Part 1 – Is the U.S. an Authoritarian Information State?

Given the corroborated data in prior posts and utilizing Jack Balkin’s framework, the U.S. can clearly be considered well into if not all the way into the Authoritarian Information State classification. While classified information has been leaked and the government has confirmed the legitimacy of the documents, what is most disconcerting is what we still do not know about the U.S. government’s actions. The U.S. government has sixteen different intelligence agencies, the probability of another program that is just as potent, or even worse, more potent than “prism” leaves a lot of reasonable suspicion on the table in favor of the Authoritarian classification argument.  However, the U.S. could go a long way to exonerate itself by disclosing more previously classified information and programs for the picture to fully crystallize.

The probability of the U.S. Government taking those actions in a meaningful way is low. In a political time period of vitriolic partisanship in U.S. politics, the National Surveillance issue has brought many liberals and conservatives together in a harmonious chorus in favor of these powerful surveillance programs. This change in political behavior speaks to the power these systems wield for the governance apparatus, regardless of political affiliation.  The NSA can lie about its activities to Congress with impunity. (155)  The CIA can spy on the Senate Oversight Committee with impunity too.(156) The CIA can engage in torture with impunity as well.(157)  On August 25th, 2014 it was revealed the National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.(158) It really begs the question of  whether the U.S. government is in the business of providing security for its own people, or security for itself.  I will begin to address this question in Part 2 of this blog.

Senator Barack Obama chastised the Bush/Cheney administration for putting in place programs, laws, and technologies in response to the terrorist events that occurred during their administration. He said these programs destroy the notion of civil liberties and the Constitution. When Senator Obama became President Obama his tune drastically changed, in fact we now see that he not only embraced the programs he once called illegal and unconstitutional and expanded them even further and utilized them for reasons beyond the reasonable scope of “terrorism”. In fact, President Obama in addressing the U.S. Naval Academy graduation on May 24th, 2013 stated the war on terror is on the decline. If the war on terror is on the decline, then why is this President and Congress passionately pushing forward and expanding surveillance and intelligence programs under the auspice of national security against terrorism? Prior to becoming president and a U.S. Senator, Obama was a Columbia University and Harvard Law School educated Constitutional law professor; pleading ignorance in this case for him may not be bliss. History is an excellent teacher in this situation.

President Barack Obama shares a similarity with another world leader from a previous time in world History, Britain’s King George II during the time he ruled over the American colonies right before the American Revolution. To illuminate the similarity lets first take a brief trip in history because the historical context is paramount to today’s future for the United States. First, let me define an important legal instrument created and used by King George II called a “Writ of Assistance” in the next post.

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