TECHDIRT: Jennifer Hoelzer's Insider's View Of The Administration's Response To NSA Surveillance Leaks
In case you were interested, here it is:
Early last week, Mike Masnick asked if I'd be willing to write the week's "Favorite Techdirt Posts of the Week." As he explains below, each week, someone from the larger Techdirt community recaps the week by summing up their favorite Techdirt posts. When he asked me to write, neither of us knew the President would hold a press conference that Friday, in fact, I was well on my way to finishing my draft when I heard that the President had addressed the NSA's surveillance programs.
Given my experience working for Senator Ron Wyden -- the chief critic of the NSA programs -- Mike asked if I'd be willing to revisit my draft with an eye towards discussing the President's statement. I said I would, but given a prior commitment, I told him that I wouldn't be able to get to it until late Friday night. He said that was fine as long as he got my draft early Saturday AM.
It was after midnight when I first read the President's remarks. And -- as you can see -- when I read his declaration of support for the principles of "open debate" and the "democratic process," something inside me snapped. After countless hours spent helping a U.S. Senator push for just such a debate only to be repeatedly met with intense opposition from this very President's Administration, I found his words infuriating.Read more
Brian Beutler published the following story on Talking Points Memo, June 21, 2013 http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2013/06/intelligence-committee-wyden-snowden-came.php
Last year, when the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence met to complete legislation renewing soon-to-expire surveillance laws, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) recognized an opportunity — a long-shot, but an opportunity nonetheless — to advocate for new restrictions on government snooping.
Behind closed doors, well out of earshot of privacy advocates, most other senators, and his own constituents, Wyden sought to amend the bill. He wanted it to direct the Justice Department’s inspector general to determine approximately how many Americans have had the contents of their communications gathered under section 702 of FISA that gave rise to PRISM, and to require government officials to obtain court orders before querying 702 collections with the names of American citizens — in other words, to close a backdoor surveillance loophole.
Both amendments failed, over his pleas, and the committee cleared the broader bill by a wide vote margin.
But what happened next is what really irks civil libertarians and others who want the process of legislating intelligence matters to become more transparent. The chair and vice chair of the committee touted the outcome of the committee vote, while Wyden was prohibited by committee rules from publicly registering and explaining his opposition.Read more
In the final days of the 112th Congress, President Obama signed two last minute bills. Both were extensions of highly controversial Bush-era policies. Both were scheduled to expire January 1, 2013. And both owe their passage largely to calamitous predictions that the sky would fall if they weren’t reauthorized in time.
One of the bills, of course, dealt with the expiring Bush-era tax breaks. It was the subject of endless coverage and debate. Statistics were graphed, studies were commissioned and reporters cancelled their holiday plans to give John Boehner the Lindsey Lohan treatment. Every presidential candidate was required to say how they would handle the expiring tax breaks and nearly every member of Congress — regardless of how they voted on the final deal — put out a statement explaining their vote to their constituents.
That was not the case with the other bill, which extended the Intelligence Community’s Bush-era warrantless wiretapping authorities. There were no statistics to graph or facts to report on. Cable news wasn’t filled with surveillance experts arguing for improvements to the bill. Reporters were in no position to convey how the law was working. In fact, members of Congress, who voted on the bill, don’t even know how the law they voted on is working.
Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA) in response torevelations that the Bush Administration was massively violating the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens. Yet, not one of the 374 Members of Congress who voted to rubberstamp the FAA for five more years can say that he or she knows what impact the law is having on the privacy rights of law-abiding American citizens.Read more