This past weekend, Rand Paul led a filibuster on the Senate floor to delay certain provisions of the Patriot Act. As of noon at night on Monday, the NSA "couldn't" collect massive amounts of domestic phone call metadata in three month intervals. Technically, they "couldn't" do that about a month before, but appeals courts?
It's important to recognize occasionally that institutions are beholden only to structurally imposed consequences. When there are no such consequences for an institution, it is capable of anything. When it has no consequences and is responsible for pursuing individuals and institutions for the sake of imposing consequences, it fundamentally shapes the very fabric of society.
We need to keep in mind that repealing this provision of the Patriot Act is but a small part of dismantling the national security state. This is a state that partners with for-profit companies to monitor, threaten, blackmail, incarcerate, and murder not only its own citizens and residents, but the entire world.
At every level of government, the state partners with for-profit companies like Stratfor and Booz Allen Hamilton to spy on everyone. At every level of government, the state partners with for-profit companies like GEO Group and CCA to incarcerate everyone. At every level of government, the state partners with for-profit companies like Boeing, Smith & Wesson, LRAD Corporation, Raytheon, DynCorp, and Northrop Grumman to murder everyone. This is everyone's problem.
But these institutions are still run by people. In addition to the market and social forces that govern wealth accrual (and hence, deprivation), those who analyze the metadata, still must choose to target certain people or groups. Intelligence agents come with the cultural baggage of whatever sort of personality could justify spying on people as a career. Thus, they target otherwise innocent members of mosques and let neo-Nazi Klansmen go free. A system that systemically targets Black and Latino folks for fines, incarceration, and murder.
With each expended munition, surveillance upgrade, prison labor hour, and infrastructure rebuild, business profits. With the systematization of the security state, often in along the lines of racialized and nationalist mythologies, the money-making venture of the production of crime, and hence its violent repression, becomes more efficient. Tasked with its own oversight, the actions of the state and its creation of criminality are self-justifying. Phone data is just the tip of the iceberg.