Privacy SOS

Why is anti-privacy zealot Michael Hayden advising congress on domestic police policy?

If you read this blog, you probably think the national security state is invading your privacy and taking too much of your money to do it. You probably know that the gargantuan domestic spy systems established post-9/11 have thus far stopped zero terrorist attacks. But according to a group of top level former spies, business executives, and cops, the surveillance state isn't big or costly enough. They want more money and power. (And they don't want to talk about their failures, thank you very much.)

This distressing news comes in the form of a report published by something called Business Executives for National Security, urging congress to make more money and power available to feds and local cops for domestic spying.

As I write elsewhere with ACLU of Massachusetts executive director Carol Rose, the report's recommendations are misguided and dangerous, to put it mildly.

The authors conclude that taxpayers should spend billions to empower state and local police departments to engage in intelligence and surveillance programs. In particular, the report recommends doubling down on data ‘fusion centers.’ But the authors ignore the evidence that such centers and federal funding for state and local police for surveillance have been failures nationwide. As U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn’s January 2014 report on the Department of Homeland Security found, these programs have not yielded anything of value in national counterterrorism efforts.

The push to give state and local law enforcement yet more access to federal intelligence stores is particularly troubling. The FBI, along with its partner the NSA, collects records of every single phone call made in the United States. This is done without warrants, on a mass scale. The DEA also operates nationwide, dragnet intelligence gathering programs throughout the country. Since 9/11, the FBI has been granted the power to investigate people even if agents have no reason to believe their target is engaged in wrongdoing.

It's not altogether surprising that this group came up with recommendations like these, given who participated in its preparation. One of those people is former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden, who sat on the board of advisors that helped to produce it. I can't think of anyone less equipped to put forth sensible domestic policing policies.

Hayden is an aggressive advocate of warrantless surveillance. He’s a man who personally oversaw a political assassination that arguably violated not just international law, but also US law. Hayden is neck deep in a culture of spies that abhors rigorous civilian oversight and thrives under cover of state secrecy.

At a talk he gave last week, Hayden basically admitted that he doesn’t believe the Fourth Amendment provides protection from unwarranted search and seizure. He also said that he’s not just interested in listening to ‘bad people’, but wants the United States' intelligence apparatus also listening to ‘interesting people’. Hayden made clear that if he or other operatives in the secretive national security state think it necessary, he will seize power completely undemocratically, in the dark, to do so.

Michael Hayden is the last person who should be advising congress on domestic policing policy. Let's hope the people holding the money bags don't listen to these ridiculous calls for civil society to hand over yet more power and money to unaccountable, ineffective, secretive spy agencies. Our local cops shouldn't play the role of secret police. To those spies who want the trickle down of the national security state to become a flood, I say: Stay in your lane.

© 2021 ACLU of Massachusetts.