February 20, 2014
I’m glad he said this. But there is no excuse for lying in the first place.
When Senator Ron Wyden (a Democrat from Oregon) asked Director Clapper during an intelligence hearing in March of last year if the NSA was collecting the data of millions of Americans, the director lied under oath and denied the charge.
When new revelations disproved this last June, Clapper then said the NSA had to keep the metadata collection program a secret for national security purposes.
Now says Clapper:
Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards… We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.
The United States needs intelligence gathering, the ability to obtain and keep secrets, spying on foreign powers and genuine threats and all the other tools nations use to protect their security. No one is disputing this.
But Clapper is being somewhat disingenuous here. Part of the reason our government does some things behind Americans’ backs is not for security, but because certain activities, if known, would outrage the public.
Spying on every American certainly falls into this category. I also believe it is blatantly unconstitutional, and bringing these activities to light would immediately spark debates the NSA would rather not hear.
The notion that if the NSA had informed us they were monitoring every American would somehow make it OK, does not make it OK. Explaining why you are violating the Fourth Amendment does not invalidate the Fourth Amendment.
Americans are as upset at the act itself, not the mere knowledge of it. A cheating spouse can be upfront about his affairs from the beginning, but nobody thinks such behavior is right. The purpose of being forthright about wrongdoing is usually repentance. I do not get the sense from Clapper that he thinks his agency did anything wrong.
Americans have a right to know when their rights are being violated, but that’s where my agreement with Director Clapper, or at least agreement with his latest statement, ends.
The Fourth Amendment states that warrants issued must be specific to a person, place or task and this provision of the Bill of Rights exists explicitly to guard against the notion of a general warrant, where government can plunder through anyone’s privacy at will.
The NSA’s metadata collection program is a general warrant for the modern age, reflecting the same kind of tyranny our nation’s founders fought a revolution to make sure would never happen again.
It shouldn’t happen again, and I will keep fighting to protect the US constitution I took an oath to uphold.
It’s time to trash the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, for good.