We know this.
We've known this.
So, who's okaying these terrible freedom-crushing decisions?
And what's behind them?
Last week’s big business news was the announcement that Comcast, a gigantic provider of cable TV and high-speed Internet service, has reached a deal to acquire Time Warner, which is merely huge. If regulators approve the deal, Comcast will be an overwhelmingly dominant player in the business, with around 30 million subscribers.
So let me ask two questions about the proposed deal. First, why would we even think about letting it go through? Second, when and why did we stop worrying about monopoly power?
On the first question, broadband Internet and cable TV are already highly concentrated industries, with a handful of corporations accounting for most of the customers. Once upon a time antitrust authorities, looking at this situation, would probably have been trying to cut Comcast down to size. Letting it expand would have been unthinkable.
Government secrecy is almost a dirty word now.
Having been utilized not for verifiable government security tasks, but for self-serving purposes like wholesale drug money laundering, bankster hoarding and other exotic machinations to increase obfuscation of money manipulations resulting in stealing and/or misusing public funds throughout the last three decades.
But what's new?
On that front, quite a lot actually.
By Dan Froomkin, First Look
15 February 14
he Intercept's inaugural exposé, by my colleagues Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill, illuminates the deeply flawed interaction between omnipresent electronic surveillance and targeted drone killings - two of the three new, highly disruptive instruments of national power that President Obama has pursued with unanticipated enthusiasm.
All three (the third being cyberwar) have a lot in common. Despite their staggering implications, Obama has proceeded to establish the rules for them unilaterally, almost entirely in secret, based on dubious legal arguments, largely unchecked by judicial or congressional oversight, and with a seemingly unshakeable yet remarkably unfounded faith in their value.
But one of the many major takeaways from the eight-month-and-counting exploration of the trove of secret NSA documents Edward Snowden gave journalists is that what may seem like good ideas within the confines of a like-minded military-intelligence establishment look very different when exposed to overdue public scrutiny.
Only then do you find out they don't work so well. Or that they aren't really legal, or constitutional. Or that they do more harm than good. Or that the government relies on them too much, at the expense of things that might actually work.
History has shown time and again that secrecy and bad decisions go hand in hand.
So the fact that two new, secret U.S. government war-making abilities when used in tandem have particularly disastrous consequences for innocent civilians is newsworthy - but unfortunately not that surprising.
Because of the Obama administration's refusal to disclose its selection or targeting criteria in any detail, it's impossible to determine with any confidence which or how many of the civilian massacres by drone were the product of an over-reliance on SIGINT rather than, say, a HUMINT asset settling a personal score or a government official eliminating possible rivals, or just plain user error.
But it's probably more than the Obama administration would like you to think. The White House's record of truth-telling when it comes to drone warfare is appalling. Years of administration arguments that civilian casualties in drone attacks have been inconsequential have proven again and again to be specious.
Before Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's March 2013 assurance to Congress that the government wasn't collecting data on Americans in bulk, the administration's single biggest whopper might have been White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan's assertion in June 2011 that over the previous year there had not been a single collateral death from drone strikes.
Obama himself is hardly unaware of the dreadful downside of errant drone strikes. As Daniel Klaidman reported in his book, "Kill or Capture," Obama authorized his very first drone strike on the third full day of his presidency, after having been assured by then-CIA director Michael Hayden that the targets were high-level al Qaeda and Taliban commanders. The Hellfire missile he sent into a compound in Pakistan instead killed a prominent pro-government tribal elder and four members of his family, including two children.
Klaidman wrote that Obama was "understandably disturbed" when he found out what happened, and insisted on some procedural changes. But civilian casualties continued. And each time, Obama evidently convinced himself that it wouldn't happen again.
His most recent public assurance came in an October 2013 speech to the United Nations, where he announced that he had "limited the use of drones so they target only those who pose a continuing, imminent threat to the United States where capture is not feasible, and there is a near certainty of no civilian casualties."
Less than two months later, missiles fired by a U.S. drone killed 13 people in a convoy of vehicles headed to a wedding party in Yemen.
How Obama's faith in his military and intelligence leaders was restored or remained unflagging after all these incidents, despite the skepticism that he so clearly displayed during his first presidential campaign, is surely one of the great mysteries facing his supporters today, and historians tomorrow.
The spirited and informed public debate we need to have over these new ways of war has been stifled by the Obama administration, which has not only made a mockery of its promises of transparency, but has set new records in terms of its hostility toward journalistic leaks.
Congress, meanwhile, has shirked its oversight duties, in an unholy alliance of complicit leaders, happy campaign contributors, Republican ultra-hawks and partisan Democrats who don't want to attack their president, even when he has enshrined precisely the kind of radical militaristic and anti-civil libertarian policies they convinced themselves during the Bush years were temporary aberrations.
And the elite Washington press corps, not yet recovered from its abdication of adversarial journalism after 9/11, has done an astonishingly poor job of raising and pressing important questions.
Where does that leave us?
Here. In a place and time where the only way to have the debate the country so desperately needs is for whistleblowers to speak up, and for independent journalists to make sure that they are heard.