U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sent a letter to the NSA on Friday asking, "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?" The only acceptable answer ought to be, "No, of course not."
The honest answer: "Yes."
The NSA has spied on members of Congress, but acknowledging that would unnerve millions of Americans. That's why their official response to the letter was so evasive that CNN summed it up, "NSA won't say whether it spies on Congress."
The NSA noted "procedures that protect the privacy of U.S. persons," and said that "members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons." Put differently, a program that collects data about virtually every phone call in America cannot help but include the phone numbers that members of Congress dial, as well as the numbers of those who telephone members of Congress.
I'm very slowly getting over a nasty cold -- and if Anbar wasn't under assault wouldn't even be doing Iraq snapshots this week. So maybe I'm missing something for that reason?
But Bernie Sanders' letter was news and we noted it at Third.
The non-response was a pattern and that seems to be missing in the coverage.
Dropping back to the June 6th snapshot:
To address the issues involved in the latest news cycle revelations, Marco Werman (PRI's The World) spoke with journalist James Bamford who noted, "The difference is in the Bush administration it was illegal. Since then, they've created this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act and revamped the PATRIOT Act to some degree so what was illegal a few years ago is probably now legal in some secret back corner of the Justice Dept and NSA." At today's Senate Appropriations Committee hearing, Senator Mark Kirk estimated that this spying would have involved as many as 120 million phone calls. (A key point Bamford made to Marco Werman was that raw data can be overwhelming and counter-productive to spying efforts.) Kirk had one issue -- which was were members of Congress spied on.
Senator Mark Kirk: I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored -- of members of Congress. That would give a future executive branch, if they started pulling this stuff, kind of a -- would give them unique leverage over the legislature?
Attorney General Eric Holder: Uh, with all due respect, Senator, I don't think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss, uhm, that issue. I'd be more than glad to come back in a -- in a appropriate setting to discuss, uh, the issues that you have raised but I -- in this open forum, I don't -- I do not
Senator Mark Kirk: I would interrupt you and say that the correct answer would be: "No, we stayed within our lane and I am assuring you that we did not spy on members of Congress."
Mark Kirk raised this issue and, in fact, wrote the framework for Conor's column.
"Only acceptable" and "the correct answer"?
You can toss as many "Hare Krishna"s on top of the "do-lang-do-lang-do-lang"s -- Conor's still using Kirk's template whether he wants to admit it or not.
And what's he accomplished?
Not one damn thing. He goes off into speculation which -- look at the comments -- becomes what everyone wants to comment on -- whether a former member of Congress was guilty of something or not -- something undefined, something unknown.
Way to distract, Conor.
And way to play drama queen. I stand by this from the June 6th snapshot:
Kirk, [Committee Chair Barbara] Mikulski and Senator Richard Shelby all agreed it was an important question. And it's important because it's them. It's too bad that they don't feel it's important for non-members of Congress. It's too bad that Mikulski's 'answer' is to call for a closed hearing. It's too damn bad that she doesn't think the American people are owed answers. Remember, in American now, "democracy" translates as something that belongs only to elected members of Congress.
A sense of 'even Congress was spied upon,' I can understand but Congress is part of America not above and beyond it
The following community sites -- plus Antiwar.com, Jody Watley, Cindy Sheehan, Ms. magazine, Susan's On the Edge, Chocolate City and Pacifica Evening News have updated in the last 24 hours:
And I'm stealing from:
To note this -- including Third at the bottom, I've been too sick and foggy to even note that:
"Good Wife talk tomorrow"
"A real shame"
"revenge (the bad)"
"It is a slaughter"
"Sibel asks some questions"
"Shut it down"
- Truest statement of the week
- Truest statement of the week II
- A note to our readers
- Editorial: The US is (again) party to War Crimes
- TV: CBS' Hostages wraps up
- Video report of the week
- Baby Cum Pants Greg Mitchell
- Do you ever wonder why we're getting no where? (Av...
- Barack talks to America about what's on his mind
- Homophobe of the week
- Best news of last week
- Is the NSA Spying on Congress?
- Lynne Stewart freed (Dolores Cox, Workers World)
I'm posting one more thing after this and then taking a two to three hour nap (not the first of the day) before trying to do the snapshot.
The e-mail address for this site is email@example.com.
the atlantic conor friedersdorf
the atlantic conor friedersdorf