Treasury’s War is an unusual book. Given the way it reads, its subtitle might well have been “A Bureaucratic Adventure Story.” Don’t roll your eyes—the genre really does exist. Government whistleblowers often put into books the story of what they did to foil policymakers (most always unsuccessfully). Most of these bureaucratic romances are about bad policies and the failure to avoid them despite the author’s sage advice. Treasury’s War is very different. Juan C. Zarate describes a bureaucratic success. That is to say, his is a tale of how bureaucrats did something new and useful by defeating the usual inertia and…
Here is a short article summarizing what we have learned about NSA spying in the last year. Its quite a lot. In looking at the issue, there are at least three perspectives to take. One can ask whether the spying is consistent with the Constitution’s original meaning, with the Constitution as it is interpreted to day, and with good policy. Let me here talk about the last question: good policy. I should say that I don’t have definite views on exactly how much access to information the NSA should have. I suppose it depends on how useful that access is in combatting…
One of the interesting things about our modern world is how much less privacy we have and how much more we know about one another. One need only take a look at a Facebook page or google someone to see the proof. This is especially the case for celebrities. Someone recently noted that the difference between Lebron James and Michael Jordan and other famous NBA athletes of the past is that Lebron is the first superstar to live in the social media age where every detail of his life is reported.
There is a great column on this and other issues written as an exchange of e mails between Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell. I strongly recommend the whole exchange if you are interested in basketball and sports generally, but here let me just note the part that deals with how much more we know these days about celebrities. It begins at the second entry by Gladwell and illustrates how much about celebrities of past years we didn’t know. Here is an excerpt:
1. The collection of citizen’s phone records is a violation of the natural rights of every man and woman in the United States, and a clear violation of the explicit language of the highest law of the land.
2. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause.
McCarthy first questions sarcastically whether people have natural rights to privacy as to their phone records (“A citizen’s “natural right” to telephone-usage records that are actually the property of third-party service providers? I wonder what Saint Augustine would have made of that.”) I am skeptical of natural rights, but putting that to the side I think McCarthy is on weak ground here. There is no reason to believe that natural rights would not apply to modern technology. That the records are the property of third party service providers is a better point. But in a world where it mattered who owned the records, perhaps people would insist on a contractual right to privacy in their records, which might change things.