Edward Snowden, an enemy of America, released top secret information so powerful that it would destroy the government's ability to keep Americans safe. Information so powerful that, in fact... nothing has changed.
Yesterday, the Senate voted down a bill that would have imposed *modest* reforms on the NSA's ability to spy on everyone everywhere at all times for any reason. [AFTER READING PLEASE DELETE THE AFOREMENTIONED SENTENCE AND NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN BY LAW.] That is disappointing, but not completely unexpected. The entire debate over Snowden's revelations and the NSA's terrifying omniscient powers has been characterized by Brave New World-style rhetoric from surveillance defenders designed to imply that our very existence was at stake. Christ, even the reform bill was called the "U.S.A. Freedom Act." That would be designed to reform The Patriot Act. Each side must prove its flag-waving bona fides in order to participate in a serious conversation about government electronic surveillance, for some reason.
In other words, this entire debate has been characterized by lies or near-lies. Mostly by the very government that swears it is doing all of this for our own sake! Regarding the failed reform bill, Mitch McConnell said yesterday: "This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs." Leaving aside the false hand-tying metaphor: is it? Is it really the worst possible time? How about, I don't know, 2002? How about September 12, 2001? How about 2004, when we were fully mired in the heat of Iraq? In 2004, do you think that if we had told the NSA that we would give it all of these near-unlimited powers for a full decade, they might not have been satisfied? I bet the NSA would have expected to have the very worst of this business wrapped up by 2014. The fact that they have not is a point against the usefulness of these powers, not for them.
The worst, most specious, most dishonest piece of poorly constructed propaganda in this particular bill's debate, though, came in the form of yesterday's Wall Street Journal op-ed by twin terror titans Michael Hayden and Michael Mukasey entitled—prepare yourself for this—"NSA Reform That Only ISIS Could Love." How indicative of the sober, journalistic quality of discussion surrounding this issue! Here is but a small taste:
Meanwhile, Islamic State terrorists continue to rampage across Syria and Iraq, even as the group, also known as ISIS, uses sophisticated Internet communications to swell its ranks with recruits bearing U.S., Canadian or European passports who can easily slip back into their native countries and wreak havoc.
In that threat environment, one would think that the last thing on the "to do" list of the 113th Congress would be to add to the grim news.
Sophisticated Internet communications like, uh, Youtube videos. Clearly we must enable a top secret and unaccountable mega-bureaucracy to indiscriminately gobble up phone call data, if we are to have any chance of counteracting these persuasive workout videos.