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Trump’s All-Too-Powerful Surveillance Infrastructure

President Trump’s penchant for naming “enemies” echoes Richard Nixon’s, with one difference: Trump has a much bigger treasure trove of personal data at his disposal.

Cross posted from The American Prospect.

Thanks to capacity-building programs begun under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, President Trump now holds the keys to a massive surveillance operation. Indeed, Trump will face few if any technological barriers to monitoring whomever he wants, whenever he wants, for whatever purpose he chooses. To be sure, Trump does not enjoy legal carte blanche. The constitutionality of one of the government’s most significant surveillance programs has been called into question by commentators, and courts have declared that using characteristics like race and religion as the basis for surveillance is unconstitutional.

But the Trump White House so far has shown an unsettling willingness to flout its legal obligations. After a federal court ruled that travelers detained at Dulles Airport in the wake of Trump’s immigration ban were entitled to see lawyers, for instance, senior administration officials nevertheless refused them access to the attorneys massed outside. This is on top of signs that the president is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by accepting foreign governmental business at his hotels, and that his apparent ban on communications by certain federal employees with Congress ran afoul of whistleblower protection laws.  

If anything, his administration appears poised to dramatically expand existing surveillance capabilities. Trump’s CIA director has advocated for allowing the National Security Agency to restart and even intensify its collection of metadata about Americans, enabling the government to do warrantless deep dives into who Americans email, what they buy, what magazines they subscribe to, and more. The Department of Homeland Security seems likely to embrace new surveillance technologies as well, from sophisticated biometric recognition to airborne surveillance cameras.

Read the full article at The American Prospect.