In Which I Lose My Temper

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Patrick

Patrick is a mid-40 year old geek with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master's degree in Information Systems. Nothing he says here has anything to do with the official position of his employer or any other institution.

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91 Responses

  1. Avatar Herb says:

    “Your Facebook memes are useless.”

    Love that, man…..I’ma put it on Facebook.Report

  2. Avatar Jaybird says:

    In 2002.

    To make a hasty analogy: We may have been drinking in 2002. If we’re finally sober enough to look at what we did in the harsh light of morning and we’re saying “WHAT IN THE HELL DID WE DO???”, that’s a good thing.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to Jaybird says:

      That would be a good thing.

      What I’m hearing instead is, “The guy currently in charge is a freaking drunk! It’s all his fault!”

      From many of the same guys who have voted, not just in 2002, but multiple times since then, to keep giving him giant buckets of booze.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Patrick says:

        The Congress has changed hands a couple of times since then… sadly, I’m googling for the number of Congresspeople who have more than five terms under their belt, and I’m not finding that number. In 2000, there were 359 “safe” seats according to Congressional Quarterly but there have been a number of things that have happened since then… of course, there are probably still 359 safe seats, now that I think about it… just with different asses in them.

        It’s a pity that it took us this long to start saying “wait, what?” rather than “another round!”

        But we should be cultivating the “wait, what?” response rather than criticizing how long it took to arrive.

        Unless, of course, it’s nothing more than a useful partisan argument to be abandoned soon… in which case, we need to cultivate it as quickly as we can! Get people on the record! If we can’t get them to pass a law, we can at least get them to make quotations that will be embarassing 4 years from now.Report

  3. Avatar zic says:

    Applauding. Loudly.Report

  4. Avatar George Turner says:

    Well, Obama is trying to cover himself by saying that the appropriate Congressional committees are briefed. They are briefed, but they’re not allowed to say anything. Diane Feinstein and other liberal Democrats were fully briefed about all the waterboarding going on under Bush and couldn’t utter a peep about it because it was classified. They can’t even tell other Congressmen, so far as I am aware.

    In theory they have oversight, but it seems that if they actually used their oversight to any degree that rose to causing annoyance, they’d lose their clearance or get booted off the committee. At least that was the story when Democrats were explaining why they didn’t say anything about enhanced interrogations.

    As I’ve said elsewhere, on this issue they’re more than a bit in the position of going after J Edgar Hoover knowing he’s got dirt on everybody in his files.Report

    • Avatar Patrick in reply to George Turner says:

      In theory they have oversight, but it seems that if they actually used their oversight to any degree that rose to causing annoyance, they’d lose their clearance or get booted off the committee. At least that was the story when Democrats were explaining why they didn’t say anything about enhanced interrogations.

      Yeah, I buy that not at all. Mostly because the good Senator Feinstein and many of her compatriots weren’t “explaining” why they didn’t say anything. Dianne Feinstein has long been of the, “We’ve got this, it’s all right, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” vein, even giving her own party members short shrift in the attitude department.

      Also: you know how you solve this problem, if you don’t have the gumption to provide the oversight necessary? You deauthorize the program, instead of voting, yet again, to extend the Patriot Act and its satellite programs, like the NSA wiretap program, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, etc.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to George Turner says:

      So what happens, George, if Obama doesn’t follow the laws? That is his job, to implement the laws passed by Congress. What happens if he shuts the whole thing down without Congressional approval?

      Impeachment?Report

      • Avatar Patrick in reply to zic says:

        I’d guess, “hemming and hawing from Congress about how he’s not keeping us safe (so that they can cash in if there’s another terrorist attack between now and 2016), and the next guy just turns the machinery back on in 2016.”

        You want this stuff to stop, the branches need to do their job. Checks and balances, right?Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to Patrick says:

          Yup.

          But one branch can’t be bothered to do anything that remotely looks like governing because it might make another look good. A second branch, that would deal with these issue from a constitutional perspective is understaffed because another branch is slow to appoint and the first branch won’t approve.

          It is a cluster-fuck.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling in reply to Patrick says:

          Exactly right.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to zic says:

        The system must be shut down, and we have to make them shut it down. As I’ve argued here and elsewhere, a free democracy probably cannot coexist for long with a stack of personal files listing everyone’s dirt. It makes it too easy to compromise everyone. The ability to track terrorist activities is nice, but the administration doesn’t seem to use it for its intended purpose because they won’t acknowledge that radical jihadists are a problem. If they’re not going to use it to go after terrorists, and given that terrorists seem to be about as big a threat as bears with rabies, what’s the point of risking the pact between the people and their government, given that all the archived dirt can be used to compromise anyone you elect?Report

        • Avatar zic in reply to George Turner says:

          The ability to track terrorist activities is nice, but the administration doesn’t seem to use it for its intended purpose because they won’t acknowledge that radical jihadists are a problem.

          Do we really have such a problem? Our schools, churches, power grid, water supplies, shopping malls, halls of government, highways all sitting out there, mostly unprotected.

          Since 9/11, we’ve had a few crazies; but some of them were not radical jihadists, they were just crazy.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to George Turner says:

          because they won’t acknowledge that radical jihadists are a problem.

          Are they a problem? In what sense? It seems to me that the radical jihadi are pissed-off because US fingers keep poking around in Muslim nations. So in that sense the “problem” is easily resolved, no?Report

        • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

          No, the problem is not easily resolved, unless you think every European country is poking around in their business, along with Hindus, Sikhs, animists, and every other religion on Earth. About 95% of all terrorist attacks around the world are carried out by Muslims, the exceptions being central Africa and a couple of other obscure places.Report

          • Avatar zic in reply to George Turner says:

            About 95% of all terrorist attacks around the world are carried out by Muslims, the exceptions being central Africa and a couple of other obscure places.

            A statistic like this requires citation; because I suspect you pulled it out of your hat.Report

          • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to George Turner says:

            “About 95% of all terrorist attacks around the world are carried out by Muslims, the exceptions being central Africa and a couple of other obscure places.”

            Man, the discussion here is going down hill.

            Here’s an analogy. 100% of the drone strikes against innocent women and children are conducted by Christian nations. That doesn’t justify some psycho in singling out some Christians for reprisal. The fact that some Christians inflicted violence (nobody is more violent than the Christians, all told) does not implicate all Christians or Christians in general, nor does it justify any particular treatment of Christians in general, nor does it show that Christianity is the cause of violence.

            Just stop George.Report

          • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            No, I didn’t pull it out of my hat. Can you name another group that uses suicide belts and car bombs? When they’re not attacking Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, animists, or atheists, or Russians, they’re attacking other Muslims with similar methods. 1400+ killed in Muslim attacks in May, with 2600 injured. Most of the victims are Muslim. Maybe they’ll quit at some point, but it’s been going on since the Sunni/Shia split in one form or another.Report

            • Avatar Shazbot3 in reply to George Turner says:

              Are you even wearing a hat?Report

            • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

              You guys really buy into the idea that modern terrorism and Islam are unrelated? O_oReport

              • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to George Turner says:

                YOU RACIST. YOU ARE A RACIST.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                You know what would make this comment have more teeth? If anyone were calling anyone else a racist. Anywhere. At all. On the entire post comments.

                Yeah, then it would be AWESOME!!!! And really clever.

                As it is…..Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Even given what you said, it’s still a pretty awesome comment.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                “Shut up!” he explained. ^_^

                Maybe I spend too much time in the Counter Terrorist databases, but there are virtually no remaining international terrorists who aren’t jihadists. In fact, there are few other kinds of terrorist groups still active other than a handful of leftover left wing revolutionaries and anarchists. Aun Shrikyo is down to about a thousand members in their entire cult. The Irish, Basques, and Tamils gave it up, and the Sikhs have been pretty quiet. That leaves the field to about a hundred Islamic militant groups. Starting with the A’s:

                Abdullah Azzam Brigades
                Abu Nidal
                Abu Sayyaf
                al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigades
                al Badr
                al Gama’a al Islamiyya
                al Ghurrabaa
                al Itihaad al Islamiya
                al Nusra (an al Qaeda affiliate)
                al Qaeda
                al Qaeda in Iraq
                al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula
                al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb
                al Shabaab
                Ansar al Islam
                Ansar al Sunna
                Ansar Dine
                Ansaru (Nigerian Islamic jihadists)
                Armed Islamic Group of Algeria
                Army of Islam
                Asbat al Ansar

                Notice a pattern? The rest of the alphabet is largely similar except for M’s, which combine “Muslim”, “Marxist”, and “Maoist” and R’s, which include lots of “Revolutionary” communist groups, and T which includes some Tamils (who’ve stopped).

                You might think you see some Christian terrorist groups in the databases(aside from the Irish Protestant/Catholic groups which are no longer active), such as the Holy Land Foundation (out of Texas), the Vanguard of Conquest, the Saved Sect (out of Britain), but they are all jihadist too. Since the Irish quit fighting, there aren’t any Christian terrorist groups left, at least not on any lists, and the only other groups that might include Christians are communists or anarchists.

                NCTC terrorist group list

                State Department terrorist list covering both groups and individuals.

                In the State Department list you have the same mix of communist revolutionaries and jihadists, with a few oddballs like the Basque ETA who gave up fighting. About the only European names other than Hispanic FARC/Shining Path related ones on the list are Eric Breininger, who was a German killed in Pakistan while on jihad, Michel Samaha, aka Saadah Al Naib Mishal Fuad Samahah (a Lebanese intelligence official supporting Assad in Syria), and Doku Umarov, who is a Chechen jihadist, considered to be their Osama bin Laden, and who inspired Tamerlan Tsarnaev (aka Speed Bump).

                Without all these jihadist groups there wouldn’t be any reason for the NSA to have a program like PRISM, since lone wolves are just about the last people who show up in the data, since they don’t network, and the ones like FARC stay home.

                One question is that if Obama was truthful when he said Al Qaeda no longer represents a threat to us, then why does he keep expanding the eavesdropping programs? If the threat is gone and Al Qaeda is on the ropes then we don’t need to employ much more monitoring than we had prior to the Patriot Act. Though it seems his words are just words and usually divorced from his actions.Report

              • Avatar Patrick in reply to George Turner says:

                there are virtually no remaining international terrorists who aren’t jihadists

                Over here, we call them “spree killers”, unless they’re Muslim.Report

      • Avatar Barry in reply to zic says:

        “So what happens, George, if Obama doesn’t follow the laws? That is his job, to implement the laws passed by Congress. What happens if he shuts the whole thing down without Congressional approval? ”

        Given that it’s black budget, and classified up the wazoo, I’ll bet that Congress would never go there on impeachment. Like in 1998, when they impeached Clinton – did you notice that the Kosovo War was not one of the articles? Even though the President engaged in a war, not justified by declaration or treaty, and not in immediate self-defense.Report

    • Avatar Barry in reply to George Turner says:

      Agreeing with George here (in a very rare occasion).

      And SCOTUS has been quite happy to use classification to allow things to proceed.Report

  5. Avatar Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    Oversight rather implies that they would stop it if it was going over the line, except I don’t trust that the majority of Congress has any clue where “the line” is (which goes back to Patrick’s point about use electing crappy politicians & not holding them accountable).

    Unfortunately, oversight today means they were informed, are forbidden from saying anything about it, & will eagerly stump against it should it ever see the light of day.Report

  6. Avatar Ethan Gach says:

    Yea, people are irrational, but good thing some are trying to pay more attention now!Report

    • Avatar Will H. in reply to Ethan Gach says:

      I don’t think so.
      I’ve seen a number of things with the SCOTUS that defy prevalent conception– Justice O’Connor was very pro-Eleventh Amendment, voting repeatedly that state officials are unaccountable to federal law; Justice Thomas writing an opinion exponentially enlarging waiver of federal sovereign immunity– and none of it was hidden.
      Yet people tend to operate on preconceptions rather than to assess new facts. Established opinions are hard to shake.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If Obama taking a political hit is the price for getting rid of the AUMF and/or PATRIOT, is that a price worth paying?

    I mean, *I* would find it a price worth paying. But I would.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

      But Obama taking a political hit on this might be an eventuality that lessens the likelihood of that, not one that is a price of it happening.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        …Or his taking a hit of a particular size versus a somewhat smaller one that is substantially shared.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

          The next time I read “Bush did it too!” where the implication is “and therefore should be brought before the same tribunal!” rather than “and therefore you’re a hypocrite/and therefore Obama’s not doing anything wrong!”, will be the first time.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

            …Um, with Congress, Jaybird? With Congress. I.e., the basic point of this post.

            Or if you’re not saying you think I’m saying that we should make sure Bush shares the hit with Obama, then I don’t know what relevant comment you think you’re making.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

              To be honest, I don’t see how Congress might take a hit.

              They pass a law, maybe (unlikely, of course, but possible) that forbids a non-zero number of excesses. (Hell, maybe one that *REPEALS* a former law!)

              How do they share the hit with Obama? It’s easy to see how Bush might be called to account… one of the names named. Congress? How Congress? Their approval rating is already 15%. It might go back down to 10% (or break that record, even) but… the dynamic is different for them.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Can we first just clarify what you thought your previous comment related to?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Sigh. You gave two interpretations. In one of the interpretations, what I said made sense. In the other interpretation, you had no idea what I was saying.

                You don’t know whether to go with the interpretation where what I said made sense or the interpretation where you have no idea what I mean.

                Would it provide sufficent clarity for me to say that the interpretation where you understand what I was saying is the correct one?Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Huh? I honestly don’t follow.

                I don’t know what interpretations you are referring to. I clarified what I meant in the first comment with the second, and you responded to the second. Pretty common thing. Was it not clear that I was amending what I had just said in the comment you responded to?

                But I don’t even follow the relevance of what you said to the first thing I said, even imagining that I didn’t amend it before you said anything.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Or if you’re not saying you think I’m saying that we should make sure Bush shares the hit with Obama, then I don’t know what relevant comment you think you’re making.

                Do you remember writing that? If you don’t, that’s cool. It clarifies things.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Obviously I remember writing that. And obviously I thought you were referring to interpretations (of something?) that came before what you wrote that would have made what you said make sense.

                So you’re saying that the two interpretations I offered were:

                (1) if you’re not saying you think I’m saying that we should make sure Bush shares the hit with Obama (then I don’t know what relevant comment you think you’re making)

                and (2) if you are saying you think I’m saying that we should make sure Bush shares the hit with Obama (then maybe I do, kind of?)

                And you’re saying I should take the one that does make sense (even though it runs counter to the whole point of this post, which is that Congress should share the blame with Obama).

                Which would be that you were saying you thought I was saying that we should make sure Bush shares the hit with Obama (even though it runs counter to the whole point of this post, which is that Congress should share the blame with Obama).

                Is that right?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I see where the problem is. I had some unstated premises and jumped ahead anyway. Here they are:

                To resolve the problem that “the people” have with the law will probably require a law on the part of Congress. I don’t see how a theoretical law passes the House without the House doing it in such a way that takes a swipe at Obama (thus: the political hit). If Congress does write a law to address the previous laws, I don’t see how in the hell they share the hit with Obama. They are, after all, the ones who wrote the law to address the problem.

                The only person who might share the hit is Bush. Congress, however, won’t.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Michael, Jaybird speaks in aphorisms most of the time. Which is a tried and true method of reaching people! But don’t feel bad if he corrects on the correct interpretation.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I think we’re thinking about “the hit” differently, though it was your concept, so fair enough. I didn’t realize your view was so specific to the current political dynamics in the various chambers and the WH, etc.

                In my view, if (big if!) Congress is moved to change the law, it will be because they’ve taken some degree of a hit and are reacting. Yes, they’ll swipe at Obama, but they’ll be in the midst of dealing with a hit themselves. But another, entirely plausible and more likely scenario still finds Congress swiping at Obama, up to and including falsely claiming he overstepped the letter of the law – but being able to just leave it at that, because they face no heat (hit) over the fact that their law empowers him to do much of this legally (and thereby to some extent compels him politically to do much of it, as I think there’s still an expectation that the president take all legal steps that he can to prevent terrorist attacks). That’s Sensenbrenner’s current aim.

                In my view, the difference between those scenarios has a lot to do with whether Congress takes a hit in the short term for the state of the law being what it is (even if, in the longer run, they are able to displace much of that hit by saying it’s Obama’s overreach that compelled them to fix the law, and by then being in the position of the ones doing something about that). If Congress is compelled to act, it’s because they’re taking a hit – even if they’re then able to redirect it. And yes, I agree that’s unlikely, but I don’t see what mechanism you foresee where Congress never comes under pressure (a hit) to act and the president takes the full initial hit that leads to the changes in law you want to see. So we should still want Congress to take the hit that might (but not likely) spur them to act, thereby passing that hit on (hell, if they did act, they might well ten deserve to pass it on!), however forlorn that desire might be.Report

              • Avatar Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

                “You don’t know whether to go with the interpretation where what I said made sense or the interpretation where you have no idea what I mean.”

                I’d go for the latter out of experience.

                🙂Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                …Members of Congress would take a hit by being thought to be largely responsible for what the law says, or in any case for having to respond to what people want it to be. So if, as advocated in Sensenbrenner’s letter, the public comes to think that the problem with these actions is overwhelmingly Obama transgressing whatever limits might be found on the power given to the office he holds by the Patriot Act and other legislation, then he will have taken a substantial part of the overall political hit (or borne a substantial part of the blame) that, if directed in part to Congress (which rightly bears a significant part of the blame), would (or might) tend more towards accomplishing those ends than if much of that share of the blame was borne by Obama.

                We shouldn’t care whether “Congress” per se takes the hit… i.e. what its approval rating is. We should, or perhaps should, care whether they take a hit in the public understanding of why these things are happening.

                It’s possible that changes in the law may come about more quickly if all the blame in borne in one place, in particular the president – that is true. I didn’t say you’re absolutely wrong that Obama taking a hit might be a price for there being legislative change (and in any case, Obama is taking a hit for this, and these things coming out certainly tend to advance that cause, so in that sense, it’s certainly is a price to pay, if we want to call it a price), I just said (on clarification) it might not be that the larger hit he personally takes, the closer we get to change of the laws you mention. I don’t think we know.

                And maybe you weren’t suggesting that; you’re right that he’ll take a hit, and if this were all to lead to changes to these laws, then that hit would indeed be a “price” that was paid for it. But I don’t think Patrick’s post in any way suggested it’s wrong that Obama would take a hit over all this, it says that Congress ought to too, as I understand it in the way I describe.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Members of Congress would take a hit by being thought to be largely responsible for what the law says, or in any case for having to respond to what people want it to be.

                I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a backlash against a law that is older than a Congressional Term. I can maybe think of a handful of backlashes resulting in the House turning over (look at the last couple of decades), I don’t know that I can think of a single instance of a backlash against Congress for something they did a decade prior.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, I was just saying that it might be that f such a thing were to happen it might lead to what you want more readily than if there was only a backlash against the Executive.

                So what is your view exactly, then? That the issue of Congress receiving some of the blame for this is irrelevant because people just don’t get mad at Congress for what the law has been for more than six years or so? Do you think that any outrage directed at Congress is actually wasted, because it lessens the amount directed at the president, which in some way or other does tend to move Congress toward changing the law (the outcome you’re interested in)?

                I’m sincerely curious about your mental model for this.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I don’t see how The House in repealling a law pretty much agreed upon as being a bad law will take part of the hit for having passed it in the first place.

                Compare, perhaps, to Prohibition. The blame didn’t fall on the people who repealed the Amendment (even if they helped pass it a decade prior). The blame, what blame there was, fell on those who enforced it.

                In this case, I suspect a similar dynamic, only without the Repeal Day parties. When the law is repealed, there will be *SOME* good vibes to come out for Obama signing the law that could probably be spun as him working with Congress to fix Bush’s excesses.

                But, for now, if there is a political hit to be taken, it won’t be taken by those who will be crafting the law to repeal. It will hit those who execute the law as it stands.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Michael Drew says:

                Now that I think about it, there’s another outcome that I don’t know whether it’s likely or not:

                The Supreme Court can look at the law now, for reals, given that someone who, seriously, has standing to bring the law will do so.

                They look at the law.

                They say “It doesn’t violate the 4th” in some bass-ackward 5-4 vote with strange bedfellows all over the place (Scalia and Ginsburg dissenting together, Sotomayor and Alito agreeing).

                And it becomes, magically, not obviously unconstitutional anymore. And, eventually, obviously constitutional.

                Edit: (And there’s always the option of an 8-1 UNCONSTITUTIONAL DAMMIT! decision that solves the problem for everybody. As such, this strikes me as the most unlikely.)Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                I mean, I think the blame for prohibition largely fell on the people who put it in place – the movement that pushed for it, and then their representatives. Those people I think took the hit. People hated law enforcement for enforcing it, but I don’t think they blamed law enforcement for its existence. But, sure law enforcement took a hit – there was plenty of hit to go around.

                As there is here. The president will take a hit for this. As I think Congress can. Sure, by the time they get around to repeal, the hit will have been absorbed, and perhaps will be in the process of being redirected. But you’re ignoring what may or may not lead to that. I’m saying that if they’re eventually moved to do that, it will be because they will have taken a hit. Either because a lot of Reps will have had to execute embarrassing public reversals, or because they’ll have been replaced due to discontent with the laws they support keeping in place – or both. By the time they’re actually repealing it, that will all have become prelude, whereas now it’s still not even on the horizon (hardly, or so it seems). Somehow they have to get to that point – you’re just dealing with whether actually doing it or not will involve a hit, but it seems to me like getting there will, one way or another.Report

              • Avatar George Turner in reply to Michael Drew says:

                The FISA Court ruled that the spying was both unconstitutional and in violation of the surveillance laws, but the Department of Justice refuses to release the court’s 86 page opinion.

                Mother Jones link

                There’s little reason Congress would take a political hit if the administration was violating the existing laws, the court was so ruling, and the DoJ was covering it up.

                And of course most of Congress seems to be in a foul mood over Obama’s very public claim that they’d all been briefed when they hadn’t. That directly and falsely implicated all of them in the ongoing collapse of trust between their constituents and the US government, and I doubt they’ll sit still for it.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

                George, this whole thing was set off by the leak of an active FISA order authorizing the phone records dragnet. So it can’t be that spying that FISA disallowed, not without modifications that satisfied it. It could be PRISM (though then we’d have to assume NSA is flatly disobeying an order of FISA, unless it modified that program to comply with the order in that link).

                So either way, your statement that FISA ruled that “the spying was both unconstitutional and in violation of the surveillance laws” is too ambiguous to have meaning. FISA ruled that *some* spying was unconstitutional, but just recently they ruled that *some of this spying we’re talking about now* was allowable. That what spying they ruled unconstitutional is unclear is the entire point of that important David Corn article you link. But that means it’s entirely unclear whether it is “the” spying we are currently talking – and it’s unclear whether the spying that was ruled unconstitutional by FISA is still going on in the form in which it was ruled unconstitutional.

                Your point about the level of briefing is very well-taken, though. Obama went way past what he could defensibly claim about what most of Congress knew about the extent of these activities.Report

    • Avatar trizzlor in reply to Jaybird says:

      If Obama taking a political hit is the price for getting rid of the AUMF and/or PATRIOT, is that a price worth paying?

      As soon as one of Obama’s critics moves forward with a legislative agenda that can achieve either of these things, then this question becomes realistic. I’m sure myself and plenty of other liberals would take that trade in a heart-beat once it is presented. What’s happening now, however, is that the very people who voted repeatedly to support these authorizations (including the author of the PATRIOT Act) are scrapping and yelling without lifting a finger to undo their own votes. They want the political hit without out any of the painful legislation.

      In other words, I’m glad my junkie neighbor has renounced heroin and says he’s hooked on Yoga, but I’m not gonna let him babysit my kids until he, like, stops buying heroin every week. Even if my current babysitter sneaks out for a smoke once in a while.Report

  8. Avatar Plinko says:

    This post forcefully expresses what has been on my mind since this latest version of this scandal broke.

    I think I owe you a drink for that post on work a while back, this one makes two.Report

  9. Avatar Shazbot5 says:

    I blame Americans.Report

  10. Avatar Stillwater says:

    This isn’t about Obama, and it wasn’t really about Bush, before him, or Clinton, before that, or Nixon and his enemies list, either.

    Exactly.

    Your Facebook memes are useless.

    Not exactly. Facebook is the same as donut-shop chatter. It starts as a useless meme and the next thing you know a mob is taking over the Czar’s Palace.Report

    • Avatar Herb in reply to Stillwater says:

      The Czar’s Palace? Or Zucotti Park?

      Yeah, sorry, but I put no faith in the mob until they put down the Guy Fawkes masks and pick up pitchforks. (Not endorsing mob violence by any means, just questioning the Facebook generation’s commitment to doing actual things. Raid the Czar’s Palace…and miss next week’s episode of Game of Thrones? Not I, said the Facebook poseur.)Report

      • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Herb says:

        Well, I agree on the one hand, but I don’t on the other. Just referencing OWS in this context suggests to me that the movement (drumcircle, whatever…) contained seeds which could have grown into something substantial. It also implies that there was real movement in the way people think about things, for better or worse depending on pov of course.Report

  11. Avatar Shazbot3 says:

    Great post Patrick,

    I have a weird question that I am unsure how to answer.

    Which is that is more bothersome about these programs?

    1. The violation of privacy

    2. The fact that there is no democratic transparency about these programs?

    (Okay, you could answer they are equally worrisome.)

    Personally, I don’t care about the privacy violation. There are some slippery slope concerns (“What if Hillary uses the secret information to kibosh her political opponents?”). But I rarely think slopes are slippery, and if we start slipping, we’ll grab a rail (making metaphor awkward).

    But I really do think government transparency is a big deal, intrinsically. We can’t make a decision as a society about whether to vote to continue the program if we don’t know what the program is. Personally, that is worth risking lives, but I can see the “tradeoffs” Obama is talking about.Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      Which is that is more bothersome about these programs?

      Violations of privacy, I’d say. No question. Violations of privacy require meeting a heavy burden of justification which governmental secrecy violates. Alternatively, open government may be necessary condition on a fair and just government, but that bears no logical connection to transparency in citizen activity.Report

    • Avatar ktward in reply to Shazbot3 says:

      To my mind, gov’t transparency, in tandem with a robust Fourth Estate, is the necessary bedrock toward protecting — or indeed, knowledgeably sacrificing — any constitutionally protected privacies. (Or at least what we perceive to be protected privacies. Myself, I’m not entirely sure what privacy rights we actually have anymore: there seems a sizable gulf between what technology can do and what law and regulation purportedly allows.)Report

  12. Avatar George Turner says:

    On of my friends who used to work in the complex at Ft. Meade (and who almost resigned his security clearance over an episode) sent me this link to the 1975 hearings on NSA activities. The exchange is between Senator Mondale and the NSA director, General Allen, concerning the abuse of interceptions of communications between American citizens.

    Senator MONDALE. Given another day and another President, another perceived risk, and someone breathing hot down the neck of the military leader then in charge of the NSA; demanding a review based on another watch list, another wide sweep to determine whether some of the domestic dissent is really foreign based, my concern is whether that pressure could be resisted on the basis of the law or not.

    General ALLEN. Well, it is very hard for me, of course, to project into a future unknown situation. And there are certainly risks that seem to have occurred in the past. I can certainly assure you that at the present time, under any combination of the present players, as I understand the rules and the players themselves, there is no possibility of that.

    Senator MONDALE. I will accept that. But what we have to deal with is whether this incredibly powerful and impressive institution that you head could be used by President “A” in the future to spy upon the American people, to chill and interrupt political dissent. And it is my impression that the present condition of the law makes that entirely possible. And therefore we need to, in my opinion, very carefully define the law, spell it out so that it is clear what your authority is and it is also clear what your authority is not. Do you object to that?

    General ALLEN. No, sir.

    Senator MONDALE. I am verve heartened hear that answer. In the old days of the watch list, as I understand your earlier testimony, when a name was presented to you from the FBI, from the CIA, or from other sources, your agency really could not determine whether the purpose of including that name was for a legal objective or for an illegal purpose. In a sense, your role was largely ministerial. The names were received. They were placed on the watch list. You intercepted information and sent it to the consumer agency. But why they really asked for it, other than the very generalized description they would often give you, or how the information was used, was largely unknown to the NSA. Is that correct?

    General ALLEN. Well, it is certainly to some degree correct, sir.

    That starts down at page 36. I’d recommend starting at least at page 35 and go from there.Report

  13. Avatar jaded says:

    Where do we draw the line between security and privacy? Can you have both?Report

  14. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Home run, Pat – if not a grand slam.

    I had been thinking about saying something similar when I got back home, but it wouldn’t have laid it out as neatly, concisely or on target at you’ve done here.Report

  15. Avatar ktward says:

    It’s about time someone cogently hung this particular albatross around Congress’ neck, where it belongs. Well done, Patrick.Report

  16. Avatar J@m3z Aitch says:

    You give the Executive branch power and discretion… and they’re going to use that power without being able to explain their discretion to you

    So very well said.Report

  17. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    They’re also all focusing on the President, when it is Congress that is the problem.

    Getting warmer, but not quite there yet. The problem is the voters who keep sending them back. A democracy gets the government it deserves.Report

  18. Avatar Damon says:

    No it’s NOT new news. But the good thing about this disclosure is that it will be in the news and people like you will remind folks that is isn’t news and maybe they will remember. That this is still going on and that they didn’t do anything to stop it last time. Maybe it will spark a tad bit more outrage and motiviate folks to correct it.

    Doubtful, but still.Report

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