Ruminations on the NSA-Verizon datamining
From my 2001 book on the Waco tragedy, "This Is Not An Assault":
"To be sure, we have seen totalitarian governments before—the word, “totalitarian” deriving from the root, “total,” implying a political system whose philosophical aim is as near-total social control as it is possible to achieve. But one crucial factor has changed: in their most depraved visions for the domination of humanity, neither a Hitler, on the political right, nor a Stalin, on the political left, could have envisioned the totalitarian potential embodied in the computer, the microchip, or sophisticated microelectronics. “Do you have your papers?” is an outdated, hardcopy demand, in a world where the presentation of a driver’s license can automatically be reported to a central database, where the whereabouts of every employee in the nation is already online, and where your every banking transaction can be checked, in an automated instant, against a profile for your appropriate earnings and deposit patterns.
Let’s be blunt. We have created an Executive establishment which is capable, whenever it really wants to be, of violating the constitutional rights of its citizens, of shutting off (or co-opting) media investigation, and of shrugging off legislative oversight. This political force is capped by agencies’ own military detachments, their private Praetorian Guards, with internal loyalties and assault training. These micro-praetorian forces are beyond the control of any elected political establishment, indeed beyond the control of their own agency heads; at Waco, even the orders of the FBI director could not stop HRT from moving up tanks when it wanted to. This establishment represents sufficient power that a growing number of citizens are genuinely beginning (for the first time in recent history) to fear their own government.
. . . . . . .
If a government can violate the rights of citizens, with it being extremely unlikely that any one citizen or group of citizens can realistically wield the legal power that would permit timely redress of legitimate violations, then to the degree that this becomes the norm, such an organization is practically and functionally above the law, and society which it governs has become to some extent post-democratic in character. American democracy, after all, presupposed a society in which the people were independently minded, individually powerful, and (let us not forget) heavily armed—in a phrase, far more powerful, in potential terms, than the government they created. That is hardly the case today, and as the preconditions change, so does the resulting government."
I suppose a decent insight, for a dozen years ago....