There is an important vote taking place today in Congress. An amendment that seeks to cut funding for the NSA’s bulk collection of people’s communication records under the Patriot Act has been proposed to the big Defense Authorization bill by a bipartisan coalition of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats.
It will be the first such vote held by Congress on restricting NSA surveillance after the revelations from ex-contractor Edward Snowden, published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, that detailed a fuller picture of the surveillance authorities than officials had publicly disclosed – something blasted in a fiery Tuesday speech by Senator Ron Wyden, a prominent Democratic critic of the surveillance programs.
In a sign of how crucial the NSA considers its bulk phone records collection, which a secret surveillance court reapproved on Friday, its director, General Keith Alexander, held a four-hour classified briefing with members of Congress. Alexander’s meeting was listed as “top-secret” and divided into two two-hour sessions, the first for Republicans and the second for Democrats. Staffers for the legislators were not permitted to attend.
That the testimony by Alexander was in secret should be no surprise. It would never do for the people who are being spied upon to know the reasons. Like good little children, we have to simply accept that our elders and betters know what is best for us.
Needless to say, this amendment being vigorously opposed by the Obama administration and leaders of both parties in this supposedly gridlocked Congress where they are supposed to be unable to agree on anything. But there are two things on which there is complete bipartisan agreement: creating an all-powerful secretive national security state and giving the oligarchy more money.
White House press secretary Jay Carney had the nerve to say of the proposed amendment, “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process“, ignoring the fact that it is the government that did all these things in secret and that if not for the leaks by Snowden, we would not have even known about them.