Pro-civil liberties politicians losing battle with Big Brother

The fight is looking increasingly tough for anti-surveillance polticians hoping to gain successes in the American political establishment.

There are people on both sides of the political spectrum who who don’t like big government – and progressive liberals like Charlotte Scot who do, but favour civil liberties.

There are a fair few politicians who are worried about the political fallout of standing up to the NSA in the event of an attack on American soil. They could win the battle against surveillance and then be blamed for allowing such an attack to happen. On the other hand, some reports say the Boston bombers were known to intelligence, yet that attack went ahead anyway.

Political pundits don’t expect questions of surveillance to be enormous in the midterm elections next year, Associated Press reports. In fact politicians are just likely to spin this as being tough on national security.

Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who collaborated with whistleblower Edward Snowden, pointed out in a Democracy Now interview that senators have full constitutional immunity against prosecution for anything that they say on the floor of the Senate. It may well be their political careers they are worried about if they speak out.

Last month, a Washington Post-ABC News poll indicated that a slight majority of Americans think it’s more important for the government to investigate terrorism than to put privacy first.

This makes the efforts of senators against the whole idea, such as Ron Wyden, Mark Udall, and Rand Paul could be seen to be fighting a losing battle in favour of civil liberties.

They are seeing few co-sponsors joining their legislative proposals to limit NSA spying powers, while influential senators as Dianne Feinstein have defended the programme.

As Feinstein and her ilk see their star ascend, there are more calls for the crucifixion of Edward Snowden. For the political establishment, Snowden is being painted not as a whistleblower but as a spy who is guilty of treason. Public opinion, however, remains supportive of Snowden.

There are still some politicans who want to see a middle of the road approach where security and privacy are considered, which means activists have a very slim chance of getting their ideas accepted.

Another problem is with the IT industry itself. It is not as if telcos are in favour of weaker spying for ideological reasons, it’s just that they don’t want to spend heaps of cash on providing intelligence agencies with data.

In this case the industry has been late to fight back. Companies were cheerfully handing over data until Snowden made it all public. If they have any reluctance, it is about having to tell their customers that they handed over data in the first place.