General Hayden's "Conscience"

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Former NSA head and prospective CIA director General Michael Hayden testified yesterday before the Senate Intelligence Committee that when he set up the various secret communications monitoring schemes he "consulted both his lawyers and his conscience when starting the program in October 2001." When asked how the program avoided abusing the civil liberties and privacy of citizens, he replied, "We have a very strict oversight regime." Oversight by whom? A federal court? Congressional committees? Not really. The "oversight" was apparently exercised by the yes-men at the NSA and the Justice Department.

In a therapeutic sense I'm happy for General Hayden that his conscience allows him to sleep well at night, but that's not enough for the rest of us and it shouldn't be for the U.S. Congress. The protection of the rights of U.S. citizens is not supposed to depend on the clean consciences of officials, but on the rule of law. Congress should pass whatever explicit legislation is needed to outlaw such secret surveillance or barring that, at least require that any such schemes pass constitutional muster in a Federal court and be overseen by appropriate full committees in the Senate and the House. General Hayden's clear conscience is simply insufficient.

NEXT: The Stability or Freedom Canard, Redux

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  1. Well well corporatarians. You all support the right of corporations to record every phone call and every browser url visited and profit from doing anything they want with it, am I right?

    Because the rights of corporate citizens are more important than the rights of regular citizens, who are after all, potential terrorists!

    You all never would do anything to upset your corporate masters, therefore you all have nothing to hide. Is that about it on this topic?

  2. And yet, I have no reason to fear corporate big-wigs will kick in my door and arrest me for calling them names.

    Can’t say that about the gubmint.

  3. amazinglydense: You absolutely personify Winston Churchill’s dictum: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

    So I take it that you think it’s OK for the benevolent government to spy on citizens? And when did those infinitely evil corporations start putting people in internment camps or raiding their homes?

  4. Panel 1

    Troll: I am suspicious of gov’t and don’t like it when they spy on my phonecalls.

    Statist: That is naive. You go back to your libertarian frenz.

    Panel 2

    Troll: I am suspicious of corporations and don’t like it when they spy on my phonecalls.

    Libertarian: You are amazing dense.

    Panel 3

    Troll (thought bubble): Nobody likes me and now I am sad.

  5. Well well corporatarians. You all support the right of corporations to record every phone call and every browser url visited and profit from doing anything they want with it, am I right?

    Because the rights of corporate citizens are more important than the rights of regular citizens, who are after all, potential terrorists!

    You all never would do anything to upset your corporate masters, therefore you all have nothing to hide. Is that about it on this topic?

    Wow, this is the finest effort yet from that room full of monkeys.

  6. well ron, given your corporate friendly stance on every other issue, I figured you would side with them on this one too.

    the government of bush is equivalent to government of, by, and for corporations. so apparently I predicted your stand on this issue correctly. this is just too easy.

  7. now do a cutesy nickname switch and deride that way! oops, already did that huh? hehehey.

  8. Still not seeing the connection between an administration completely ignoring the 4th Amendment and getting credit-card offers by phone.

    Care to explain more fully, amazingdrx?

  9. Ever heard of choicepoint’s redistricting with enron cash, ever heard of contractors in Iraq torturing cabdrivers?

    Ever heard of corporate security thugs stalking all over the planet, even in these USA? Listen to that corporatista thug Bo Dietel sometime.

    When your plan to turn the highways over to corporations comes to ftuition, Blackwater security contractors will be pulling drivers over and gitmoizing them.

    That’s just fine with you all though. Go chug some GMO pus filled milk you traitors.

  10. Wow, I was going to take a good natured swipe at Ron for this naive statement:

    “Congress should pass whatever explicit legislation is needed to outlaw such secret surveillance or barring that, at least require that any such schemes pass constitutional muster in a Federal court and be overseen by appropriate full committees in the Senate and the House”

    I mean, is there even any chance of this happening?

    But then I read the comments and I see that drx is conflating state contractors with the free market, and I wonder “what’s the point? I couldn’t possibly make the case against representative democracy any better than drx…”

  11. I am amazed. I can’t even see an actual argument in the good doctor’s posts, so I wouldn’t even know how to respond. Maybe one of the writers should create a left-wing loony-baiting thread just so Jersey and DrX (and any other visiting wackos from DU and DailyKos) can spout their boilerplate/nonsense at each other and everyone else can just watch. Bad thing is, though, those types of threads bring in the other loonies, so we’ll have to also watch people saying that Jesus has been watching America and boy is he getting pissed!

    It’d probably only be entertaining for about 5 minutes. Never mind.

  12. Still not seeing the connection between an administration completely ignoring the 4th Amendment and getting credit-card offers by phone.

    Here’s a for instance:

    Through an info mixup, you are denied a credit card. You go to investigate the mixup, but find out you have no way to know what info the credit denial is based upon and no way of knowing where the wrong info came from or what it was. You have no legal claim against the company because nobody owes you a credit card anyway and they can deny you one based on whatever faulty info they want.

    Here is another one:

    You go to get homeowner’s insurance and find that you are paying considerably more than other similarly situated people. You go to investigate the apparent pricing discrepancy, but find out you have no way to know what info the homeowner’s rates are based upon and no way of knowing what info the insurers were looking at when they set your rate. You have no legal claim against the company because nobody owes you homeowner’s insurance anyway and they can charge you more for whatever reason they want — even if it is just the fact that you attend a church where lots of black people go.

    Here is another one:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiquita_Brands_International

    Another one:

    In 1965 Nader released Unsafe at Any Speed, a study that illustrated fundamentally unsafe engineering of many American automobiles, especially those of General Motors. GM tried to discredit Nader, hiring private detectives to investigate his past and attempt to trap him in a compromising situation. Upon learning of this, Nader successfully sued the company for invasion of privacy, forced it to publicly apologize, and used much of his $284,000 net settlement to expand his consumer rights efforts. Nader’s lawsuit against GM was ultimately decided by the high Court of New York, whose opinion in the case expanded tort law to cover “overzealous surveillance”. Nader v. General Motors Corp., 307 N.Y.S.2d 647 (N.Y. 1970).

  13. Why not just cut to the chase and note that he flat out lied to Congress in 2002 and assured people that he was prohibited by FISA from ordering the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens on American soil?

    http://mediamatters.org/items/200605180017

  14. Quite the scenario there, amazingdrx. Sounds like some sort of anarcho-capatalist society of the near future… like William Gibson’s Sprawl.

    I only wish.

  15. Churchill had another saying that would apply to drx: “Don’t be an asshole. I already am one.”

  16. Dave,

    As bad as those are, I’ll still take them over getting shot, thrown in prison, or even just roughed up while having my house tossed by the S…er police.

    And, in every one of the instances you note, absent the state, you have discovered a niche market that you could make a profit off of. For example, where you can’t get insurance – you can get some backers and start an insurance company that will offer good rates to those who attend black churches. These people will flock to you, and in fact, you can build your whole brand by denigrating your racist competitor.

    Same with the credit card – open up a service that is transparent. Most people will prefer the transparency as a value in itself, and also you will gain market as you learn where you are misreading the market.

  17. This thread is already beyond all hope.

  18. DaveW, those are good examples of corporations behaving badly.

    Still doesn’t excuse the government from behaving criminally.

  19. Quasibill:

    Telling me that I can start my own credit card company or insurance company is the private sector equivalent of telling somebody that they can move to Russia and keep all the Gitmo detainees at their house.

    I mean I would rather be denied a gredit card than get the Ruby Ridge treatment, but really I think the credit card or insurance things are much more likely to directly affect my life than a rogue FBI investigation. Like I said in my hilarious cartoon above, I am concerned about both aspects and hope other libertarians can consider that maybe they should be too.

    DoctorRx should be nicer tho. Like I always say, you cure your sinuses better with local, unpasteurized honey than high fructose vinegar.

  20. Quasibill:

    Further to previous:

    Also, at least with the government there is a 4th amendment that one can fall back on. It may not always work, but sometimes it does.

    Compare this to the private side where there is no clear right to privacy — nothing akin to the 4th amendment. Instead we fall back on trust that competition happens in the insurance and credit card “markets.” (And when someone asserts that there is no competition in these “markets” we let them know that they are as krazay as Koresh.)

  21. Gitmoizing?

  22. “Telling me that I can start my own credit card company or insurance company is the private sector equivalent of telling somebody that they can move to Russia and keep all the Gitmo detainees at their house.”

    You’ve lost me there, Dave. I see nothing at all similar in those examples.

    In one, you, or someone like you, have the ability to become infinitely better off by supplying a desired service to others. For now, you just don’t have a claim to another’s labors. If anything, it’s a negative imposition on your liberty.

    In the other – well, I’m not even sure I understand what you were trying to say. But at the very least, if you are talking about people being unjustly imprisoned, that is a positive imposition on their liberty.

    And the 4th amendment, as it is currently understood and enforced, is worth as much as a piece of single-ply Charmin.

    The beauty of the market is that if you don’t like the way the corporation does business, you don’t have to do business with them. If enough people don’t agree, that corp goes out of business (absent state subsidies). On the other hand, as long as a vocal minority agrees with the state, it will take violence for the state to go out of business, and you are forced to support it and deal with it no matter what.

  23. amazingdrx: As long as you’re highjacking the thread to talk about something Ron didn’t bring up in his post, how do you feel about the infield fly rule?

  24. Suggestion to Hit&Run webmasters: put the commenter’s sig before the post, that way I can gloss over trolls.

    (I keep my web browser narrowed to a thin vertical column – being at work and all 🙂 – it just would be easier for lazy people like me to skip the crap)

  25. Quasibill:

    One good thing about following HnR this past year is that I have finally learned what positive and negative liberty are and why they are different.

    While I think the distinction between the types is coherent and has some pedagogical value, ultimately I think both types of liberty are important. For me, libertty questions devolve down to: how likely I (an average citizen with average levels of both virtue and vice) am going to be put into some unreasonable situation and exactly how bad will the bad situation be.

    Allowing the government to control too much data in a non-transparent way is bad. Allowing private corporations to control too much data in a non-transparent way is bad, IMO. Some people had doubts that bad consequences could attach in the later situation, so I presented 4 plausible examples to show the badness. I was gratified when some of the other posters admitted that the private sector badness was indeed bad.

    To attempt to justify why I don’t exempt positive liberty related badness from blame, it is because I am pragmatic. Same reason I came to Canada to get the socialized medicine: it is philosophically impure, but it makes me breathe easier and worry less in my real life.

    I think libertarianism would be a more popular philosophy among voters if the positive / negative liberty meme were dropped in favor of breaking up counterproductive concentrations of power wherever and whenever they occur. Of course that is something of a dissident view around here. I am not sure that I will have ultimate success in getting everybody to prioritize problems as I do, but I am hoping that my posting will, over the long run, make it clearer to some of the junior libers that being suspicious of the government does not mean that one has to don blinders when it comes to private sector injustices. That particular misperception seems rife here to me.

  26. I, for one, don’t see businesses or any private organization as all sweetness and light. Oppression could come and has come from such organizations. However, they strike me as an order of magnitude less threatening than government. Particularly a large and powerful government like we have in the U.S.

    On the other hand, I think there’s a certain tendency among some to think that corporations are some sort of bogey man, with all sorts of plans within plans within plans to manipulate and subjugate us. My experience is that they have trouble knowing what’s even going on within their own houses, let alone what’s going on in the larger world. As for planning anything, most publicly traded companies don’t look any further ahead than the next quarter.

  27. they strike me as an order of magnitude less threatening than government.

    A lot of this depends upon how much money you have. I am glad you have enuf such that the government is a bigger problem for you than, say, your employer or the credit bureau or your health insurer (or lack thereof). I think for the Chiquita employees their bigger problem was private control of information about the conditions of their confinement. But really, I don’t mean to drag you into the problems that poor people tend to have. Pragmatism means looking out for number 1 and pragmatism is what I am urging here.

  28. I’m sorry, Dave, I couldn’t read your last posting. My Russian slave girls were bathing me in my solid gold hot tub. Powered by burning money 🙂

  29. On the other hand, I think there’s a certain tendency among some to think that corporations are some sort of bogey man, with all sorts of plans within plans within plans to manipulate and subjugate us.

    My personal opinion isn’t that corporations are not some sort of boogeyman, but anything I wouldn’t want the government doing, I wouldn’t want any corporation doing either. Furthermore, it’s starting to seem like outsourcing to a private entity is a loophole that governments could use to be able to do things that they would, by law, be forbidden from doing directly.

    Look at the whole fiasco with the NSA surveilance. Without debating all the details of legality and whatnot, it seems that the general premise is :
    The government can’t compel a company to give them phone records, but they can ask nicely and the company can give or sell it to them “voluntarily”?

    That seems to defeat the whole purpose or forbidding the government from “forcing” them. They won’t force a company to do soemthing, but if they do comply with the request — who knows maybe some tax breaks and some trashing away of problematic regulations.

    Corporations are not people, and should not have the same rights as individuals. They are creations of the state, and their charters are regulated by the state, therefore, they should have to live up to the same standards and have the same restrictions placed upon them that the state does.

    I don’t see why that is so contraversial around these parts.

  30. I agree with everything in PL’s 11:16 AM post. I just get a laugh when folks like amazingdrx go off the deep end right from the get-go.

  31. I think there’s a certain tendency among some to think that corporations are some sort of bogey man, with all sorts of plans within plans within plans to manipulate and subjugate us. My experience is that they have trouble knowing what’s even going on within their own houses, let alone what’s going on in the larger world. As for planning anything, most publicly traded companies don’t look any further ahead than the next quarter.

    Pro Libertate has an excellent point that could be equally said about the government. The fact is, the government and corporations are both potentially powerful entities run by fallible humans who generally mean well but often do things in their own interest rather than in the public interest. Conspiracy theorists of all political stripes grant both way too much credit for cleverness.

    Incidentally, this is why I support some (low)level of government regulation of business probably more than most posters on here. It’s not that I think government knows best, it’s just that I think they can help keep some of the worst excesses of the corporations in check. Much the way Congress is supposed to keep the worst excesses of the executive in check.

  32. You’ve lost me there, Dave. I see nothing at all similar in those examples.

    Quasibill, to be fair to Dave W., I think he’s just saying that both statements are equally impractical. As in, it’s nice of you to tell me I can start a credit card company, but since I do not have the monetary means or knowledge to do so, it can’t happen in a practical sense.

  33. You corporatartians know I’m right, the main threat is from corporatism. Government coopted by corporate power. Those telecoms should not be allowed to collect that data on US. They are the danger to liberty.

    That’s what keeps think tank propaganda sites like this going. Big bucks for professional liars like ron and friends from corporatista slime.

    You weak minded shills follow along, hoping for some glory to rub off. It’s all about cash and becoming a member of the corporate jetset though. That ain’t gonna happen for you all.

    Poor shills, you all been hung out to dry with duuuhboy.

    Ron’s pseudo-science prattling for cash continues.

  34. verily, I think that both amazingdrx and the people shouting at him have missed the point entirely.

  35. verily, I think that both amazingdrx and the people shouting at him have missed the point entirely.

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