Sunday, January 08, 2017

Obama's legacy: President Trump's surveillance

Rick Perlstein has a timely reminder that Obama's surveillance policies leave a tool potentially enormously useful for domestic political shenanigans in the hands of the authoritarian President-elect Donald Trump, He’s Making a List New Republic 01/02/2017

“Over the past two decades, we’ve witnessed the building of the greatest, most pervasive surveillance apparatus and security state that humanity has ever seen,” says Jon Stokes, co-founder of the news site Ars Technica and author of Inside the Machine. “Now we are about to hand over that entire apparatus to a paranoid, score-settling sociopath whose primary obsession seems to be with crushing his personal enemies.”
Perlstein makes this observation, relying on some psychological speculation based on what we know about both Nixon and Trump in the public record:

Nixon, unlike Trump, was an introspective man. In one particularly fascinating moment of self-reflection following his resignation, he described to a former aide the habits that had enabled him to rise to the top of Washington’s greasy pole. When you’re on your way, he explained, it pays to be crazy.

“In your own mind you have nothing to lose, so you take plenty of chances,” Nixon said. “It is then you understand, for the first time, that you have the advantage—because your competitors can’t risk what they have already.” That’s an insight that Trump put to good use during the Republican primaries, when he was willing to place high-stakes bets that his more experienced rivals were unwilling or unable to match.

But then you win, and your problems begin. “It’s a piece of cake until you get to the top,” Nixon confessed. “You find you can’t stop playing the game the way you’ve always played it, because it is a part of you and you need it as much as an arm and a leg. You continue to walk on the edge of the precipice, because over the years you have become fascinated by how close to the edge you can walk without losing your balance.”

What Nixon was describing sounds like nothing so much as a seasoned heroin addict chasing the next high: It takes bigger and bigger doses to get there, until too much is not nearly enough. And a little thing like being elected the leader of the free world isn’t nearly enough to jolt a man like Nixon or Trump into rehab.
And he warns at the end, "Revenge is a narcotic, and Trump of all people will be in need of a regular, ongoing fix. Ordering his people to abuse the surveillance state to harass and destroy his enemies will offer the quickest and most satisfying kick he can get. The tragedy, as James Madison could have told us, is that the good stuff is now lying around everywhere, just waiting for the next aspiring dictator to cop."

Then there's this from Jenna McLaughlin Donald Trump's Pick for Spy Chief Took Hard Line on Snowden, Guantanamo, and Torture The Intercept 01/07/2017. That nominee for to be the next Director of National Intelligence is Dan Coats, former Republican Senator from Indiana and an Ambassador to Germany for the Cheney-Bush Administration. (Noah Bierman, Donald Trump to pick former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats to lead intelligence agencies, transition official says Los Angeles Times 01/05/2017) Bierman reports:

Coats, who served on the Senate intelligence committee, may also face a challenge in reconciling his own hawkish views on Russia with Trump’s far friendlier posture toward President Vladimir Putin,

Coats was banned, along with Arizona Sen. John McCain and a handful of other members of Congress and White House officials, from entering Russia in 2014 for backing U.S. sanctions against the country following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region of Ukraine. ...

Coats also spent years as a lobbyist between 2000 and 2010, working on behalf of a variety of clients in defense, pharmaceuticals, financial services and private equity, among other industries, according to public records. His clients included Lockheed Martin, a company Trump recently criticized for the high price of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Trump ran against Washington’s revolving-door lobbying culture, using “drain the swamp” as a prominent slogan. Yet he has chosen several former lobbyists for senior positions in his administration.

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