November 15, 2014

Team Obama is now at snooping squared — the neoliberal Panopticon

The New York Times reports that NSA warrantless wiretapping is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg that Dear Leader is inflicting on us.

We've got such overkill we're now like the Tsarist Okhrana in the last years before World War I. Here’s your nut graf:
Across the federal government, undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency, law enforcement officials said. In a few situations, agents have even drawn their weapons on each other before realizing that both worked for the federal government.

None of this surprises me out of Obama, who seems to be combining a neoliberal version of a nanny state in some ways with a neoliberal version of a kinder, gentler Panopticon in others.

And, as the next two grafs after that note, sometimes, it's three federal agencies. Even worse, with the trickle-down militarization and related things happening to state- or local-level law enforcement, the snooping is there, too:
“There are all sorts of stories about undercover operations gone bad,” Jeff Silk, a longtime undercover agent and supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview. “People are always tripping and falling over each other’s cases.” 
Mr. Silk, who retired this year, cited a case that he supervised in which the D.E.A. was wiretapping suspects in a drug ring in Atlanta, only to discover that undercover agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were trying to infiltrate the same ring. The F.B.I. and the New York Police Department were involved in the case as well.
OK, as a civil libertarian liberal, tell me, "right or wrong" Democrats — why would I vote for any 2016 presidential candidate of yours who doesn't immediately repudiate this, and sound sincere in doing so?

I'm of course talking first and foremost about one "Clinton, Hilary." 

As for the neoliberal angle? Most neoliberalist thought is about making the government more efficient, with market standards, but ... that's only true until it's not:
Most federal agencies declined to discuss the number of undercover agents they employed or the types of investigations they handled. The numbers are considered confidential and are not listed in public budget documents, and even Justice Department officials say they are uncertain how many agents work undercover. 
But current and former law enforcement officials said the number of federal agents doing such work appeared to total well into the thousands, with many agencies beefing up their ranks in recent years, or starting new undercover units. An intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the agency alone spent $100 million annually on its undercover operations. With large numbers of undercover agents at the F.B.I. and elsewhere, the costs could reach hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
In short, this is all black box budgeting, just like the CIA, but spreading. Actually, the costs probably reach billions a year. With no guarantee of results — other than, of course, the "results" of manufactured cases, entrapment (even if never provable in court), and likely, some "quota" system of arrests and charges now in place at many of these agencies. 

On the entrapment issue? Just because former FBI head Bob Mueller says it hasn't won in court doesn't mean that entrapment isn't happening. Since 9/11, if the charge is "terrorism," a federal prosecutor can not only indict a ham sandwich before a grand jury, he or she can get a trial jury to give it 5 to 10 in the federal pen.

And, I'm sure that departing AG Eric Holder, just like his Bushie predecessor Alberto Gonzales, signed off on any legal questions.

Unfortunately, GOP senators who grill Obama's nominee to replace him, Loretta Lynch, will for the most part do so only for political theater, not for real concern. There's a few exceptions, but not many.

And, as for getting any of this declared unconstitutional in today's climate?
At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.
Given that the chief justice, John Roberts, oversees all aspects of the federal judiciary, surely he's not ignorant about this. 

No comments: