Monday, August 12, 2013

Mission Creep and the Surveillance State

Looks like the left hand is claiming it doesn't know what the right hand is doing in DC.  How's that Fast and Furious investigation anyway?  Crickets? Of course, but moving on.  Buried in the news is the fascinating revealation that the DEA was using NSA intercepts to figure out that people were committing crimes and then making up investigations to make it look like they just 'happened' to figure out that there was a lot of criminal activity going on.  This is known in the business as "developing PC after the fact".

You see it a lot when your cop instinct (known in legalese as 'relative experience') is screaming at you that something doesn't seem right about this scene.  So you make the stop, conduct the search, and discover the weed or meth or whatever, and write up some articulable facts and call it a day.  Whether or not those articulable facts are super duper relevant to the case is irrelevant; you found the drugs/guns/whatever and now you need to justify how you knew. However, since relative experience got short shrift in the 80s and has been that way ever since, you can't just say "I knew it looked bad" and expect to be taken at your word.

The problem with the DEA doing it is that it violates how our Constitution works shamelessly, and the worst part is they knew it was fucked.  As "The Twisted Genius" postulates here, this is serious creeping into tyranny if they're reading your emails looking for crimes and then inventing the investigation after fact.  His explanation on Madison's attitude is serious pro-read.  Sadly, you've been seeing this more and more in the investigations of today - a lot less boot leather and lot of "Oh well THIS SHIT IS TOO HARD" and cutting corners until they get caught.

Once they get caught, there's a lot of hemming and hawing and inevitably someone says "WELL WE'RE FIGHTING TERRORISTS", or stopping terrorists, or some bullshit like that.  This is fucking worrisome because laws regarding terrorists or terrorism are super duper viscious (unless they're immigration laws, as Boston demonstrated) and there's all sorts of extra-Constitutional double secret probation nonsense built in.  So if the scope of what constitutes 'terrorism' is broadened, its problematic.  Lazy Feds trying to turn everything into terrorism so they can just do whatever the fuck they want isn't police work, and it isn't 'to protect and serve'.  We swore an oath to the Constitution when we put on that badge, not to the SAIC demanding 'numbers!" or to our careers.  More of us need to remember that before we blacken our names further just so we can preen to the powers that be.


  1. I don't see how this genie gets put back in the bottle, ever.

    This is going to sound very radical, but I think the only solution is to take a lot of laws off the books. Make the list of activities that can get you arrested and convicted much smaller and limited to only serious offenses. Decriminalizing drugs and thus eliminating the associated gang activity and fevered law enforcement efforts would be a major component.

  2. I think a lot of the problem also is prosecutorial misconduct. Look at what happenened to Aaron Schwartz. Yes his entire attitude of 'information should be free' herp derp is goofy, but he was facing a massive jail sentence because how they nexus'd it so that he'd face 100 years in jail. Or hell, look at what happened to the Zimmer? There is no real prosecutorial oversight to prevent DAs from turning into petty tyrants leveling the resources of the State at their foes.

    I don't think you're going to put it back in the bottle either. We're going to go through the tyranny cycle that ends with a reset.

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  4. " We're going to go through the tyranny cycle that ends with a reset."

    I suspect you're right about that, though I don't see the reset happening any time soon. Maybe a generation or two out.