The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said.
How broad? Well, Think Progress has this headline:
NSA analyst ‘improperly accessed’ Bill Clinton’s e-mail through domestic surveillance program.
Oopsies! Again! Why do we have such rotten luck?
Thousands of -- oops! -- illegally issued National Security Letters. The FBI accidentally vacuuming up a whole company's e-mails instead of just a targeted person's. The continuing nightmare of the no-fly list. And now the breach of the passport files of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Oh, and John McCain's.
And wouldn't you know it? The problem spans presidential administrations, too!
Well, we can always hope that vigorous oversight prevents the next half dozen or so such mistakes, right? Just ask Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ-12), chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel:
Mr. Holt added that few lawmakers could challenge the agency’s statements because so few understood the technical complexities of its surveillance operations. "The people making the policy," he said, "don’t understand the technicalities."
Well, at least it's not on purpose. It's all just accidental. A long, long series of truly unfortunate and remarkably similar accidents.
In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.
"Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental," Mr. Holt said.
Well, at least you still have rights you can vindicate in court when the oversight and/or regulatory regime fail you. Except that the Attorney General considers telecom immunity "settled law", and such snooping "unwise" but not "illegal."
Get used to it. This power is entrenched, and it's not going to be pried loose easily.
We've had two presidential and three Congressional elections since the New York Times found out we were being spied on by the government, and yet the hits keep on coming.
Do you think warrantless surveillance is part of the "gloss on executive power" yet?
Has to be, right? Justice Frankfurter said it could happen where, "systematic, unbroken executive practice" was "long pursued to the knowledge of Congress and never before questioned." Forget "never before questioned." This power has the "Good" Congresskeeping Seal of Approval.
You can stop looking backward now.