Senators: Why Is Everyone So Worked Up About Verizon Spying? We've All Known About It Since 2007

from the uh... dept

Towards the end of my piece this morning about the administration’s ridiculous response to the leaked evidence and confirmation that the NSA is scooping up every single phone record (confirmed from Verizon at least, though you can assume it applies to everyone else as well) was a quick note mentioning that Senator Dianne Feinstein was saying that this was a continuation of the same program that had been going on for seven years. And, now, lots of Senators are coming out and saying the same thing. In fact, it appears that our 100 Senators all knew that this has been going on for seven years without telling us:

“Everyone’s been aware of it for years, every member of the Senate,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss (Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Chambliss told reporters that the program has been going on for seven years under the auspices of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. He said he was not aware of a single citizen filing a complaint about it.

I love that last bit. Yes, since no citizens “complained” about the totally secret program in which their private data was sucked up by the NSA, what’s there to worry about? Senator Harry Reid’s response is equally ridiculous, suggesting that everyone should calm down because this is nothing new:

“Right now I think everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that’s brand new — it’s been going on for 7 years,” Reid said.

Again, it’s astounding how out of touch these people are. They’re pretending that a secret program that went way, way, way beyond what most people believed was happening now being revealed is no big deal because they knew about it for seven years? Frankly, that makes the whole situation that much worse, because it means they supported it and did nothing to end it for seven years.

I know that Senators Ron Wyden and Marc Udall have been trying to get this fact out to the public for years — demanding that the NSA say how many Americans they were spying on. It was obvious that Wyden and Udall knew what was going on, but couldn’t say anything since such information is “classified.” But shame on every other Senator for not standing up against this.

Some are arguing that they didn’t know:

“If you’re on the intel committee, or if you’re in leadership, you might have been briefed. I’m pretty good about attending meetings; I don’t remember being briefed,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.). He said he voted for the FISA reauthorization and the Patriot Act but did not intend to grant authority to collect millions of phone records at a time.

“I never voted intentionally for any bill that would grant blanket [authority] to just monitor every phone call,” he said.

But that’s a lame excuse as well, because Senator Wyden spent an awful lot of time making this very point on the Senate floor, pointing out that very clearly that the NSA was using FISA to spy on tons of Americans (hinting strongly that it was all of them) and saying that the Senate shouldn’t approve the reauthorization until the NSA told them how many people were being spied on. If Senator Isakson didn’t pay attention to Senator Wyden ringing the alarm bell, that’s his own fault.

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Comments on “Senators: Why Is Everyone So Worked Up About Verizon Spying? We've All Known About It Since 2007”

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silverscarcat says:

Maybe we should dump their phone records, the phone records of all the people who work for them, their families, their friends, anyone who’s ever been in contact with them, their emails, their snail mail, etc. and see how they like it.

Of course, that won’t happen. After all, the House keeps trying to repeal Obamacare, even though they get free health benefits for as long as they’re in Congress.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

What a stupid, fucked up statement is that, Genocide and disease are not things instigated by Government, it’s not nothing to do with the NSA listening to your phone calls.

BTW: people and Governments DO, DO things about Genocide and disease.

No you should not accept (or commit) genocide and as for disease, do you have a choice here ?

art guerrilla (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

actually, i would be interested in the number of times genocide was perpetrated when it wasn’t done by a gummint action…

by far, it has been duly formed gummints who promote genocide…

individuals and NGOs, not so much…

(and if you want to talk diseases, i have some smallpox infested blankets to give you…)

art guerrilla
aka ann archy

Anonymous Coward says:

Again, it’s astounding how out of touch these people are. They’re pretending that a secret program that went way, way, way beyond what most people believed was happening now being revealed is no big deal because they knew about it for seven years? Frankly, that makes the whole situation that much worse, because it means they supported it and did nothing to end it for seven years.

It didn’t go way, way, way beyond what I believed was happening. Hell, with Google scanning my every e-mail and tracking me where I go and whatever I search for- I’m not dumb enough to believe that there are not tons of organizations doing the same thing.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

There’s a difference between a private company not bound by the Constitution gathering the data and the Federal government which is SUPPOSED to be bound by the Constitution gathering the data.

And the work around will be that the private companies will collect the data (as they are already doing) and then the government will become clients of these companies and buy or contract for the data just like the other clients/custmers/partners of these companies.

The data is being collected. And it is being sold. If government buys it, then it isn’t any different than if anyone buys it.

Suzanne Lainson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Right now national security hasn’t been fully privatized, but it will be. Government will just hand those functions to private companies and that will circumvent whatever political/Constitutional issues being debated now.

As long as any company can collect and monitor people, it’s being done. The government can put enough degrees of separation between itself and the private companies that it will be increasingly difficult to say it is a “government” function.

Here’s how it is done for military operations.

Pentagon Has No Idea What 108,000 Contractors Are Doing: “According to CRS, there are now 108,000 private workers in Afghanistan, a workforce that dwarfs the 65,700 American troops still stationed there. That means there are 1.6 contractors for every American soldier in Afghanistan. This is an increase from last month, when The Fiscal Times reported that there were 1.4 contractors per American soldier.”

Anonymous Coward says:

This is exactly why everyone should use VoIP, encryption and proxies all the time.

Although I believe what they are after is not the content but the relationships and what that might tell them is still troubling.

Imagine a rogue president mandating the agency spy for security reasons on all members of congress to find out who of them are working with the “enemy”.

It will happen eventually, chances are very good that at least somebody inside that huge government complex is contemplating the idea and thinking “why not?” because he/she doesn’t remember Nixon.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Can someone get these people a subscription to Techdirt?

I know for a fact that Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) is a regular reader and one of the leading intellectuals on most matters that are valued by Techdirt’s readership. I’d say he’s right up there with Wyden and Udall. Here he is in action:

Anonymous Coward says:

Weird re-writing of the 4th ammendment

In this case the senators are saying that it’s OK that they grab all the data, because the feds won’t look at it until they have a real investigation.

I think what they are doing qualifies as a illegal seizure (regardless of whether or not they’ve pinky-sworn not to look at it without probable cause).

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator McCain conditionally says 'Hearings needed'

Arizona Sen. John McCain said, “But if it was something where we just blanket started finding out who everybody called and under what circumstances, then I think it deserves congressional hearings.”

Well, Senator McCain, the allegation is that it’s just “blanket started finding out who everybody called”. I think your “if” there is met.

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Merkley say 'Outrageous'

Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley said in a statement:

“This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy. I have had significant concerns about the intelligence community over-collecting information about Americans? telephone calls, emails, and other records and that is why I voted against the reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act provisions in 2011 and the reauthorization of the FISA Amendments Act just six months ago.?

?This bulk data collection is being done under interpretations of the law that have been kept secret from the public. Significant FISA court opinions that determine the scope of our laws should be declassified. Can the FBI or the NSA really claim that they need data scooped up on tens of millions of Americans??

“This type of secret bulk data collection is an outrageous breach of Americans’ privacy.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Mikulski says she doesn't know what's going on

Senator Mikulski, D-Md., said that to say members of Congress has been “fully briefed” drives her up the wall.

“Because often ‘fully briefed’ means a group of eight leadership; it does not necessarily mean relevant committees,” Mikulski said. “So fully briefed doesn’t mean we know what’s going on.

Anonymous Coward says:

I never voted intentionally for any bill that would grant blanket [authority] to just monitor every phone call,” he said.

When was the last time the good senator actually read the bill he was voting on? This speaks far louder to me than the disclaimer he didn’t know. Evidently he just threw up his hand when it came time to vote. I wonder if that coin in his pocket can still be told which is heads?

The idea that all the senate knew but couldn’t be bothered to tell the public or arrange to where this was no longer secret in very much on purpose. After all the NSA is not supposed to collect info on in country citizens. Yet here they are willingly violating the Constitution with the express permission of congress. What is wrong with this picture?

This is akin to the sound engineers that couldn’t figure out what was the problem with the audience that paid good money to go see a concert only to find it was lip synced. Being so close to the issue, everyone has forgotten what moral behavior is because everyone is in on it. That’s a sad commentary on the state of our country.

It’s even more condemning when you realize that actions like this are at the root of why the American people don’t trust their government.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘it means they supported it and did nothing to end it for seven years’

even worse they supported it BUT DIDN’T TELL THE PEOPLE, THE VERY ONES THAT WERE BEING SPIED ON. how bloody stupid can people get? i fail to see how these ‘officials’ get voted in in the first place, let alone get voted back term after term. and dont forget the shit storm that would happen if it was them being spied on. people like Feinstein would be the first to protest!!

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Flake says 'Wow, that's a revelation'

“Wow, that’s a revelation,” Arizona Senator Jeff Flake said during an appearance on MSNBC. “Why they would need that much data puzzles me. It just seems strange that they would collect all of that only to, I’m sure, drill down on certain aspects later on. But that was a surprise and raises some questions that I think we ought to answer.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Corker says 'Extremely serious concerns'

Tenness Senator Bob Corker, in a letter to the president, wrote:

?On its face, if true, the collection of this massive amount of detailed information about the communications of American citizens raises extremely serious concerns about why such a broad collection is necessary and how this information is used. The Administration must therefore immediately come to Congress and to the American people to explain whether this story is accurate, what is being collected, what it is used for, and how the privacy and civil liberties of Americans are protected.”

“Collection of this massive amount of detailed information about the communications of American citizens raises extremely serious concerns.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Lee is 'Deeply disturbed'

In a statement today, Utah Senator Mike Lee said, ?I am deeply disturbed by reports that the FISA Court issued an extremely broad order requiring Verizon turn over to the National Security Agency on a daily basis the company?s metadata on its customers? calls. Under this secret court order, millions of innocent Americans have been subject to government surveillance.?

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Tester points to 'Example A', has questions

Montana Senator Jon Tester released the following statement:

“Time and time again Congress extends the Patriot Act without properly considering the law’s impact on Americans’ civil liberties. Today’s news is ?Example A’ for what happens when we ignore the very Constitutional rights that make our nation great and respected around the world.

“While we must keep our families safe, I have many questions about the scope of this program and how it affects law-abiding citizens. As I work with my colleagues to get to the bottom of this issue, I will continue my fight to repeal the Patriot Act and stand up for our privacy, our civil liberties and our fundamental American rights.”

“I have many questions about the scope of this program and how it affects law-abiding citizens.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Baucus calls it 'Intrusion'

Max Baucus, the senior senator from Montana, states:

“This type of intrusion on law-abiding Americans is exactly why I voted to get rid of the secret surveillance program last year. Everyone wants to do their part to keep America safe, but that doesn’t give the government free reign to ignore civil liberties.”

“I have very serious concerns with law-abiding citizens getting swept up in surveillance that is meant for terrorists. If the government really needs this type of information to keep the country safe, they ought to be able to make their case in an open and transparent courtroom instead of behind closed doors.”

“I have very serious concerns.”

Anonymous Coward says:

going on for 7 years

You’re kidding right !!!!, 7 years, try 60 years, you might be a little closer.. in fact not long after the first telephones were introduced, phone tapping occurred.

But get really upset about it now, you cant be expected to know what happens in the REAL WORLD, has always happened and will continue to happen.

get over it. (again)…

Anonymous Coward says:

Domestic Terrorism

While under surveillance the Government couldn’t stop the Boston Bombers.

If this is such a good thing why didn’t it stop the acts of domestic terrorism this year.
I mean with hundreds of millions of American’s records at their disposal you would think they could have shown us something about how our money is being spent

Aurora, Sandy Hook and Boston.Three chances to show us how good they are and they failed miserably.

And they say “trust Us” we need this info to protect you

I say get the fuck out of my personal life and me and Mr Browning will take care of ourselves.

TurboKitty says:


What the Bush administration did in 2007, was equally about spying on “terrorists”, as it was about keeping the cell providers from suing the Bush administration, and the cell phone providers from being sued by their subscribers. Any representative that was in office at that time, knows good and well what was going on in the FISA bill. As for the violation of the Constitution, look up ex post facto law. Then look up Article 1, Section 9, of the United States Constitution. The Bush administration in its entirety, violated the Constitution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Kirk

This weekend, I watched the webcast of the Senate Appropriations Committee (Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee) FY14 DOJ Budget Hearing (June 6, 2013). The entire hearing was informative, and I’m glad I took the time to watch the complete webcast, both the testimony from Attorney General Holder, and also the testimony from the Inspector General.

Illinois Senator Kirk’s questions and remarks occur at approximately 2:00:00 into the webcast. They have been reported elsewhere, and extracts from the video have also been published.

Anonymous Coward says:

Senator Thune says Congress not fully aware

South Dakota Senator John Thune said:

“I think the times that this program’s been reauthorized, much of this operates in levels where there are not that many people ? members of Congress ? who are fully engaged in what’s going on. You know, the intelligence committees obviously are involved and homeland security, I think, to some degree but most members of Congress are given a piece of legislation to vote on and I don’t believe that most members of Congress, perhaps, going into this were fully aware of how broad this program was and so yes, you vote because you’re obviously concerned about protecting the country.”

“I don’t believe that most members of Congress? were fully aware of how broad this program was.”

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