The news is full of stories about the newly released report made by five Inspectors General regarding additional, previously unknown federal surveillance. Each inspector contributed to a declassified 38 page report, and also made separate, classified individual reports on behalf of their respective agencies: Department of Justice, NSA, CIA, Department of Defense, and Office of National Intelligence. This program goes far beyond the Warrantless Wiretapping that made news coverage over the past several years. The report itself can be read at eff.org
The surveillance we are talking about here includes phone calls, emails, internet activity, text messaging and any other form of communication the government decides they feel a need to inspect, including ‘snail mail’. The breaking news is in ADDITION to the earlier NSA warrantless wiretapping controversy, not merely a further elaboration on the original surveillance.
This comes on top of the news that Leon Panetta, President Obama’ s head of the Central Intelligence Agency, has ordered the discontinuation of an eight year program that had not been reported to Congress for oversight as required by law. House Intelligence Committee members, including subcommittee Congresswoman Jan Schackowsky (D – IL) described the program as “shocking and serious”, and indicated the program was deliberately kept secret from Congress.
Here is the video of Schackowsky on MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show:
The same “usual suspects” appear in this new controversy. Interviewed by the five Inspectors General for the newest report were David Addington, top aide to former Vice President Cheney; George Tenet, former head of the CIA; John Ashcroft, former Attorney General. John Yoo, the former Assistant Deputy Attorney General whose incompetence in the Department of Justice has already received much public attention. They all REFUSED to be interviewed. (Oh, and doesn’t THAT speak well for the legality of this super-secret surveillance program?)
New York Times reporters Eric Lichtblau and James Risen in an article appearing July 10th indicate that this newly exposed surveillance was pretty much for nothing in terms of protecting us from terrorism.
And let’s not forget, in considering our national security efforts, the cyber attacks over the 4th of July weekend that targeted the White House, the Pentagon, the Federal Trade Commission and the Treasury Department. In May President Obama spoke about his newly proposed security plan, a plan which has been criticized as short on details, but long on spending, costing billions, a plan which is receiving some fairly intense criticism for its questionable privacy guarantees. But fear not! for our government is recruiting…. high school hackers to protect us. Well, to be fair, THAT might actually make us safer, if they’re given adequate supervision.
Supervision? Isn’t that the crux of the issue: Supervision. Adequate supervision. Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi and others want to expand the House oversight, to make it actually WORK. President Obama has threatened to veto those provisions being included in current proposed legislation.
There are a lot of very busy people, poking around in our daily business. We can only hope that not only are there many many people watching us, but that some of them might actually be watching the bad guys, the dangerous terrorists. Given that the House of Representatives holds the power of the purse to pay for those federally employed spies and spooks, let us seriously hope that they are given more power to oversee and fund those efforts to defend us from harm, and that they do as much as possible to safeguard our privacy while safeguarding our security. Security and privacy are not, mutually exclusive. It is possible to both keep the nation secure and respect the privacy of its citizens.