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View Diary: White House blasts amendment curtailing the NSA's power (175 comments)

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  •  WaPo Poll, 9/11 Commission heads: NSA excessive (19+ / 0-)

    A Guardian article by Spencer Ackerman on the pushback against the Amash Amendment contains links to important new bits of information:  The Washington Post's new poll and a statement by 9/11 Commission heads Kean and Hamilton.

    A Washington Post poll released on the eve of the debate over the Amash amendment found widespread public skepticism of the NSA. Seventy-four percent of respondents said that the agency's monitoring of telephone records and internet communications intrudes on Americans' privacy rights generally, with 49% believing it intrudes on their own.

    Two of the most respected Washington personages on national security issues, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, the Republican and Democratic chairmen of the 9/11 commission, wrote that the bulk surveillance poses "serious questions for our country."

    "The NSA's metadata program was put into place with virtually no public debate, a worrisome precedent made worse by erecting unnecessary barriers to public understanding via denials and misleading statements from senior administration officials," Kean and Hamilton wrote on Politico shortly before the vote on the Amash amendment. Hamilton, a former Indiana congressman, was one of Obama's earliest foreign policy advisers when the president served in the Senate.

    The WaPo poll can be found here --

    And the Kean/Hamilton statement can be found here --

    When the Congress and the courts work in secret; when massive amounts of data are collected from Americans and enterprises; when government’s power of intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens, augmented by the awesome power of advanced technologies, is hugely expanded without public debate or discussion over seven years, then our sense of constitutional process and accountability is deeply offended.


    Much of this surveillance activity raises sharp questions: Is it necessary to collect and preserve this vast amount of data rather than pursue targeted individuals? Is the government using the least intrusive means to protect us? What are the rules for using metadata collected ostensibly for counterterrorism purposes in other contexts? Could more information about the program’s reach have been made available earlier? These and other vital questions must be debated in the open.

    It may be remembered that Lee Hamilton's opinion was a determining factor the the decision not to fully prosecute the high-level government criminals in the Iran/Contra fiasco.    Even though Hamilton is known as a strong supporter of the Constitution (and of educating the public about it), I have held a grudge against him over Iran-Contra for years.  I may now be willing to forgive him for that, based on this statement.

    Hamilton, although now elderly and keeping a low profile, still has considerable influence, particularly among conservative 'Blue Dog' Democrats.  His 2008 support of Obama was a turning point in the willingness of rank-and-file conservative voters' support for Obama, who won Indiana that year.

    It seems to me that Hamilton's signing on to this joint statement will give conservative and/or more cautious Dems to vote for the Amash Amendment, and to more aggressively pursue breaking down the NSA's wall of secrecy.  I hope it will help lead to a genuinely free and open public discussion of the NSA's secret surveillance state in relation to our Constitutional rights.

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