The national security state, unrestrained

Last week a French historian who specializes in the Holocaust was detained and interrogated for more than ten hours at George Bush Intercontinental Airport by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

ICE agents have been conducting lots of raids lately. The NSA, presumably, is continuing its vast collection activities. The FBI is presumably continuing to sortie its flying dirtboxes. The Ring of Steel still encompasses Lower Manhattan, and now must cover most of New York City. It’s likely that even your encrypted communications are vulnerable to the great American national security state.

We don’t have to worry about the Deep State sabotaging Trump. We have to worry about the American national security state rallying around the neo-fascist Trump Administration and supporting and defending it.

Many of the people who join these institutions may be best described as “law and order conservatives.” They seem to welcome the order to take the gloves off.

They’re happy to detain a Holocaust scholar at the airport and threaten him with immediate deportation. They’re thrilled to be able to once again surveil mosques and innocent American citizens with impunity. They love the dopamine rush as the door splinters under the force of the battering ram as they rush in to deport 12 year old “illegals.”

The FBI once tried to blackmail Martin Luther King into suicide. They wrote him a letter.

A highlight:

No person can overcome the facts, no even a fraud like yourself. Lend your sexually psychotic ear to the enclosure. You will find yourself and in all your dirt, filth, evil and moronic talk exposed on the record for all time. . . . Listen to yourself, you filthy, abnormal animal. You are on the record…

King, there is only one thing left for you to do. You know what it is. You have just 34 days in which to do it (this exact number has been selected for a specific reason, it has definite practical significance). You are done. There is but one way out for you. You better take it before your filthy, abnormal fraudulent self is bared to the nation.

The FBI’s surveillance powers today are much greater than they were in 1964. Today’s national security capabilities make the methods of COINTELPRO look like the dawdling gameplay of schoolboys playing at spies.

Presidents George W. Bush and Barrack Obama built these capabilities to fight radical Islamic terrorism. They authorized the flying dirtboxes, the mass compromise of SSL, the blurring of the Constitutional lines. The Bush Administration famously tried to get an ailing John Ashcroft to authorize illegal domestic espionage from his hospital bed. Ashcroft refused.

But the programs did not stop. The capabilities were not rolled back. We know this.

The great threat of these programs was always this: they might fall into the wrong hands. You might trust George W. Bush to use them appropriately. You might trust Barrack Obama to use them appropriately. You are unlikely to trust Trump to use them appropriately.

President Trump refers to the media as the enemy of the people. This is an odd choice of words for an American president. As the Times writes:

“The formula ‘enemy of the people,’” Mr. Khrushchev told the Soviet Communist Party in a 1956 speech denouncing Stalin’s cult of personality, “was specifically introduced for the purpose of physically annihilating such individuals” who disagreed with the supreme leader.

An American president is now using a Stalinist phrase that is designed for “annihilation” to describe the free press of the United States of America. And this man sits at the top of a national security infrastructure so vast and so powerful that it makes the capabilities of the NKVD, the KGB, the Stasi, the Gestapo or even the FBI of 1964 look like child’s play.

The modern American panopticon can peer into every living room, every phone call, every “encrypted” e-mail and sext. We are now relying on the ethics of the men and women leading our law enforcement and national security apparatus to protect us.

The Trump Administration is unlikely to restrain the national security state from investigating its enemies, or the enemies of the people. We are relying on the FISA Court to protect us and on the intelligence community to respect the law and use the FISA Court.

Unfortunately the Obama Administration already gutted the FISA Court:

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court is no longer serving its constitutional function of providing a check on the executive branch’s ability to obtain Americans’ private communications. Dramatic shifts in technology and law have changed the role of the FISA Court since its creation in 1978 — from reviewing government applications to collect communications in specific cases, to issuing blanket approvals of sweeping data collection programs affecting millions of Americans.

Under today’s foreign intelligence surveillance system, the government’s ability to collect information about ordinary Americans’ lives has increased exponentially while judicial oversight has been reduced to near-nothingness.

This is where the battle must be fought. In the courts and in Congress. We must find a way to deny Trump unfettered use of the national security state to pursue his enemies, to blackmail them, to silence them. This is the most dangerous possible future of American government. This is the dystopia we invited.

We allowed the tools to be built. We have allowed them to fall into the wrong hands. We must now act before it becomes too late.