Saturday, June 8, 2013

The new FISA directive and the PRISM story

The Prism story brings my preoccupation with silicon valley together with my preoccupation with false positives and the GWOT. Both of these revelations are awful. Are they going to be received with a shrug? The story of unauthorized location tracking on the iphone was received with a shrug. Warrantless wiretapping was received with a shrug in the sense that Obama voted for FISA and we supported him anyway, plus there wasn't enough outcry for impeachment of Bush/Cheney to make Conyers do it. It seems to me that by shrugging at privacy violations, we are painting ourselves into a corner not only for the present moment, but for the future too. The story of living standards and the basic progressive priorities is just awful. Do we not need some privacy in order to fight these fights? I don't know. Maybe not. Janet reported on Occupy Wall Street after she visited last fall, and she said that there was this move towards radical transparency. The Occupy planners held their meeting on the steps of the police department. If you want to know what we're doing, come and find out. It seems like a Gandhian way to do things ... I have merely seen the movie, and haven't read about him, which I plan on doing eventually, but Gandhi I don't think cared if the cops knew what and where he was going to bring his people to make salt or something else, because they were going to walk right into the line of fire. Was privacy important to Gandhi or MLK? It's not a rhetorical question - eventually I am going to read the histories and find out: Is there anything about our present relationship to information and surveillance in 2013 that would make the Indian independence or civil-rights fights untenable or more difficult? Or does strong encryption take care of everything anyhow? My worry and irritation is that people who fight on principle like Bruce Fein don't have enough ordinary centrists with them. It doesn't mean Fein is wrong, but without numbers of constitutents, the politician just does the cost-benefit analysis and says "I can afford to ignore Fein." My other worry and irritation is that if progressives don't get out in front on civil liberties, libertarians like Rand Paul become the voice of sanity and might get the executive branch and more seats in Congress. Which sounds great on war, drones and surveillance, but their domestic policy is fucking heartless and always has been. And economic issues is what makes people do things that get them surveilled! When Rand Paul filibustered over drone strikes, the heart of civil liberties protection swung to the RIGHT. I called Senator Boxer's office and made the above objection. Cross your party! I want you to be the ones crossing Obama because if you don't, the libertarians will and that's horrible for labor law and workers' rights. The center doesn't seem to care about any & all surveillance. We need to connect it with household economics better. There are going to be more Occupys, and they are going to be fighting over the cost of a loaf of bread, the minimum wage and the fact that minimum wage is a moot point when you're 1099 in the first place. And they're going to be fighting over downward mobility and the impossibility of getting by. And surveillance is going to be turned on THEM, and they're going to be muddied together with terrorism, just like union people in the Red Scares were portrayed as the enemies of the USA. It was something business could get away with. This needs to be emphasized more: the use of surveillance by the U.S. government is really the use of surveillance by business, because of this parallel story of Senator Durbin's remark, "the banks own this place." If the banks own this place, the banks can exert influence over how and where the NSA's resources are used and they can go after whoever they want. It won't be about terrorism - it will be about squelching the economic fights and the workers' fights.

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