Surveillance state run amok: Another reason most decent people won’t run for public office

| August 25, 2013 | 1 Reply

What if you were a reasonably smart and good-hearted person who was willing to run for national political office? You most likely wouldn’t because of numerous financial, social and institutional hurdles, some of which I’ve described here. If you were undeterred by those hurdles, you would be somewhat likely to be a psychopath, and you shouldn’t be allowed to serve in a position of public trust.

But let’s say you were one of those rare people who was ready to persevere through all of these hurdles. Well, there would be one more hurdle for you, one that was described by Glenn Greenwald back in November 2012, well before the Edward Snowden Story broke. The situation was the affair of General Petraeus, particularly the vast invasion and public outing of his emails to and from Paula Broadwell. All of this occurred, courtesy of the security state in a situation where no crime had been alleged.

This is a disturbing example of how, at a push of a button, one’s emails are easily accessible, and that the surveillance state doesn’t give a crap about personal privacy. More recent revelations related to Edward Snowden’s disclosures indicate that the surveillance state grabs virtually all of our emails and stores them for later analysis, meaning that they are available to dissuade one from running for office whenever the surveillance state decides to promulgate the most private aspects of your life. Here’s is an excerpt from Greenwald’s description of this real life problem, illustrated by the affair of General Petraeus:

So all based on a handful of rather unremarkable emails sent to a woman fortunate enough to have a friend at the FBI, the FBI traced all of Broadwell’s physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They dug around in all of this without any evidence of any real crime – at most, they had a case of “cyber-harassment” more benign than what regularly appears in my email inbox and that of countless of other people – and, in large part, without the need for any warrant from a court.

But that isn’t all the FBI learned. It was revealed this morning that they also discovered “alleged inappropriate communication” to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now “on hold”). Here, according to Reuters, is what the snooping FBI agents obtained about that [emphasis added]:

“The U.S. official said the FBI uncovered between 20,000 and 30,000 pages of communications – mostly emails spanning from 2010 to 2012 – between Allen and Jill Kelley . . . .

“Asked whether there was concern about the disclosure of classified information, the official said, on condition of anonymity: ‘We are concerned about inappropriate communications. We are not going to speculate as to what is contained in these documents.'”

So not only did the FBI – again, all without any real evidence of a crime – trace the locations and identity of Broadwell and Petreaus, and read through Broadwell’s emails (and possibly Petraeus’), but they also got their hands on and read through 20,000-30,000 pages of emails between Gen. Allen and Kelley.

This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

Therefore, no matter who you are, even if you are a decent and intelligent person, the system has all but guaranteed that you won’t run for prominent public office. After all, if you have lived a real life, a meaningful life, you likely have at least a few skeletons in your closet. If you doubt this, go ahead and run for high political office and we’ll see what falls out.

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Category: Orwellian, Privacy, Secrecy, Spying

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    The IT term for cross referencing huge stores of data is “data mining”, and even if you lived an exemplary life, errant matches mined from sources can pop up.

    For example, In my case it may show connections with Ronald Reagan, Jim Jones, D.J. Qualls (a comedic actor), Don King and Rodney King. In fact, I have been acquainted with people having these names that were not the famous (or infamous ) persons associated with those names.
    Ronald Reagan was the younger brother of a high school classmate, Jim Jones was a college buddy. Don and Rodney King (not related to each other) are both singer/songwriters in Nashville, and D.J. Qualls was actually the father of the actor who lived a few houses away from me when I was 4 years old.

    Even in the event that no association with famous sounding names could be made, rest assured the spin doctors could twist any virtue into a vice.

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