Jul 25 2013

“This is Huge”

Majority Concerned Domestic Surveillance Will Go Too Far

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Thursday July 25, 2013 7:59 am

The latest NBC/WSJ poll found that majority of Americans are concerned the government will gone too far.

According to the poll 56 percent of Americans believe that the government’s “anti-terrorism” monitoring programs will go too far and violate the privacy rights of regular people. By comparison only 36 percent are more concerned that the government’s surveillance efforts might not go far enough.This is real shift since 2006 when a plurality worried the government wasn’t going far enough.

This is the second national poll to find a big shift in public opinion following the Snowden’s whistle-blowing. A Quinnipiac poll from earlier this months found that as Americans finally learn the extend of the NSA’s activities they are growing increasingly concerned that the government is violating individual’s civil liberties.

Snowden’s Whistleblowing Creates Climate for Critical House Vote on NSA Surveillance

By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake

Wednesday July 24, 2013 9:24 am

(A) new Washington Post-ABC News poll indicates, “Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the NSA programs are infringing on some Americans’ privacy rights, and about half see those programs as encroaching on their own privacy.”

“Most of those who see the programs as compromising privacy say the intrusions are unjustified,” the Post reports.

Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying

Glenn Greenwald, The Guardian

Thursday 25 July 2013 05.09 EDT

The extraordinary events that took place in the House of Representatives yesterday are perhaps the most vivid illustration yet of this dynamic, and it independently reveals several other important trends. The House voted on an amendment sponsored by Justin Amash, the young Michigan lawyer elected in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate, and co-sponsored by John Conyers, the 24-term senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The amendment was simple. It would de-fund one single NSA program: the agency’s bulk collection of the telephone records of all Americans that we first revealed in this space, back on June 6. It accomplished this “by requiring the FISA court under Sec. 215 [of the Patriot Act] to order the production of records that pertain only to a person under investigation“.

The amendment yesterday was defeated. But it lost by only 12 votes: 205-217. Given that the amendment sought to de-fund a major domestic surveillance program of the NSA, the very close vote was nothing short of shocking. In fact, in the post-9/11 world, amendments like this, which directly challenge the Surveillance and National Security States, almost never get votes at all. That the GOP House Leadership was forced to allow it to reach the floor was a sign of how much things have changed over the last seven weeks.

In reality, the fate of the amendment was sealed when the Obama White House on Monday night announced its vehement opposition to it, and then sent NSA officials to the House to scare members that barring the NSA from collecting all phone records of all Americans would Help The Terrorists™.

Using Orwellian language so extreme as to be darkly hilarious, this was the first line of the White House’s statement opposing the amendment: “In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens” (i.e.: we welcome the debate that has been exclusively enabled by that vile traitor, the same debate we’ve spent years trying to prevent with rampant abuse of our secrecy powers that has kept even the most basic facts about our spying activities concealed from the American people).

The White House then condemned Amash/Conyers this way: “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.” What a multi-level masterpiece of Orwellian political deceit that sentence is. The highly surgical Amash/Conyers amendment – which would eliminate a single, specific NSA program of indiscriminate domestic spying – is a “blunt approach”, but the Obama NSA’s bulk, indiscriminate collection of all Americans’ telephone records is not a “blunt approach”. Even worse: Amash/Conyers – a House bill debated in public and then voted on in public – is not an “open or deliberative process”, as opposed to the Obama administration’s secret spying activities and the secret court that blesses its secret interpretations of law, which is “open and deliberative”. That anyone can write a statement like the one that came from the Obama White House without dying of shame, or giggles, is impressive.

Even more notable than the Obama White House’s defense of the NSA’s bulk domestic spying was the behavior of the House Democratic leadership. Not only did they all vote against de-funding the NSA bulk domestic spying program – that includes liberal icon House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who voted to protect the NSA’s program – but Pelosi’s deputy, Steny Hoyer, whipped against the bill by channeling the warped language and mentality of Dick Cheney.

Remember when Democrats used to object so earnestly when Dick Cheney would scream “The Terrorists!” every time someone tried to rein in the National Security State just a bit and so modestly protect basic civil liberties? How well they have learned: now, a bill to ban the government from collecting the telephone records of all Americans, while expressly allowing it to collect the records of anyone for whom there is evidence of wrongdoing, is – in the language of the House Democratic Leadership – a bill to Protect The Terrorists.

None of this should be surprising. Remember: this is the same Nancy Pelosi who spent years during the Bush administration pretending to be a vehement opponent of the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program after it was revealed by the New York Times, even though (just as was true of the Bush torture program) she was secretly briefed on it many years earlier when it was first implemented.

So the history of Democratic leaders such as Nancy Pelosi isn’t one of opposition to mass NSA spying when Bush was in office, only to change positions now that Obama is. The history is of pretend opposition – of deceiving their supporters by feigning opposition – while actually supporting it.

But the most notable aspect of yesterday’s events was the debate on the House floor. The most vocal defenders of the Obama White House’s position were Rep. Mike Rogers, the very hawkish GOP Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Echoing the Democratic House leadership, Bachmann repeatedly warned that NSA bulk spying was necessary to stop “Islamic jihadists”, and she attacked Republicans who supported de-funding for rendering the nation vulnerable to The Terrorists.

Meanwhile, Amash led the debate against the NSA program and repeatedly assigned time to many of the House’s most iconic liberals to condemn in the harshest terms the NSA program defended by the Obama White House. Conyers repeatedly stood to denounce the NSA program as illegal, unconstitutional and extremist. Manhattan’s Jerry Nadler said that “no administration should be permitted to operate beyond the law, as they’ve been doing”. Newly elected Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq War combat veteran considered a rising star in her party, said that she could not in good conscience take a single dollar from taxpayers to fund programs that infringe on exactly those constitutional rights our troops (such as herself) have risked their lives for; she told me after the vote, by Twitter direct message, that the “battle [was] lost today but war not over. We will continue to press on this issue.”

In between these denunciations of the Obama NSA from House liberals, some of the most conservative members of the House stood to read from the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps the most amazing moment came when GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner – the prime author of the Patriot Act back in 2001 and a long-time defender of War on Terror policies under both Bush and Obama – stood up to say that the NSA’s domestic bulk spying far exceeds the bounds of the law he wrote as well as his belief in the proper limits of domestic surveillance, and announced his support for Amash/Conyers. Sensenbrenner was then joined in voting to de-fund the NSA program by House liberals such as Barbara Lee, Rush Holt, James Clyburn, Nydia Velázquez, Alan Grayson, and Keith Ellison.

To say that there is a major sea change underway – not just in terms of surveillance policy but broader issues of secrecy, trust in national security institutions, and civil liberties – is to state the obvious. But perhaps the most significant and enduring change will be the erosion of the trite, tired prism of partisan simplicity through which American politics has been understood over the last decade. What one sees in this debate is not Democrat v. Republican or left v. right. One sees authoritarianism v. individualism, fealty to The National Security State v. a belief in the need to constrain and check it, insider Washington loyalty v. outsider independence.

That’s why the only defenders of the NSA at this point are the decaying establishment leadership of both political parties whose allegiance is to the sprawling permanent power faction in Washington and the private industry that owns and controls it. They’re aligned against long-time liberals, the new breed of small government conservatives, the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, many of their own members, and increasingly the American people, who have grown tired of, and immune to, the relentless fear-mongering.

The sooner the myth of “intractable partisan warfare” is dispelled, the better. The establishment leadership of the two parties collaborate on far more than they fight. That is a basic truth that needs to be understood. As John Boehner joined with Nancy Peolsi, as Eric Cantor whipped support for the Obama White House, as Michele Bachmann and Peter King stood with Steny Hoyer to attack NSA critics as Terrorist-Lovers, yesterday was a significant step toward accomplishing that.

Close House Vote on Amash Amendment to Curb the NSA a Blow to the Security State

Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I happened to be on the phone with a political expert and insider when the result of the Amash amendment vote in the House of Representatives hit the news wires. While I am sure readers will be disappointed that this proposal to curb the NSA was defeated (see background here), the margin of victory for the bad guys was so stunningly narrow that it shows how badly support for the NSA has fallen even among its normal allies. When I read the vote results to my expert, 205 to 217, his reaction was uncharacteristically heated (he describes his degree of sang froid as somewhere between that of a Chinese sage and a dead dog):
Holy shit, this is huge. The NSA must be shitting in its pants. They got this close to beating them when the opponents had no time and no organizing, and the White House was throwing its weight behind this too.


  1. ek hornbeck
  2. BobbyK

    they weren’t collecting the actual wave file contents of all our phone calls, the meta data is damaging enough if any of it were to leak.

    Who you call and who you call calls… “and they told two friends” etc.

    Imagine all the right wingers phone calls and the links that could be made to the KKK and other hate groups.

    In Right wing world where the whisper campaign thrives, this kind of surveillance is bad for business.

    I’m not surprised to see resistance to this from the right.

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