SARGE: Authorization vs. Capability

Computers are as much a bane as a boon. Understanding that much of what we once defined as being purely mechanical has been supplanted by machinery best described as computerized mechanical entities. An entity is that which is perceived or known or inferred to have its distinct existence/purpose. Because today’s computers can take raw data, compile it, correlate, extrapolate it and then using a bizarre form of deductive “reasoning” specific to computers, intelligently decide based on the statistically evaluated odds of any particular activity – they can determine what your next move might be. All of the above (in a decidedly infantile manner only I can imagine) is the roadway to Artificial Intelligence (AI).

No, not the AI politicians ascribe to, but computers deducing potential outcomes of strung together actions and predicting what you’re likely to do next.

This is all being discussed because the NSA Leaker said he was “authorized” to tap any phone or listen in on any conversations necessary to conduct surveillance for the National Security Agency. (NSA) The question arises: what’s the difference between what’s “authorized” (which the NSA says this guy was definitely not authorized to conduct such interception of personal communications) and what he’s qualified to accomplish if he decided to do so on his own authority?

The government has been bending over backwards and twisting itself into verbal and metaphorical contortions to assure America they have merely been collecting data of such size and scope as to be incalculable in numbers understandable to the average citizen. They promise, double dog/dirty dog, pinky swear they would never intercept your correspondences without a warrant.

But they didn’t say they couldn’t do it. They just said nobody was authorized to do it. And we know from history Roosevelt used the IRS to spy on political opponents. J. Edgar Hoover ordered an IRS audit of Martin Luther King because he hated the guy’s guts and thought he was a Communist foil. Richard Nixon used the Special Service Staff to accumulate dossiers on more than 11,000 groups he found suspect back in that dark corner he stored his paranoia in. The problem isn’t in what’s authorized so much as what isn’t but is still available for abuse.

I worked in law enforcement for 30 years. We regularly suggested battered women get Protective and Restraining Orders and such other paperwork to place their assailants on notice they were telling people of the abuses they endured and they should stop and desist from such activities. The sad point is none of this paperwork is bullet-proof, knife-proof, assault-proof, counter-balancing and demonstrably capable of stopping or preventing the next assault, battery or homicide. The damned thing is only paper.

The fact is a piece of paper (restraining order, protective orders etc. will neither delay nor halt a wrong-doing. The government can always say that because of the imminent danger of the accused/suspect destroying evidence the government felt compelled to knock (break down the door) and enter to prevent that destruction of evidence or for the safety of hostages/innocent parties. The warrant doesn’t even need to be on-scene. It just takes a “good-faith” belief and trust that a warrant does exist and away we go.

While Edward Snowden may not have had the authority to act, (meaning nobody said he could copy and disseminated classified documents to the world); he did get it done didn’t he? The same goes for Bradley Manning doesn’t it? So; if these dolts can do it from a basis of supreme altruism and a sincere desire to save mankind (wink-wink); isn’t it possible the next Roosevelt, Hoover or Nixon is waiting in the wings with newer and better excuses as to why he should abrogate the Bill of Rights to protect us all from ourselves and those evil outsiders looking to terrorize us?

Just because the law says you need a warrant based on probable cause to search and/or seize; we see where any nitwit with a modicum of computer savvy can intrude into any life, gather any data and skulk off into the night with impunity.

Criminals don’t like laws. That’s why they break ‘em.

Thanks for listening.

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