How Many Lies Can A Politician Stuff Into A Single Sentence About NSA Surveillance?

from the is-this-a-new-record? dept

In a recent comment on the site, reader PT pointed us to a statement from Representative Joe Heck explaining why he voted against the Amash Amendment. The statement was from back in July, soon after the Amash Amendment to defund certain NSA activities was narrowly defeated. While the statement is now a couple months old, what amazes me is the statements of fact that are flat out false in there. And we're not just talking about statements that were later proven to be false. These are things that were known to be false at the time -- from a Representative who is on the House Intelligence Committee and who must have known these statements were lies. Just for simplicity's sake, let's focus on the main one and stand back in amazement at just how many flat out lies Rep. Heck told in a single sentence:
The Amash amendment would have eliminated Section 215 of the Patriot Act which we know has thwarted 54 terrorist plots against the US (and counting).
This is a lie. It's not a half truth. It's not a misstatement. It's not confusion. It's an out and out lie. Actually, it's a whole series of lies. Almost nothing in that statement is true. In fact, I can't find anything in that statement that is true. Every single part is a lie. At no point has anyone in the Intelligence Community stated that Section 215 thwarted 54 terrorist plots against the US. First off, the 54 number, which was first released by the NSA's Keith Alexander, wasn't about "terrorist plots" but rather "potential terrorist events." Yes, that language is purposely broad and opaque. What counts as a "terrorist event"? A meeting? A party? It's not at all clear that these were actual "terrorist plots." In fact, a month before Heck's totally bogus claim above, the NSA clarified that only 42 "plots" were involved in that 54 number. The other 12 weren't plots, but rather "material support to terrorists" whatever that might mean.

Second, Alexander wasn't talking about Section 215 of the Patriot Act for most of those "events." He admitted that 53 of the 54 cases actually involved Section 702 of the Patriot Act (the PRISM program) which wasn't the part that was up for a vote in the Amash Amendment. So Heck is, once again, lying in claiming that Section 215 stopped those plots.

Third, at no time did Alexander or anyone at the NSA say they were all targeted against "the US" as Heck falsely claims. The very same day that Alexander shared the 54 number, he also admitted that only about 10 involved the US -- a number that was quickly clarified a few days later: only 13 "had a homeland nexus." So, already, it's pretty clear that the claim of "54 thwarted terrorist plots against the US" is completely bogus (and, remember, all of this was public a month before Heck's statement).

Fourth, of those 13 that "had a homeland nexus," almost none required the NSA's surveillance efforts. When confronted by Senator Leahy in a Senate hearing, the NSA's deputy director John Inglis admitted that the surveillance merely "made a contribution" to the efforts against 12 of those plots, but wasn't particularly key to stopping them. Inglis admitted that the surveillance programs were actually only "critical" in a single case: the Zazi NYC Subway case.

So now we're down to just one plot in the US -- and we're not even talking about Section 215 any more, but Section 702. Oh, and as for that one case, multiple press reports have pointed out that the claim that NSA surveillance was needed to catch Zazi just isn't true, because traditional police work was able to do the brunt of the work in identifying Zazi and the plot.

Oh, and finally, the Amash Amendment would not have "eliminated Section 215." It merely would have defunded using Section 215 to justify collecting metadata on every phone call. Section 215 would still be in place, and the government would still be able to use it to access "tangible things" and various "business records" so long as they were actually related to a counterterrorism operation.

So there you have it. A Congressional Representative who is on the Intelligence Committee, who voted against the Amash Amendment, and defended it with a cascading series of flat out lies. While the Amash Amendment would have defunded the data collection of metadata on all phone calls, it did not get rid of Section 215, which was not used to thwart 54 terrorist plots (not even one!) and many of those "plots" weren't "plots" and very few were actually in the US.

What gets me, however, is that few people seem willing to say that he flat out lied. This isn't a case of a misstatement or confusion or even things that were revealed later. Nearly all of the points that I highlighted above were public knowledge nearly a month before Heck made his untrue statement.

Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:01am

    "Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?"

    bahahahahaha

    If they weren't too busy watching Dancing with the C List Stars or America Lacks Talent...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:06am

    "Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?"

    For that we'd need some sort of independent and unbiased news gathering and reporting type of system in place. Mmmm... great idea. Maybe you should patent it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Paul, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    Your ending question: Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?

    My answer as a question: Isn't it time that some elected officials are criminally charges when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?

    Until those in charge are held accountable for their lies they will continue to lie. Legalizing Medical Marijuana would open thousands of jail cells which we will need to hold our corrupt elected & appointed officials before & after conviction. Like us, they are not above the law.....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    Rikuo (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:12am

    Hey, Joe did say something truthful in that sentence.

    He named the topic of discussion, the amendment, correctly (Amash).

    ...that's the best I've got. Other than that, you're right. Pack of lies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:18am

    Re:

    Maybe something as simple as providing for the recall of federal politicians by their constituents would be enough.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Me, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:27am

    "Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?"
    _____________________

    Well, you just did, Mike. I wish people would quit saying "when will people get upset?!" and its variations. It implies security nihilism, which is not the case. Make the deconstruction, as you did really well, and tomorrow make another. Over time, change is effected.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    icon
    Transmitte (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 11:48am

    "How Many Lies Can A Politician Stuff Into A Single Sentence About NSA Surveillance?"

    I couldn't tell you off hand but let me go get my calculator. The only way they can be held accountable is if his constituents call him to the carpet and demand a recall. As far as charges go, he would have to break whatever loose rules(more like loose guidelines anymore) they have in place for his state and at the federal level.

    In the event he got recalled, it would just be worse, he would morph into a lobbyist, and IF he was brought up on charges, he would most likely get a light sentencing if not an outright walk(AKA probation). There really is no way to stop them.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:06pm

    it depends on how long the sentence is, doesn't it?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:12pm

    just to add to the post above, why do you think he is on 'the house intelligence committee'? it's because he can lie through his fucking teeth without showing the slightest bit of emotion, without even having a change in face color!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Berenerd (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:34pm

    Re:

    baby steps....

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:52pm

    Lying to congress and lies from congress seem to be in vogue these days.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:54pm

    Megatron (holding Starscream at gunpoint): You're either lying or you're stupid.
    Starscream: I'm stupid, I'm stupid!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Andrew Lee, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 12:58pm

    42

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    yaga (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:06pm

    I think that we've let people off so much in the past few years (I'm looking at you various wardrobe "malfunctions" and all the "the press took my statements out of context" remarks) that we don't really think of lies as actual lies anymore. We need to get back to calling everyone on their bullshit and stop letting celebrities, athletes and politicians off the hook.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    icon
    Peter (profile), Sep 11th, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    Wow -- magnificent work.

    Again, I just want to say this for the record, you are doing magnificent work -- keep going! I'll support you obviously, and when someone get out of line, or disrupts your work, me and lots of other people will support you with everything we have.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Sep 11th, 2013 @ 5:36pm

    Where the hell is Heck?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 12:40am

    Joe Heck looking into a mirror says "Heck Joe, you forgot to mark it classified"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    icon
    PT (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 3:02am

    Heck's only been in Congress for three years, yet he's already on three important committees, takes $80k (that we know of) from defense lobbyists, and got TV commercials for the last election - his first re-election - paid for by the US Chamber of Commerce. A pretty meteoric career for someone who framed himself as a humble citizen who just wanted to make a difference.

    Incidentally, he got an amendment of his own passed in that same debate, thanks to which the nation will now spend many millions of our tax dollars buying Iron Dome missile systems from Israel.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Sep 12th, 2013 @ 7:27am

    Re:

    Isn't it time that some elected officials are criminally charges when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?

    Is there some special law that makes it a crime for elected officials to lie? Because lying generally isn't illegal unless the person is under oath.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 12:09pm

    Blah blah blah blah blah

    When you are dead you do not know that you are dead.
    It is difficult only for the others.

    It is the same when you are stupid.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    identicon
    relghuar, Sep 12th, 2013 @ 10:38pm

    "Isn't it time that someone actually called out elected officials when they state things that are clearly lies to constituents?"

    Uhmm, yeah. Those someones used to be called journalists. Too bad they're mostly extinct now :-(

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This