This has not been a good week for those who value liberty and limited government (what Albert Jay Nock would refer to as “the Remnant”). On Monday, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in Maryland v King, ruling that “the government has a legitimate interest in collecting DNA from arrestees” (see Robert Barnes, Washington Post). As Justice Scalia warned in his dissent: “Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.” I am certain that many will dismiss Scalia’s concerns. After all, if you are not guilty, why should you care if your DNA ends up in a database?
The newest revelation: the National Security Agency has been collecting the telephone records of tens of millions of Verizon customers. Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story on the Guardian, notes: “These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications.”
As the Washington Post reports:
The order falls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which authorizes the government to make broad demands on telephone carriers for information about calls. In this case, the order requires Verizon to provide “ongoing, daily” information about “all call detail records . . . created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad; or wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court does not require a showing of probable cause, of course. “Rather, all that is required is a showing that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the tangible things sought are “relevant to an authorized investigation . . .to obtain foreign intelligence information . . . or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”
All of this started under the Bush administration, in the wake of 9/11. The NSA began collecting call records in October 2001. But until now, there was little to suggest that this policy had continued. The most recent revelation provides additional evidence that once new powers are claimed by the state—often under the pretense of crisis—they are usually permanent. See Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan to place this event in the broader historical context.