REASON — Our sage leaders on both sides of the aisle believe that to preempt the next Orlando, we need to hand intelligence agencies more unconstitutional surveillance powers. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is already pushing to grant the FBI’s long-standing wish to obtain the web browsing history and other electronic records in terrorism investigations without a court order. Meanwhile, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton wants to give the FBI more draconian powers to put people on government terror watch lists.
But the lesson from the Orlando massacre isn’t just that our intelligence systems failed. It’s that they cannot succeed.
We need a paradigm shift. Rather than keeping alive the false hope that centralized intelligence bureaucracies can effectively stop lone-wolf terrorists, we need to encourage private entities like clubs, malls, movie theaters, and other places where people gather to take charge of their own security — just like they do in other countries, like India.
Surveillance-based counter terrorism worked, at least in theory, when state actors whose designs could be ascertained by a network of informants and spies dominated the terrorism business. Even al Qaeda’s cell model, where the mother organization in a distant land coordinated the actions of a group on foreign ground, could be targeted by intelligence agencies since terrorist members also needed to communicate among themselves. But lone-wolf terrorism in the vein of Orlando and San Bernardino has evolved to dodge precisely such surveillance.