Surveillance Lobbying: Understanding the Policy Process of Mass Surveillance Legislation in the US

Image credit: Trevor Paglen


In this paper, I seek to understand the policy-making process of mass surveillance law in the US. The central puzzle is why — despite completely different majority configurations in Congress, a divided public, numerous proven instances of abuse and questionable effectiveness — the post-9/11 consensus of enabling and enhancing mass surveillance by the intelligence community and their private contractors still holds. While I could not seek to provide a final solution to this puzzle, I propose a theoretical framework which is firmly based in an in-depth case study of a piece of legislation, which insiders call the “crown jewels” of the intelligence community. Following this case study, I will open the conceptual void of the policy-making process of mass surveillance law by laying out the challenges that any theoretical framework has to address in order to attain explanatory power. Finally, I attempt to provide some ideas on how to fill this conceptual void by elucidating a theoretical framework rooted in the literature on subgovernmental structures, but enhanced by the integration of insights from interest group theory – The Intelligence Iron Triangle.

In European Consortium for Political Research General Conference 2019
Linus Sehn
Graduate Student in International Relations

I am interested in all the ways computer technology reconfigures the political landscape