The majority of American’s do not want to be spied upon by the US (or any other) government. That much is clear. What the NSA and other agencies have done to continue and expand their powers for domestic spying are insulting at the least and possibly even dangerous. Most would agree with that as well. The NSA needs to have their powers curtailed by an act of Congress. Again, most would say this is true.
I, on the other hand, think it’s a terrible idea.
As an NSA reform bill makes its way through the halls of Capitol Hill on its way to making the NSA less powerful when it comes to spying on US citizens, most are heralding it as a major step towards stopping their nefarious activities. The reality is this: the bill in its current form will make matters worse.
Despite what the White House says, despite what many in Congress are saying publicly, the truth is that they got caught with their hands in the cookie jar and they now need to come up with a safer way to get the cookies. They will not stop. Many parts, both official and unofficial, of the government of the United States want the surveillance. They want the data. They fear a world in which they do not have access to the data. They will not give it up regardless of what Congress does.
Like a mythical hydra, the NSA and other organizations will not die when their heads are chopped off. They will grow stronger, bury their evidence deeper, and find ways to circumvent the laws that are being discussed. They will allocate the money needed to continue and improve their techniques through shell programs. They will get the power they need to get their data through the same channels that gave them the powers in the first place, only this time they will make sure that a contractor with a brain and a conscience will not be able to expose their actions to the world.
What we’re seeing happening in Washington right now is not a step towards fixing the problem. It’s a measure that will launch the next contingency. The contingency that will be launched will have another contingency, and that one will have another. They are too powerful, too embed, and too dependent and the data they collect to ever, ever let it go.
Rather than focus on trying to eliminate their powers, they should allow them to continue down this road with extremely aggressive oversight and transparency attached to it. This would not be a true solution by any means; no measure of oversight will be able to see deeply enough into the abyss to know exactly what is going on. However, it is better than forcing them into a situation that will make matters worse.
This is not a bill designed to end domestic surveillance of citizens. It will not hamper their efforts in any way. It may slow them down, but only for weeks. They’re ready for this. They’ve been ready for years. They knew that at some point their hand in the cookie jar would be discovered. It was inevitable.
All that this bill and the similar bills that have been proposed will do is push them further back into their hole, but it will not make them stop. Nothing will. This is no longer a country with citizens that can expect privacy. This is no longer a world that can sustain any sense of individual rights to make others mind their own business. Everyone is suspect. Everyone is a threat. The technology is too powerful and the fears from those in government are too great.
This bill amounts to little more than a public relations spin. The change cannot be made by Congress. For it to have any chance of success, the change must come from the people of this country. Unfortunately, we’re too busy watching Duck Empire to worry about taking action.