Sheldon Richman on How Bureaucrats Deliberately Keep Us in the Dark

Even respected civil liberties groups are unsure whether bulk collection of phone metadata will really end with the passage of the USA Freedom Act.

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Yuri Yu. Samoilov/Flickr

Interested in what the USA Freedom Act will do? If so, you could try reading the actual text. It begins:

SEC. 101. ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS FOR CALL DETAIL RECORDS.

(a) Application.—Section 501(b)(2) (50 U.S.C. 1861(b)(2)) is amended—

(1) in subparagraph (A)—

(A) in the matter preceding clause (i), by striking "a statement" and inserting "in the case of an application other than an application described in subparagraph (C) (including an application for the production of call detail records other than in the manner described in subparagraph (C)), a statement"; and…

Well, you get the idea. It goes on that way for a hundred pages. Even respected civil liberties groups aren't sure that bulk collection of phone metadata will really end with the bill's passage. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) said, "So the bulk collection of everybody's phone records? As far as we can tell, this should end that." As far as they can tell? They spend all their time watching this stuff!

What's the moral here? Power thrives in complexity, just as roaches flourish in the dark, writes Sheldon Richman. Complexity raises political transaction costs and thereby reduces public scrutiny and resistance. And that's just how the politicians and bureaucrats like it. 

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