Daniel Solove on the New FISA Law
From his blog:
Future presidents can learn a lot from all this—do exactly what the Bush Administration did! If the law holds you back, don’t first go to Congress and try to work something out. Secretly violate that law, and then when you get caught, staunchly demand that Congress change the law to your liking and then immunize any company that might have illegally cooperated with you. That’s the lesson. You spit in Congress’s face, and they’ll give you what you want.
The past eight years have witnessed a dramatic expansion of Executive Branch power, with a rather anemic push-back from the Legislative and Judicial Branches. We have extensive surveillance on a mass scale by agencies with hardly any public scrutiny, operating mostly in secret, with very limited judicial oversight, and also with very minimal legislative oversight. Most citizens know little about what is going on, and it will be difficult for them to find out, since everything is kept so secret. Secrecy and accountability rarely go well together. The telecomm lawsuits were at least one way that citizens could demand some information and accountability, but now that avenue appears to be shut down significantly with the retroactive immunity grant. There appear to be fewer ways for the individual citizen or citizen advocacy groups to ensure accountability of the government in the context of national security.
That’s the direction we’re heading in—more surveillance, more systemic government monitoring and data mining, and minimal oversight and accountability—with most of the oversight being very general, not particularly rigorous, and nearly always secret—and with the public being almost completely shut out of the process. But don’t worry, you shouldn’t get too upset about all this. You probably won’t know much about it. They’ll keep the dirty details from you, because what you don’t know can’t hurt you.