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Saturday, November 12, 2016

The better angels of our nature

But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

-- James Madison (1788), The Federalist No. 51
Why is this of any particular relevance?
Privacy experts fear Donald Trump accessing global surveillance network

Concerns raised that current US and UK surveillance system is ‘ripe for further abuse under an autocratic, power-obsessed president’

Privacy activists, human rights campaigners and former US security officials have expressed fears over the prospect of Donald Trump gaining access to the vast global US and UK surveillance network.(...) “There have been some people who were complacent about things like drone killing of US civilians and mass surveillance under Obama, because they trusted him. That wilful neglect on their part is about to come back and possibly bite all of us in the ass,” said Nick Merrill, the executive director of the Calyx Institute, a technology focused research group that promotes encryption tools.

Ben Wizner, Snowden’s lawyer who works for the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “The danger of the aggregation of executive power we have seen over the last decade is that we might have an executive who is not worthy of that trust. This has been a trend in the US but there has been a weakening of constitutional oversight during the growth of the national security state. “I think many Americans are waking up to the fact we have created a presidency that is too powerful.”

Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower who predated Snowden, offered an equally bleak assessment. He said: “The electronic infrastructure is fully in place – and ex post facto legalised by Congress and executive orders – and ripe for further abuse under an autocratic, power-obsessed president. History is just not kind here. Trump leans quite autocratic. The temptations to use secret NSA surveillance powers, some still not fully revealed, will present themselves to him as sirens.”
The US have been excessively complacent about the lack of proper balance between individual freedom and security for far too long, and now it's probably too late to go back.

Edit 13/11: Glenn Greenwald: Trump will have vast powers. He can thank Democrats for them
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