Thoughts: Expansion of US State Surveillance Powers & What’s Next


It has been 9 months since producing my last post; that gap of time was spent thinking about and digesting the contentious US election cycle.  During this period there have been additional examples of how the US government has utilized and expanded its surveillance powers. But in the waning days of the Obama administration, the most egregious example came up and worthy of writing about thanks to AG Loretta Lynch.

N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications

The Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The implication is that all of the US intelligence and law enforcement agencies will be receiving raw surveillance data on US citizens and each agency will be responsible for minimizing the data for American citizens.  This only increases the risk of abuse by the National Security State but falls within the methods the Obama administration has used to expand the power of the state.

Methods to Maintain Legitimacy:

1) Circumvention of the traditional guarantees enshrined in the  Bill of Rights

2) Law enforcement & bureaucratic agencies supporting  the parallel paths of law

3) Private power & private/Public cooperation (Conscription of Private power)

What’s Next: Post Election Work

Almost needless to say at this point, the election of Donald Trump has drastically changed the nature of U.S. Governance.  I believe the time period between election and inauguration provided a myriad of examples of how the political, national security, and media establishment in the U.S  (The Religion of State Power) react when their legitimacy is challenged.

Now that Donald Trump is the President of the United States and has been labeled many things, the most common being an authoritarian populist, my next piece of work will be focused on finding a meaningful definition of what populism is and whether it fits the new POTUS or perhaps the previous one.  A key challenge with finding a working definition of populism to utilize as a framework is that the term “populism”is used semantically as short-hand for any political movement, but there are some key indicators for meaningful analysis.  Stay tuned.

Happy New Year! Lots to be excited about!

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