Yesterday the House of Representatives voted 217 to 205 against Rep. Justin Amash’s (R-MI) amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which would have brought an end to NSA surveillance of US citizens not under any active investigation.
In other words, it would have brought the nation’s most secretive spy agency into (maybe, sort of) compliance with the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Now, some friends have urged me to be optimistic: at least there are 205 members of Congress who went on the record against the dragnet surveillance of US citizens, an outcome that would have been pure fantasy even five years ago at the height of post-9/11 military-industrial complex jingoism.
But I am not satisfied with this outlook. Now is a time for outrage and a time to demand action and resignations. If this isn’t the line in the sand, I honestly don’t know what else would be.
As I discussed on my latest YouTube video, the cell phone metadata harvested from all US citizens on American soil is technologically similar to the phone metadata the NSA harvested and then handed over so that Afghan insurgents could be targeted and killed via drone.
That’s right: this government now affords US citizens the same level of privacy protections as a military combatant fighting against the United States in the early days of the Afghanistan War.
Why this doesn’t disturb more Americans is beyond me.
And now, on to President Obama. His pressuring of the legislative branch late at night before the Amash Amendment was voted on is like something out of a bad political thriller novel. What happened to the separation of powers? What happened to constitutional scholar Obama, who certainly would have seen the merits of restricting dragnet Stasi-style surveillance of Americans who are not under investigation.
Given Obama’s strong words and actions to prevent the public from understanding the depths of the NSA’s current activities, anything else he says must now be questioned.
When he recently promised, for example, a stronger focus on the economy and in the same breath slammed the “phony scandals” consuming him in Washington (if the NSA story is so phony, why won’t you give Snowden’s passport back?), I just don’t believe the man.
He is Washington.
And he didn’t focus on the economy. He focused on growing the surveillance state, aggressively continuing the war on drugs (including the insane crackdown on medical marijuana patients and dispensaries), surveillance cameras at every intersection in my city, vicious crackdowns on whistleblowers pointing out government abuse, gutting what little is left of investigative journalism, and providing his personal opinions on the outcome of a divisive jury trial.
The Obama of 2013 is a man who supports warrantless surveillance, speaks in Orwellian rhetoric about the need for a “trade-off” of liberty and security, and does not resemble the passionate candidate of 2008.
When his words on warrantless surveillance are so wrong and intellectually dishonest, how can his words on other subjects be trusted?
When there are 217 congressmen who won’t stand up for a minor effort to restore a small semblance of meaning to the Fourth Amendment, how can we sleep at night, knowing their powers allow them to decide far more than simply the outcome of Amash’s measure yesterday?
It’s a bad time to be an American with your eyes open.