Granted, the NSA official who told the press, "We're really screwed now," was referring to Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein's new-found (and disingenuous considering her general enthusiasm for all things pro-surveillance) distaste for NSA's tapping the personal cell phone of close ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel. No doubt the NSA official's sentiment remains after the events of the past two days.
FINALLY, after reprinting Executive branch talking points for far too long, the main stream media is beginning to change its tune. Back-to-back editorials in The New York Times and Washington Post over the past two days have slammed NSA for its overboard surveillance.
NYT took the White House to task for its far from credible response to the most recent surveillance revelations courtesy of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden:
The White House response on Monday to the expanding disclosures of American spying on foreign leaders, their governments and millions of their citizens was a pathetic mix of unsatisfying assurances about reviews under way, platitudes about the need for security in an insecure age, and the odd defense that the president didn’t know that American spies had tapped the German chancellor’s cellphone for 10 years.The next day, even the notoriously conservative WaPo editorial board took issue with the NSA's spying on allied heads of state:
Is it really better for us to think that things have gone so far with the post-9/11 idea that any spying that can be done should be done and that nobody thought to inform President Obama about tapping the phone of one of the most important American allies?
It’s important to make a distinction between the NSA’s collection of bulk foreign Internet and phone data for counterterrorism investigations and the surveillance of political leaders.
The NYT rightly objected to the underlying (and dangerous) mentality that led to such ill-advised and ineffective surveillance of friendly foreign leaders, surveillance that actually does more harm to national security than good by undermining trusted relationships with close allies:
That Chancellor Merkel’s cellphone conversations could fall under that umbrella is an outgrowth of the post-9/11 decision by President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney that everyone is the enemy, and that anyone’s rights may be degraded in the name of national security. That led to Abu Ghraib, torture at the secret C.I.A. prisons, warrantless wiretapping of American citizens, grave harm to international relations, and the dragnet approach to surveillance revealed by the Snowden leaks.
NSA Director General Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence "least-untruthful"-he-can-be James Clapper defended the NSA's spying operations before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday. Despite that Congress routinely puts hearing witnesses under oath, neither Alexander nor Clapper testified under oath yesterday.
Perhaps that was because Chairman Mike Rogers was uninterested in hearing Clapper's admission that mistakes had been made or apologies.
“This is the time for leadership, it is not a time to apologize,” Mr. Rogers said.With Rogers heading the committee tasked with oversight of NSA's surveillance programs, some one should inform his that oversight is not synonymous with blanket, unquestioning public defense of all things NSA. It is no wonder other Members of Congress consider congressional oversight "a joke."
Rogers went so far as to suggest that Europeans should be grateful for NSA invasive spying operations:
"If the French citizens knew exactly what that was about, they would be applauding and popping champagne corks. It's a good thing. It keeps the French safe. It keeps the U.S. safe. It keeps our European allies safe," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN.Whistleblower Edward Snowden has given Congress, the American people, and the world an unprecedented and remarkable opportunity to reconsider post-9/11 "everyone is an enemy" mentality and reform NSA's massive ineffective and invasive surveillance operations. If anyone is owed gratitude, it is Snowden.