Thursday, August 08, 2013

Welcome to 1984, Winston

Several things happened recently, and it doesn't take a genius to draw connections and consequences from them:

1. Bradley Manning is facing a possible sentence of up to 90 years for leaking "sensitive data".
2. The NSA is allowing other law enforcement agencies to use its data for non-NSA business. And it's telling them to cover it up.
3. The TSA is now being used outside of airports, and claiming they have special exceptions allowing them to violate the probable cause protection in the 4th amendment to the US Constitution (also known as the Bill of Rights).

In his aptly named "Counterterrorism Mission Creep: When Everything Is Terrorism", Bruce Schneier says:
Once the NSA's ubiquitous surveillance of all Americans is complete -- once it has the ability to collect and process all of our emails, phone calls, text messages, Facebook posts, location data, physical mail, financial transactions, and who knows what else -- why limit its use to cases of terrorism? I can easily imagine a public groundswell of support to use to help solve some other heinous crime, like a kidnapping. Or maybe a child-pornography case. From there, it's an easy step to enlist NSA surveillance in the continuing war on drugs; that's certainly important enough to warrant regular access to the NSA's databases. Or maybe to identify illegal immigrants. After all, we've already invested in this system, we might as well get as much out of it as we possibly can. Then it's a short jump to the trivial examples suggested in the Atlantic essay: speeding and illegal downloading. This "slippery slope" argument is largely speculative, but we've already started down that incline.
Note that he doesn't say "if" the NSA achieves ubiquitous surveillance. It's "when".

He says "it's really bad." He's right. This is just the stuff we know about. It will get worse until and unless we the people do something about it.