Information of the sort described in the Guardian article has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States, as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.Which is pretty much exactly what you knew they were going to say. It's what we've been hearing for years, after all. Ever since "9/11 changed everything," as they tell us. Some congressional Democrats, at least, have attempted to lay these practices bare:
Congress has previously passed up opportunities to compel public disclosure about the breadth of domestic surveillance operations. Last December, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon attempted to amend federal law to force the government to disclose more about the secret intelligence court’s interpretations of the executive branch’s surveillance powers. His amendment was voted down 37-54, with only three Republicans in support.Republicans are now faced with a choice between continuing to defend the practices they so strongly supported during the Bush administration even in the hands of the Obama administration, or opposing this because they oppose everything President Obama does. So far, there doesn't seem to be much outrage coming from Republican leaders: Reince Priebus, usually such a reliable source of outrage, began the day tweeting about a new finance director hire and wishing Eric Cantor a happy birthday.
Another amendment, proposed by Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, would have compelled the NSA to give an estimate of how often the NSA ends up collecting information on Americans–a request the NSA had previously refused to fulfill on the Orwellian grounds that it would violate Americans’ privacy for the agency to disclose how often it spies on them.
That amendment was also rejected, 43-52, with most Republicans in the chamber voting against it.
6:47 AM PT: Will the DOJ launch a leak investigation? NBC's Pete Williams has sources who say yes, while a senior administration official tells Huffington Post "There’s been no referral yet from the intelligence community."