Senator Lindsey Graham Doesn't Know Details Of NSA Abuse, But Sure It's Fine Because 'WE'RE AT WAR!'

from the fud dept

So, over the weekend, the Washington Post reported on the latest bombshell from the Snowden files, showing both that the NSA is really bad at “minimizing” information on Americans that it’s not supposed to hang onto and (more importantly) that, contrary to earlier claims, Snowden did in fact have access to the FISA collection database of info (suggesting that the NSA’s controls over misuse of that data are not nearly as good as the agency and its defenders have claimed). Over at the Daily Beast, they figured that the various Senators in charge of oversight of the NSA would have some comments on the piece and how it shows an out of control NSA. But, that’s not quite what happened. Senator after Senator insisted that they either hadn’t yet read the story or were still trying to understand the details. The most ridiculous of all was kneejerk defender of the NSA, Lindsey Graham, who insisted that whatever was in the report didn’t matter because we’re at war:

Sen. Lindsey Graham?who sits on the Senate?s armed services, appropriations, and judiciary committees and is one of the Republican Party?s most prominent voices on defense and intelligence issues?wasn?t familiar with the Post piece.

?I don?t really know the details about what they?re saying in the paper. I know [NSA intelligence-gathering] is necessary. We?re at war with radical Islam,? Graham said.

Of course, that’s interesting on two accounts. First, technically, we’re not at war, because Congress hasn’t declared war. You’d think a Senator would know that. Second, even if we were at war, does Graham honestly believe that there can be no limitations on NSA surveillance and nothing can go too far, so long as he can insist that “we’re at war” (even if we’re not)? If so, that’s rather scary.

Other Senators similarly begged off responding to the piece, insisting they hadn’t seen the details, including Intelligence Committee head Dianne Feinstein:

Nearly two days after the release of The Washington Post?s report, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, who has direct oversight of the NSA, was just beginning to be fully briefed in the issue.

?I?m just in the process of looking into that,? Feinstein said.

And onto some others:

Sen. Carl Levin, the Democratic head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was in Afghanistan and hadn?t had a chance to catch up. Sen. James Inhofe, his Republican counterpart, hadn?t seen the story. Sen. Angus King, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said he didn?t know the facts behind the newest revelations yet. He wasn?t alone.

Of course, it’s safe to assume that most of them are just making an excuse to avoid answering the question, but that seems even worse. Either they don’t know what’s happening and have taken days to find out (bad) or they do know what’s happening and simply don’t want to comment about it (worse). Then, of course, there’s always someone who is going to insist the whole thing is bogus — but refuses to give any explanation as to why:

Sen. Tom Coburn, a member of Feinstein?s committee, came out of the Senate?s Monday votes challenging the veracity of the report, saying the ?story is not accurate.? Pressed on where it was inaccurate, Coburn said, ?I can?t tell you in what way. If I could tell you in what way, I would.?

To date, there has been no indication that there is anything amiss with the story. If it were really “not accurate,” you can rest assured that the NSA or James Clapper’s office would have been hitting back hard already about “inaccuracies” in the report. To date, they have not. Coburn’s “trust me,” is not particularly convincing since he still is the only person saying that… Though, I guess that’s still better than Graham’s ridiculous “we’re at war!” comment.

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Comments on “Senator Lindsey Graham Doesn't Know Details Of NSA Abuse, But Sure It's Fine Because 'WE'RE AT WAR!'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

I’m pretty sure most members of Congress don’t know the details about illegal NSA data collection, because they’re purposely choosing not to read about the details. It’s called sticking your head in the sand like an Ostrich bird.

See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil. When all else fails yell Islamists and TORrorists at the top of your lungs.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: At war with Radical Islam

Actually, he was either being careful or is simply correct: The problem is certain of the groups practicing their radical Islamism, which is political – not Islam itself. Although we have been picky-choosey about targets.

There are a lot of other nuances involved in who some of us wish we were fighting and why, but the Senator is correct, currently, in this narrow instance.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

There were three major ones that I am aware of, the 1991 for authorization for Desert Storm, there was one for use of military forces after September 11th, and there was a third in early 2003 I think to go back into Iraq.

These authorizations for use of military force are basically a way to get around having to actually declare war that allows the same actions to be taken in a region without the full declaration of war by Congress.

Apparently, the “looks like a duck” standard wasn’t in force at that time though.

Anonymous Coward says:

Of course, that’s interesting on two accounts. First, technically, we’re not at war, because Congress hasn’t declared war. You’d think a Senator would know that.

So if not war, exactly what state are we in? Who exactly would Congress declare war on in these circumstances? ISIS? Al Qaeda? Al Shabaab? What about freelancers, unaffiliated fighters and opportunists?

You are awfully good at ridiculing but I seldom hear much that’s productive. So maybe you can tell us all how these matters should be handled.

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re:

So if not war, exactly what state are we in? Who exactly would Congress declare war on in these circumstances?

So you agree with the article. A senator, who should know exactly what it means to declare war, probably shouldn’t be telling people we have when nobody can even really identify the enemy.

So maybe you can tell us all how these matters should be handled.

I’m not sure there was much ambiguity, but I’ll help clarify this for you (Mike, please chime in if I mis-speak): don’t use “we’re at war!” as an excuse for governmental behavior WHEN WE ARE NOT AT WAR because that’s just stupid. Also, it’s not all that great of an excuse even when we are at war so it may be best for the intelligence agencies in this country to not misbehave.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“Who exactly would Congress declare war on in these circumstances?”

Precisely. A war footing is the incorrect response for the situation, which is why we’re not only not at war but need to stop acting as if we were.

These matters should be handled just like they have been in the past: if we feel the need to act on foreign soil, either work in conjunction with the foreign nation or declare war against them. If neither of those are acceptable, then treat it as a domestic law enforcement issue (which is how we should have been treating it from the start, in my opinion.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I think the US has a good strategy going on in the Middle East. Sit back and let the Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds battle each other and let them settle their disputes on their own. None of the Arabs want Americans over there.

American forces should have never been in Iraq in the first place. It’s been a HUGE disaster on all accounts. Loss of American life plus funding the war bankrupted the American economy.

Now Iraq is falling apart and the country is in worse shape than when it had Saddam as a dictator. Stay the hell out of there! No matter what America does, the Arab population is going to hate us as infidels.

The most America should have done was bomb the Taliban in Afghanistan with jets. Just like that song on the radio used to go after 9/11.

“Ayyye yo. Give us Osama or we bomb your home”

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

While I find I tend to agree with your sentiments, 2 things:

Almost none of them are Arabs. Arab isn’t a generic term for Middle-Eastern peoples and/or Islamic peoples. Osama? Yup. Most anyone in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, etc.? Nope.

We didn’t need to bomb anything to get Osama. Just behave like any normal party should and provide the evidence of who we found to be involved to the Afghan government. But no, we couldn’t do that, everyone is just supposed to bow to our demands or die. Afghanistan, like Iraq, was based on lies and created excuses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Around 2008 when sectarian violence was winding down, I’ve heard sunnis on the radio just wanting to make peace with the shia and have a return to a normal Iraq. That didn’t last long.

Fuck you Rumsfeld, I can’t wait for your death you fucking zombie wannabe-lord-of-war. That performance you gave when crying at the Abu Garib(sic) prison torture was worth an oscar. You were telling this congressman about how ‘you’ve been around the block long enough and that an attack could happen anytime, maybe just now even’ on the morning of 911 having breakfast with him, before the MISSILE struck the accounting dept of the pentagon, when the day before you said 2 billions were unaccounted for.

Stop blaming Bush, he was a puppet figurehead, that guy has to be tortured so he reveals what he really knows. Although, the american public would probably go insane from the multitudes of cognitive dissonance they got themselves used to live with.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The current situation for the US is one that the whole declaration of war thing doesn’t handle. Declaration of war is generally against a country, not a concept or against a diverse group spread out thinly all over the planet.

Love it or hate it, the US is at (something), and the enemy is more than willing to take advantage if the US backs down or decides to go lax on security.

BeeAitch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“Love it or hate it, the US is at (something)…”

WTF do you mean by this statement, other then to justify:

“…and the enemy is more than willing to take advantage if the US backs down or decides to go lax on security.”

You are repeating the same (lame) excuses used by the officials in the article…

…oh wait, I remember who you’re pandering for now.

Whatever (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Pandering? Oh really? I guess there is a new definition for pandering which is telling it like it is, not as we wish it were.

We wish the US wasn’t at risk of attack at every turn. We wish US assets around the world (such as embassies) were not the targets for large attacks. We wish Americans were safe everywhere in the world. All of those things sadly are the reality of the 21st century (mostly as a result of the actions the a successive list of Bush family members and friends).

Of course, if you don’t think there are any risks, and you don’t think the US should do anything, then of course it all seems like pandering to you. Yes, the government are ham fisted. Yes they are monotone in their approaches. Yes they do massively over react and yes, they take advantage of technology and loophole court rulings to do things that are distasteful to many.

The other choices? Well, we could get rid of the “security theater” at airports and nobody would fly anymore, as the risk of attack would be too high. We could stop trying to figure out what those who violently oppose the US are trying to do next, and let them take out embassies, staff members, and citizens randomly. We could stop doing things like actually checking people at the borders coming into the US and let whoever come in and do what they like. We could basically rewind the movie back to about 1998 or so.

Then we could suffer through it all over again. 🙁

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the “concept”. He was a secular ruler who prevented sunni/shia dischord. Yes there was a brutal ruler there, but so many less people died in that country before the US put its nose in it (a lot to punish it for failing to beat Iran in the Iraq/Iran war). He was even encouraged to take Kuwait, an actual part of Iraq which was removed from them in the ’20’s by yet another british idiot to please (for some reason I forgot) the rebellious emir in Kuwait.

Saddam Hussein and 911. 2 things together that don’t make sense. Period, this has been clear since about late 2003 (or right away with people with an IQ in the triple digits).

Anonymous Coward says:

There is a reason for the Geneva Convention. That is a global agreement on how to treat prisoners of war. So what is this Gitmo thing? Face it if the US is at war, the US is a war criminal.

But to apply the Geneva Convention, you must declare war. Something congress has not done. So there is no war.

This convenient lack of declaring war while claiming to be in a war has led to grabbing up people in a foreign land, torturing them, and sticking them in a jail away from US soil in the claims that they are terrorists. All of them have been tortured. Someone tortures you for years, would you agree to be called a terrorist to make it stop? Certainly you would.

When you have a war, the congress funds it. But Bush was afraid he didn’t have the support to declare war and if he did, congress wouldn’t fund it. Hence the emergency funding every six months. Once the troops were there congress really had no choice but to fund the troops or let them die without resources.

There is no declared war and never was for the Afghanistan/Iraq conflict. Calling it a war without that formal declaration does not make it a war.

GEMont (profile) says:

What they don't know, won't hurt us.

First, technically, we’re not at war, because Congress hasn’t declared war.

True, unless, after 9/11, there was a special top secret meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other political VIPs who secretly reinterpreted the War Measures Act to allow them to Secretly Declare War in a secret closed session, without the need for an issuance of declaration of war by congress, under special circumstances, such as an attack by terrorists.

Of course this is entirely conjecture, but is based upon the actions and behaviours of the federal government and its agents since 9/11.

It has also become nearly a habit for these agencies to use secret interpretations of standing laws in order to accomplish things that would not be possible without breaking the law.

If the War Measures Act was secretly reinterpreted in such a fashion as to allow the administration in power to secretly declare war on any “adversary” it deemed a terrorist or terrorist organization and thus allow that administration to use the immense legal powers bestowed by the War Measures Act against that adversary, without disclosing that fact to the public or informing the chosen “adversary” that it was being attacked formally, then much of what we have seen over the last decade becomes easily understood.

Especially the now-common tactic of law enforcement and federal agencies of reclassifying everything from child molesters to drug dealers as terrorists.

It would also make the Home Surveillance activities of the NSA nothing more than the standard procedure for spying on an enemy during war, once the public was reclassified as an “adversary”…. As recent documents have shown it has been for some time now.

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