Congress is demanding to know if phone companies turned over records of their customer's calls to NSA and other intelligence organizations.
The White House says no, the phone companies can't provide that information to Congress because it's a State Secret. It's National Security (cue patriotic Lee Greenwood song and flag waving. Everybody hold up their lighter, it's the flame of Liberty! Oh, I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free, la la la...). We, the citizens of the United States, can not, must not, know what information is being collected on us, because that will compromise our own safety. We, like children, cannot be trusted with our own safety. Only The Decider, with His Benevolent God-like Wisdom(tm), is intelligent enough and wise enough to manage the safety of The Nation. This is for our own good.
Among the questions, posed by the committee on Oct. 2, were what information the carriers gave the administration without a court warrant, whether they were paid for any of it and whether the administration asked them to install equipment to intercept e-mails.
Just so I'm clear on this. No warrant, no just cause, no reasonable suspicion is required for the Executive Branch to data mine my private information and monitor my private communications in direct violation of the 4th Amendment, and there will be no Congressional oversight of this process in direct violation of the Constitution itself? And furthermore, without any Constitutional checks and balances, we are to trust the benevolent judgment of one man, and one man only. A man who has demonstrated his selfless dedication to service. A man who has proven to be a brilliant military commander. A nation builder. A beloved liberator. A crackerjack economist. An educator. An environmentalist. Soldier. Statesman. Friend to the working girl, so to speak. That guy. We should blindly trust that guy's judgment.
And who do we have to blame (besides ourselves) for the fact that our freedoms and rights are brushed aside, for the greater good of "National Security" of course, at the whim of one man?
" Congress approved a temporary measure in July allowing spy agencies to continue intercepting, without a court warrant, phone calls and e-mails of foreign-based terrorists that are routed through the U.S."
That's right. Congress gave the President permission to continue this nonsense. Congress abrogated their Constitutional duty of checks and balances on the abuse of Executive power. Supposedly the intercepts are just phone calling records and emails from "foreign based terrorists." Speaking as a former Intelligence Officer, there are several problems here: first, the White House decides who is a terrorist and who is not, so in actuality Congress' approval of the temporary measure gave the President unlimited authority to decide who will be monitored. Now, since The Great Decider is too busy deciding big important things, he doesn't actually have time to pour over lists and records of un-American Americans, so in actuality it is the recently unfettered intelligence agencies themselves who now determine who and what to monitor. No potential for abuse there. Two, since it is impossible to determine in advance which phone calls and emails are from officially certified, grade-A terrorists - you have to monitor everything and everybody. Everybody, every single person, within our boarders becomes a suspect. Every phone call, every email, is a potential hostile communication. And it doesn't take long for this mindset to become policy and paradigm, i.e. you are a suspect, always. Don't believe me? Try to strike up a friendly conversation with a TSA agent. This is exactly the mindset the Executive Branch has regarding it's citizens. And finally, it's not enough to look solely at phone calling connections, you actually have to listen in to determine content - otherwise if the local Fraternal Order of Police representative, for example, uses his home phone to call a suspected terrorist's phone number, which happens to be in his calling area, soliciting funds - well, then that Cop ends up on the Sooper Sekret Doubleplusungood List. And now we've got to pull his calling records, and the records of everybody he talked to, and then their records and etc. Like some insane looping computer program playing the Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon, eventually all of us are suspects. Unless you listen in, which you have to do in order to filter out false contacts. You have to, otherwise the nodal mapping you're doing is useless. Wire tapping without Warrants violates so many Federal and State laws and regulations that it is impossible to list them all. In essence, Congress' action (or lack of action actually) gave the Executive Branch cart blanc to ignore the law. The director of National Intelligence claims the National Security Act of 1947 gives the President the authority to do this. Hmmm, no, sorry that's just flat out wrong. First, the 1947 Act established a number of Security and Intelligence organizations and gave the Executive some limited powers, subject to Congressional oversight, in specific crisis situations. Title V of The National Security Act clearly spells out the requirement for Congressional oversight. Second, the Act was modified by Congress in 1952 and later by acts in the 1960's, 70's and 80's in response to abuses by intelligence agencies. Anybody remember Watergate? This is specifically why the FISA court was established, along with very specific directives which put very, very specific limitations on domestic intelligence activities.
Now it gets better, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell "acknowledged the existence of the program in August and said telecommunications companies should be given immunity from lawsuits claiming privacy violations" (emphasis mine). Now, I guarantee you that the DNI's call for immunity is not out of any concern for the telecoms, it is for one reason and one reason only - to keep this entire issue out of the courts. Because if there ever was an issue that is Constitutional in nature, and therefore bound to end up on the Supreme Court docket, it's this one. And while Congress may have been derelict in it's Constitutional duty, it is highly unlikely that the Supreme Court will be.
And that is what the White House fears more than anything else.