So. Given what we’ve learned in the past few days, and bearing in mind what we may learn in the days ahead, what do you imagine as our best and worst case scenarios in terms of a path forward? How do you see all of this playing out in the near and distant future?
1. Best case scenario, public outcry grows, and politicians feel pressured to put protections into the law that require probable cause for individualized warrants, and prohibit the blanket kind of surveillance that’s been used by the administration. The FISA court is changed in some way that makes it an actual check on potential abuse. Perhaps the Supreme Court is permitted to review all FISA judgments in camera in some kind of audit for abuse.
2. Worst case scenario, most of the public never cares about the surveillance. Other stories push the issue from the news, and the government continues to amass large amounts of private information concerning all citizens. The FBI starts to access this information for non-terrorist cases. Other government agencies do the same. The IRS checks your online purchases. The EPA monitors purchases of materials that might pollute. Those who express controversial opinions or visit controversial websites are watched. Rogue government employees access private data for their own person gain—selling it to interested parties, blackmailing people engaged in extramarital affairs, stealing identities. You’ll come home from work to find that your home has been ransacked by a SWAT team pursuant to a warrant issued by a secret court for unspecified reasons.
I fear that that the most likely outcome is closer to 2 than 1. Consider how crazy the drug war has become—the massive amounts of money spent to fight it, the increasingly militarized local police forces that enforce prohibition, the asset forfeiture laws that take private property from innocent citizens without any due process, and the massive incarceration of millions of people for extraordinarily long periods of time. At the beginning of the drug war, you’d be laughed at for suggesting that this would happen. But it did, because people just didn’t care, and drugs were scary. Terrorism is scarier than drugs, so you can imagine how that’s going to play out.
(reposted for reblogging)