Societies that spy on their own citizens are always on the way out. If the bond of trust between governor and governed has shattered to the point that the government cannot trust its citizens without having to eavesdrop on them, or citizens can’t trust their government to administer national affairs without putting, as a Russian noble said in response to Nicholas I’s version of FISA “inspectors in [their] soup,” then something has gone horribly wrong.
Granted, in the long span of human history, this sort of thing isn’t unusual, not even in US history. For instance, FDR censored the media in WWII, Abraham Lincoln had more than a few despotic traits in the Civil War, and John Adams did the same in the time of the Quasi-War. There’s a few small differences between those eras and now, however. In Adam’s day, the US was a newborn nation with a large nationalistic minority screeching for a war that would have smashed it to bits, and was in severe danger of its life. In the Civil War, the South had attempted to form its own nation and balkanize North America, another severe threat to the US’s way of life. In WWII, the US was fighting the Germans and the Japanese, the former a foe that had it had a leadership with an actual brain in its head instead of raging ideologues, it could have smashed up all Europe and ultimately destroyed any pretense of liberty worldwide.
In Bush’s era, there is no threat to the US’s existence. The much-maligned Salafis and Wahhabis couldn’t form a group, if all of them united, the size of a US brigade, much less the sheer size of the globally-distributed US Army. They use weapons in all likelihood pilfered from a dead Russian from the Afghanistan invasion of the 1980s (and in twenty years, assuming all goes well for China (no guarantees), they’ll be using weapons taken from a dead American. What goes around, comes around.) The entire armed Salafi movements could not take and hold a city the size of Bozeman, Montana, much less a huge nation like the US.
So, an idea like this is unworkable geopolitically.
Another reason FISA fails as logic is that in a nation the size of the US, any would-be movement dedicated to the overthrow of the US government would not be always using the Internet or phone lines. Too many opportunities, too much useful terrain all across the US to hide. The government spying on phone lines fails, and even a US government souped up to the strength of the Tsars, much less the Soviet government would implode from the sheer strain of maintaining autocracy in a region the size of the US with all the different terrains and paranoia already present among certain sections of the population. It would fail on these reasons.
No to FISA. Yes to a sane, rational United States.
Filed under: FISA Fiasco