Friday, January 10, 2014

Christie with access to NSA? YIKES!!!

Someone finally made the argument I was expecting to hear as soon as this Chris Christie scandal broke.
...consider such an apparatus [NSA] under a President Chris Christie. If Christie's thugs will shut down a bridge to punish a Democratic mayor for not supporting Christie's re-election, imagine what they would do with access to NSA spying data on Democratic members of Congress. That's the bigger lesson here.

The Chris Christie scandal is important on multiple levels. And one of those levels is what it tells us about the danger of the NSA's vacuum spying.
Yeah, the thought crossed my mind. It scares the bejeesus out of me. But lets break it down a bit more, shall we?

What we know is that NSA stores metadata on every phone call made in the U.S. - including those of members of Congress. In order to get access to the content of those phone calls, NSA must demonstrate that they meet search criteria that adhere to the guidelines set by the FISA Court. So if a potential future President Christie were to attempt to get access to the content of phone calls made by members of Congress, that would be illegal.

We have to acknowledge that previous presidents have done things that are illegal. Of course Nixon comes to mind. He eventually resigned rather than face a Senate decision to remove him from office for doing so. And for most of us, the Bush/Cheney administration's use of torture was clearly illegal according to both national and international law.

What we learn from this is that laws don't always stop presidents from doing illegal things. In the coming months there will be an investigation into whether or not Christie has already crossed the line of doing something illegal in order to punish his political opponents. If it comes to that, not only will he forfeit any chance of being elected president, he's likely to lose his governorship.

But beyond all that the real question this raises is the extremely fuzzy one about the role of trust in electing politicians. Sure, we can do more to craft laws and policies that will reduce the possibility that a future president will misuse the NSA. But we're fooling ourselves if we think that would stop a vindictive sociopath from crossing the line...been there, done that. The only thing we have to guard against it not happening again is to not elect the bastards in the first place.


  1. It is really odd when the technology is blamed for inappropriate and unlawful activity. The ability to collect metadata and to remotely pilot an aircraft are not evils unto themselves. Blaming these things denies human agency to the degree that it's a wonder how emotarians on the left and right assume that given a chance to misuse technology they will, as if people were controlled and compelled by instruments. It's actually a dehumanizing philosophy.

  2. I'm leaning toward the excellent work the Maddow team did in sussing out the real reason for punishing Fort Lee as more plausible than it being about the Mayor. Haven't seen anyone yet show that what Christie's aide did was illegal. Not at all convinced that Christie won't survive this. I think he finds a way to come out the other end of all this even stronger and the GOP base will love him for punishing Dems. But yeah, the idea of a Christie Administration is wicked scary and not at all just because he would have access to the NSA.

    1. I think I disagree, Tien Le. What he did - or permitted staff to do - was impede public traffic on a public facility for political reasons. That is illegal. I suspect one or more of his staff will roll over on him, because they did nothing without his consent and direction. Then no - he will not survive because Republicans were using that bridge, too. If it is proven he knew and permitted or directed the lane closings, he cannot survive that.

    2. I finally did read something that said what they did was illegal, both violating State and Federal laws. Even still, someone else will burn for this, not Christie. There is a reason why a TV character like Olivia Pope is shown as so successful...damage control works in most cases.