Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Nobody who won on Super Tuesday is going to protect your privacy

What to make of the Super Tuesday results?

There are far better places you can go for traditional political analysis, and while I'm sure some will seep in here, that's not my primary intention.

I want to speculate on the meaning of Super Tuesday for personal freedom--especially privacy rights--in the US.

Privacy rights have been a dual casualty of the war on terror and corporatist data mining over the past seven years.

Neither John McCain nor Hillary Clinton is likely to change that status quo very much. McCain is against torture, but on domestic surveillance he has a much more nuanced stance. Consider this interview he gave to Chris Wallace in 2006. Here's the part McCain would like us to recall:

WALLACE: But you do not believe that currently he has the legal authority to engage in these warrant-less wiretaps.

MCCAIN: You know, I don't think so.

Of course, he'd probably prefer we don't remember the rest of his answer:

MCCAIN: You know, I don't think so, but why not come to Congress? We can sort this all out. I don't think — I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said here's why we need this capability, that they wouldn't get it.

So it's not that we shouldn't be doing domestic surveillance, it's just that Bush went about it the wrong way.

As for Hillary Clinton, her opposition to the NSA surveillance program might be mistaken for a principled protection of privacy rights--at least if you aren't listening carefully. In her speech to the American Constitution Society, Senator Clinton reveals the same capacity for Newspeak as the Bush administration.

The United States, for example, needs

a new privacy Bill of Rights that secures the interests of consumers; provides stronger, better-enforced protection for medical privacy; and a new national security consensus setting out clear rules to allow the government to use new intelligence techniques within a rule of law framework and making sure that the public knows its rights and the government’s limits.

You might be moved to ask, "What's wrong with the original Bill of Rights?" Just go back to Clinton's original statement--this new "Bill of Rights" "secures the interests of consumers," not the rights of citizens. This is a fundamentally Orwellian redefinition of privacy from a civil right to a consumer interest.

Moreover, Clinton makes this explicitly clear in the exposition of her so-called PROTECT Act:

So we need a new set of consumer protections that boil down to three basic rights. First, people have the right to know, and to correct, information which is being kept about them. Second, people have the right to know what is happening to their personal information when they are cooperating with a business and to make decisions about how their information is used. And third, in a democracy, people have the right and the obligation to hold their government and the private sector to the highest standards of care with the information they gather. These rights should be basic to all of the commercial transactions we undertake and be part of a basic privacy bill of rights that has to be adhered to by every commercial information gatherer or marketer.

Notice that not only does Clinton define privacy down to a consumer protection that the government provides rather than a right that the government may not abridge, she also defines it in terms of knowing what is collected rather than protecting your right not to have specific types of information ever collected in the first place.

[Yes, I realize that we live in a completely different world than that of our Founders, and that there are already many horses out of this barn--perhaps most of them. But that doesn't justify the glib surrender of our privacy rights.]

Obama? Despite rhetoric for change, here's what the Council on Foreign Relations has to say:

Sen. Obama’s (D-IL) response to the NSA spying controversy was mixed. On one hand, he opposed the nomination of former NSA chief Michael Hayden to the position of CIA director because of his role in the warrantless wiretapping program and said that he disapproved of Bush’s avoidance of FISA oversight in the NSA eavesdropping efforts. But on the other hand, like Clinton, Dodd, and Biden, he did not join in Feingold’s efforts to censure Bush over the warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.

Not incredibly comforting.

Just for kicks and grimaces (and not because I think they still have a chance), here's the scoop on Romney and Huckabee:

The CFR on Romney:

Romney has been a proponent of domestic intelligence gathering methods and has called for increased federal funding and participation in such measures. Romney’s opinion regarding the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretaps is unknown, but he clearly does not have qualms with domestic spying in general. In 2005, Romney made headlines by advocating the wiretapping of mosques (BosGlobe) within the United States.

Huckabee has generally avoided the issue.

So the outlook for personal privacy under any of the current crop of candidates is, to say the least, grim.

I really, really, REALLY hate it when I find myself in agreement with the Daily Progressive Beacon:

The reality is, of course, that Democrats are different than Republicans and I'll tell you how: Republicans are in your face gleefully happy to destroy the Constitution and Bill of Rights ... and they absolutely will not apologize for doing it. Democrats are also willing to destroy the Constitution and Bill of Rights ... but they're polite about it. They will say "please may I" and "thank you," while doing the dirty deed. When they're done shredding the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Democrats will ashamedly look down at their feet, too cowardly to look anyone in the eye and sheepishly mutter, "S-S-Sorry, for all the wrong I done ... but I hadda do it to save my political career."

Unfortunately, when it comes to privacy issues, the general agreement between Libertarians and Progressives does nothing except marginalize both--because almost everybody else appears to have given up the fight.


Anonymous said...

Before the New Hampshire primary, McCain was at it again. Speaking to an audience in New Hampshire on January 3, one questioner remarked with concern that the current president has spoken about staying in Iraq for 50 years. How, the questioner wondered, did Senator McCain feel about this? Before the man had a chance to finish his question, McCain interrupted him, blurting out “make it 100 [years]! … That would be fine with me!”

It was a stunning, candid admission. If elected, McCain acknowledges that his policies would help ensure that when our grandchildren sign up for military service, some of them will deploy to Iraq. More broadly than Iraq, Senator McCain has a clear track record of supporting war and militarism, and if elected, there’s every reason–from his twitchy statements on the campaign trail to his actions in Congress–to believe that Senator McCain is the all-war-all-the-time candidate.

In the past decade, Senator McCain has supported unsheathing the saber against a variety of enemies from Serbia to Iraq, Iran, and Sudan. And in the present, as Matt Welch writes in his new book The Myth of a Maverick, the senator from Arizona “envisions a more militaristic foreign policy than any U.S. president in a century.”

In fact, Senator McCain has indicated that not only would he like to unleash the U.S. military on substantial portions of the rest of the world, as president, he would work to militarize American society. In a 2001 article in the Washington Monthly, after lamenting that it was “not currently politically practical to revive the draft,” McCain went on to praise and argue for the expansion of the National Civilian Community Corps, a federally-administered program where volunteers “wear uniforms, work in teams, learn public speaking skills, and gather together for daily calisthenics, often in highly public places such as in front of city hall.”

McCain glowed at the fact that the participants “not only wear uniforms and work in teams…but actually live together in barracks on former military bases.” There is already a place where young people wear federal uniforms, live in military barracks, and gather for calisthenics in front of government buildings: It’s called North Korea.

Anonymous said...

That is from CATO today.