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Jul 27 2013

This is one Congressional hearing worth listening to

Florida Democratic congressman Alan Grayson will be holding hearings on Wednesday where, for a change, critics of the NSA (including the ACLU, the Cato Institute, and Glenn Greenwald) will be invited to counter all the misleading information that government witnesses have been making about the spying programs.

Grayson, who was instrumental in fostering support among Democrats for the the amendment, said Wednesday’s hearing would mark the first time critics of NSA surveillance methods have testified before Congress since Snowden’s leaks were published by the Guardian and Washington Post.

“I have been concerned about the fact that we have heard incessantly in recent weeks from General Keith Alexander [director of the NSA] and Mr James Clapper [director of National Intelligence] about their side of the story,” he said. “We have barely heard anything in Congress from critics of the program.

“We have put together an ad hoc, bipartisan hearing on domestic surveillance in on the Capitol. We plan to have critics of the program come in and give their view – from the left and the right.”

Grayson said the hearing had bipartisan support, and was backed by the Republican congressman Justin Amash, whose draft the amendment that was narrowly defeated.

The timing is also good.

The hearing will take place at the same time as a Senate hearing into the NSA’s activities. That will feature Gen Alexander and possibly his deputy, Chris Inglis, as well as senior officials from the Department of Justice and FBI.

The simultaneous timing of the hearings will lead to a notable juxtaposition between opponents and defenders of the government’s surveillance activities.

Apart from providing more accurate information about what is going on, this is clearly also a move at cementing the cross-party alliances against government surveillance that showed surprising strength in the close defeat of the Amash-Conyers amendment last week.

I think the White House and the leadership of both parties are likely to be worried by this development. They tend to hate it when the reliable liberal-conservative/Democratic-Republican divide, that they know how to easily manipulate, breaks down.

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