We have a huge topic this week: Our gigantic surveillance state and its oversight, or lack thereof. I have not been tracking the details of the many revelations of NSA programs and techniques that have emerged in recent months. I’ll try to get up to speed plus maybe Bruce or Jim know more. There are many possible angles to this topic, any one of which could be a whole meeting:
- What do we know about the nature/reach of the post-9/11 surveillance state?
- How has the surveillance state developed since 9/11; i.e., under what legal authorities (if any) is this being done ?
- How effective does it appear to have been at thwarting terrorism?
- Who is being harmed by it, such as innocent people’s privacy, slippery slope arguments, etc.?
I thought we’d try focusing a meeting on two questions:
- What do we currently know about what NSA has been doing in our names? And,
- Who, if anyone, is watching the watchers (oversight and control issues)?
Of course, we can discuss anything we feel like discussing, and I imagine people will also want to debate the broader issue of the tradeoffs between national security safety and privacy. For my part, I think we also should get into whether we should deny our intelligence agencies the technical tools (data mining, 3-D surveillance mapping, etc.) that other governments and even the private sector are starting to acquire.
I will open on Monday by briefly summarizing the nature of the surveillance state, based on recent revelations. Then, I’ll try to describe the oversight of these programs, keeping in mind two things: (1) I’m trying to catch up here on the basic facts, and (2) the super secrecy of this whole effort limits our ability to even know what is happening, much less if anyone is monitoring the monitors.
Links – [Sunday update: The most important links for you to read are now starred ***]
- Wiki explains 2013 revelations, plus the whole last decade’s worth, too. Just read the summary in the beginning, if you want.
- Or read:
- Who is watching the watchers:
- BTW, is all of this really such a big deal?
NEXT WEEK: Which Morals Should Be Taught in Our Schools? (Gale’s idea)