High stakes debate
over national security
state is long overdue
U.S. Rep Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) makes a convincing case for a constitutional crisis.
FOR MORE THAN six months morsels of the massive government spying operations of the U.S. and the U.K. have dribbled out in headlines based on documents released by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
Over the weekend, the two publications leading the coverage of the topic – The Guardian in the U.K. and The New York Times in America – separately published stunning summaries of all the revelations to date, and the debate it has spawned in the halls of power in both countries.
These in-depth accounts should be required reading for everyone.
There is no longer any excuse for anyone to be uninformed or unalarmed about the threats our governments are posing to us.
THE LATEST CHAPTER in the long-running series came in The Washington Post’s blockbuster report Oct. 30 about interception of vast amounts of internet traffic which has been diverted to government data warehouses.
We analyzed it Oct. 31 in Google, Yahoo data caught in dragnet
But on Sunday, The New York Times pulled it all together in No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A., a 4,500-word report by Scott Shane.
It is heavy reading, but worth every minute.
The opening screen of The Guardian’s in-depth, multi-media presentation on the spying scandal. Click image to enlarge.
The day before, The Guardian in the UK published NSA Files Decoded: What the revelations mean for you.
This is a rich, multi-media report based on hours of interviews and presented in an easy-to-navigate format with video quotes from about half a dozen key players.
It was written by Ewen Macaskill and Gabriel Dance, and produced by Feilding Cage And Greg Chen.
It truly does answer the question posed: What do the revelations mean for you – and me, and everyone?
The answer is truly disturbing. After reading and listening, one can only conclude that the national security state spawned after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks is out of control, deceiving its supposed overseers and itself a threat to democracy.
One need go no further than the opening video statement by U.S. Rep Zoe Lofgren to understand the seriousness of the situation.
Lofgren represents California’s 19th Congressional District, which encompasses most of Silicon Valley, home to more high-tech powerhouses than anywhere on the planet. She is a founding member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
“We have a constitution and it provides that the American people are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures unless there’s a warrant,” Lofgren says. “That system … has gone seriously off the [tracks].”
In true journalistic fashion, The Guardian then presents the opposing view, this from Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the National Security Agency.
“In the end, we can’t be transparent about most of these issues,” Baker says, “and we have to get comfortable with the idea that we’re delegating to somebody the ability to learn the secrets, to review what’s being done and to determine whether it’s being done properly.”
Indeed, that “somebody” is supposedly the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and, of course, Congress.
Baker is asking us to “trust” that the supervision is going well and nothing is amiss.
But jump to Page 5 of the multimedia presentation and you will learn that the trust has been seriously abused.
No lesser official than the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is exposed giving misleading testimony to Congress in March when he was asked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) whether the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
Clapper’s reply: “No, sir.”
The Snowden documents have proven otherwise.
In a video comment on Clapper’s whopper, National Security journalist Jeremy Scahill says:
“People have been prosecuted in the United States for far lesser offenses than that which James Clapper committed when he lied to the U.S. Congress.”
Indeed they have. Just ask Chelsea Manning.
One of the most telling points was made in a video statement by Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the ACLU.
“The public has an interest in knowing about government misconduct and knowing what the government’s policies are,” Jaffer says. “We have gone far too far in one direction, and we now have such blanket secrecy around these national security policies that we can’t really say they have any democratic legitimacy at all.”
The New York Times story on Sunday examining the state of knowledge about government spying. Click image to enlarge.
WRITING IN The New York Times, Scott Shane concludes something similar.
“The N.S.A. seems to be listening everywhere in the world, gathering every stray electron that might add, however minutely, to the United States government’s knowledge of the world,” he writes.
“Today’s N.S.A. is the Amazon of intelligence agencies, as different from the 1950s agency as that online behemoth is from a mom-and-pop bookstore.
“It sucks the contents from fiber-optic cables, sits on telephone switches and Internet hubs, digitally burglarizes laptops and plants bugs on smartphones around the globe.”
These are not minor offenses.
“Since Edward J. Snowden began releasing the agency’s documents in June, the unrelenting stream of disclosures has opened the most extended debate on the agency’s mission since its creation in 1952.”
It is a debate that is long overdue.
Urged on by the Bush/Cheney administration, which blatantly stoked everyone’s fears in the aftermath of the attacks on New York and Washington, Congress hurriedly passed the Orwellian-named USA PATRIOT Act, which is at the root of most of the problems.
But it is compounded by other legislation and the secrecy-shrouded procedures of the FISA courts, which are accountable to no one.
It is long past time that this debate rose to the top of the national agenda. It’s more than just a political issue, as The Guardian report makes clear: it’s an economic one, as well. If non-US residents can’t trust their data with the likes of Google and Yahoo, they will go somewhere else.
But it is the assault on privacy, the threats to individual liberty and the blatant disregard for the Fourth Amendment that should outrage everyone. They must be ended.
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