The Bipartisan Consensus On Surveillance


Glenn Greenwald reports on the behind-the-scene battle over an amendment that would have confined NSA data mining only to those who are actually under investigation rather than allowing them to collect massive amounts of data on all of us in the name of stopping terrorism. That amendment failed in the House, but the vote was pretty close — and the leadership of both parties united to make sure that no limits would be placed on the National Surveillance State.

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.

The fight for this amendment was led by some of the most conservative members of the House, like Justin Amash, and by some of the most liberal members. Everyone in between, in both parties, was firmly in the tank for unlimited surveillance powers. Anyone remember when Obama was a strong voice in the Senate against such executive overreach? I do. Vaguely.

Comments

  1. says

    I remember when I heard of Obama’s FISA vote in the senate then sitting back watching in amazement during the Democratic primaries that people were buying into his “hope and change” rhetoric. (I also remembered the Republicans during Clinton and was astounded that people thought Obama would some how magically change the GOP mentality and be a leader who would unite your country.)

  2. says

    Anyone remember when Obama was a strong voice in the Senate against such executive overreach?”

    To be fair, at the time he wasn’t in the Executive.

  3. says

    This vote underscores just how our political system is so beholden to the entrenched powers. It’s not an accident that the leadership of both parties voted to support the NSA. That’s exactly what they’ve been doing for over 70 years.

  4. says


    To be fair, at the time he wasn’t in the Executive.

    I’m not sure that’s a good usage of “to be fair.”

    Let’s try it out… “to be fair, I was against adultery before I got married.”

    I’m not feeling it.

  5. D. C. Sessions says

    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

    And I can imagine some of those conversations, can’t you?

    There was a huge consensus back in the day that what J. Edgar wanted, J. Edgar got. Perhaps for some of the same reasons.

  6. says

    I’m a supporter of the Democratic Party. Why? Because we have a winner take all system, which means 3rd parties are a terrible choice, and so the choice is between the Dems, who will make us a mediocre 1st world country, and the Repubs, which will make us a 3rd world country.

  7. lpetrich says

    Yes, it’s Duverger’s Law, after sociologist Maurice Duverger, who noticed that first-past-the-post voting produces two-party systems.

    I think that we Americans need proportional representation or some semi-proportional system like Single Transferable Vote.

    Each state’s House of Representatives delegation could be elected by proportional representation without violating the Constitution — it doesn’t mandate FPTP for the House, just state-by-state election of its members.

  8. John Hinkle says

    Of course nearly everyone is for unlimited surveillance powers. If they come out against it, they might find that some very damaging information about themselves gets “accidentally” “leaked” to the press.

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