The problem is that, in spite of his happy talk, Obama has always been as bad as Bush on the first and fourth amendments, arguably worse. Remember, he voted for telecom immunity in 2008, when he was a senator.
From the article: "In the wake of Watergate, Democrats won large majorities in both houses of Congress in the midterm elections of 1974. One of the first items on the new Congress’ agenda was to investigate the intelligence abuses of Richard Nixon and his predecessors."
From another article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/01/11/obama-leaves-door-o...): "Responding to the most popular inquiry on the "Open for Questions" feature of his website, Barack Obama said on Sunday that he is "evaluating" whether or not to investigate potential crimes of the Bush administration, but that he was inclined to "look forward as opposed to looking backwards."
And even if Obama weren't so awful in this regard, Congress is not capable of doing anything with real teeth.
Congress has the power, and is legally capable. They just don't want to, for some fucking reason.
Someone explain to me why the Republicans don't get all up in arms about this mess? They could easily blame it on Obama's administration to win support for the next election. Even though they voted for the PATRIOT act, they can at least put on an act of hating that one part where everyone gets spied on. It's really not hard to put a spin on it where you can gain a ton of public support.
Instead, the ONLY people we see who are angry about the whole situation are the "fringe/crazy" ones: Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Ron Paul, etc... which, interestingly enough, lowers the credibility of outrage.
Meanwhile, everyone else in Congress and mainstream media proclaims Snowden a traitor.
I've never been one for conspiracies (seriously, never in my life), but I'm finding it more and more difficult to shake the feeling that there's something going on with our government and media that we're all completely unaware of. Their actions make absolutely no logical sense from an individual self-interest perspective.
Because they are the people (in some cases literally, in other cases by unbroken chain of ideological succession) that have been arguing about the inherent power of the executive and that FISA and related restrictions on that power are both unwise and unconstitutional since about 30 seconds after the furor over the Nixon abuses that led to FISA died down (some of them didn't wait that long.)
And probably because those of them that aren't on the fringes have more direct and likely documented (even if those documents are classified, for the moment) connections to the surveillance that has gone on under the last two administrations than just that political advocacy for a principal which supports surveillance.
> They could easily blame it on Obama's administration to win support for the next election.
Not if they were fully informed and fully supportive of it the whole way through the previous administration and there is documentary evidence to prove it. Kind of risky to try to make political hay out of a public demand to get to the bottom of an outrage if you know that any significant investigation is going to result in a paper trail some of whose tendrils point back to you.
They get more traction among their base for blaming him for Benghazi, and the IRS scandal, and Obamacare.
It's June 2013. It's not time for those games to start up properly yet.
And please don't lump Paul in with Palin, Beck, et al.
In the 70s on the other hand, Watergate was a really really big deal. It did have an effect on the daily lives of most americans. A US President had never resigned in disgrace before, and it was very much on peoples' minds. Congress was fulfilling it's role to help the nation heal in a time of crisis.
The problem with this NSA story is that there hasn't been anything to make it "real" in the minds of the average citizen. If people thought that Obama was using surveillance to keep tabs on and punish his political enemies, people would be up in arms. If the government was kicking down doors and arresting people for thought crimes, Republicans in Congress would be out of their minds with rage. Given the current political situation, it would only take evidence of one abuse to make most americans rise up in protest. But we haven't seen that yet.
This is why I think that Snowden overplayed his hand. Evidence of surveillance is shocking, but it's not enough to incite people to action. If he could have provided proof of just one actual abuse due to government surveillance, he would have made the impact that he wanted and so much more. As it is, I'm afraid that he might have thrown his lifestyle away for nothing.
Couching this debate in national security terms is a losing proposition, because conservatives tend to want to defer to the federal government in national security situations, and liberals are just ecstatic to finally have a President who isn't seen as "weak." And hanging out with the libertarians is pointless, because they do not and never will have any voting power in the U.S. But there is tremendous potential here for an appeal to the frothy Tea-party base of conservatives because there is a lot about NSA surveillance that is contrary to their interests, or at least they would understand so if the message were cast in their language.
PRISM was advertised as being a $20 million backdoor into people's email and social media that would allow any ol' NSA analyst who felt bored to literally watch peoples' thoughts form in their minds.
It turned out to be a $20 million program to automate an existing manual process, with at least some measure of oversight controls (including non-governmental oversight).
Google, Facebook, and other companies were forced by Snowden's or Greenwald's lie to push back hard. WaPo revised their claim slightly to adjust, which caused the media to focus on the claim being 'walked back'.
Clearing up that issue, in the process muddied up the whole issue, and at the same time Snowden's credibility was taking shots about his salary, releasing hacking details to China, etc.
Snowden has done a lot right from the P.R. aspect but by damaging his credibility right from the get-go, he's allowed it to turn into the geopolitical equivalent of a he-said/she-said... which is not something most people have the gumption to care to try to resolve on their own. Especially in politics, where we essentially expect all sides to lie anyways.
Another thing that probably didn't help was all the involvement from Russia, Hong Kong, and China, but especially WikiLeaks and Ecuador (who are only one step up from Venezuela nowadays). It is very hard to try to line yourself up as a concerned American citizen when you're sitting in a Russian airport, being coached by Assange, and trying to flee to 'Chavez's little brother'. To the extent that any change must necessarily be driven by the will of the people, that whole thing was a mistake.
Also, any association with china, russia or ecuador is irrelevant. Again, it's about what the US government is doing, and those countries have no bearing on those actions. Sure, they probably do the exact same spying on their own citizens, but even that is only tangentially relevant.
That's essentially my point WRT Snowden. The very documents he leaked were inconsistent with his story. Now everything else that was leaked the government can claim that the people are missing the context of, and about a million other debate/propaganda techniques that come into play when you are able to show that the messenger himself has biased their reporting.
> Also, any association with china, russia or ecuador is irrelevant.
It's not irrelevant, and I explained why already. The impetus for change will have to come from the people. By fleeing and making it Assange vs. the U.S. (again) Snowden has made it that much less likely that the American people will see the situation in terms of an assault on them personally, and more likely that they will see it as an assault on America by unpopular foreign governments.
What you are saying would be true if it didn't matter what the people thought, but public opinion actually counts for a lot, even in America.
I do think a Congressional review is in order, but my prediction is that nothing much will happen until the US is fully out of Afghanistan in 2014. At that point the AUMF may be rescinded, which would also make it a good time to review the Patriot act. With the mid-terms coming up the GOP might try a campaign based on liberty as you describe, especially since their base is likely to be pissed off about immigration reform, not having a victory celebration for leaving Afghanistan etc.
I do see what you're saying, though. The surveillance could just get more subtle, the secrecy of it better to prevent future leaks, so that the lying about could continue. And then the chance of abuse is still there.
Who knows, maybe there are already cases of abuse, such as the Barrett Brown story. Maybe there are are others waiting to come out, or it will be easier to get them out after this first revelation.
This stems from the fact that the average American demands that they be safe and anyone that "drops the ball" will bear their wrath next election cycle. The average American values an illusion of safety/security FAR HIGHER than their privacy.
This is an excuse. I'm more inclined to think it is the fantastical amounts of money they get to play with, spoils for their districts and such.
If they do anything, it will be to enact legislation to make what's going on appear more legal, in a chorus of harumphs.
"Congress has shown once again a remarkable willingness to reach across party lines to ensure that no problem is ever reported again. Time for a raise!"
I believe that government can work well for us, it's just the individuals in there now in both major parties are by-and-large the worst sorts we could hope for real oversight.
Now certainly you can disagree with me and say that they should have exposed everything they knew about the programs to the public, but I think their work over the years has been more productive that that. Had they gone public, they probably would have been replaced by other individuals all too interested in quid pro quo.
You've not observed it, you've observed what you think and hope is it - it may be, but it's not evidence until we know.
Also, based on what I currently know from watching and reading about the current situation, there is suppose to be SOME form of checks and balances between the FBI, NSA, CIA, some members Congress, judicial committees set up, and the president. What is that committee going to find? That a large portion of the government was doing something wrong, I doubt it.
If the issue is people think some of these things should be illegal, then the challenge is to get the appropriate legislation changed. But if you're only champions are people who think foreign intelligence should be shutdown altogether (as Snowden has been moving his message towards), you're not going to get very far (because it's an obviously stupid idea).
The other way you can go is to degrade the level of protection from this type of data collection an American gets to match what NSA can do for foreigners (since having so much as one foreign party to a conversation makes the whole thing fair game for NSA). But I don't think that would be politically feasible, and it's not as if that would really make those who live outside the USA feel any better about the idea of their data being collected.
Once you assume malice on the part of the government you must assume they can wiretap you for any reason at all.
What many here are saying is that is the reason for which we must not even have this capability at all.
But why then do we allow other law enforcement tools that could also be misused (even horribly misused)? David Simon had an interesting theory about why the tech community is so up in arms about this one.
That's why they keep their tortured legal pseudo-justification secret, because if it ever came to a public court, Federal judges would stop them collecting call records on millions of Americans for long periods of time. Read the link and discover why SCOTUS has said that long term surveillance violates the 4th Ammendment.
In this case, both (major) parties have a lot of blood on their hands. There's no meaningful coalition in Congress that stands to win from such an investigation.
The last poll I saw on this was that over 75% want a committee to investigate, and roughly the same percentage cross party lines. "A new Church committee" is one of the demands from StopWatching.us and from EFF et. al.'s open letter to Congress.
[Senate, ex Church] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_Select_Co...
[House, ex Pike] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_House_Permanent_...
The current chair is Dianne Feinstein, who apparently supports everything the NSA is doing.
If not, then the next best chance would be some Nixon-level scandal over partisan spying abuses that spurs congress into action. Though that could take decades before it happens.
> "That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide."
> "I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge... I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."
Put Wyden and Udall in charge, or even better - some people from EFF/ACLU.
They have been for years, if anyone's been paying attention.
Source: the second link in your comment.
That's also more realistic goal.
I'm not sure how many "private contractors" the NSA had in the 1970's but I'm sure that the recent revelations would not have gone without public outcry in the 70's, and just as the use of mercenaries in wartime was once frowned upon in the USA, so would the news of "mercenary-spies" operating outside the direct oversight of the US government be frowned upon.
Let's hope that it doesn't take another 30 years for these issues to be resolved. Though given the attitudes of the people on these committees, I don't give that good odds.