Constitutional Crisis?

by lizard

With 60 Minutes talking data sellers and Snowden talking to SXSW, our rapidly changing data landscape is getting some attention. Here’s a portion from the beginning of Snowden’s talk:

Well, thank you for the introduction. I will say SXSW and the technology community – people who are in the room in Austin they are the folks that really fix things who can enforce our rights for technical standards. Even when Congress hadn’t yet gotten to the point of creating legislation to protect our rights in the same manner. When we think about what is happening at the NSA for the past decade ________ the result has been an adversarial internet. Sort of global free fire zone for governments that is nothing that we ever asked for. It is not what we want. It is something that we need to protect against. We think about the policies that have been advanced the sort of erosion of ______amendment protections the proactive seizure of communications. There is a policy response that needs to occur. There is also a technical response that needs to occur. It is the development community that can really craft the solutions and make sure we are safe.

The NSA the sort of global mass surveillance that is occurring in all of these countries. Not just the US it is important to remember that this is a global issue. They are setting fire to the future of the internet. The people who are in this room now you guys are all the firefighters and we need you to help us fix this.

They’re setting fire to far more than just the internet, but for the purpose of this post, let’s stick to how extensive abuses of governments and corporations (is there even a difference anymore?) have become the norm, defended domestically by both Republicans and Democrats. Except maybe not so much Dianne Feinstein anymore, considering the recent and very serious accusations against the CIA for spying on her committee.

The question is this: can Feinstein reconcile her contradictory opinions about the NSA? This Guardian opinion piece takes a look at her political bi-poloar disorder when it comes surveillance and cute little things like the US constitution:

The exasperation with Ms Feinstein is that she directs her sense of outrage only at the CIA. It seems restricted to issues that impact on her. She is outraged when the CIA allegedly hacked into her committee’s computers. She is upset over the alleged intrusion into the privacy of her own staff. And yet this is the same senator who could not empathise with Americans upset at the revelations in the Snowden documents of millions of citizens whose personal data has been accessed by the NSA. It is the same senator who could not share American anger over the revelation of the co-operation in surveillance of the giant tech companies, whether wittingly or unwittingly.

Ms Feinstein not only failed to investigate the NSA with a smidgen of the aggression she has shown towards the CIA but has gone out of her way to be the NSA’s most prominent defender. The day after Edward Snowden revealed himself as a whistleblower last June, she was among the first to brand him a traitor. In the face of revelation after revelation, she praised the professionalism of the NSA. She defended mass data collection as a necessity, arguing that the NSA had to have access to the whole “haystack” to find the one needle, the terrorist. All this dismayed many of her Democratic supporters in liberal California and elsewhere in the US.

This is an area where young, libertarian-leaning conservatives have some overlap—or, what I’m going to brazenly refer to as “common ground”—with progressive-minded Democrats. The alternative to trying to build something positive on that little piece of common ground is to troll and ridicule #MTGOPYoungGuns on Twitter.

After Feinstein’s public accusations Tuesday morning, the phrase constitutional crisis is being used, appropriately so, I would say. Here’s how The Nation is describing the situation:

If what Feinstein alleges is true, it essentially amounts to a constitutional crisis. And she said as much during her speech, describing “a defining moment for the oversight of our intelligence community.”

“I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution, including the Speech and Debate clause. It may have undermined the constitutional framework essential to effective congressional oversight of intelligence activities or any other government function,” Feinstein said. “Besides the constitutional implications, the CIA’s search may also have violated the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”

So what is Obama, the constitutional lawyer, going to do about this crisis? Maybe he should have his DoJ prosecute Diane Feinstein, because she’s kinda acting like a whistleblower, and we know what Obama’s administration does to whistleblower’s they can’t terrorize into committing suicide or fleeing America—they go to jail like John Kiriakou:

John Kiriakou, the former CIA agent who revealed details of the US government’s use of waterboarding against senior al-Qaida suspects, has written an open letter describing his time in federal prison surrounded by drug dealers, fraudsters and child molesters.

Kiriakou is three months into a 30-month sentence having pleaded guilty to disclosing the identity of an undercover CIA officer to an ABC reporter. He is one of six current or former public officials to be prosecuted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – twice the number of cases instigated by all previous presidents combined.

Kiriakou’s letter underlines in graphic form the personal consequences of the Obama administration’s aggressive assault on leakers. It comes as the attorney general, Eric Holder, is under mounting pressure following revelations that the Department of Justice secretly investigated the activities of reporters working for Associated Press and Fox News in unrelated leak investigations.

Obama could pardon Kiriakou. But he won’t. He’s too fond of using the CIA as his own personal paramilitary force, terrorizing brown-skinned foreigners with drone strikes and killing American citizens without due process.

What this particular issue highlights is that America has been involved in one long, unending constitutional crisis since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Obama had an opportunity to capitalize on hope and change by addressing the flagrant abuses of the Bush administration.

But he didn’t. And we continue to see the consequences of Obama’s failure.

  1. Big Swede

    Montana has one of the highest percentage of gun ownership.

    Needless to say when it comes to a constitutional crisis separation of powers is a non issue compared to this one.

  2. mike

    I’m with Liz on this one (gasp).

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