Wednesday, June 12, 2013


(Editorial cartoon by Joel Pett / Lexington Herald-Leader (June 11, 2013) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge and then please return.)

Right on schedule, the demonization of Edward Snowden, the leaker/whistleblower (take your pick) has commenced.  I expected it from our government.  I did not expect it from some lefty bloggers, of which there are several who have bought into what is clearly designed as a distraction from the real issue, domestic spying by our own government.  Maybe Snowden is an attention seeker or a drama queen.  Maybe his girl friend is a pole dancer.  That doesn't detract from the issue we need to be most concerned about.

If people insist on having a demon to lash out at, there is at least one around:  the National Security Advisor who is supposed to keep Congress briefed, but couldn't quite bring himself to tell the truth about the program.

One of the staunchest critics of government surveillance programs said Tuesday that the national intelligence director did not give him a straight answer last March when he asked whether the National Security Agency collects any data on millions of Americans.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called for hearings to discuss two recently revealed NSA programs that collect billions of telephone numbers and Internet usage daily. He was also among a group of senators who introduced legislation Tuesday to force the government to declassify opinions of a secret court that authorizes the surveillance. ...

Wyden said he wanted to know the scope of the top secret surveillance programs, and privately asked NSA Director Keith Alexander for clarity. When he did not get a satisfactory answer, Wyden said he alerted Clapper's office a day early that he would ask the same question at the public hearing.

"Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Wyden asked Clapper at the March 12 hearing.

"No, sir," Clapper answered.

"It does not?" Wyden pressed.

Clapper quickly and haltingly softened his answer. "Not wittingly," he said. "There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect — but not wittingly."

Wyden said he also gave Clapper a chance to amend his answer.

A spokesman for Clapper did not have an immediate response on Tuesday, but the intelligence director told NBC that he believed Wyden's question was "not answerable necessarily, by a simple yes or no." Officials generally do not discuss classified information in public hearings, reserving discussion on top-secret programs for closed sessions where they will not be revealed to adversaries.

"So I responded in what I thought was the most truthful or least most untruthful manner, by saying, 'No,'" Clapper said.   [Emphasis added]
 Now that's an answer which would make Lewis Carroll proud!

Liberals and conservatives alike are finding this whole issue of domestic spying deeply troubling, and that's the kind of bipartisanship I can welcome.  Yesterday, I suggested all sorts of ways to play with the program, among them signing the petition up at the White House.  In just three days it's garnered well over 55,000 signatures.  I suspect that not all those signing are incorrigible lefties.  And a couple of senators from different sides of the aisle are looking for a way to reign in this madness wrought under the Patriot Acts. 

A bipartisan group of senators is introducing new legislation that they say will provide greater transparency of National Security Agency surveillance programs, the first significant legislative response to the revelation of the highly classified telephone and Internet data-collection programs.

The bill, written by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Mike Lee ( R-Utah), would end the "secret law" governing the programs, the sponsors say, requiring the attorney general to declassify opinions from the secret federal court overseeing surveillance to show how broadly the government views its legal authority under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Co-sponsors include Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who has raised concerns about tactics that could infringe on Americans’ privacy rights.

"Americans deserve to know how much information about their private communications the government believes it’s allowed to take under the law,” Merkley said in a statement. “There is plenty of room to have this debate without compromising our surveillance sources or methods or tipping our hand to our enemies. We can’t have a serious debate about how much surveillance of Americans’ communications should be permitted without ending secret law.”   [Emphasis added]

The FISA court, which has a statue of a kangaroo in front of its door rather than Lady Justice, is notorious for rubber stamping whatever the government wants.  The court has maybe denied 3% of the requests for warrants brought to it.  Imposing some actual oversight over that part of the process is a good beginning.

I suggest you email and call your senators and ask them to co-sponsor the bill and then vote for it.  Do both. 

It'll keep that data cloud growing.

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Blogger PurpleGirl said...

Okay, so they are collecting gazillions of bits of data. Now what? How do they categorize it and how do they analyze it? Do they analyze it, or is it just put on some servers and nothing happens with it?

5:43 AM  

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