An interesting article about Sen. Ron Wyden, normally a thoughtful liberal Senator, but more recently one providing the liberaltarian outrage machine with as much fodder as possible, mostly along with Tom Udall, Mark Udall and Jeff Merkley.
I want to bring it to people’s attentions because of how interesting it is that Wyden has actual proposals out there. Normally the liberaltarian strategy is to act like government is some mad dog-warmongering-leviathan-behemoth that cannot be fundamentally changed by any method short of abolition, so Wyden’s quaint notion that some good laws will fix this problem needs to be encouraged and nurtured somehow, if you look at it from that perspective. Oddly, he does not seem to think that someone in the “secret government” will have him cacked for thinking he can pass a reform law in Congress. Kind of a throwback, really.
I’ve commented earlier on a list of ACLU-supported reforms, so you may already know what I think about the sensibility of some of these proposals. But in any case, here’s what I think of Wyden’s.
“End bulk collection of Americans’ communications records”: Unless he proposes to make those records illegal for the communications companies themselves to collect, I oppose this. This is liberaltarian BS. If merely collecting these records is bad, then not only the government should have to stop doing it, but so should Verizon and so should Facebook. If that’s not Wyden’s intention here, then I assume he’s only upset about bulk communication record collections when government does it for law enforcement purposes, rather than private industry doing it to sell you stuff. Zero support for this loser initiative, which is distinctly non-liberal, and which empowers right-wing anti-government zealotry.
“Limit the legal authority for the PRISM program”: Again, this is liberaltarian BS. Again, the standard is that government can’t compel private industry to turn over this information for the common good, but private industry can keep it and use it for the good of the corporation. This is also non-liberalism and a thumbs-up to radical right-wing narratives that are deeply destructive to the US and the world.
“Reform the secret surveillance court”: Okay, now we’re talking. This should be the main focus. There’s no reason we can’t know more about how this court functions, and indeed, it’s vital that we do, because anti-government paranoia is a block not only to vitally needed reforms, but also, in truth, to any proper conception of real national security – not only for the US but its allies as well. Surely this can be agreed upon by both Obama’s allies and his opponents. Though I’m increasingly not sure which Wyden is, that doesn’t matter here. Let’s get it done.
“Increase transparency”: Again, this is vital. The American people need to believe that any secrecy maintained by intelligence agencies is necessary and serves a vital collective interest. The suggestion Wyden provides is that companies should be allowed to disclose when they are helping intelligence agencies. Okay, that will help. The government should have to go to companies and say “We require this information because we’re hunting terrorists”, and companies should be allowed to comment on this (while still complying with the law to give the information), because that gives ordinary people an opportunity to comment on it as well. Part of what created all the hoo-hah is that people could claim, in a loud voice, that the government was not only filching this private data but doing it in secret. It would be _much_ better to say the government openly stated it requires this data, and openly expects private industry to comply.
So that’s two-for-two. Two BS proposals, two proposals I would gladly advance. I raise a skeptical eye in Ron Wyden’s direction, but I always prefer real proposals in a real democratic forum to no-proposals-at-all from the starve-the-government crowd.