Ron Wyden's former chief of staff, Jennifer Hoelzer, has a new OpEd in The Guardian. She explains why we should be skeptical of the Administration's call for debate.
"hackers and transparency groups are "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years"
may want to come after the US government, but frankly, you know, the dot-mil stuff is about the hardest target in the United States,...if they can't create great harm to dot-mil, who are they going after? Who for them are the World Trade Centers? The World Trade Centers, as they were for al-Qaida..."(appropriately derided by Tim Cushing in Techdirt).
Hayden's remarks amount to dehumanization, a step that David Neiwert has appropriately identified as a critical step toward violence. The hostility and contempt for people who oppose dragnet surveillance--a vanishingly few of whom use illegal methods to register their opposition--suggests that the people inside the surveillance system are simply incapable of seeing the citizens on whom they are spying as actual human beings... people who may disagree with the actions of the NSA, but are doing their best to assume that the leaders of the NSA love their country and not just their careers.
Hoelzer lays out a bill of particulars for why we should be skeptical of the Administration's admiration for transparency and open debate.
Really, Mr President? Do you really expect me to believe that you give a damn about open debate and the democratic process? Because it seems to me, if your administration was really committed to those things, your administration wouldn't have blocked every effort to have an open debate on these issues each time the laws that your administration claims authorizes these programs came up for reauthorization, which – correct me if I am wrong – is when the democratic process recommends as the ideal time for these debates.:
* In June 2009 and again in May 2011, the Administration rejected a call by Senators Wyden, Feingold and Durbin to declassify "'information which [they] argued was critical for a productive debate on reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act'".
* "Did the president – who now claims to welcome open debate of his administration's surveillance authorities – jump at the opportunity to have such a debate when the Fisa Amendments Act came up for reauthorization? No. "
* [Due to an edict by Senator Dianne Feinstein], "after the Senate intelligence committee hearing in which Wyden attempted to close the FAA's Section 702 loophole... I – as Wyden's spokesperson – was specifically barred from explaining the senator's opposition to the legislation to the reporters."
* Regarding "the director of National Intelligence's decision to lie when Wyden 'asked whether the NSA had collected [data on millions of Americans]', she says "I am highly skeptical that Clapper's decision to lie was made unilaterally."
I think it's awfully hard for the American people to trust the president and his administration when their best response to the concerns Americans are raising is to denigrate the Americans raising those concerns. Because, you see, I have a hard time understanding why my wanting to stand up for democratic principles makes me unpatriotic, while the ones calling themselves patriots seem to think so little of the people and the principles that comprise the country they purport to love.Was not it not disrespectful for the President to appoint James Clapper, a man who lied to Congress--and who Hoelzer apparently believes did so with Administration approval--to head what was once going to be a review of “how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse.” into a review of " whether U.S. surveillance activity 'optimally protects our national security and advances our foreign policy while appropriately accounting for other policy considerations, such as the risk of unauthorized disclosure and our need to maintain the public trust'” ?