U.S. Senator Martin Henrich’s (D-NM) strongly-worded statement this week cautioning the CIA that “The Senate Intelligence Committee oversees the CIA, not the other way around” is – in my mind – remarkable for the sheer fact that it’s remarkable.
One of the things I have most struggled to understand about elected officials is how few of them seem to revel in the role of being an elected official. Maybe it’s just me, but if I ever put myself through the hell necessary to become a U.S. Senator, I’d take a lot of pride in being a U.S. Senator. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’d wake up every day trying to figure out how to be the best U.S. senator ever.
Think about it. If you were a member of Congress wouldn’t you want that to mean something? If – for example - you got to serve on the Senate Intelligence Committee, wouldn’t you want the Senate Intelligence Committee to be a really important and powerful committee? If your job was to conduct oversight, wouldn’t you get ticked at the suggestion that oversight isn’t valuable or that your contributions would be anything other than worthwhile? Wouldn’t you want your constituents to look at your work and say: “I’m proud that MY senator is the one asking tough questions.” “I feel safer knowing that MY senator is ensuring that the intelligence community really is doing its best to keep me safe.” Call me crazy, but I’d be furious if I found out that the NSA or CIA was hiding stuff from me, if only because it implies that they think they care more about my constituents’ safety than I do.
Again, maybe it’s just me, but if I spent my work days surrounded by statues and paintings of the courageous leaders who came before me, I’d say to myself, “Self, how can I be more like THEM?”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