Monday, June 18, 2012

A Minor Musing About Expanding Government Power

The local blogosphere on both the right and the left is hashing out Obama's immigration executive order; the local tea party is concerned about the rising numbers of corporations that are being crucified.  After all, some on the far right believe corporations are people whose life begins at the moment of incorporation.

The imperial presidency is a perpetual danger.  I wish the right had expressed more concern about the abuse of executive orders when George W. Bush expanded their use.  I also wish the tea party folk were more concerned about torturing actual human beings rather than the use of a hyperbolic metaphor about a corporation.

Meanwhile, both ends of the political spectrum should be worried about the government's seemingly insatiable demand for citizens' data.  Forbes reports,
In the second half of 2011, Google received 6,321 requests that it hand over its users’ private data to U.S. government agencies including law enforcement, and complied at least partially with those requests in 93% of cases, according to the latest update to the company’s bi-annual Transparency Report that it planned to release Sunday night.
That’s up from 5,950 requests in the first half of 2011, and marks a 37% increase in the number of requests over the second half of 2010, when Google received only 4,601 government requests and complied to some degree with 94% of them. And compared with the 3,580 requests for its data it received from U.S. agencies in the second half of 2009, the first time Google released the request numbers, the latest figures represent a 76% spike.
More alarmingly, the article continues, "Whether firms like Facebook, Microsoft, Comcast, AT&T and others have seen a parallel rise in requests can’t be determined."

Other governments are also increasing their requests for data:
Total government requests for users’ data from outside the U.S. have also been increasing steadily, spiking sharply to 11,936 in the second half of 2011 compared with 9,600 in the same period last year and 8,959 in the second half of 2009. And the number of foreign requests may be growing even faster than they appear to. Because mutual legal assistance treaties allow some countries to pass on their requests through U.S. government agencies, some portion of those foreign requests are lumped together with the U.S. requests.
Google has a far lower rate of complying with foreign requests, however. It only fulfilled 64% of U.K. requests and 45% of German requests, for instance, and complied with none of the requests from Russia or Turkey.
Most of these requests probably claimed the information was necessary for national security, so the political right will smile, nod, and go along with these warrantless searches even though those information requests are as unconstitutional abusive executive orders.  Pat Buchanan had a broken clock moment when he asserted that the U.S. should be a republic not an empire.  Critics of a President as emperor should should be vigilant and condemn all imperial actions even if the actions institute policies the critics support.

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