Thursday, July 29, 2010

I still don't believe the Tea Party: Eavesdropping edition

I've long believed the Tea Party phenomenon is mostly about sore loserdom -- the people who've been taking to the streets and raising hell at Congressional town meetings these last 18 months say they're alarmed at deficits and runaway government spending. But they were nowhere to be found while those same things were getting started under George W. Bush.

The complaints of Tea Parties have, generally, fallen under the rubric of "tyranny." The Obama Administration is infringing on our freedoms, it is said, to a degree unimaginable outside of historically extreme circumstances. But really, I don't believe the Tea Partiers on this front, either. Why? Well, let's look at today's Washington Post:

The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual's Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.

Critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. "You're bringing a big category of data -- records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information -- outside of judicial review," said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.

I get -- even if I don't agree -- why Hayek-loving Tea Party folks think, say, slightly higher tax rates are a harbinger of a coming Orwellian world. What I don't get is their silence on the ability of government to reach into your private communications with fewer and fewer restrictions. (Read this for even more scariness.)

It could be that we'll suddenly see a spate of Tea Party criticism on this front -- but again, it'll be coming from people who were silent on this same subject during the Bush years. If they speak up now, they're hypocrites. And if they don't speak up now, well, they're hypocrites. Or maybe just extremely misguided: tyranny is not limited to merely economic matters, but our Tea Party friends don't seem to know that.

The shame of it is, if Tea Partiers accused the Obama Administration of enabling tyranny in this matter, I'd agree with them. As Kevin Drum posted: You know, if I'd wanted Dick Cheney as president I would have just voted for him."

In any case, it all boils down to this: I still don't believe the Tea Party.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald points out an ACLU report showing the Obama Administration is preserving the Bush Administration's worst civil liberties abuses. (Sigh.) Is Ralph Nader running in 2012?


KhabaLox said...

You should cross post this at Freedom Pub. :)

(Read this for even more scariness.)

Regarding this CIA/Google story, it may be that this is the tip of the iceberg, but the company they are talking about is crawling the web for freely available information, and then trying to algorithmically suss out the connections. That's fundamentally different (and less scary) than the government having access to my location data, search history, bookmark file, etc.

namefromthepast said...

To a point agree with you again Joel.

Not a tea party guy myself but Bush was wrong when it came to personal freedom. The civil liberties of Americans destroyed by Bush with the patriot act are unacceptable as with this affront to freedom.

I caution you not to buy into the idea that conservatives-be the Tea Party people or whoever-are defenders of all GWB policies.

Conservative folks were around and being critical during those years but there really wasn't much focus for those voices but even Salon picked up on it.(love the "rightwing" comments)

The motivation behind the Tea Party is Bush/McCain/RINO. If the Rep party tries to "adopt" the movement it will lose steam because there are too many softheaded Rep running the show.

Also I don't think there is a consensus behind the TEA party. They seem to be pretty loosely affiliated and some are trying to capitolize on the phenomenon so lumping the whole group together is unfair.