– What "law enforcement" objective is served by asking for Billy Baldwin's location information?
– Why is the FBI/DHS in the business of analyzing and flagging social media content at all? When were these programs created and who approved them? pic.twitter.com/vEigT4ksKV
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) December 17, 2022
The hype over the latest batch of Twitter files reveals how people are coming to the awareness of the pervasiveness of the FBI and America’s ‘surveillance state’, as if the Snowden and Assange leaks was not enough evidence. The FBI is the fastest-growing and most important federal agency now, surpassing the CIA, whose power is mostly the stuff of Cold War-era folklore, but nowadays the FBI, the Secret Service, and the NSA are pulling all the weight. The FBI, like the CIA, does investigations overseas.
Politicians swear an oath to uphold the Constitution. The FBI and other agencies have extra extralegal powers. That is, such agencies can break the law at their discretion in order to conduct investigations. The common argument online that the FBI does not care about the 1st Amendment, doesn’t make sense. If anything, the FBI loves the 1st Amendment (because more speech equals more evidence), but hates the 5th. The FBI can ask Twitter nicely to divulge info about certain users, and failing that, hack into Twitter to get the information themselves. The FBI does this all the time, such as finding backdoors and exploits in software programs and websites. Of course, it would be illegal if ordinary people or even politicians did this , as Watergate showed.
Does Twitter have to comply with requests by the FBI? This is a grey area, because this depends if an actual crime was committed and the severity. Complying makes things easier for Twitter management, but at the cost of user privacy. I can understand the rationale of management caving to the FBI. These are people who want the FBI to go away so they can do their jobs; this has less to do with political bias as some are imagining and more to do with following orders and expediency. Also, some of the tweets which caught the attention of the FBI for voter fraud targeted Republican voters. “Blue leaning accounts were also subject to censorship requests by the FBI. @fromma was also a joke account that posted, ‘I want to remind republicans to vote tomorrow, Wednesday, November 9.'”
The rise of the FBI inversely tracks the decline of the role of politicians in shaping societal change:
Since 2010 with the ratification of Obamacare, the federal government has significantly stopped having influence as far as social policy is concerned. Rather, much of its power is through surveillance, legal, and administrative functions, like the FBI, NSA, IRS, SEC, etc. Or the Supreme Court, such as the overturning of Roe v. Wade. This is a point I have made many times this year. Although Biden’s executive order on student loan forgiveness is evidence that the executive branch can still pack a punch, more so when the dems are in charge especially.
The 20th century and first decade of the 21st century was the opposite, in that politicians had much more of a sweeping effect on social policy, such as the presidencies of Wilson, FDR, Johnson, George W. Bush, Nixon, or George H. W. Bush, all of whom enacted policy and programs that permanently shaped the course of America, whether it was the EPA, ADA, or the SSA. But since around 2010 politicians have largely abdicated such leadership roles, and the perceived threat of a rising tide of civil unrest necessitates a much more powerful managerial and police state (and consequently a much more powerful and expansive judiciary, such as the SCOTUS, as well as prosecutors, district attorneys, directors, attorney generals, and judges in order to handle this huge case load of threats, both domestic and abroad) in lieu of powerful politicians.
Covid was an example of this reversal: the federal government’s response was weak relative to other countries, leaving it up to the states to decide how many or few restrictions to enact. This is in contract to 911, which had a massive federal-level response, which still exists to this day, such as the DHS. Other countries such as Germany , China, and Italy had much more of a top-down response. Instead of the federal government trying to shape behavior through legislative policy like it would have done in the past in response to crisis, massive one-time remittances such as stimulus checks and PPP loans were substitutes for forceful leadership and policy. But at the same time, law enforcement was necessary for enforcing Covid restrictions on a state-wide level, even if not on a national level.
People willingly use social networking sites, at the same time knowing that such companies have flagrantly shown disregard for user privacy. But the problem is people are addicted to social media, so I don’t see this problem getting better anytime soon. People will continue to habitually use social media, while periodically being appalled by it.