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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Who watches the watchers? It really ain’t that simple…

There is an article in The Guardian by Paddy Ashdown that falls at the first fence… i.e the tagline at the very top…

NSA surveillance: who watches the watchers? It’s not the widening of state intrusion that’s wrong, but the weakening of the safeguards that should be there to protect us

No that is the key error. It is not the lack of safeguard that is the issue, it is the huge amount of power in the hands of the state. It is indeed the widening of state intrusion that is wrong because there are simply no ‘safeguards’ that can stop the abuse of that amount of power by whoever currently controls the political process.

As has been said before, this is not a “left vs. right” issue, it is a “top vs. bottom” issue. NO ONE and NO INSTITUTION can be trusted with that kind of power. Ashdown is one of the people at the top, there is simply no way for him to understand.

19 comments to Who watches the watchers? It really ain’t that simple…

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

  • Edward Smith

    This is off topic, but I am curious … when I look at my History tab, visits to Samizdata don’t show up. What is Samizdata doing that other sites are not?

    (Editor: It shows up for me using Firefox or Chrome just fine, Edward)

  • James Waterton

    And it seems contradictory. Obviously “safeguards” will need to be wound back if widening of state intrusion is going to be effective.

  • James Waterton

    And the “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you’ve got nothing to fear” argument is rearing its ugly head again. Yeah, tell that to the shareholders and deposit holders of the perfectly solvent Icelandic bank driven to collapse because Gordon Brown disgracefully confiscated its assets by activating the anti-terror laws. Why? Because another Icelandic bank had gone under and Brown wanted to compensate the British depositors with someone’s – anyone’s – money.

  • Lee Moore

    I’m afraid I didn’t even get to the first fence, I refused. As soon as Perry mentioned Paddy Ashdown. Difficult to imagine a more relentlessly self important prat.

  • Tedd

    Edward, Samizdata was probably expunged from your history log by the NSA.

    Paddy Ashdown looks like he could be the killer on an episode of Midsomer Murders. He doesn’t happen to drive a German car, does he? I watch enough British TV to know that bad guys over there drive German cars.

  • Mr Ed

    If you’ve done nothing wrong…., no one has any business knowing what you are doing.

  • Note Paddy Ashdown fails to declare an interest here – he is a former MI6 officer.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    In physics, observation is all-important. If nothing is observed, does it exist?
    Therefore, Government is fullfilling its’ prime mission of ensuring your existence, as well as your survival! You should be thanking the NSA and all the spy agencies, or you wouldn’t exist!

  • Laird

    I agree, Perry. It is precisely “the widening of state intrusion” that is wrong. Simply stated, the government has no business gathering that kind and quantity on information on the general public. Furthermore, those putative safeguards are irrelevant because they (a) are secret and so necessarily unverifiable; (b) are almost certainly insufficient; (c) no matter how well-intentioned (yeah, right!) must be implemented by fallible and corruptible humans; and (d) will inevitably be watered down, riddled with exceptions-of-convenience, and ultimately ignored altogether. The only safeguard (and even that is imperfect, as history has repeatedly proven) is our insistence upon absolute and rigid adherence to the Constitutional (4th Amendment) protections of judicially-issued warrants issued only upon a true showing of probable cause. Which, of course, means repeal of much of the USA Patriot Act, the FISA act, and various other implementing and supporting laws, regulations and court rulings.

  • Laird

    Nick, I am not a quantum particle; I can “observe” myself into continued existence quite satisfactorily, thank you very much.

  • Laird

    Slightly off-topic (I think), but it appears that those “safeguards” Ashdown cites apparently include exempting mosques from data capture and even surveillance. Hardly surprising, as we can’t possibly “profile” those who have committed all of the recent terrorist acts in the United Stats when boarding airplanes, etc.

  • It is indeed a top vs. bottom issue, and far from not understanding this Ashdown understands it all too well. This is earwash for the little people.

  • Quite. Should the state turn nasty, the safeguards will be brushed aside as easily as breadcrumbs. The protection is not to have this apparatus in place in the first place.

  • Johnnydub

    re: Laird – Mosque Exemptions

    I Don’t know – the older I get the more Wacky I seem to be getting…

    But it seems to me that Islam is doing what Islam does – the powers that be are using it to drive the “divide and conquer” strategy and to justify the ridiculous amount of snooping it wants to do.

    It’s also why the establishment is so afraid of the EDL – sooner or later those numbskulls are going to realise that it’s not muslims that are the problem per se – it’s the establishment. If you want to see what one motivated evil bastard can do when this penny drops – look at Brevik…

  • Andrew Duffin

    “Paddy Ashdown fails to declare an interest here – he is a former MI6 officer”

    Is he? Really?

    I tend to regard “former MI6 officers” the same way I regard “former SAS members”, that is, anyone who claims that distinction openly is almost certainly a fake and a blowhard.

  • Pardone

    Microsoft’s sinister and yet laughable XBox One (the NSA’s wet dream) has rightly been treated with the contempt it deserves, and embodies the awesome arrogance and stupidity of the Corporatist Nexus.

    It is amusing that whereas the Japanese companies respect the rights of the consumer, it’s Steve Ballmer and his goons who want to control everything you do with a thing you bought and should therefore own.

  • RAB

    I thought Paddy was in the SBS, not MI6?

  • Richard Thomas

    The whole thing is a symptom of government viewing people as property to be inventoried and cataloged.