Left vs Right on the national security surveillance state

This isn’t a right or a left thing, this is a POTUS and a bunch of corrput (sic) politics getting involved in your persoanl (sic) business.

Is that right?

It depends on what exactly the discussion is. The NSA phone/CC dragnet has now run during two administrations of opposing ideologies, but there are differences even in how that program was operated during that span. I’m not a lawyer, but my best estimate is that this program which dates back at least to 2006, was flatly illegal. Otherwise there wouldn’t have been any need for Congress to pass the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, the two laws that are now used to justify the legality of that dragnet.

It’s significant and meaningful that this program was run illegally by one administration initially, but not the other.

It’s significant and meaningful that the PAA and FAA were both passed through a Democratic-controlled Congress with overwhelming and nearly unanimous Republican support with Democrats half on board in one case, and overwhelmingly against in the other. Both laws significantly scaled back Watergate-era civil liberties protections and widened the ability of U.S. intelligence services to spy on American citizens suspected of no wrong doing, and in some cases with no oversight at all.

We don’t know if the Obama administration would have run that dragnet and PRISM without the cover of law, but we do know that the Bush administration did at least run the dragnet illegally. That can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

Nor should it be ignored that the NSA dragnet wasn’t the first domestic surveillance program run by a Republican administration that was likely illegal. We know that the NSA had a locked room inside an AT&T facility in San Francisco that was capable of surveilling every byte of Internet traffic routing through that building with no oversight, in violation of the fourth amendment, FISA, federal privacy laws, and presumably AT&T’s own privacy policies. The whistle blower in that case said that it was likely that similar rooms existed in other telecommunications buildings across the United States. The full extent of that Internet spying program has never been revealed and will probably never be known.

There are a growing number of conservatives today that have spoken out in defense of these programs, such as Lindsey Graham, Mike Rodgers (House intel comm) and Ari Fleischer.

The GOP-controlled House has been working on a “Cybersecurity” bill for months that would greatly increase intelligence sharing amongst intelligence agencies, the military, and federal law enforcement that would further compromise civil liberties and greatly increase domestic spying. Few people expected it to become law precisely because Democrats in the Senate have opposed it. HuffPost just had a story out yesterday that the new spying programs becoming public are endangering the new GOP-lead online spying laws.

Conservatives historically have supported and embraced a law enforcement/police state and currently support the vast surveillance state. There has been very little divergence from that agenda over the last 15 years.

And I never said this was right vs. left, period. It’s not. It was right vs. left on FAA and PAA and it was progressives fighting for civil liberties and government accountability before the Tea Party ever came on the scene. (I welcome the Tea Party getting involved in doing some good for a change and I support Rand Paul’s calls for reform.) New efforts to spy online are coming almost entirely out of the GOP-controlled House as we speak.

There are areas where the two major parties agree on the national security/surveillance state, but there are also areas where they don’t. And going back to the Nixon administration and beyond, there is a history of conservative administrations and the Republican Party being a party of Big Brother when it comes to knowing what people are doing unbound by the law.

Paul Tenny

Paul Tenny

I'm not a journalist but I do it anyway. I cover elections and have interviewed television writers and producers.
Paul Tenny

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