Cass Sunstein was one of President Obama’s most controversial czars. He has now been appointed into a far more influential and powerful position. Sunstein will now serve on the panel to review the NSA programs.
While still earning a paycheck in the academic realm, the former Obama Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs czar advocated for government infiltration into online social networks and chat rooms. The appointee is also the husband of Samantha Power, President Obama’s recently named United Nations ambassador.
The National Security Agency scandal spawned by Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing has not yet subsided. Just prior to Sunstein’s appointment to the panel was made public, two more spying claims by the federal agency surfaced. NSA staffers were accused of decrypting the United Nations’ internal video conferencing system by Der Spiegel, a German magazine.
NSA agents have also been caught spring on their current or former love interests. Apparently the problem is so commonplace at the National Security Agency it has been dubbed “LOVEINT” in bureaucratic reports.
In 2008 Sunstein co-authored a paper that said government employees should “cognitively infiltrate” conspiracy theorist groups by joining “chat rooms, online social networks or even real-space groups.”
“Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law,” he wrote. “The first challenge is to understand the mechanisms by which conspiracy theories prosper, the second challenge is to understand how such theories might be undermined. Because those who hold conspiracy theories typically suffer from a crippled epistemology, the best response consists in cognitive infiltration of extremist groups.”
His paper defined conspiracy theories as “an effort to explain some event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role,” The Washington Posts reported. He acknowledged that some theories turn out to be true.
Wrote Andrea Peterson of The Post, “While it’s nice to assume that the government would limit that ‘cognitive infiltration’ authority to false conspiracies, history suggests that it would be also used against activists trying to expose actual government misconduct. … A man with such a credulous view of government power might not be the best choice to review allegations of NSA privacy abuses.”
In a 2003 University of Chicago paper entitled, “Lives, Life-Years, and Willingness to Pay” Cass Sunstein supported the idea of the federal government assigning an increased monetary value to the lives of youth than senior citizens in relation to health care spending. During House Energy and Commerce Committee hearings in 2011, Sunstein attempted to walk back his forceful earlier comments.
“I’m a lot older now than the author with my name was, and I’m not sure what I think about what the young man wrote,” Sunstein told the committee. “Things written as an academic are not a legitimate part of what we do as a government official. So I am not focusing on sentences that a young Cass Sunstein wrote years ago.”
A 2008 book co-authored by Sunstein called for a “presumed consent” policy in regards to organ donation. Sunstein said, “Presumed consent preserves freedom of choice, but is different from explicit consent because it shifts the default rule. Under this policy, all citizens would be presumed to be consenting organ donors.”
If Sunstein’s policy theory was ever approved, Americans would have to sign up for an “unwillingness to donate” organ registry.
While a growing number of Americans support organ donation, they also view it as personal choice where government involvement is neither wanted nor warranted. Sunstein’s obvious big government mindset does nothing to assure Americans that NSA spying activities will end.