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You want "Nixonian"? This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany

The Snowden Effect, Special Sunday Edition
By Charles P. Pierce
at 10:36am


Sooner or later, we're all going to start paying more attention to the folks at McClatchy than we do to the kidz at Tiger Beat On The Potomac. It was some of them who kept warning us that the Bush administration case for going to war in Iraq was shot through with moonshine and bullshit, but the courtier press got itself dazzled by mushroom clouds, aluminum tubes, African uranium, and Colin Powell, aka The Most Overrated Man In The World, and off to war we went. Now, they've come out with a gigantic story revealing, in detail, that the Obama administration is the most fertile environment for paranoids since the Nixon people first cut a check to Egil Krogh.

President Barack Obama's unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of "insider threat" give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct. Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for "high-risk persons or behaviors" among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.

You want "Nixonian"? This, right here, this is Nixonian, if Nixon had grown up in East Germany. You've got the entire federal bureaucracy looking for signs of "high-risk persons or behaviors" the way Nixon sent Fred Malek out to count the Jews. You've got created within the entire federal bureaucracy a culture of spies and informers, which will inevitably breed fear and deceit and countless acts of interoffice treachery. (Don't like your boss at the Bureau Of Land Management? Hmm, he looks like a high-risk person. Tell someone.) And this is the clincher.

Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States," says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.

I don't want to hear about "safeguards" because I don't believe in them any more. I don't want to hear about "transparency" any more because the president lost his privileges on that word when he cited the secret rubber-stamp FISA court as the vehicle for transparency last week. I don't want to hear about "oversight" because, really, stop kidding us all. And I especially don't want to hear about how all the administration's really done is "formalize" programs that were already in place, as though giving the creation of a culture of informers the imprimatur of the presidency makes it better. This, after all, is what you're "formalizing," as dramatized on June 13, 1971 by the Oval Office Players, Richard M. Nixon, artistic director:

President Nixon: Doesn't it involve secure information, a lot of other things? What kind of-what kind of people would do such things?
Kissinger: It has the most-it has the highest classification, Mr. President.
President Nixon: Yeah. Yeah.
Kissinger: It's treasonable. There's no question it's actionable. I'm absolutely certain that this violates all sorts of security laws.
President Nixon: What-what do we do about it? Don't we ask for an-
Kissinger: I think I-I should talk to [Attorney General John N.] Mitchell.
President Nixon: Yeah.

No, Mr. Current President, this is not business as usual. This is not even the NSA sifting through e-mails and phone calls. This is giving Big Brother a desk in every federal agency and telling him to go to work.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Jun 23, 2013, 01:14 PM (138 replies)

This is why ALL liberals *should* oppose dragnet surveillance

Nashville_Brook note:

This is for those of us who are horrified at the "so what" response to the PRISM/Boundless Informant revelations.

We know that when people say "I assume my email is read," or that "my every move is logged," they're admitting tolerance and complicity to a form of totalitarianism that has a long and predictable history.

We also know it's not going to be different because of who holds office at this point in time. Indeed, these intelligence programs might even be beyond the control of an executive who is beholden to the most rarified ranks of the elite. Obama admitted as much when he passed the buck back to Congress during his remarkable comments on the subject Friday.

As this article points out, there's a LOGIC to state spying, and it's not what they're telling you. It's not about terror. Not exclusively. It's about keeping all of us pliant.

The very existence of such state spying apparatus is enough for MOST people to forgo any serious involvement in organizing against it. People fear losing their jobs, of having their secrets revealed, and of having their lives upended. People in this state of insecurity are not going to mount a serious campaign for Congress or the president to do anything...let alone give up the crown jewel of power: total surveillance.

The Logic of the Surveillance State

Liberalism, in its classic form, is, among other things, the proposition that you get more out of people if you treat them well. Conservatism is the proposition that you get more out of people if you treat them badly.



The problem with surveillance states, and with oppression in general, is the cost. This cost is both direct, in the resources that are required, and indirect in the lost productivity and creativity caused by constant surveillance. Surveillance states, oppressive states, are not creative places, they are not fecund economically. They can be efficient and productive, for as long as they last, which is until the system of control is subverted, as it was in the USSR. We forget, in light of the late USSR’s problems, that it did create an economic miracle in the early years, and tremendously boost production. Mancur Olson’s “Power and Prosperity” gives a good account of why it worked, and why it stopped working.


If you want despotism, as elites, if you want to treat everyone badly, so you personally become more powerful and rich, then, you’ve got two problems: an internal one (revolt) and an external one: war and being outcompeted by other nations elites, who will come and take away your power, one way or the other (this isn’t always violently, though it can be.) The solution is a transnational elite, in broad agreement on the issues, who do not believe in nationalism, and who play by the same rules and ideology. If you’re all the same, if nations are just flags, if you feel more kinship for your fellow oligarchs, well then, you’re safe. There’s still competition, to be sure, but as a class, you’re secure.

That leaves the internal problem, of revolt. The worse you treat people, the more you’re scared of them. The more you clamp down. This is really, really expensive and it breaks down over generations, causing internal rot, till you can’t get the system to do anything, no matter how many levers you push.

What is being run right now is a vast experiment to see if modern technology has fixed these problems with surveillance and opporessive states. Is it cheap enough to go full Stasi, and with that level of surveillance can you keep control over the economy, keep the levers working, make people do what you want, and not all slack off and resist passively, by only going through the motions? The oligarchs are betting that the technology has made that change... with the creation of a transnational ruling class, and with the ability to scale surveillance, it may be possible to take and keep control indefinitely, and bypass the well understood problems of oligarchy and police and surveillance states.

Posted by nashville_brook | Sun Jun 9, 2013, 10:21 AM (162 replies)
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