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As much as I usually click right by most posts from this conservative source, today the title enticed me to dig a little deeper. It seems some "Congressional Fence-sitters" are now having "NSA buyers remorse":

GOP Rep:  House would have nixed NSA program

by Shaun Waterman, The Washington Times -- August 17, 2013

The revelation that the National Security Agency broke court-imposed privacy rules thousands of times a year in snooping Americans’ phone and email records would have changed the outcome of last month’s House vote to defund the program, according to one legislator who was part of the effort.

“We only needed seven votes to switch and I think there were at least seven, probably more like 20-30, who had their concerns about the program but were prepared to give the intelligence agencies the benefit of the doubt,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, told The Washington Times after the NSA rules violations came to light.

“We were being told there were ‘some’ errors, like a few,” Mr. Griffith said, referring to sworn congressional testimony about the domestic programs from senior intelligence, FBI and Justice Department officials. “They gave everyone the impression these [errors] were very rare. If [my colleagues] had realized how many [violations of privacy protection or legal rules] {sic} there were, I think more than seven of them would have switched.”

“2776 is a very big number compared to 54,” he said. “You’d have to be wearing Rose-tinted spectacles not to wonder whether [the violations] {sic} really were all inadvertent.”

About that "2776 big number" that would have swayed that recent Amash Amendment vote the opposite way:

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds

by Barton Gellman, -- Thursday, August 15, 2013

The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.

The May 2012 audit, intended for the agency’s top leaders, counts only incidents at the NSA’s Fort Meade headquarters and other facilities in the Washington area. Three government officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the number would be substantially higher if it included other NSA operating units and regional collection centers.

When do all these "unauthorized" NSA infractions -- ever rise to the level that the referees start throwing "yellow flags" on the play?

And about that benchmark "compared to 54" number, that supposedly 'makes it all worthwhile,' all this domestic intrusion into our "personal effects" by our well-paid constitutionally-empowered governmental employees? ... Well, some in the Senate think that this 54 "justification number" is very much made of "fudge" too:

Senate Judiciary Committee Holds Oversight Hearing On Government Surveillance Programs -- 31 Jul 2013

Statement of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

Hearing on “Strengthening Privacy Rights and National Security:
Oversight of FISA Surveillance Programs

July 31, 2013

Senator Patrick Leahy:

It also has been far too difficult to get a straight answer about the effectiveness of the Section 215 phone records program.  Whether this program is a critical national security tool is a key question for Congress as we consider possible changes to the law.  Some supporters of this program have repeatedly conflated the efficacy of the Section 215 bulk metadata collection program with that of Section 702 of FISA.  I do not think this is a coincidence, and it needs to stop.  The patience and trust of the American people is starting to wear thin.

I asked General Alexander about the effectiveness of the Section 215 phone records program at an Appropriations Committee hearing last month, and he agreed to provide a classified list of terrorist events that Section 215 helped to prevent.  I have reviewed that list.  Although I agree that it speaks to the value of the overseas content collection implemented under Section 702, it does not do the same with Section 215.  The list simply does not reflect dozens or even several terrorist plots that Section 215 helped thwart or prevent -- let alone 54 [blocked plots], as some have suggested.

These facts matter.  This bulk collection program has massive privacy implications.  The phone records of all of us in this room reside in an NSA database.  I have said repeatedly that just because we have the ability to collect huge amounts of data does not mean that we should be doing so.  In fact, it has been reported that the bulk collection of Internet metadata was shut down because it failed to produce meaningful intelligence.  We need to take an equally close look at the phone records program.  If this program is not effective, it must end.  And so far, I am not convinced by what I have seen.

And about that recent Amash Amendment vote which lost by 217-205. If Congress knew then, what they know now, this vote would have likely gone the other way -- putting the brakes on the most egregious of these NSA intrusions:  

House to vote on amendment restricting NSA metadata collection - UPDATED

by David Perera, -- July 24, 2013

The House will debate a proposed amendment to the fiscal 2014 defense appropriations bill that would prevent the National Security Agency from undertaking the bulk collection of telephone metadata records.

The amendment (.pdf), known as Amash-Conyers for Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.), would narrow intelligence community application of Section 215, requiring the collection to be connected to specific individuals. The House Rules Committee approved on July 22 the amendment for 30 minutes of House debate, likely to occur the afternoon of July 24.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has interpreted Section 215 (codified at 50 USC § 1861) broadly to permit the NSA to collect and store all transactional records of domestic and international telephone calls generated by U.S. carriers and search them later, subject to a standard of "reasonable and articulable suspicion."

Update July 24, 8 p.m.: The House defeated the amendment in a 217-205 vote that did not break down along party lines, since substantial numbers of Democrats and Republicans voted on both sides of the issue.

Well the NSA-skeptics still have an Ace card to play, once Congress finally decides to get off their well-paid laurels. Senator Leahy (and 10 others) have proposed a fix to those thousands of NSA "inadvertent mistakes":

The FISA Accountability and Privacy Protection Act of 2013 -- June 26, 2013

Hopefully the public interest in this high-stakes surveillance game, will not have faded by then ... along with the intense summer heat ... when the mind tends to turn to other seasonal pursuits ...

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