Blue Dog Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia strongly suggested Sunday that the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) domestic surveillance program upsets the “fine balance” between safety and civil liberties, saying the data collection programs prove “Big Brother is truly watching you.”
The West Virginia lawmaker appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with Candy Crowley to discuss newly-proposed curbs to the NSA’s invasive spying program, including over 40 recommended changes from a White House-appointed panel and an unconstitutional ruling on the program from a federal judge.
Unlike some lawmakers from both parties — California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and New York Republican Rep. Peter King spring to mind — Manchin expressed his willingness to rope in the NSA. “The things we need to do in this country — which is our responsibility, especially as elected officials and government as a whole — is how do we protect the privacies of each and every american but also protect the security of our country?” he asked. “There’s a fine balance there. So I’m open to listen to all the recommendations that have come out to see if we can improve upon that.”
But Crowley’s question about whether the NSA’s metadata collection program was “over the line” prompted a bombshell reference to George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”:
CROWLEY: My main question here is, do you think that the program — the metadata program is getting the most, the collection of what appears to be most of, if not all of the phone calls made here in the U.S., and it tells you like where it was placed, who placed it, how long it ran, where the phone call went to — is that over the line as far as you’re concerned?
MANCHIN: You know, we always heard as a child growing up and as we have different phases of our life that Big Brother is watching you. And now we found out that Big Brother is truly watching you.
The statement puts Manchin at odds with President Obama, who as recently as Friday defended the legality and efficiency of the program.
The senator ended on a positive note, claiming “we are getting to the point” where the most invasive aspects of the NSA’s surveillance program will be scrapped by lawmakers early next year. “I think you’re going to find backing off some, making some changes that are going to keep us secured and safe, but also not intrude the way we have been.”
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