Julian Sanchez At CATO: ‘Why The NSA Collecting Your Phone Records Is A Problem’

Full post here.

Julian Sanchez has been following these issues for a while, as his beat is national security, tech, law, and government.  I would classify him as libertarian minded, with liberal/liberaltarian tendencies.  He’s worth following.

Addition:  NSA leaker comes forward.  Edward Snowden is interviewed below by Glenn Greenwald, on what he thinks is in the public interest to know about what he saw begun as a narrowly tailored approach becoming broader with regard to data collection and filtration.  Seems like the kind of thing worth kicking back into the public square.  For a man potentially risking his life, and potentially standing on principle to do so, it seems worthwhile to hear him out:

An idealist?  Is there a backstory?

Another addition:  As others have pointed out, Snowden (and Greenwald, to some extent) are likely upset with the current administration and the NSA from the Left, which has joined with the discontent of the Right.  It’s quite an achievement.  All we need now is Noam Chomsky and Pat Buchannan giving a joint press conference.

Occupy! and the Tea Party meet again, to some extent.

Another:  Justin Amash wants to debate Obama on the issue.  If you act irresponsibly online, you can expect some entity to grow out of/contain that behavior.



‘This collection is probably well enough intentioned. The problem is that these records are likely to be retained in databases indefinitely. Which means we don’t just need to worry about whether the government’s motives are pure when they collect the information. Even if they are, someone with access to that data, maybe in five or ten years, may be unable to resist the temptation to use that information for other purposes. That could mean investigating ordinary crimes: If you can data mine for suspicious terrorist activity patterns—which as Jim Harper and Jeff Jonas have pointed out is likely to be extremely difficult—you can plug in “suspicious patterns” that may identify drug dealers and tax cheats as well. Still more disturbing is the possibility that, the intelligence community has repeatedly done historically, those records could be exploited for illegitimate political purposes, or even simple greed. (Imagine probing communications for signs of an impending corporate merger, product launch, or lawsuit.)’

Much of the law hasn’t caught up, and is often behind, the tech revolution, and how people and institutions are using technology in our daily lives.  Genetic information, drones for domestic and theater of war purposes, medical records, search engine history, digital fingerprints etc. are all changing the face of what’s possible.

Maybe libertarian Arnold Kling’s formulation could help illuminate some of the political/philosophical interests, which I’ve copied/pasted from elsewhere:

‘Conservatives use a civilization vs barbarism axis.

Libertarians use a coercion vs freedom axis.

Liberals use an oppression axis to view the world – oppressed vs oppressor.’

On the Kling model, I’m with conservatives insofar as they are most able to recognize that we are in a frontless war with the practitioners of a global, pan-Arab religious ideology.  No, not everyone outside the gates is a barbarian, but some of our current enemies are acting enough like it.  They thrive on violence and push for a totalitarian, impossibly ideal, narrow, anti-modern, anti-Western Islamic resurgence. Some people are planning to kill us as I type this, despite their diffuse nature and the low probability/high consequences of an attack.  Our response has required varying levels of conflict, intelligence, and engagement in order to protect ourselves so far.  Some basic trust is necessary for those in power given to discharge their duties on the people’s behalf to conduct our business.

Addition:  It’s not just the narrow focus of Islamic terrorism, but a global network of espionage, State and non-State cyberwarfare and security following Moore’s law.  What still separates us from most other governments is a government working for the people, even if that may compromise us in the data race.  These are deep and complex issues.

I’m with libertarians insofar as we do not want to cede too much power and authority to our government in order to prosecute this war, because yesterday’s rules become today’s furniture and incentives of governance.  Power really can and does corrupt, and we’ve got to get the incentives right for our own leaders and for our own selves as citizens, especially with the big data race going on.  I think most Americans are more psychologically able to handle this reality since 9/11, but it’s questionable as to how well our security complexes are handling our business.

I can find common ground with liberals on civil liberties issues, but I’m generally against Leftism, progressivism and its discontents.  Such ideologies bend our institutions to impossible ideals, and get our security, human nature and the incentives very wrong in my opinion.  I don’t want to see multiculturalism, nor the ‘isms’ of the Left have too much direct political influence because I think they’ve led to many of the failure of European immigration/governance, for starters.

Given our President’s ideological interests and political bedfellows, do you trust him with this power?  What about the next guy who comes along, and the one after that?:


Related On This SiteFrom CATO@Liberty: Julian Sanchez On ‘Wikileads And Economies Of Repression’

Big Data And Filthy Lucre: Neil Irwin At WonkBlog-’Here’s What The Bloomberg Data Scandal Reveals About How The Media Really Makes Money’

Repost: Trevor Butterworth At Forbes Via The A & L Daily: ‘Beware The Internet As Liberation Theology’

Martha Nussbaum wants to steer the moral thinking behind the laws away from religion, and was influenced by John Rawls:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.

From George Will on Stephen Colbert:  “What conservatives say is that we will protect you against idealism.” Originalism vs. The living constitution: George Will Via The Jewish World Review: ‘True Self-Government’.

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism