Nobody held out a lot of hope that Donald Trump would reel in the U.S. surveillance state, but if his picks for attorney general and CIA director provide any indication, we may see a massive expansion of American spying in the Trump era.
I recently pointed out that Trump will soon get the keys to the world’s most powerful spy network. Even before these most recent appointments, privacy advocates worried about how the president-elect will utilize the surveillance network he’ll inherit. His campaign rhetoric indicated a desire to “watch” Muslims and members of Black Lives Matter. Obama left him a surveillance apparatus more than capable of doing so. And with these new appointees, it seems certain that capability will expand.
Surveillance apologist Rep. Mike Pompeo will head up the Trump CIA.
In an op-ed he coauthored for the Wall Street Journal last January, Pompeo called for an expansion of the surveillance-state.
“Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database. Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed. That includes Presidential Policy Directive-28, which bestows privacy rights on foreigners and imposes burdensome requirements to justify data collection.”
He also said “reasonable warrantless searches are compatible with the Fourth Amendment.” Of course, in government parlance, “reasonable” means “whatever we want to do.”
He also called Edward Snowden a traitor.
Trump tapped Sen. Jeff Sessions, another apologist for the surveillance state, to head up the Justice Department.
During a 2007 debate on the Patriot Act, Sessions showed utter contempt for constitutional limits on the federal government’s ability to spy on you.
“The civil libertarians among us would rather defend the constitution than protect our nation’s security.”
In a 2006 statement, Sessions announced his unwavering support for Pres. Bush’s surveillance programs, calling them “a reasonable assertion of executive power.”
As TechDirt pointed out, Sessions also tried to massively expand the surveillance powers of the Justice Department, in an amendment he tried to attach to ECPA (Electronic Communications Privacy Act) Reform. Sessions’ plan was to make it even easier for law enforcement to get data, so long as they “declared it was an emergency.”
“A provider of electronic communication service or remote computing service shall disclose to a governmental entity a wire or electronic communication (including the contents of the communication) and a record or other information pertaining to a subscriber or customer if a representative of the governmental entity reasonably certifies under penalty of perjury that an emergency involving the danger of death or serious physical injury requires disclosure without delay”
Given the track record of these Trump appointees and the fact that Congress seems predisposed to protect and expand the surveillance-state, it seems likely the next four years will feature more spying and more threats to your privacy.