Reports involving mass surveillance hit the news after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden's heroic 2013 move to come public, forcing the country to openly debate the risks associated with the United States government spying on their citizens. Now, President Donald Trump is hoping to put in a pro-mass surveillance advocate to oversee privacy.
Recently, the president announced he intends to nominate Adam I. Klein to chair the Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB). The Robert M. Gates Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security may have co-written an advisory report urging the Trump administration to balance privacy and security, but what was also contained in his report was a staunch piece of criticism targeting Snowden.
In the document, Klein lamented that the former NSA contractor's leaks had helped to undermine public trust in the government.
“The post-Snowden backlash has impeded law enforcement and intelligence gathering, harmed the U.S. technology industry’s competitiveness in international markets, and created diplomatic friction with important allies. Most importantly, many Americans remain skeptical that their government respects their digital privacy,” he wrote.
While the report advocates for some mild reforms, Klein and the paper's co-authors appeared to push the administration toward a policy that would help rebuild the public trust on surveillance.
They also showed support for programs used for spying such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) courts and the Section 702 program, which allows the government to collect a great amount of data without due process.
Klein even made a passionate defense of Section 702 in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in which he claimed that the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened because the George W. Bush administration did not have a strong surveillance apparatus in place.
Furthermore, the potential new PCLOB chair also made the case that the U.S. Constitution does not matter when it comes to surveillance as he defended court decisions that went against the Fourth Amendment in his article, claiming that decisions that allow the FBI to conduct routine database checks without a warrant are justified.
As the PCLOB remains one of the last standing barriers between the U.S. government's mass surveillance apparatus and our privacy, knowing that Trump wants to nominate an open supporter of surveillance as its chair should bother us all. Especially those who have been vocal in their criticism of the president.
After all, with a vamped up U.S. spying machine at his disposal, the president could keep a closer eye on his critics.
Banner and thumbnail image credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst