Politicians Welcome Chance To Discuss This NSA Surveillance Monster They Hid In The Basement
Over the weekend, various security officials and congresscritters were forced to go on the morning yap shows or talk to the press about thesecret data collection programs exposed by the Guardian over the weekend.
Some of them took this opportunity to explain why they were glad, GLAD, that we are finally having a national conversation about the classified top secret eavesdropping and metadata collection programs that they hid from the American people.
Others patiently warned us that this classified top secret eavesdropping and metadata collection program had definitely prevented terror but that they couldn't tell us exactly HOW it prevented terror, because that is secret, silly! But it is definitely keeping us safe, although it also missed the Boston Marathon bombings, and the Times Square bombing attempt, and the Fort Hood shooting.
And still others just stressed that the classified top secret eavesdropping program is somehow effective enough to prevent terrorism but not so effective as to actually compromise anyone's privacy.
Below, a rundown of the various machinations and meltdowns!
Dianne Feinstein was forced to go on ABC's This Week and tell us about how sad she was on 9/11. Then she patiently explained that NSA programs thwarted terror plots, pointing to the 2008 Mumbai attacks as an example, and also, Najibullah Zazi. Of course, the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people over three days at two five-star hotels, a train station and a small Jewish community center, so maybe it wasn't the best example? Maybe we should just be happy that NSA surveillance kept them from happening here, although our lack of a contested border region with Pakistan may also be a contributing factor. Oh, and Najibullah Zazi was actually thwarted by non-NSA wiretapping related police work, but nice try Dianne Feinstein!
Peter King, who is a well-known idiot, wants to prosecute whistleblower Edward Snowden for the leaks because “This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence." Yes, surely the terrorists had absolutely no idea until now that their phone calls, emails, chats, and Skype convos were possibly monitored by their own governments or by ours, this is surely a tremendous revelation.
Lindsey Graham is actually really glad that the government is collecting information on our phone calls, because they are only doing it to "known terrorists." Er, "suspected terrorists and people they may be talking to." So basically, in spite of what you're heard, they aren't collecting "our" information at all, turns out, because "we" are not terrorists! And there is more good news! He is "sure" that this is the ONLY THING the NSA is using this information for, but perhaps he has forgotten about that one time that the NSA eavesdropped on soldiers and contractors in Baghdad's Green Zone having phone sex with their wives? Or that other time when the Army spied on anti-war activists? Another question for Lindsey Graham: if it's such a great idea to gather Americans' metadata (it is not a great idea, but bear with us), then why just use it for stopping terrorism? Why not use it to stop crimes like, say, gun violence, given that Americans are more than 1764 times more likely to be killed in non-terrorism gun violence than in terrorism-related violence? Oh duh, because that would hurt freedom. We can't have that, never mind.
Representative Mike Rogers is annoyed because Glenn Greenwald "doesn't have a clue" how PRISM actually works; also, if Edward Snowden was alarmed, Mike Rogers says, he should have "gone to congressional authorities, not the media." Those same "congressional authorities" that signed off on the program and kept it a secret? Yes, those congressional authorities. Those same congressional authorities that failed to tell the American public that the NSA urged a "rethinking" of the Fourth Amendment? Yes, THOSE congressional authorities. Sounds like a plan, Mike Rogers! Anyway, since Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowdon don't understand how this program works, maybe Mike Rogers can explain to us. After all, Obama "welcomes debate" on it, so let's have an informed discussion. No, sorry, Mike Rogers can't tell us about the program; it's a secret. We'll just have to trust him and Michele Bachmann and everyone else on the House Intelligence Committee.
Saxby Chambliss wants us all to remember that no Americans have ever complained about the secret thing they didn't know anything about until it was leaked by a whistleblower last week. So what is all the fuss about? The NSA has been monitoring us THIS ENTIRE TIME, what we didn't know didn't kill us, right? (By the way, this is the same Saxby Chambliss who thinks the government has no right to limit civilian access to firearm magazines of a certain size, because Threat To Freedom, but totally trusts the government to mine our data in an appropriate fashion.) To be fair, Shia LeBeouf tried to warn us all about government spying in 2008, and so did a young senator named Barack Obama during impassioned speeches casting the question of liberty versus security as a “false choice." And no one seems to have complained! Does this mean we missed our window to complain? Sorry, that's classified.
Senator Johnny Isakson voted for the PATRIOT ACT and voted against bills curtailing the reach of the PATRIOT ACT, but he's still very confused about this whole thing. Did someone brief him about this? He forgets and he's pretty sure he never would have voted for these programs had he known about them. Except he did vote for them quite a few times, which is confusing. Can someone explain to him how this happened? And then when they're done explaining how it happened, maybe they can explain what's in the PATRIOT ACT, if it's not too much trouble.
How nice of our elected officials to explain all of this to us, and protect us from the terrifying knowledge of how they Keep Us Safe, and why it's necessary to destroy our freedoms to save us from terrorism (but not from, say, crushing poverty, gun deaths, or any number of crimes that kill far more people per year than terrorism).
We will leave you with this comforting thought, courtesy the whistleblower:
"You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."
And then this one from then-Senator Obama:
The [Bush] administration also puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide. I will provide our intelligence and law enforcement agencies with the tools they need to track and take out the terrorists without undermining our Constitution and our freedom,” he said. “That means no more illegal wiretapping of American citizens. No more National Security Letters to spy on citizens who aren’t suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. That is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists.”
OK, so maybe that is who we are now. Sucks to be us?