So far, with the exception of an attack on Hillary’s alternative history of the Iraq War, Jeb Bush has given the impression of a man sleep-walking rather than one with the fire-in-the-belly it will take to win the nomination and the presidency.
Sometimes he seems like the fighter who is trying to throw the fight just to make the pain end. Such was the case yesterday when Bush tried to make the case the Americans are not under enough surveillance:
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush said Tuesday that the government should have broad surveillance powers of Americans and private technology firms should cooperate better with intelligence agencies to help combat “evildoers.”
At a national security forum in the early voting state of South Carolina, Bush put himself at odds with Republican congressional leaders who earlier this year voted to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records.
The former Florida governor said Congress should revisit its changes to the Patriot Act, and he dismissed concerns from civil libertarians who say the program violated citizens’ constitutionally protected privacy rights.
“There’s a place to find common ground between personal civil liberties and NSA doing its job,” Bush said. “I think the balance has actually gone the wrong way.”
In a series of court cases we have nearly arrived at the point where the Fourth Amendment is a quaint and curious artifact of a more genteel age. Instead of investigating crimes based upon probable cause, the government is going to an electronic dragnet approach where billions of communications and financial transactions are screened for indications that a crime might be in the process of being conceived. To make matters worse, there is little to no evidence that this type of surveillance makes us one little bit safer than the old fashioned way. The Fort Hood shootings, the Boston Marathon bombing, the attack on Pam Geller’s art competition, and the shootings at the military recruiting station in Chattanooga all happened under a very broad surveillance regime.
While this increased surveillance has done nothing to keep us safer than we would be without it, it has given law enforcement a whole basket of tools with which to harass and investigate anyone they desire. Your phone records, bank, and credit card transactions are already open to any law enforcement agency without a warrant because a third party has access (the phone company or bank) and therefore you have no reasonable expectation of privacy. Any data you store on cloud storage, like Dropbox or Google Drive, is available to law enforcement without a warrant. Your draft emails? No warrant necessary. The IP address of any device you have used? No warrant. (Pro Publica has a really handy synopsis of how little privacy you can expect.)
As we’ve seen from the actions of the IRS, the Justice Department, and rabid partisan prosecutors in Wisconsin, this kind of surveillance is actually of a lot more use in attacking political opponents than it is in ferreting out actual terrorists. That Bush would support more surveillance is just another indication that the man should not be president.