatives start using Alinsky as the measure of a man is the day the word loses all meaning. Alinsky was a vile human being and an enemy of everything this country stands for; if he invaded hell, I would put in a good word for the devil.

ricpic said...

...gently gradated authoritative structures...

Ooh, aren't we catnip for the literate.

Hagar said...

This "data mining" is not like "tapping" a trans-Atlantic cable - a cable that can be cut - but more like setting up a Very Large Array (VLA) to listen to the radiation from outer space and singling out the bits that is "of interest." Anybody - or at least any territorial state - with the money and inclination can do it.

Simon said...

Ralph Hyatt said...
"But what do I know? I am only a lowly computer tech myself."

A week ago, Snowden was but a lowly computer tech. So don't despair! Betray your country and you, too, could pole-vault into the jet-set world of being an international celebrity!

Balfegor said...

Re: Simon:

I think you need to break that 99% figure down a bit --

The Federal conviction rate in the United States of America has now reached the improbable rate of 99%. The vast majority of these convictions are achieved through plea bargaining as 97% of all federal cases end with a guilty plea being entered by the defendant. Approximately two thirds of the three percent who decide to brave trial find themselves convicted, thus achieving the mind-boggling conviction rate of 99%.

The conviction rate at trial is only 66%.

For the others -- when a judge accepts a plea bargain and enters a sentence, yeah, you could say that they're a "rubber stamp" but there's no much they can do when the defendant is actually admitting guilt at least for purposes of effecting his side agreement with prosecutors.

(Incidentally, plea bargaining is disllowed in many other legal systems, for reasons which are perhaps obvious.)

ricpic said...

Hey Simon, were the Articles of Confederation ever really given a chance? I think we both know the answer. That's right, enough of the Founders were as power mad as any other group of elites, so they shouted "They're not working, they're not working, not enough EXECUTIVE power." The rest is history.

Revenant said...

John Adams, like me, would take Madison's nuancing for granted and would have agreed wholeheartedly.

"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty."

-- John Adams

Tibore said...

If the point of the other thread was self-appointed vigilantism, then why the digression on the "computer geek" personality types?

I don't post this as criticism, just genuine confusion. It is equally possible for non-IT types who are involved in intelligence work to be the source of a given leak. Especially if you take as given the industry standard "principle of least privilege" as keeping large swaths of a given IT division from being able to even read the sensitive data.

It seemed as though there was a topic regarding information technology, IT workers, and data leaks, but instead the point was to have been self-appointment. Which, again, makes the raising of the "computer geek" personality type confusing. It's as though there was a deliberate head-fake thrown in.

Henry said...

Brooks: Even if he has not been able to point to any specific abuses, he was bound to be horrified by the confidentiality endemic to military and intelligence activities.

I think this is Brooks' best point. The very nature of certain engagements may seem corrupting to a specific individual. Think of how a hardcore atheist looks upon religion or a movement leftist looks at corporations. Brooks' insight is to recognize that horror as a real emotion.

But Brooks also makes an extraordinarily specious argument deserving of nothing but mockery:

Every time there is a leak like this, the powers that be close the circle of trust a little tighter. They limit debate a little more.

Does this follow? Or does the limiting of debate, the betrayal of trust grind forward on its own rattling motor? I see no evidence whatsoever that institutions make themselves more transparent by being unchallenged. The ratchet goes the other way.

Yet this is the argument of the day, the tyrannical demand of the would-be technocrat and the petty game of the dull bureaucrat: give us more power and we'll decide what you need to know.

Revenant said...

What do you suppose the conviction rate is for criminal cases in the federal system?

Firstly, as others pointed out the conviction rate isn't 99%.

Secondly, you are comparing the conviction rate to the success rate of requesting warrants. Apples and oranges.

Thirdly, we know that police and prosecutors routinely lie and misrepresent the facts in order to convince judges to give them warrants. It is irrational to think the people requesting warrants from FISA don't do the same.

And finally -- yes, the federal courts are a pathetic restriction on abuses of federal power.

Revenant said...

Think of how a hardcore atheist looks upon religion

That it is factually incorrect?

leslyn said...

Booz Allen has fired Snowden. Awwww.

They said he was paid an annual salary of $122,000, a figure substantially less than the $200,000 that Snowden claimed.

Snowden is a liar. And a grandiose one at that. How embarrassing.

You out there, ed?

Paul Zrimsek said...

The time-honored "little platoons" argument seems out of place here. In what sense do our families, neighborhoods, and churches stand between us and the NSA?

Revenant said...

Betray your country and you, too, could pole-vault into the jet-set world of being an international celebrity!

If exposing violations of Americans' rights is betrayal we need a lot more traitors in this country. :)

sinz52 said...

It's funny how some conservatives want to make a hero out of Snowden, when they sang a very different tune with Philip Agee and Daniel Ellsberg.

They "went rogue" too. On the left. Agee turned Commie and ended up in Castro's Cuba.

Obama was legitimately elected by the Electoral College twice. I didn't vote for him and I don't even like him. But I accept that he's the legitimate POTUS, Congress is the legitimate Congress. And in our constitutional system of representative government, we elect representatives to use THEIR best judgment.

Zeb Quinn said...

The fact is, for a supposedly free and open society, our government just keeps way too many secrets. They do it under the guise of "security" and "for our own good," but they've got so many of them they don't know what to do with them all, nor can they keep track of what they've got. Now it's gotten to the point that they've slopped over onto the plate of the high school dropout hired help contingency to do with it what they wish. This secret business needs to he reined in.

William said...

Do you think we should be listening in on AQ types? If so, who should set the parameters and secrecy levels of such an operation? Does everyone involved in the operation have the right to veto it?.......Snowden did not reveal that this program was administered in such a way as to target anti abortion activists. I suppose the possibility for such an abuse exists, but that was not Snowden's revelation......I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would defIne what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ.

Marty Keller said...

Fun, I guess, to speculate about the psychological state of the messenger--whom I daresay no one on this thread knows personally--but a distraction from the message. Let's all re-read 1984 and come back for a serious discussion.

Complacency bred by decades of ahistorical wealth (see: Heinlein) inures too many of us to the possibility of creeping tyranny. But as the John Adams quote above screams, we are humans and as such are not to be trusted with undiluted political power. Of course, it's our humanity also that makes us susceptible to the sweet talk of snake oil salesmen like Obama.

Clyde said...

See if you can guess who said this about data surveillance:

“Such methods are in demand. But you can’t just listen to the phone call in [his country]; you need a special order from court. This is how this should be done in civilized society while tackling terrorism with the use of any technical means. If it is in the framework of the law, then it’s ok. If not it is unacceptable,”

His country? That would be Russia. Yes, that's Vladimir Putin, former KGB man, lecturing our president about government surveillance.

Remember how some of you laughed right after the election when I said something to the effect of "Forward! To our glorious Soviet American future!"? I'm feeling rather prescient. We're out-Sovieting the old Soviets.

Revenant said...

Of course they are. Barack Obama arrived in office promising to end such programs. He could well have done so. He didn't; you conclude that this means that the election was no check, but I say that it means that once privy to the information to which Presidents are privy, Obama grew up.

Saying it is a good thing that this power of government wasn't checked by the 2008 or 2012 elections does not refute the claim that elections failed to check government power. In fact it confirms it.

Revenant said...

It's funny how some conservatives want to make a hero out of Snowden, when they sang a very different tune with Philip Agee and Daniel Ellsberg.

Is there anyone outside of the fringe left who doesn't think Agee was a bad actor? Lumping him in with Ellsberg is silly.

Lem said...

This is not a danger Snowden is addressing. In fact, he is making everything worse.

And with one column, Brooks is once again in my good graces.

I always knew he was brilliant ;)

tim maguire said...

Ann Althouse said...You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

Indeed, a few more Snowdens and the government would no longer have the ability to violate our basic rights without our knowledge or consent.

And then where would we be?

Chip Ahoy said...

Well, you say superhero pejoratively so naturally as reader I'm thinking, well no, not superhero, but how about "rug snapper" instead?

I'll put my bets on rug snapper. More of that please. I am alarmed at the acquiescence to government at every turn, incidents as lock down in Boston, then lifted and BANG! catch the guy in minutes, and likewise alarmed at the banality of evil, so pervasive from the city worker who exposed Joe Plumber's details at the very beginning, through the multiple voters, the dead vote registration, "discovered" ballots by the trunkload just in time, blocking of Republican observers, 110% Democratic turnout in precincts, release of confidential information to political enemies by EPA and IRS, so no, I do not trust government or the elections at all, at any level Fed, State, City, and trust Democrats negatively at peppered throughout at all levels, but oddly outside of that I do trust people as a whole to be fine and good on their own apart from their bizarre distorting political fealty.

Strelnikov said...

"Look at the contempt, the grandiosity, and the recklessness."

Sounds like the NYT editorial Board.

Ralph Hyatt said...

The word I was looking for to describe Snowden is braggart.

My experience in the Army and as an IT professional with expertise in computer security practices and procedures makes me very skeptical of Snowden's claims concerning what he could do and access on the systems where he had credentials.

The power point presentation that he revealed, to me, seems to be the sort of thing that management sends around in an email to let everyone know that "progress is being made and we are making our milestones." A sort of "rah-rah hurray for us" morale booster that middle management spends much of its time on.

However, his motivation for revealing the existence of the program is not pertinent to whether or not such a program should exist.

Someone willing to face the leviathan that is the US Government is most likely going unlike most people in some way.

Simon said...

sinz52 said...
"It's funny how some conservatives want to make a hero out of Snowden…."

Most of the "conservatives" you're talking about are actually libertarians. Just because they can't tell the difference doesn't mean that we ought to pretend that there isn't one.

Roger J. said...

Presumably Mr Snowden's trousers lacked a sharp crease.

Brooks is an ass

dustbunny said...

The NSA is an Orwellian cancer that primarily benefits the defense contractors comfortably housed in northern Virginia. Brooks knows where his bread is buttered and it is disappointing that Althouse agrees with him.

Larry J said...

This lens makes you more likely to share the distinct strands of libertarianism that are blossoming in this fragmenting age: the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency, the assumption that individual preference should be supreme.

I'm not a libertarian because they're too isolationist for me. However, recent relevations have shown that we should treat those who claim authority and organizations with suspicion. When we have examples of political abuse of power at the DOJ, DHS, EPA, IRS and others all come to light in the past few weeks, why should we believe those are isolated events?

"Once is an accident. Twice is coincidence. Three times is an enemy action." - Ian Fleming

What do you call it when it happens, four, five or six times? Business as usual?

Are we, as Abraham Lincoln proclaimed, a nation of the people, "by the people and for the people"? Or have we become a nation of the lawyers, by the bureaucrats and for the politicians?

Distrust of government and suspicion of those in power are the founding principles of this country.

Roger J. said...

Perhaps, Professor, you could go into a bit more detail about how, precisely, all the checks and balances made us safer. Congress? the attorney general? the media? I would appreciate your more detailed explanation. (and for the record, I am not happy with the results of the election, but I am willing to accept the approbation of the American people in regards to Mr Obamas's reelection). Of course I would point out that a lynch mob is the ultimate example of a democracy at work.

Simon said...

Balfegor, I think that it makes the most sense to compare the aggregate percentage from the FISA court to the aggregate percentage from the criminal system. With plea bargains, it must be said, the government has enormous leverage that can induce a defendant to "admit guilt"; we just learned recently that a Philly Catholic priest who pled guilty to abuse charges, and upon whose conviction several subsequent prosecutions rest, lied. He wasn't guilty, he just feared that he might be convicted and didn't want to risk getting a longer sentence (a wise call with juries in hanging moods toward priests).

Steve Koch said...

Althouse and Brooks equals comedy gold (is there any reason to read Brooks other than to mock him?).

Brooks wrote:
'For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures."

What Bobo misses is that the key point is that our institutions have to behave in a trust worthy way. When they don't, then they should not be trusted.

Bobo described characteristics of libertarians:
"the deep suspicion of authority, the strong belief that hierarchies and organizations are suspect, the fervent devotion to transparency"

So we have one scandal after another from the Obama admin, behaving in a corrupt and criminal way and we are not supposed to be suspicious and demand transparency from our overlords? The stupidity would be mind boggling if it hadn't been excreted by Brooks. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. People are naturally corrupt, power corrupts which is why there has to be a balance of power. Without constitutional checks and balances and a suspicious and vigilant electorate, there is no doubt that the USA will be governed by tyrants sooner rather than later.


Jay said...

Actually I'd like to see an example of the press being a "check" on Obama.

Was Candy Crowley at the debate a good example of that?

hombre said...

Edgehopper wrote 12:06: "This is the problem I keep trying to point out to leftists who think that winning in politics is the only thing. When you win dishonestly, by using a corrupt press, persecution of conservative groups, and voter fraud to stay in power, people lose respect for the institution of government. And they don't go through the proper channels of civil society to air their grievances, because the proper channels have ceased to work."

Exactly! Add in somewhere: "lying to the public and Congress." Remarkably, dupes like Brooks, and perhaps Althouse, can argue that the "institution of government" and its safeguards are sufficiently trustworthy that ineffective "proper channels" are still preferable to (some? most?) whistleblowers.

If we forget partisanship, maybe 15 years ago we could have agreed, but we are way past that now!

Darleen said...

We studied him. We listened to him. He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press.

Oh good lord. Obama is much more Hugo Chavez than FDR. And getting the IRS to sideline conservative grassroots groups and other NObama people, his 2nd election is far more tainted than the supposed selection of GW.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Saying it is a good thing that this power of government wasn't checked by the 2008 or 2012 elections does not refute the claim that elections failed to check government power. In fact it confirms it."

It was checked by those elections, unless you propose to confuse a check with a roadblock. The power of Congress to pass laws is no less "checked" when a President signs a bill than when he vetoes it.

Roger J. said...

IIRC correctly Professor Althouse quoted Madison in Federalist 51 about the dangers of government--apparently she is satisfied the dangers of tyrannical government are checked by our current "checks and balances." I am not buying it.

Jay said...

Distrust of government and suspicion of those in power are the founding principles of this country.

Shut up with that crazy talk!

The constitution isn't a suicide pact and this program is reviewed by Congress and "the courts"!!!

Jay said...

We studied him

What a fucking embarrassing comment.

Dennis said...

William said: "I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would defIne what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ."

It's a public peace, a private (secret) war. The unwillingness to pressure the umma to distinguish peaceful Islam from the kind of Islam that is embodied by Al Queda leads seamlessly to a strategy of ignoring or playing down radical Islamic signatures on every attack. Therefore the battle space is everywhere and counter terror strategy invades realms of privacy that we don't seem to care much about anyway.

This pushback on Libertarianism seems to fear that we will be left defenseless when much of the war is being conducted in the information realm. Our enemy is attacking into our freedom, our "open" society. So here we are back biting each other instead of our true adversary.

So what if we pursued a different strategy? A public war and perhaps a private peace? This war will last as long as it takes for the umma to evolve their own reformation, and as of yet we have been content to let them take their sweet time about it. At this rate, this war will last more than one generation.

Henry said...

I wrote:

Think of how a hardcore atheist looks upon religion

Revenant wrote:

That it is factually incorrect?

That it is a horror. I think it's fair to say that Dawkins regards religion with a kind of visceral horror. As a much more apathetic atheist than he, I see it as more as a folly.

The word "hardcore" is perhaps not right, but that's the nature of analogies.

Steve Koch said...

Revenant is kicking ass and taking names in this thread.

leslyn said...

"Look at the contempt, the grandiosity, and the recklessness."

"Reckless" perhaps as it relates to the information systems he belatedly exposed (although other whistleblowers have been trying to publicize the same information, but they didn't "flee" to Hong Kong, adopt code names, and say their lives were over).

Do you think Snowden was unaware of these whistleblowers and their lack of success? I don't. One had a career of 40 years at the NSA. If no one listened to him, why would they listen to a high school dropout with no accomplishments to his name?

But reckless in the process? No. Snowden had this plotted for some time. He planned getting a job at Booz Allen in Hawaii, the best place from which to jump to Hong Kong. He never even unpacked his moving boxes. He stayed inside his house and didn't get to know the neighbors.

He was most likely hired and given his clearances pending his background investigation. That happens with DOD. Snowden left just before his background investigation would have revealed his lack of qualifications and the lies on his resume. (Booz Allen requires college degrees.)

Snowden contacted the Guardian as early as February, 2013. Sounds like fishing for connections. When he was ready, he told the Washington Post to publish 41 Powerpoint slides within 72 hours. When the Post replied that they wouldn't guarantee what and when they would publish, Snowden told them he regretted it was not "unilateral" and went to the Guardian.

He had his dramatic persona prepared for the most effect. Of course the Guardian, and the Post to a limited extent, are going to "bust this wide open." That's what Snowden set them up to do.

"Grandiose" is the word most fitting for Snowden. His lies are already starting to come out. I suspect that, unfortunately for him (he would view it as unfortunate) he is so grandiose he does not have an adequate exit strategy.

If I had my druthers, I'd say forget about him and just leave him in Hong Kong or wherever. He's a little, little man.

Sharc said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

Actually, Snowden's explosion is the natural product of those deficiencies. Finally, with all those brilliantly conceived checks completely subverted, a "self-appointed superhero" seems to have been the only thing that could break up the log jam. What other outlets did he have to report corruption? The media? The democratic government?

RiverRat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
X said...

relax folks. we have Al Franken providing oversight.

Icepick said...

I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would defIne what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ.

I'd like it explained to me how monitoring all my data transactions with others helps stop the next 9/11. I CAN see how doing that can get me to vote, or not vote, certain ways in elections. I can see how that could be used to blackmail me in to doing things I don't want to for the benefit of those doing the monitoring. But I don't see how that stops a bunch of towel heads in one of the world's shit holes (the suburbs of Boston) from blowing up a bunch of Americans with common goods easily purchased from any number of stores.

In fact, it didn't stop such an attack. Perhaps the Tsarnaev brothers really were a couple of super spies, and they didn't use any cell phones, or spend any money other than cash, or ... or ... or .... But perhaps not. But the idea of blackmail does explain how a supposedly conservative chief justice decided to throw in with the one of the biggest expansions of government power in this country's history by allowing the federal government to mandate that people have to purchase certain products or get ass-raped by the highly partisan and abusive IRS.

Nor did this program stop the shoe bomber. Or the underwear bomber. Or Major Hasan (workplace violence!).

But it's simple, really. If it is necessary for the government to know everything about me, including all my movements, to prevent me from blowing up the Sears Tower, I should have access to all their meta-data to prevent those bastards from exercising tyranny over me. So once these bastards start giving everyone access to all their meta-data (so we know who they call, who they meet with, what they purchase, who gives them money, etc.), I'll feel just fine with them getting all of mine.

Roger J. said...

So Leslyn--while I generally agree with you, what are your thoughts on Mark Felt, Benedict Arnold, and Daniel Ellsberg? Were they little little men?

Jay said...

William said...
I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would defIne what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ.


Importing tens, or hundreds, of millions of records of phone calls and Internet traffic into a government database is not "monitoring AQ"

So you need a better question.

RiverRat said...

Think of PRISM as a target identification tool on steroids. I'm fundamentally OK with it as long the targets are very narrowly defined. The problem is we don't and should know who is defining "National Security" and what independent oversight is being performed in addition to Congress and the Judiciary as we can longer rely on the press to ferret out abusesIf we ever really could.

If the "target" is terrorism resulting in loss of lives or property I'm OK with it. But by who and why are the targets being chosen? We know how the target "Tea Party" has been applied by Federal Government.

If the metadata and metacontent are going to be Hoovered I want to know who is filtering and why and I want a metaphorical gun continuously pointed at their heads.

I think we need an entity reporting directly to the American people with the power to disclose abuse by the government and staffed only by members of the minority party. Right now it would be Republicans Only. Elect them at large every 4 years and limit to 1 term.

The same metaphorical gun must be pointed at their heads also if the entity is found to be abusing it's responsibility for political advantage. Call it the Federal Government Oversight and Accountability Commission.

Astro said...

Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

What a pile of cowshit.

I grew up in a large family, in a great neighborhood with lots of other kids I hung around with, went to church regularly, belonged to the cub scouts and boy scouts, my parents were active in community groups - and most of my family are libertarians like me.

Just more proof that Brooks is a compete buffoon.

elkh1 said...

"For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures."

Such as trust and respect for the IRS, and deference to the Justice Dept.'s procedures to sweep journalists' phone records, and hack into journalist's computers.

"He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press."

NSA never notified Congress of its PRISM snooping.

The press, Brooks' "tingle up the legs" press, Brooks' gaga over "the straight sharp creases on his pants" press. The Democrat propaganda machine press.

Ann Althouse said...
You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

If the self-appointed superhero could leak, the Chinese/Russian paid non-heroes could leak too. The difference is the unpaid ones leaked for the world to see and get into troubles, the paid ones leaked only to their pay masters and get rich unnoticed.

In any case the self-appointed super hero has done us a favor: to wake us up that Big Govt. is watching, Big Tech is complicit, Big Media is a propaganda machine, Big Intel leaks.

Big Govt cannot protect our national security, Big Govt does not protect our tax returns info, but we trust Big Govt to protect our health info.

Revenant said...

It was checked by those elections, unless you propose to confuse a check with a roadblock.

Is it that you don't know what the word "check" means? It means "restraint", in case you were wondering.

When a person is elected to stop X and then proceeds to expand X, the election is not a restraint on X. Your Orwellian spin notwithstanding. :)

Lem said...

Lets face it, we have been snowed in by Snowden.

Steve Koch said...

It is amazing how authoritarian the left has become. Back in the 60's, the left was extremely anti authoritarian. Now that the left has captured and politicized most institutions, they are quite authoritarian. What the left does not get is that when they capture an institution, they destroy the credibility of that institution.

elkh1 said...

By the way, the filmmaker-caused-Benghazi debacle liar Susan Rice will be our next National Security Advisor overseeing the NSA.

Trust them, trust her.

Astro said...

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Brooks says Snowden betrayed the Constitution.

Looks to me like just the opposite. He defended it.

Icepick said...

It was checked by those elections, unless you propose to confuse a check with a roadblock. The power of Congress to pass laws is no less "checked" when a President signs a bill than when he vetoes it.

So, why is Congress so reviled? People voted for Congressional candidates (or sitting members) with little chance of effecting the outcome of what kind of Congress we would get. My district is so gerrymandered (Florida - 5th) that these is no hope of the district ever electing anyone other than a Black Democrat hand-picked by that party to vote for whatever the party wants. My vote of protest did no good, and I effectively have no voice in Congress. (Corrine Brown represents my interests about as well as Mao Zedong's dead corpse does.) How many others are in such districts, on "both" "sides" of the American political spectrum? Who's really in favor of either Boehner or Pelosi being Speaker of the House?

Congress is broken, the electoral system that chooses Congressional representatives is broken. So if the part of the government designed to most expressly represent the democratic will of the people (aka, the mob) is in fact completely undemocratic, how can that be considered a check on an imperial presidency?

Kelly said...

Yes, Snowden gave to the Ron Paul campaign, but he also gave to Obama in the first election. So what does that tell us?

He gave to what some thought was a moderate (Obama) and when that didn't pan out, he gave to Paul the libertarian. Maybe he should have supported Romney and all this could have been avoided.

Roger J. said...

Gotta tell you professor: you are losing it. your arguments, much like my leading toilet are failing to hold water--All I need is a new flapper valve. You? don't know.

edutcher said...

It doesn't take much imagination to realize Snowden broke the law, but, if he hadn't come forward, not many others were willing to do it the legal way. Not a whole lot of whistleblowers among the Choom Gang.

Sometimes a good thing can come out of a bad one.

leslyn said...

Booz Allen has fired Snowden. Awwww.

They said he was paid an annual salary of $122,000, a figure substantially less than the $200,000 that Snowden claimed.

Snowden is a liar. And a grandiose one at that. How embarrassing.

You out there, ed?


About 5/8 of what he claimed. Maybe he was counting benefits, who knows?

As I said yesterday, "Most of his info will check out, certainly his Booz Allen days and his Army background will come out in a day or so".

And here it is.

Big whoop.

Michael K said...

"Ann Althouse said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.
"

I don't know about that. I don't trust this regime and I use the term advisedly. I think we have probably lost our freedom to the administrative state that seems well on its way, with the help of some Quisling Republicans, to a permanent Democrat, and therefore a leftist agenda.

Once they add 11 million Democrats voting, it's all over. I'm only thankful that I am old.

If it takes a weirdo to expose some of this (and the SWIFT leaks were far more harmful), it's OK with me.

I'm even getting a bit more sympathetic to Assange. If Obama can leave that Pakistani doctor in prison, why are we so angry at Assange?

Clayton Hennesey said...

"a series of gently gradated authoritative structures"

Brooks writes as if the Republic was a moody souffle, sensitive to collapse at the slightest hand clap.

He misses the point that it's only by the continuing grace of the crazies and the wild cards like Snowden that we even have a republic at all.

Brooks would prefer a tenured political establishment which after a brief probationary period could then get on with the permanent business of kinging philosophically in appropriately sharply creased pants.

edutcher said...

PS Nice to know leslyn's got her talking points.

Icepick said...

Back in the 60's, the left was extremely anti authoritarian.

You mean back when they were waving around copies of Mao's Little Red Book and chanting "Ho! Ho! Ho Chi Mihn!"? You mean like that kind of anti-authoritarian? Which is to say the pro-totalitarian anti-authoritarians?

Cedarford said...

Revenent - Libertarianism is becoming more common not because society is more fragmented (whatever that's supposed to mean), but because with each passing year the government becomes larger, less accountable, and more inclined towards abuses. The bigger government gets, the more people it hurts; the more people it hurts, the more people start to think "um, maybe somebody should reign this in".

Wasn't Tim McVeigh a sort of Libertarian superhero who went about showing that a hero can stand up to big, evil gummint and make it bleed.
Isn't the Freedom!! of individuals in libertarian creed all about eventually having to break the laws of the evil state to negate its grip on Freedom??
John Brown, Major Hasan too...rising above the laws and actions of gummint that killed or oppressed the people they emotionally connected with over the Overarching Evil State?

Is it a little incongruous that libertarians say a superhero like Manning or Snowden can rise above oppressive laws to serve the masses - while at the same time libertarian extremists worship the Sacred Parchment that organized the Evil Gummint like Afghani towelheads worship the Koran??

Revenant said...

I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would define what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ.

Coming up with a program that allows monitoring of AQ without violating the rights and privacy of Americans is not my job. We as a nation pay rather a lot of people do do that.

If those people are saying "we can't do that. It is one or the other" then fine; stop monitoring Al Qaeda. A few thousand dead Americans every couple of decades is a fair price; we pay steeper prices than that for other aspects of our liberty, e.g. car and gun ownership.

Michael said...

The revelations regarding the extent of information capture is no surprise, or shouldn't be. What I find interesting is that the solipsism of Snowden is matched by those in opposition to the data collection who believe their calls are being monitored. They are not. The danger of Snowden is manifest, however, when considered with knowledge of the IRS abuses. It is just as likely that some low level, poorly educated and hysterical worker would use classified information in a political way, in a way that made her feel better about herself (the important thing) by dumping selective material into the maw of modern journalism which would use it to discredit one party or the other.

William said...

We have hired NSA to monitor AQ. Perhaps there are better, less intrusive ways of doing this. So I'll rephrase my question: Can any libertarian inform me of who they would hire to monitor AQ and how public or secret the parameters of that monitoring should be?

Steve Koch said...

Just to point out the obvious, the attack on Snowden is an attempt to divert attention from the massive attack on our 4th amendment rights by Obama. It is classic Alinsky, i.e. personalize the conflict and then attack the person rather than discuss the issue. It is also an opportunity for the left and flaccid RINOs to attack the libertarian political philosophy. This is important cuz the libertarians and constitutional conservatives are taking over the GOP and both the left and RINOs fear that.

Revenant said...

Wasn't Tim McVeigh a sort of Libertarian superhero who went about showing that a hero can stand up to big, evil gummint and make it bleed.

No, but I fully believe you're dumb enough to think that. :)

William said...

Revenant apparently believes that such monitoring is an intolerable violation of our civil rights. OK> But what if the majority of the American people believe otherwise? Is it his further belief that this is something like slavery or Jim Crow where a man of conscience is allowed, indeed compelled, to defy the will of the majority?

RiverRat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dustbunny said...

Benefits and outside consulting perhaps. It's not hard for someone with his assumed skills to make money outside his main job.

Revenant said...

We have hired NSA to monitor AQ.

No we didn't. The government tasked them with that without consulting the public. The government doesn't generally even admit the NSA is doing that, really.

So I'll rephrase my question: Can any libertarian inform me of who they would hire to monitor AQ and how public or secret the parameters of that monitoring should be?

Dumb question. You're taking the approach of "hire the Right People and then hand them a blank check". Who we hire doesn't matter; what matters is that whomever is hired respect the rights of Americans.

AJ Lynch said...

MSM = overmediated men when a Dem is president?

William said...

Snowden didn't get as far up my nose as Manning, but he definitely deserves some jail time. But the best way to insure that someone in the NSA does not subvert this program for narrow political gains is to jail some of these IRS agents.

Revenant said...

But what if the majority of the American people believe otherwise? Is it his further belief that this is something like slavery or Jim Crow where a man of conscience is allowed, indeed compelled, to defy the will of the majority?

Since you are apparently not asking me ("Is it his further belief"), I guess I'll refrain from answering.

Or you can learn how to address the person you're speaking to. Either works for me. :)

edutcher said...

Something several here were thinking. Only a handful of NSA types has access to that sort of data, so Snowden's just a courier for somebody higher up ooor he's a master hacker.

I'll take door number one, Monty.

Revenant said...

I would appreciate it if the libertarians here would define what program is acceptable to them for monitoring AQ.

Coming up with a program that allows monitoring of AQ without violating the rights and privacy of Americans is not my job. We as a nation pay rather a lot of people do do that


That's what Choom said.

That "above my pay grade" stuff's a cop out.

Steve Koch said...

William,

What do you think about RiverRat's proposal? The issue is oversight, transparency, and accountability of government. Beyond this proposal, most power in the fed gov should be transferred to the various state governments.

RiverRat said...
'Think of PRISM as a target identification tool on steroids. I'm fundamentally OK with it as long the targets are very narrowly defined. The problem is we don't and should know who is defining "National Security" and what independent oversight is being performed in addition to Congress and the Judiciary as we can longer rely on the press to ferret out abusesIf we ever really could.

If the "target" is terrorism resulting in loss of lives or property I'm OK with it. But by who and why are the targets being chosen? We know how the target "Tea Party" has been applied by Federal Government.

If the metadata and metacontent are going to be Hoovered I want to know who is filtering and why and I want a metaphorical gun continuously pointed at their heads.

I think we need an entity reporting directly to the American people with the power to disclose abuse by the government and staffed only by members of the minority party. Right now it would be Republicans Only. Elect them at large every 4 years and limit to 1 term.

The same metaphorical gun must be pointed at their heads also if the entity is found to be abusing it's responsibility for political advantage. Call it the Federal Government Oversight and Accountability Commission."

I think RiverRat is on the right track, I've been thinking the same thing for awhile.

Mark said...

So I guess the Threat to Society du jour is Libertarians.

jimbino said...

I remember that this same David Brooks wrote in AD 70:

He betrayed the Established Order. The patriarchs and rulers did not create the Roman Protectorate of Judea so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. He self-indulgently short-circuited the accepted structures of accountability, putting his own preferences above everything else.

Bryan C said...

"Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state."

Yes, that is the world leftists like Obama seem intent on building. Or,as another great skeptic of libertarianism once put it, "Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state."

"He betrayed the Constitution. The founders did not create the United States so that some solitary 29-year-old could make unilateral decisions about what should be exposed. "

This is incoherent nonsense. The Constitution gives form to our government. It tells the state what it is permitted to do. The only people here who are betraying the Constitution are the ones who swore to uphold it while engineering mass violations because they thought they were special.

"Humanity tends to be cruel, selfish, and morally confused and weak. If geeks save our asses from collectivists and power vampires like Obama, it likely will be an accident, with all the attendant unintended consequences."

Jesus Christ, man, who do you think built this damn thing in the first place? Who do you think is supposed to run it? If we're relying on perfect angels with pure motives to rule wisely from on high then we're screwed. As Alex Hamilton once observed, we're fresh out of angels.

Michael K said...

"Can any libertarian inform me of who they would hire to monitor AQ and how public or secret the parameters of that monitoring should be?"

How about somebody who catches one ?

So far, we have the Cole, 9/11, the underwear bomber (who's father tried to warn us), Hassan, the Boston Bombers, etc, etc.

When Valerie Jarret finally let Obama send the SEALs to get OBL, he had probably decided we had forgotten about him. It took Humint, the Pakistani doctor, to tell us where he was.

RiverRat said...

Look folks...it's a lot of metadata (data about data) and metacontent (content about content)

Anyone with half a functioning brain knows if you digitize and transmit you've allowed someone else, other than the recipient(s),access to it at least at the metadata/metacontent level.

There ways under contract law to limit this with commercial enterprises. The Feds...not so much!

This is less about Hoovering Metadata and Metacontent than it is about who is filtering and why it's being filtered and what's being done with the results.

I do hope you remember recent disclosure of goverment abuse of data about a target...Tea Party Groups.

Larry J said...

"Ann Althouse said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.


If that self-appointed superhero wannabe is a member of the Press and the president is a Republican, he's hailed as a hero. Woodward & Bernstein, Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), whoever it was that broke Iran-Contra, the NYT disclosing the money tracking program under Bush, the list of "superheros" is long. That's a reporter's wet dream - to have the big scoop that damages a Republican. For Democrats, not so much.

For society to function well, there have to be basic levels of trust and cooperation, a respect for institutions and deference to common procedures.

There's this funny word that I learned long ago as a Boy Scout and it's "trustworthy". It means being worthy of trust by others. When you prove yourself untrustworthy by your actions, then you aren't worthy of trust or respect. You have to go to great lengths to prove that you can be trusted. So far, they've not gone to any lenghts to fix those who violated our trust at the EPA, IRS, DOJ, DOS, DHS, etc.

Revenant said...

That "above my pay grade" stuff's a cop out.

You call it "a cop out", I call it "a question I'm not qualified to answer". I don't know how to effectively monitor Al Qaeda. If I did, I'd start a business that does it and get rich. :)

I am simply rejecting the notion that Al Qaeda is a threat that justifies sacrificing rights.

Cedarford said...

Is Libertarianism ultimately a pick and choose shopping exercise?

In which they scream about all the Absolute Rights a Sacred Parchment that organized the Fed Gov't gives them absolute and without restriction...
All while ignoring the Responsibilities that come with Rights and the inconvenient stuff like Congress gets to pass laws the rest of us have Responsibility to obey? Or other Sacred Amendments they want to flout, like the one establishing and giving the right to tax income to support the Gummint the libertarians want to protect their Absolute Rights, like their right to property not being taken without prosecution of the free-spirited muggers, thieves, and Jihadis without the gummint prosecuting them??

Libertarian extremists think they can have rights without attedent responsibilities.
They want government off their back so they can be autonomous individuals but want the same government strong and in place so that the actions of other freedom-loving autonomous individuals seeking to loot and pillage is held in check.

William said...

Revenant: More often than not, I agree with your comments. Not here. I worked three blocks from ground zero. If, in order to prevent a repeat of that day, it is necessary for the govt to have access to my porn browsing records, then so be it.....My paranoia runs more towards AQ types than secret government programs. This is probably because they made a credible attempt on my life.

Illuninati said...

Althouse said:
"Obama was elected, twice, by the American people. We studied him. We listened to him. He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press.

[It's absurd to think] that some self-appointed altruist of the computer-fixated kind is going to save us."

Althouse has just doubled down on her vote for Obama. She studied him before he was elected so we can relax, he would never be involved in abuse of power. We know that because Althouse voted for him.

I'm not sure why Althouse is so positive that the checks and balances can not be overcome by a determined leader with a totalitarian mindset. In other countries, when an elected leader and his party is willing to cheat, like in Venezuela, it is easy for an elected leader who is so inclined to overcome the checks and balances. Another example where an elected official has overcome the checks and balances is Argentina. Then we can talk about Nicaragua.

Revenant said...

Not here. I worked three blocks from ground zero.

It isn't always about you, William.

Aridog said...

Edgehopper said ...

...And when Congress and the press don't work as a check, the system loses legitimacy and people have to "go rogue" to do good ..... they don't go through the proper channels of civil society to air their grievances, because the proper channels have ceased to work ...

Without intending to criticize that opinion, I hold it doesn't apply to Snowden. Where and when did he try Congress? Or anyone but a couple press outlets, at least one of which he tried to dictate terms? Hello?

A someone who has whistle-blown myself [albeit a lesser issue and without fanfare, reward, or Hong Kong liaison], I'm convinced he's a little man with big imagination, not much else.

When you set out to whistle-blow, you do NOT going flipping "rogue"...if your motives are honest, and really to "do good." In fact you check yourself, to avoid making a mistake or failing to perceive something accurately because you do not have sufficient background.

How do you do that? You seek out three or so trusted associates and vet your ideas with them. If you can't find three you trust, it means not even three trust you. That should tell you something.

As for Snowden...3 months on the job, working remotely,...and he thinks he has the whole picture? Ignorant audacity, possibly rent-seeking, is what I'd call that.

If you can vet your concern with two or three associates who know as much or more than you do, and they concur, then you seek out agency within the government to solve the problem...ideally without any exposure of yourself.

Whomever you contact that is in a position to make changes or effect them, already knows you could, if you chose, go to the press. The fact you didn't adds credibility to your motive.

You take the risk of exposure, not your associates...and they know you will hold their identities secure. If you find no one who trusts you, that is a problem...a problem about you, not them.

In my case(s) I had no difficulty finding three people, at least one senior to me, who considered what I proposed and agreed. If you act all alone you probably do more damage than good....if any good at all is accomplished.

Further, in my case I found Congress persons very receptive if you pick them for their values...not necessarily their party. Your goal is to stop or modify some behavior, behavior that is wrong, or illegal, in more opinions than just yours [why you vet it],not to gain fame.

Maybe I was just lucky, but the Congress folk and the persons I vetted with, all kept my confidence, and I theirs, and the errant behavior was changed. And then changed again when they still didn't get it right. I got nothing but satisfaction out of it for knowing WE effected change without ostentation.

How much change does anyone think Snowden will have effected?

Okay, I gotta stop...I think my elbow is about out of joint from patting my self on the back...but it was the best example I know to present. Anecdotal it is, and very real....while it is happening you are sure you are going to get caught and fired or worse....and you don't tell a soul.

gerry said...

You may well laugh at the deficiencies of the checks on the president, but the self-appointed superhero is a worse bet.

So, the self-appointed superhero and Obama are "bets".

Now I understand you better.

It's no wonder Obama and his ilk are in power. Twice.

jr565 said...

Strelnikov wrote:
When a man sees something inherently evil, he must speak out, not file Form 54267 and wait for a response.

But is it evil simply because he personally doesn't approve?

Unknown said...

I am conflicted on what he did, but I have noticed that these so-called heroes don't want to face the consequences of their actions. Jesus could have fled, but believed his message worth dying for. He did not resist and was crucified.

If this was so important he should have turned himself over to authorities. Instead he runs, and (will) claim the cloak of a persecuted hero.

jr565 said...

IF the requirement for this type of excercise is a FISA warrant, and a judge signs off on a a FISA warrant, who is this guy to say that it's evil?

Revenant said...

All while ignoring the Responsibilities that come with Rights and the inconvenient stuff like Congress gets to pass laws the rest of us have Responsibility to obey?

You have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. Neither you nor anybody else has a responsibility to obey the law. If a law happens to coincide with the right thing to do, obey they law. If the law says to do the wrong thing, ignore it and try to get away with breaking it.

I would not, however, expect a national socialist such as yourself to agree with that sentiment. :)

edutcher said...

Revenant said...

That "above my pay grade" stuff's a cop out.

You call it "a cop out", I call it "a question I'm not qualified to answer". I don't know how to effectively monitor Al Qaeda. If I did, I'd start a business that does it and get rich. :)

I am simply rejecting the notion that Al Qaeda is a threat that justifies sacrificing rights.


IOW, I don't like it, but I don't have the foggiest notion what I want to replace it, but I expect you to fix it to my liking.

X said...

IF the requirement for this type of excercise is a FISA warrant, and a judge signs off on a a FISA warrant, who is this guy to say that it's evil?

do you see any incongruence in the government using something called The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor all Americans?

Mark said...

Of course they are. Barack Obama arrived in office promising to end such programs. He could well have done so. He didn't; you conclude that this means that the election was no check, but I say that it means that once privy to the information to which Presidents are privy, Obama grew up. If the intelligence case is so convincing that even Barack Obama will blench, I'm pretty sure that it's serious business.

If there weren't about a thousand examples of Obama breaking promises made to get elected the "he grew up" argument might have legs. But in light of his history, the simpler idea is that he's simply craven and won't give up any power he inherited when taking office.

He is legitimately our President, granted. But like the Man said, Democracy is the idea that people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

(That goes for Congress too. Checks and balances my ass -- as long as individual members win 95% of the times they run for re-election the only thing important is keeping the bread and circuses running on schedule.)

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
You have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. Neither you nor anybody else has a responsibility to obey the law. If a law happens to coincide with the right thing to do, obey they law. If the law says to do the wrong thing, ignore it and try to get away with breaking it.

Well who is deciding "the right thing to do"? You? So if you think killing hookers is the right thing to do, then ignore laws that prevent you from doing that? If you think you're entitled to KFC's hidden recipe and that all info should be free then hack into their records and ingore all laws preventing you from doing so?

Steve Koch said...

Illuninati,

Great points about how easy it is for a country to turn into a dictatorship. I'm most familiar with Venezuela. Before Chavez, Venezuela was a democracy. It is a huge mistake to centralize to much power in the fed gov, especially the prez and the courts. To prevent tyranny, distribute the power between the states and the fed gov, i.e. follow the constitution.

jr565 said...

do you see any incongruence in the government using something called The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor all Americans?

Gathering info of all phone calls is not monitoring all AMericans. Monitoring would be the search of the phone number and seeing where that leads. IF that search requires a judge to sign off on it, and that judge is ok with the search, then who is this pip squeak to say otherwise.

tim in vermont said...

All systems containing sensitive data have the same weakness. Somebody has to have rights to it all or it will break down over time and stop working completely.

For this reason, it is better not to gather it.


jr565 said...

All systems containing sensitive data have the same weakness. Somebody has to have rights to it all or it will break down over time and stop working completely.

Well the phone company has already gathered it. Should they stop keeping records?

Xmas said...

I hate to do this at the end of this long comment thread...

Ann,

How is what Snowden did any different than what the source for the New York Times 2006 Bank Monitoring Program exposure did?

Tom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Aridog said...

Revenant said ...

You have a responsibility to respect the rights of others. Neither you nor anybody else has a responsibility to obey the law. If a law happens to coincide with the right thing to do, obey they law. If the law says to do the wrong thing, ignore it and try to get away with breaking it.

Holy shit! It is very hard to render me speechless, but you did it! Amazing concept of civilization there.

Tom said...

My wife asked me what I thought about John Boehner calling Snowden a traitor. My response what that I think that word is going to be tossed around a lot. And then, channeling Althouse (thank you!), I said that we'll probably not find Snowden someone we'd like very much -- it doesn't mean what he did was right or wrong (it is, obviously, illegal). However, it was also illegal to stand in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square. My issue is how do we decide if Snowden is standing in front of the totalitarian tank or did he just knife in the back our protector of liberty. Probably too early to tell. The sad part is that for many of us, the doubt in our mind regarding our Gov't is real.

Cedarford said...


Wasn't Tim McVeigh a sort of Libertarian superhero who went about showing that a hero can stand up to big, evil gummint and make it bleed.

Revenent - No, but I fully believe you're dumb enough to think that. :)

================
All we have is McVeighs own words that he was a true hardcore libertarian and his actions were a response to the evil government violating the Sacred Rights of Americans at Ruby Ridge and Waco.
He targeted a building his scouting had shown to be full of evil IRS and jack-booted storm trooper types (FBI, DEA).
He missed the fact there was a kintergarden somehow located in a Fed Building and apologized for killing the kids..but not the evil gummint oppressors with his Blow for Freedom!

I can easily believe various libertarian nutballs like Revenent was ignorant of what McVaighs motives were...or at least hope the rest of us forget.

The objection is not to McVeighs many observations about the excesses of Big Evil Gummint...it loops back to what Alhouse said...the solutions do not come from empowered individual Libertarian Superheroes like McVeigh, Manning, Snowden taking matters into their own hands.
Or libertarians calling the scumbag who set out to incite Muslims to hopefully kill or injure Americans through a defamatory video - "Our 1st Amendment Hero

The way to do change is not by the lone Superhero breaking the laws they think are inconvenient - it is by organizing and pressing hard for peaceful change.

Palladian said...

If, in order to prevent a repeat of that day, it is necessary for the govt to have access to my porn browsing records, then so be it.....

Pussy.

traditionalguy said...

Frame the question right and King Obama seems like one of us.

Brooks' job is to frame Obama as one of us.

The stated backdrop is that our beloved and smiling King never uses the power that he so diligently collects in violation of our silly Fourth Amendment rights and stores it up until we dare to politically oppose his rule.

Why everybody wants Obama to succeed at the War on _________.

The blank is either Muslim Terrror using Jihadists quoting Sharia Law or it is offensive Christians.

Take your pick. Obama has already shown us how he fills in that blank.

Rabel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Revenant said...

I am conflicted on what he did, but I have noticed that these so-called heroes don't want to face the consequences of their actions. Jesus could have fled, but believed his message worth dying for. He did not resist and was crucified.

And that was such an unusual thing to do that Christians haven't shut up about it for two thousand years.

Rabel said...

We know almost nothing about Snowden. Brooks's assessment of his loner personality is speculation presented as analysis. A similar speculation based on no hard facts led to his fawning over candidate Obama.

And Brooks's respect for and trust in our intelligence institutions has evolved quite a bit since 2004.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"Is it that you don't know what the word 'check' means? It means 'restraint', in case you were wondering."

In American political discourse, which is the relevant semantic context, "checks and balances" is a term of art. It means the separation and balancing of powers such that there exists the possibility for restraint, the looming threat of veto, as the example that I already gave illustrates. Otherwise, the Congress' power of the purse, to give another example, is only a check on the power of the President when Congress is actively using it, and the courts are only a check on the power of the prosecutor when they acquit the defendant. The rest of the time, they are not checks on the executive, but merely checks in ovo. They have the potential to be, and may in appropriate circumstances become, checks, but they are not checks merely by their existence. I think you'd find that notion a hard sell.

"Libertarianism is becoming more common … because with each passing year the government becomes larger, less accountable, and more inclined towards abuses. The bigger government gets, the more people it hurts; the more people it hurts, the more people start to think 'um, maybe somebody should reign this in.'"

Yes, but the difference is that the conservative says that government should be cut back to its traditional scope. The libertarian doesn't believe in the efficacy of government, and seeks to use progressive overreach as an excuse for cutting back even the traditional functions of government. Conservatives, anxious to watch government with a concerned eye, want a government that is constrained to a small and traditionally-defined ambit, but that is robust and efficient when discharging its proper duties. Libtertarians, neurotic abour watching government with a paranoid fear, want a government that is so emaciated that it could, if necessary (as Norquist put it) be drowned in the bathtub.

VekTor said...

Obama was elected, twice, by the American people.

If we assume arguendo that the particular instances of fraud in both elections were not so large as to actually change the outcome, I'm willing to take that as stipulated.

We studied him. We listened to him.

Come now, Professor! If a student of yours turned in an exceedingly shoddy work product, would you honestly give them credit for claiming "but I studied the material, and I listened to your lectures"?

It matters little if that study and listening wasn't actually effective at distinguishing the truth from the self-aggrandizing campaign promises and non-stop mantra of "hope and change".

The truth was available and out there prior to the first election for anyone who wasn't willfully blinding themselves to it, and much more so prior to the second.

As Instapundit has pointed out, there are a whole host of rubes who have been going through the process of self-identifying.

He is surrounded by advisers

When has it ever acted to slow down the abuses of those in power to have them surround themselves with their own hand-picked advisers... more commonly known as sycophants?

These "advisers" serve at the whim and pleasure of the CIC. This strategy only serves to improve circumstances where the CIC wants to have his misperceptions and biases challenged. Yet here we have precisely the opposite circumstance!

No adviser is going to stop a malignant ruler so long as that adviser has no actual power. The ruler is free to ignore any advice they like. Advice can help only if we first assume good will and humility, and that the ruler has a willingness to embrace the concept that they might be deeply and personally mistaken in their goals and aims.

I have long since abandoned the notion that this President matches that description in any meaningful way.

and checked by Congress and the press.

A "check" by Congress assumes that the Executive will actually abide by the designed counter-balancing mechanism.

When you combine a corrupt Executive with a corrupt Judiciary (as represented by an Attorney General that will not follow the law, nor will he prosecute those lawbreakers who happen to align with his goals), then you see the system start to break down.

And a sycophantic press is hardly a "check" at all, when you have a staggeringly lopsided representation within the press for the President's political party.

Had the Fox News / James Rosen scandal not been revealed, they might still be "running interference" for him more than anything else... it was only when they saw their own ox being gored that they started to act in anything approaching a desired role in checking the potential abuses of power.

VekTor said...

[It's absurd to think] that some self-appointed altruist of the computer-fixated kind is going to save us.

Again with the false dichotomies! It's not about whether the actions of Snowden "save us" or not... the question is this: Are we more likely or less likely to end up better off as a country because of his actions? Did his choice make things better, or worse?

To the extent that he got people talking about the proper scope and role of the government and the various alphabet agencies in how they interact with the American people and their associated data (without, as far as I can tell, actually endangering any individual or significantly impairing the operability of any valid government function), I see it as a net-positive.

Fundamentally, for me, it comes down to this question: How are we supposed to protect ourselves against the tendency of those in charge to become tyrannical and usurpacious?

You seem to be offering the thesis that so long as we had an election, and the American people "studied and listened to him", we should all just sit back and let Congress and "the press" protect us against the administration potentially going malignant.

That seems to neglect one all-too-likely circumstance: that a potential leader who was malignant to begin with might also be a particularly slick salesman. He might be unusually adept at lying to people and convincing them that his intentions are pure. What then?

It seems to me that life is imitating art again. I'm reminded of a scene from Animal House, where Otter is talking to Flounder... but in this case, the government is in the role of Otter, and the rubes who bought into the sales job are taking on the role of Flounder:

Otter: Flounder, you can't spend your whole life worrying about your mistakes! You fucked up... you trusted us! Hey, make the best of it! Maybe we can help.

Thanks, Otter, but no thanks.

Revenant said...

"If a law happens to coincide with the right thing to do, obey they law. If the law says to do the wrong thing, ignore it and try to get away with breaking it."

Holy shit! It is very hard to render me speechless, but you did it! Amazing concept of civilization there.

It is a fairly standard natural law argument, actually. John Locke had a lot to say on the subject. Bad law is not true law.

Cedarford said...

Palladian said...
If, in order to prevent a repeat of that day, it is necessary for the govt to have access to my porn browsing records, then so be it.....

Pussy.

=================
You should have tried it, Palladian.
Pussy is some good stuff!

William said...

I think that there can be a less intrusive program or, perhaps, a program with more oversight. I don't think, however, it is possible to design a program without possibility for abuse. I still maintain that there is greater danger from AQ types than from totalitarian progressive types. The progs will raise your taxes and diminish your liberties, but, with the exception of Bill Ayers, they have no present plans to blow you up.

clint said...

If it's true that the Director of National Intelligence *LIED* under oath to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence about this program, *AND* we (and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) only know about this lie because of this leak...

... can we really say that Congress was providing a solid check in this case?

And if there are no consequences for the DNI lying under oath to the very committee that was supposed to be providing that check and oversight... can we really consider Congressional oversight to be a serious check in future?

Larry J said...

jr565 said...
IF the requirement for this type of excercise is a FISA warrant, and a judge signs off on a a FISA warrant, who is this guy to say that it's evil?


If the FISA court was more than a rubber stamp, you'd have a point. However, according to this source:

But the FISC has declined just 11 of the more than 33,900 surveillance requests made by the government in 33 years, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. That's a rate of .03 percent, which raises questions about just how much judicial oversight is actually being provided.

99.97% of all warrants are approved. Hell, votes in the old Soviet Union weren't that one sided.

Gathering info of all phone calls is not monitoring all AMericans. Monitoring would be the search of the phone number and seeing where that leads. IF that search requires a judge to sign off on it, and that judge is ok with the search, then who is this pip squeak to say otherwise.

And no one at the IRS would ever abuse taxpayer information, would they? And those EPA employees wouldn't turn over personal information on about 90,000 farmers to environmental activists groups, would they?

What makes the people at the TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms such as NSA, CIA, NRO, NGA, DIA, etc.) any less prone to abusing American citizens than all those other government employees? And if not them, what about the political appointees?

It's also a lot more than just phone call metadata that's being harvested according to recent reports. Throw in emails and credit card transactions to the mix with "Three Felonies A Day" federal prosecutors and the system is quite open to abuse. With all of this surveillance and data gathering, they have repeatedly failed to stop attacks. Could it be because they're looking at the wrong people (political opponents to Obama) than Islamist radicals? You can have all the data in the world but if your search criteria is flawed, you'll get flawed results.

Æthelflæd said...

Michael K said..."If it takes a weirdo to expose some of this (and the SWIFT leaks were far more harmful), it's OK with me.

I'm even getting a bit more sympathetic to Assange. If Obama can leave that Pakistani doctor in prison, why are we so angry at Assange?"

This. I'll grant that probably Snowden isn't all that in himself, but damn...I can't believe what some people seem to think is OK.

Darleen said...

Heh.

http://kieranhealy.org/blog/archives/2013/06/09/using-metadata-to-find-paul-revere/

Revenant said...

All we have is McVeighs own words that he was a true hardcore libertarian

Sure, because McVeigh was nearly as dippy as you. Lots of people think "libertarian = anti-government". In reality, "libertarian = against non-defensive use of violence and coercion". We are against most of what the government does not because the government is doing it, but because the government uses violence and coercion to do it.

For equally obvious reasons, we are also against truck-bombing public buildings. :)

Simon said...

Unknown said...
I am conflicted on what he did, but I have noticed that these so-called heroes don't want to face the consequences of their actions. Jesus could have fled, but believed his message worth dying for. He did not resist and was crucified.

That's not correct. The primary action of Christ was not a message for which He risked His life; rather, as the presbyterian Horatio Bonar put it (in a passage that recently was approvingly-quoted by, the horror, a Catholic), “[t]he very essence of Christ’s deliverance is the substitution of Himself for us, His life for ours. He did not come to risk His life; He came to die!”

Revenant said...
"[EDutcher said... That 'above my pay grade' stuff's a cop out.] You call it 'a cop out', I call it 'a question I'm not qualified to answer'. I don't know how to effectively monitor Al Qaeda."

I've got to say that I'm kind of with Rev on that one, Ed. It's the other side of the coin to the argument that I've been making. We don't have access to the information necessary to have the debate about ends and means. That means that Rev lacks the information to meaningfully criticize the program, but it also means that he lacks the information to meaningfully moot alternatives.

John said...

"He is surrounded by advisers and checked by Congress and the press. "

Brooks is talking about Obama? About our Congress? About what press?

He must be living in an alternate reality.

Darleen said...

Life is not embedded in a series of gently gradated authoritative structures: family, neighborhood, religious group, state, nation and world. Instead, it’s just the solitary naked individual and the gigantic and menacing state.

Brooks uses the same argumentative tact that radical-feminists use in support of campus speech codes ...

e.g. an obnoxious joke = rape, just as "family" authority = The State.

When I was ten years old my mom could send me to bed without my dinner to punish me for sassing her; but only The State can toss me in jail -- and for actions I neither knew were illegal nor had any intention of doing something illegal.

The bigger the Government, the smaller the citizen.

Simon said...

Larry J said...
"If the FISA court was more than a rubber stamp, you'd have a point. 99.97% of all warrants are approved. Hell, votes in the old Soviet Union weren't that one sided."

And as I pointed out above, 99% of federal criminal cases end in conviction, so your argument proves nothing—quod nimis probat, nihil probat.

RiverRat said...

It's also a lot more than just phone call metadata that's being harvested according to recent reports. Throw in emails and credit card transactions to the mix with "Three Felonies A Day" federal prosecutors and the system is quite open to abuse. With all of this surveillance and data gathering, they have repeatedly failed to stop attacks. Could it be because they're looking at the wrong people (political opponents to Obama) than Islamist radicals? You can have all the data in the world but if your search criteria is flawed, you'll get flawed results


Deliberately "flawed results" for partisan political gain.

John said...

In order to save the union it has become necessary to unburden ourselves from those who want to save us.

Revenant said...

And as I pointed out above, 99% of federal criminal cases end in conviction

When you claimed it the first time I was willing to believe you were just confused. Repeating it after the problems with the claim have been pointed out to you, however, places you firmly in the "pathetic liar" column. :)

RiverRat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RiverRat said...

Sheesh Ann!

Is this website in the dark ages or what...manually coded html tags for comments? Do you know how much you're limiting your traffic?

Deliberate suppression of anyone but luddites? Just asking?

Larry J said...

Simon said...
Larry J said...
"If the FISA court was more than a rubber stamp, you'd have a point. 99.97% of all warrants are approved. Hell, votes in the old Soviet Union weren't that one sided."

And as I pointed out above, 99% of federal criminal cases end in conviction, so your argument proves nothing—quod nimis probat, nihil probat.


You really do need to read this book. If you don't have time for that, you might try this paper.

You could be Mother Thersa and if a federal prosecutor takes an interest in you, you'll likely be convicted.

And for those who argue that all three branches of government have signed off on this, that still doesn't necessarily make it right. The same three branches agreed on slavery for many decades. They also agreed on "separate but equal", the internment of the Japanese-Americans in WWII and other things that, in retrospect, we now know were horribly wrong.

And you still have not addressed by point about how the people at the NSA are any more trustworthy than those at the IRS or other government agencies.

DADvocate said...

Brookes and Ann descend into idiocy. Brookes makes a straw man argument regarding the hypothetical libertarian and Ann jumps in whole hog. Ann eve argues in favor of tyranny by the majority.

After the many lessons of recorded history, anyone who doesn't hold at least some suspicion of authrity, hierarchies and organizations is foolish at best. The Obama, the federal government and the NSA violated the basic levels of trust and cooperation, as did the IRS and others. They deserve no respect. Where's the respect for our individual rights? For freedom for search and seizure without probable cause?

Speaking of morally confused, our dear hostess shows herself to be so. Our country is rushing headlong into facsism and all Ann can say is, "Well, the American people voted for Obama."

DADvocate said...

The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone.

HENRIK IBSEN, An Enemy of the People

Fitting name for the play considering the post's topic. Maybe Ann should read/watch some Ibsen.

Revenant said...

Could it be because they're looking at the wrong people (political opponents to Obama) than Islamist radicals?

On a related note, what makes you think the people looking at the data aren't Islamist radicals themselves?

The Ft. Hood case demonstrates that the government won't even screen them out when they self-identify, and the Snowden and Manning cases demonstrate that the government absolutely sucks at data security. Now factor in the fact that the government has had to stretch the truth beyond the breaking point to tie any successfully-foiled plots to the NSA's spying programs.

They're gathering data on a scale unprecedented in human history and have foiled no major terrorist plots. Either no such plots exist or something's wrong with the program. Well, or the same administration that has proven itself willing to leak like a sieve when the information makes them look good has mysteriously refrained from leaking about the thousands of lives they saved, but yeah right. :)

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
"In reality, the founders would have laughed uproariously at the notion that society requires trust in government."

and yet they took great pains to set up the various branches of govt and the checks and balances and responsibilities on those branches of govt. why?
And from Lockeian sense, what if I think the constitution is stupid. Can I ignore that if it doesn't suit my sensibilities?
Everyone has some rule somewhere that someone else might find stupid.

t-man said...

The idea of blackmail has also crossed my mind, the NSA could easily control politicians with the the information it is able to collect. Think of a J. Edgar Hoover with access to that information.

But I guess we just have to trust that no government employee would even consider misusing all of that information, just like we should trust the IRS with our confidential information.

Rabel said...

"Is this website in the dark ages or what...manually coded html tags for comments?"

Its Google. They have more important things to do.

BarrySanders20 said...

Althouse is OK with questioning authority, but only if no action is taken to actually challenge that authority.

Brooks and all the Washington-centric cabal of elected government, appointed government, bureaucratic government, lobbyists, press, crony capitalists, and all other apologists for the authoritarian state have now come together to whine about this challenge to their system. Not fair, they say, to go outside the system.

The system needs to be fucked with every so often in this rather benign way. The alternative is armed revolution.

What would Brooks think of that? He'd shit his nicely creased pants.

VekTor said...

jr565 said...

IF the requirement for this type of excercise is a FISA warrant, and a judge signs off on a a FISA warrant, who is this guy to say that it's evil?

6/11/13, 2:34 PM


Yes, because the one thing we can be certain of is that no one in this administration would stoop to lying to a judge in order to accomplish something unseemly... or do so repeatedly via judge-shopping if the first one happens to reject it.

Pull the other one, it's got bells on.

Larry J said...

jr565 said...
Revenant wrote:
"In reality, the founders would have laughed uproariously at the notion that society requires trust in government."

and yet they took great pains to set up the various branches of govt and the checks and balances and responsibilities on those branches of govt. why?


They took such great pains to set up the checks and balances because they knew the corrupting nature of power and that men aren't angels. Unfortunately, those checks and balances have been greatly eroded over the years as government has expanded far beyond the powers defined in the Constitution. Take a look at Article 1, Section 8 and compare it to what the government is now. It has become something beyond the founders worst nightmare.

Revenant said...

and yet they took great pains to set up the various branches of govt and the checks and balances and responsibilities on those branches of govt. why?

Because they didn't trust government.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"They're gathering data on a scale unprecedented in human history and have foiled no major terrorist plots."

That you know of. They have foiled no plots that you know of. And that's the problem; that's why, as I've pointed out, the argument that the program doesn't work because it didn't foil an attack that we know of and it hasn't foiled any attacks that we know of is a cherry-picking fallacy. Even if you're not doing so deliberately, you're offering a proof from selective instances because even if you offer every example that we know of, that is a subset of all the instances that exist, and we (unlike the President) have absolutely no way to know how large a subset it is.

jr565 said...

Vector wrote:

Yes, because the one thing we can be certain of is that no one in this administration would stoop to lying to a judge in order to accomplish something unseemly... or do so repeatedly via judge-shopping if the first one happens to reject it.
I'm not arguing that there aren't assholes In the administration. Clearly there are. But that doesn't invalidate that thse seeking such warrants are following the law. If you beleive a certain president lied us into war, does that invalidate all presidents ability to wage war as their primary power?
If the argument was we can't trust a president with the power of war because some president might a use that trust, then no president could ever go to war. So to with congress and the power of the purse. And god knows congress has abused that trust. But still, what's the alternative? The congress can't spend money? Ten who can? If you put power into those people hands how do we know they won't abuse the trust?

Who watches the watchmen? Well, who watches the people who watch the watchmen? And who watches those people?

Revenant said...

That you know of. They have foiled no plots that you know of

Pay attention, Simon. I addressed that already.

Revenant said...

But that doesn't invalidate that thse seeking such warrants are following the law.

You have no factual basis for that claim.

Following the law requires that the information presented to the court be honestly and accurately represented. We already know that this administration -- and, let's face it, plenty of prosecutors and cops in America in general -- can and do lie on warrant applications.

So. We know they break the law to get warrants. The information presented to the FISA court is secret. Your basis for claiming that it was all honest and accurate is... ? :)

Simon said...

Larry J said...
"Unfortunately, those checks and balances have been greatly eroded over the years as government has expanded far beyond the powers defined in the Constitution. Take a look at Article 1, Section 8 and compare it to what the government is now."

I completely agree with you on this, but that doesn't oblige me to agree with you that the government's illegitimate growth is a cudgel to use against the government's legitimate activities in its traditional competencies. The federal government has expanded far beyond the powers defined in the Constitution, and far beyond the scope of government in the Anglo-American tradition, but national defense lies at the very heart of legitimate governmental responsibilities. It is the core purpose for which we have a government, and to argue that the illegitimate and alien activities that progressives grafted onto the government in the last century are somehow a reason to cut the tree down entirely is mind-blowingly radical. That's precisely the joke in the title of Ron Paul's book—"The Revolution, a Manifesto for Conservatives." Conservative and revolutionary are antonyms. What the libertarians want is certainly revolutionary, but it certainly is not conservative.

VekTor said...

A useful distinguishing question for those here who seem intent on treating Snowden like whatever bad actor happens to come to them:

How many people had their civil rights violated by the actions of Snowden, and what was the severity of those violations?

Compare and contrast that with the same question for whoever you're standing him up against... beginning with the program itself.

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
"Because they didn't trust govt"


And yet they set up govt. with checks and balances.
Did they trust those checks and balances? What if we took a Lockeian approach to the checks and balances? Ie. we only follow the checks and balances we think aren't stupid?

Even if they don't trust govt, in the absolute, they trust it enough to assume that checks and balances will produce a govt that can govern and is not tyrannical.otherwise, there would be no point in writing a constitution. Because how could we trust it? And if we thought parts of it were stupid, or didn't adhere enough to our concept of natural law, why should we follow it.

Revenant said...


I completely agree with you on this, but that doesn't oblige me to agree with you that the government's illegitimate growth is a cudgel to use against the government's legitimate activities in its traditional competencies.


Simon, the existence of the NSA is itself an example of the illegitimate growth of government. It falls under none of the enumerated powers of either Congress or the executive.

Constitutionally, espionage is a military function -- and even then, it can't be used domestically except in cases of insurrection or invasion.

jr565 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leslyn said...

Roger J said,

So Leslyn--while I generally agree with you, what are your thoughts on Mark Felt, Benedict Arnold, and Daniel Ellsberg? Were they little little men?

Benedict Arnold was venial. He became a little man.

Ellsberg was principled, like the other NSA whistleblowers. He didn't make himself ridiculous creating a spy persona in order to glorify HIMSELF. Not a little man.

Felt was--odd. He straddled two worlds, the corrupt secret world of Hoover, and the changing world of the 60's and 70's. He had reason to hold a grudge against Nixon and the government. I think that he used his position and knowledge to manipulate Woodward and Bernstein--much like Snowden. But what was his motive? It wasn't self-glorification. He kept silent for 30 years, so it's hard to say.

jr565 said...

Revenant wrote:
Following the law requires that the information presented to the court be honestly and accurately represented. We already know that this administration -- and, let's face it, plenty of prosecutors and cops in America in general -- can and do lie on warrant applications.

and by your logic cops really shouldn't uphold laws and prosecutors shouldn't try cases. And I'm assuming that , since judges have been known to be biased they too should not hear cases.
Jurors have been known to be biased so they shouldn't provide verdicts.
Congressmen have been corrupt so they shouldn't pass laws or write constitutions.

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