After Spending Time As Surveillance Subjects, Intelligence Oversight Committee Suddenly Performing Some Oversight

from the we'll-get-to-the-bottom-of-this-thing-that-was-only-supposed-to-happen-to-ot dept

Once again, it appears the only way to make our nation’s intelligence oversight committees care about surveillance is to include them in the “fun.”

Fervent surveillance apologist Dianne Feinstein had zero fucks to give about the steady stream of leaks until it became apparent that the CIA was spying on her staffers while they put together the Torture Report. Likewise, many members of the House Intelligence Committee couldn’t be bothered to care much about domestic surveillance until they, too, were “inadvertently” included in the NSA’s dragnet.

Suddenly, it’s time to start caring about the NSA’s broad powers.

The U.S. House Intelligence Committee will consider whether new safeguards are needed for handling communications intercepted by the National Security Agency that involve U.S. lawmakers or other Americans, the top Democrat on the panel said on Wednesday.

Yes, these legislators are unhappy their phone calls with foreign officials might have been collected on the regular by the nation’s foremost interceptor of communications. And, in what is certainly viewed as largesse by this committee, the proposed rules (whatever they are) will be extended to non-elected Americans.

The Office of the Director of the National Intelligence further clarified the proposed changes discussed during the closed-door briefing by declining to comment on the “classified” proceedings.

One thing is clear, though. Changes will be happening, presumably to further protect the content of legislators’ phone calls from the NSA, or at the very least, toughen up minimization procedures. The official statement from the Committee appends “all Americans” after an ellipsis (“explore whether any additional safeguards are necessary when it comes to incidental collection—not only for members of Congress… but for all Americans“) so the smart money is on trickle-down surveillance protection. Presumably, we’ll all be apprised of any additional protections on a need-to-know basis.

Heading up this new-found enthusiasm for small-batch surveillance reform is Devin Nunes, the Chairman of the Intelligence Committee. His previous efforts on behalf of Americans and their civil liberties include:

Attempting to prevent the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board from doing its job; and

Pushing a clean reauthorization of Section 215 — an effort he only dropped because he couldn’t rustle up enough support.

So, that’s the champion fighting against abusive spying and he’s seemingly only interested because his stuff might have gotten caught in the dragnet.

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Comments on “After Spending Time As Surveillance Subjects, Intelligence Oversight Committee Suddenly Performing Some Oversight”

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Roger Strong (profile) says:

Those Who Would Repeat The Past Must Control The Teaching Of History

The NSA’s roots stretch back to the State Department’s “Black Chamber.” Officially dissolved by Secretary of State Henry Stimson in 1929 with the immortal words “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail.”

“Stimson’s ethical reservations about cryptanalysis focused on the targeting of diplomats from America’s close allies, not on spying in general.”

The NSA has surpassed that practice.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

So they will make a public spectacle of this, score some points, and nothing will change.
The members will be shown data collected that could be devastating if it happened to leak and reminded that they are always watching.

The system no longer answers to anyone but itself. It will protect itself at any cost, and nothing those charged with oversight can do will protect them from their secrets used against them.

Turning a blind eye to what was happening so they could keep us safe was was great plan… but now those who thought they were exempt just figured out they are in the same pot with the rest of us frogs.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Heart of the Problem

” politicians are becoming the ruling class”

I don’t think so. They are puppets.

Clearly monied interests are our overlords, always has been this way. Most politicians spend a majority of their “at work” time soliciting campaign contributions and for many of them this involves sucking up to those who control huge sums.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Heart of the Problem

I wouldn’t call ’em “puppets”, I’d call ’em “middle management”.

They’re occasionally allowed to take the initiative and work with marketing on new small-scale niche projects, hire interns (e.g. Feinstein hired Janice in Accounting without asking anyone), and decide if Casual Friday allows jeans & sneakers, or just khakis & loafers.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Heart of the Problem

Campaign contributions would have no effect on anything if the American people could be bothered to get up off the couch, pay attention to representative’s behavior and voting records, and then actually cast an intelligent vote come election time. Until we can be somehow convinced to vote based on something other than who has the most signs and commercials, absolutely nothing will change.

Jim Anderson (profile) says:

Overseers No Fellow Victims?

I hope that Congress still has enough independence to actually prevent their own surveillance.That the people are subject to surveillance and Congress is not is not a good situation but the alternatives are even worse. If congress in it’s oversight role can not prevent it’s own surveillance then we have a problem that is more serious than simple arrogance of power. Does Congress run the secret police(NSA,FBI,CIA) or do the secret police run Congress?

MadAsASnake (profile) says:

What I find astounding is that people, even the apologists like Fienstien, really don’t understand the logic of these bulk collections. For instance, the AT & T taps take everything. There is no possibility of not taking communications involving senators, privileged legal communications, or anything other prohibited communications. It is ALL. The only way the NSA could avoid any of these is to collect none of them in bulk. It’s largely the same story for minimisation. You actually need to know it’s priveledged to minimise it, and in most cases, they never get that far. No amount of legislation will change that logic. The NSA crossed the rubicon quite some time ago, and as we have seen, they aren’t going back.

GEMont (profile) says:

The Worm Oroboros

It appears as though the ‘elected’ “Leaders Apparent” running the member nations “in the open”, are beginning to comprehend the full reality behind having a secret organization like the Five Eyes running the real show from behind the scenes.

They finally begin to see that they are merely employees, and like any employees, are being kept under constant vigil by their employers… a little karmic komprehension if you will.

So, like employees anywhere, they petition their masters with their grievances, in the hopes of brokering a deal that allows them to continue watching porn during office hours secretly, while, like employers anywhere, the real rulers of these nations chairing the Five Eyes Board of Directors, will pat their charges on the head and say all the right things to sooth their brows, while secretly switching the surveillance process to their other hand and adding a few new layers of intrusion and complexity.

Its like a really bad B movie, except that it just repeats itself over and over again… like fools in a time loop.


GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:


I just wish it wasn’t so damned pleasant watching them squirm, now they know their little online escapades with and are the recorded property of the Five Eyes’ International Compliance Department.

But I just can’t get this shit-eating grin off my face….

Sadly, since public “representation” no longer exists in America and the public is without a voice, the only way that anything can be done about this fiasco now, is if the officials on the pay roll realize that they; just like the rest, are permanently under the microscope and that all their employer’s reassurances of their immunity from surveillance, were lies.

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