As the animated comedy South Park so eloquently puts it, an election decision usually comes down to a choice between a giant douche and a turd sandwich.
But from time to time the political circus does display some noteworthy acts, and one of those is taking place right now.
We all know that the US has become a giant surveillance state. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either deliberately ignorant or is named Dick Cheney.
Edward Snowden famously revealed the government’s massive efforts to spy on its own citizens. But even prior to that (and many times since) there have been numerous reports describing government surveillance programs.
FCC regulations, for example, require telecommunication companies to retain data on customers such as “the name, address, and telephone number of the caller, telephone number called, date, time and length of the call.”
This is referred to as “metadata” and must be stored by telecom companies for at least 18 months.
In 2015, the USA Freedom Act allegedly reformed the way the government could access your metadata. But nothing really changed.
Instead of collecting and storing it in a government database, the government simply demands the data from AT&T and Verizon.
In theory the government has to seek approval from secret “FISA” courts to obtain access to your data (FISA stands for Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act).
But the FISA courts have become mere rubber stamps. According to the Justice Department’s own disclosures, for example, the FISA courts only rejected ONE wiretap application out of more than 1,000 that were submitted last year.
In other words, FISA courts approved more than 99.9% of wiretap requests. So forgive me if I’m a bit skeptical about this system of ‘checks and balances’.
Two years ago, Congress reauthorized the FISA court for another 5 years, and one of the key sponsors of that bill was Congressman Devin Nunes.
In doing so, Rep. Nunes put his name up in neon lights as the number one fan of intrusive surveillance.
Ironically, that intrusive government surveillance was quickly turned against him.
Rep. Nunes’ name comes up rather frequently in the impeachment inquiry report that was just released by the House Intelligence Committee.
The report cites phone records between Nunes and other prominent targets of the probe:
“Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call.”
Nunes was in contact with many of the characters involved in the whole Ukraine aid scandal, around the time it was all going down.
And how did the House Intelligence Committee get all those phone and text records? Because Nunes championed the government’s authority to spy on everyone’s metadata. Including his own.
Now Nunes’s metadata is being used against him to suggest that he was involved in criminal misconduct.
The even more ironic part of this story is that Nunes plans on suing AT&T, Verizon, and House Democrats for turning over his call records to Congressional investigators.
I’d love to see that argument in court. “Your honor, I am the person who championed the surveillance on Americans’ metadata… but it’s not fair that my own law can be used against me.”
Sorry Devin. These records and investigatory powers have been used exactly as intended. It’s just that you’re now on the receiving end.
That’s the funny thing about government powers. Even if you trust the people currently in charge– just give it a few years for the cast of characters to change.
Surveillance that was once used only on suspected spies and terrorists has quickly become a tool against political rivals and journalists.
And these intrusive powers are especially concerning given the crop of rising Bolshevik political superstars.
As the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises said, “The worst thing that can happen to a socialist is to have his country ruled by socialists who are not his friends.”
To your freedom,