The late, great Angelo Codevilla maintained that America’s response to 9/11 was fundamentally flawed because it adopted a law enforcement approach to what is essentially a foreign policy problem. He argued that the law enforcement approach — the idea that we could detect and disrupt terrorist plots before they come to fruition, and arrest those responsible — required the construction of a vast state security and surveillance apparatus that would eventually, when the terrorist threat subsided, be turned on American citizens.
As in so much else, Codevilla was prophetic.
Earlier this week, a deeply reported piece by Ken Klippenstein and Lee Fang of The Intercept revealed an “expansive effort” by the Department of Homeland Security to curb speech it considers dangerous by pressuring tech platforms to engage in online censorship. Although DHS’s widely ridiculed “Disinformation Governance Board” was scaled back and then shut down earlier this year amid well-deserved criticism, “other initiatives are underway as DHS pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate — the war on terror — has been wound down.”
The security apparatus that was erected to keep us safe from al-Qaida, it seems, is looking for something else to do now, so it has decided to become the arbiter of what constitutes false and dangerous information, and therefore what political opinions Americans are allowed to express online.