Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Senator Sanders To NSA: Are You The New Hoover FBI?

Sen. Bernie Sanders
That's not how Sanders phrased it. But that is the essence of the question: Is the NSA spying on everyone including Congress and maybe even the President, and is it using the resulting information to extend its own power? That was, after all, the core behavior of J. Edgar Hoover's FBI; are we witnessing a resurrection of Hoover and his nefarious practices?

Yes, says DSWright at FDL — Not only is Sanders asking the right question, but all indications are that the answer is in the affirmative. Quoting from the WaPo's blog The Switch,
"Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other elected officials?"

That's the question Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) put to the National Security Agency's chief in a bluntly worded letter Friday. It seems, however, that the agency cannot categorically say no.


When asked by The Washington Post, an NSA spokesman said that the agency's privacy safeguards are effective at covering all Americans.

"Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons," the spokesman said. ...

In other words... none at all. The NSA is, de facto, Hoover's FBI, writ large; the zombie walks again. And what the NSA does is what Hoover would have done if he had had the technology available to him.

Afterthought: the comment thread on DSWright's post is highly critical of Sanders for asking a stupid question. But the quality of the question was never the point. Of course the question virtually answers itself. But why hasn't Congress used its considerable authority to put a stop to NSA's practices? It's easy to see why the President doesn't halt them; hell, he's likely using the results for his own purposes. But it's more difficult for me to see why Congress is not making a serious attempt to stop NSA's effectively universal warrantless spying. Blanket privacy violations (so to speak) have no legitimate value in the pursuit of good governance. Why not restore the Fourth Amendment to its rightful place protecting Americans, both in and out of Congress?

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