One use of the title has reference, of course to the omniscience of God watching over us while we sleep (Ps. 3:5). This is the only sense of the phrase that is not creepy.
The phrase comes from the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and refers of course to the purported knowledge of bad children that St. Nick has, an exhaustive knowledge that is used to keep them in line. But of course we know that this is simply law, and law never made anyone good. The sentiment is therefore idolatrous, blasphemous, and anti-gospel. Other than that, it is relatively harmless.
But the note I want to register this morning has to do with the fact that Rand Paul is threatening a filibuster over a continuing resolution for federal funding, one that contains an extension of the feds’ authorization to conduct surveillance in order to “keep us safe.” This third sense of seeing us “while we’re sleeping” has to do with the aspirations of our federal government wanting to be an eye in the sky. Paul is refusing to go along with it unless additional restrictions are placed on the government, providing additional protections for us. We know that there are Islamic fundie-bad guys out there who want to do us harm, and so, yes, okay. There’s that.
However, by this time we ought to realize that we need protection from our guardians as much as anything else—which incidentally was the mindset of the Framers.
Think about this for a minute. The last several years have revealed instance after instance, example after example, of federal agencies using their intelligence abusively. The example that is currently unfolding before our eyes is the manifest corruption of the FBI and the Mueller investigation of the president.
I admire what Rand Paul is doing, and support it entirely, as far as it goes. At the same time, I do think he is being something of a moderate on this. He wants protections and restrictions built in, and so far—good. But all the things that were done by Clinton, Comey, Mueller, Strozk, Ohr, et al. have all been manifest conflicts of interest, highly suspect, and illegal on top of that. And yet dealing with it has been extraordinarily difficult. Getting to the bottom of it all has been pulling hens’ teeth.
This is because dealing with politicized intelligence agencies is itself a political operation, and in order to conduct it you need to have political capital and will. There is a royal battle involved in this, and just having protections on the books will protect absolutely no one.
My proposal is that we first demonstrate how easy it is to convict and jail malefactors, those who have abused our existing laws. Then when we have shown that such protections are capable of being enforced, and therefore capable of actually protecting us, we can then take up the matter of authorized continued surveillance authority.