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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.

Ron Wyden's former chief of staff, Jennifer Hoelzer, has a new OpEd in The Guardian, reprinted from Techdirt. She focuses on General Hayden's comments that:

"hackers and transparency groups are "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years"

and who

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."  

She also mentions the decision of secure ISP Lavabits, and now Silent Circle to shut down,
a matter that got extensive coverage on DemocracyNow (see also this for context)

She concludes:

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'” ?
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Comment Preferences

  •  One of several claims that the president made (7+ / 0-)

    in his news conference of which I am skeptical is that after he called for a debate on the subject in his speech last May it would have proceeded in a constructive fashion without Snowden turning over the apple cart. Debate requires information and they are using every means at their disposal to deprive the public of that.

  •  She is pointing out that there is no (6+ / 0-)


    There cannot be a debate until the secret laws are made public and there cannot be a debate until the powers that are being used are subjected to reasonable scrutiny.

    Hayden was on CBS Sunday with Bob Schieffer - I only lasted about 8 minutes into that discussion - but almost right off of the bat Hayden claimed that there had "never been any abuses" of power.  That was bullshit.  The warrantless wiretapping that we found out about in 2005 was an abuse of the power.  A BIG abuse.

    Hoeltzer's point that abuses can't be stopped if no one is willing to admit that there is potential for abuse is probably the most important part of this debate that we can't have.

    •  I think the point about dehumanization is key (5+ / 0-)

      Hoelzer chose to highlight Hayden's remarks comparing people he feels in opposition not just to pathetic losers, but also to Al Qaida. Hayden's remarks are so over-the-top that one is tempted to dismiss them as something foolish said in the heat of the moment or as propaganda.

      That would be a mistake. Hayden is a very, very senior official, someone whose every remark and gesture is intentional.

      When people, especially people in power, equate their opponents to people with whom we are at war (or whatever one calls this) it is often a warning that they are intending to escalate attacks to the level of violence. Hayden, as a member of the military, must be acutely aware of what it means to equate American citizens to Al Qaida. He is in the profession of defining and eliminating enemies.

      So, I would read Hoelzer's remarks not as "There cannot be a debate until the secret laws are made public" but as there cannot be a debate until there is a democracy.  

      She, too, is a very senior official. She knows how important words are.

  •  Shared n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

    by Just Bob on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 02:04:33 PM PDT

  •  Good analysis of (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Comparing their words and their actions.

    Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. We are the 99%-OWS.

    by emal on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 03:59:44 PM PDT

  •  That was weird...posted before I finished. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CharlesII, CroneWit

    Empty wheel takes down the Obama announcement Friday compared to his announcement yesterday

    Most importantly key words have changed and the groups directive /purpose led by perjurer and DNI head Clapper has changed significantly.

    Makes you go hmmmmm.

    Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. We are the 99%-OWS.

    by emal on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 04:04:24 PM PDT

    •  Pass the whitewash, Tom Sawyer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Not just Marcy, but the Timothy Lee of the WashPost (who I linked) mocked the Commission. And so, of course, the White House changed course yet again:

      Update: In a Tuesday email, the White House says that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper will not, in fact, choose the members of the Review Group. “The panel members are being selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community,” writes National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden. “The panel will not report to the DNI.”
      Caitlin Hayden. Any relation?  
      •  Error in comment above (0+ / 0-)

        The comment "Caitlin Hayden. Any relation?" is mine, not Timothy Lee's.  

        •  More interesting but meaningless change (0+ / 0-)

          Because it was such a blatant middle finger to us commoners.

          What a relief, So Clapper is not picking it, the Intelligent Committee members will be consulted  as to who will be a part of it. Phew...

          And then of course, theres the issue that Clapper. You know the perjurer still  leads it and Clapper will do the reporting directly to the President for the group.

          I feel much better. Don't you?

          (Don't feel I need to add a snark tag  here do I?)

          What part of this is so difficult for the President to understand...with regard to this "review" board. Let me spell it out for you slowly Mr. President.
          C.L.A.P.P.E.R period.

          Here's what I think really happened to cause this insignificant change in the review board selection. Some ego on one of the Intelligence Committees got insulted that they were somehow slighted and they weren't  consulted to play a role. Or some ego on same committee was worried they were being minimized and bypassed and might end up not looking important or looking like they're the willing dupes they typically are.

          Always about Power, Control and Money.

          Government of, for, and by the wealthy corporate political ruling class elites. We are the 99%-OWS.

          by emal on Tue Aug 13, 2013 at 05:39:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Snark tag? (0+ / 0-)

            Attach it to the last 13 years, starting with the Heathers of the press mocking Al Gore for "inventing" the Internet.

            It's funny, but all of this was predictable, starting within days of 9/11. As I wrote then:

            At no time since Nixon- and probably not since McCarthy-- have the foundations of Constitutional law been at greater risk. The risk is so great because Americans appear to believe that one can have physical safety only at the price of sacrificing civil liberties....
      •  Changed the structure of the Review Board (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        within what -- 24-36 hours of announcing it?  Rich.

        However, panel members "selected by the White House, in consultation with the Intelligence Community" doesn't improve my confidence one whit.  My guess is they will be the people Clapper would have chosen, and that the non-Clapper person that the Group will report to will be either and Intelligence person or an empty suit.

        And it' wouldn't surprise me if the Review Group's report has already been written, in both its interim and final form, along with progress reports to be given (or leaked) to the press at advantageous times.

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