Oversight-USA style

Supporters of the Obama administration and the national security state make three arguments in support of its widespread snooping. One is that what the NSA and other government agencies have been doing legal, something that Jennifer Stisa Granick and Christopher Jon Sprigman vigorously dispute. Another is that there is judicial oversight from the federal judges of the FISA court, which has been revealed as pretty much a rubber stamp rather than a watchdog.

The third is that Congress is briefed on the programs and that there is congressional oversight. Reporter Jeremy Scahill describes how this ‘oversight’ works and you will see that it is a joke since the people who receive these so-called briefings are given highly selective information and are sworn to secrecy about what they are told and so cannot really raise a stink even if they wanted to. This was why senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Mark Udall (D-Colorado) had been reduced for years to dropping vague hints that the surveillance was far broader than anyone suspected.

For those who cannot watch videos, some kind soul has transcribed Scahill’s words: part 1 and part 2.


  1. invivoMark says

    I feel that this article is relevant: http://themonkeycage.org/2013/06/14/the-oversight-of-too-much-oversight/

    “The recent revelations that the National Security Agency collects mass amounts of online data internationally and domestic phone calls has led to President Obama and the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper to reassure United States citizens that the actions are legal and that all three branches of the national government have oversight duties of the programs in question. In fact, the entire House of Representatives was briefed on the previously secret surveillance programs. Clearly, the purpose of the presidential press conferences, DNI Clapper’s testimony ,and the House briefing, was to reassure American citizens that there is enough oversight of the NSA’s programs specifically and the intelligence community (IC) generally.

    Yet, assigning oversight roles to more people, institutions and committees may have the perverse effect of creating more autonomy for an agency. This is well known to political scientists who study principal agency theory (PAT). …”


    As things stand, there is effectively minimal oversight of the NSA -- if any. But we already knew that, and thanks to this blog post, we know it in more detail. What’s even more sinister is that it would be trivial for anyone to “strengthen” that oversight (say, in order to appeal to constituents who don’t like the idea that the NSA is watching their every move), resulting in the same or greater freedom for the NSA.

    Unrelated, a friend of a friend was part of the “Restore the Fourth” rally in Tempe, AZ. According to him, two men in a black van showed up, with a camera on top of the van zooming in and taking pictures of the crowd. This person claims that the camera looked like those that are used in facial recognition technology.

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