Thursday, August 1, 2013

Palpable Outrage in DC

Trey Smith

All of a sudden, lawmakers in both the House and the Senate are expressing outrage at the depth and breadth of the mass surveillance system. If nothing else, this proves that Edward Snowden's disclosures are vitally important. If there had been no disclosures of classified information, do you think we would be seeing this degree of outrage in the halls of Congress?

As some people have so aptly pointed out, many politicians simply are expressing outrage to score political points. Since polls indicate that the majority of Americans are not pleased with the wide scope of the NSA's programs, some of these politicians don't want to be viewed as coming down on the wrong side of the issue. So, they are jumping up and down now as a way of trying to convince their base of supporters that they have always taken such issues seriously and, by the way, since I'm fighting on your behalf, please remember that with your financial contributions during the next election cycle!

While I'm confident that a lot of this outrage is for little more than political show, I think some of it is genuine. My theory is that some of our elected representatives have figured out that the hoovering up of this vast trove of everybody's communications impacts them personally because they too are part of everybody. I think some of them have realized that they could be easily blackmailed into voting for or against almost anything because of information gathered that they may not want publicized to their colleagues and/or citizens at large.

This is not merely a personal issue either. It could greatly impact how we citizens view the workings of Congress. For example, when the Amash amendment was first broached, many pundits and supporters believed there were enough votes to pass it. As we all know, the measure was defeated by a very slim margin. It should make you wonder if some representatives changed their votes because of pressure applied based on private information they did want disclosed.

I certainly wouldn't put it past NSA officials or someone from one of the many corporations who spy for the government going to selected representatives and saying, "A funny thing happened last month while we were slurping up communications data. We ran across an instance when you said x or you did y. It's not the kind of thing I think your constituents would approve of. Gee, it would be a shame if this information was leaked to the press...if you get my drift."

In other words, elected officials have just as much to worry about as common folks like you and me. While these sorts of programs more typically are utilized for the powerful against the powerless, they can just as easily be utilized by one power faction against another.

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