The Director of National Intelligence has publicly stated that the government needs the power to observe everything that happens on the internet.
The nation’s top spy, Michael McConnell, thinks the threat of cyberarmageddon! is so great that the U.S. government should have unfettered and warrantless access to U.S. citizens’ Google search histories, private e-mails and file transfers, in order to spot the cyberterrorists in our midst. (Wired “Threat Level” blog)
There are many angles from which we can observe the claims for new power that McConnell makes. Aside from the practical question of whether searching everything that happens on the internet is likely to be an effective strategy, think about this from the perspective of our current reading on political fear. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that looking for a needle in the world’s largest haystack won’t provide a whole lot of bang for our intelligence buck (although I suppose we could use prison labor – scanning internet traffic could be the 21st century equivalent of breaking rocks for punishment), why would McConnell want to publicly advocate for this power? If it won’t work, what is it for? What sort of political fear is involved here? Will constant and pervasive internet monitoring have effects we can recognize through the literature on the politics of fear?
Did anyone watch the Democratic candidates debate last night? That too featured references to the politics of fear, particularly by Obama.
Updated: Here is the clip – Obama on politics of fear.