Trump Doesn't Understand Surveillance Powers; House Votes To Give Him More Of It

from the surveillance-madness dept

As discussed this morning, the House voted a few hours ago on a bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act that did not reform the widely abused surveillance rules — other than to codify some of the power allowing them to continue to abuse it for warrantless surveillance on Americans. There was a vote on an important Amendment from Reps. Justin Amash and Zoe Lofgren that would have allowed the reauthorization of the underlying program, but (importantly) required a warrant (as per the 4th Amendment) for spying on Americans. And, unfortunately, the amendment was voted down (183-233) and the awful reauthorization passed, 256 to 164.

The fight over this bill was… weird in so many ways. There was the expected bullshit: politicians outright lying to the public, arguing that the Amash/Lofgren amendment (which again, just said that the program had to be conducted in accordance with the 4th Amendment) would somehow stop the intelligence and law enforcement community from finding terrorists (it wouldn’t). Again: everyone expected that. What was weird was (1) having some of Donald Trump’s loudest detractors in Congress… then argue against the Amash amendment and in favor of giving the Trump administration more power to warrantlessly spy on Americans and share that data widely among law enforcement. And (2) having President Trump tweet a series of confused tweets this morning that demonstrated that he clearly didn’t know what the debate is actually about… and suggesting he was against the reauthorization, despite the fact that the White House (his White House) had issued a statement strongly supporting the reauthorization.

So despite the White House (which, last I checked is supposed to represent the views of the President) tweeted in support of Section 702, here’s what the President himself tweeted early this morning:

Not surprisingly, this came just minutes after Trump’s besties at Fox & Friends had complained about Section 702, and even directly said “Mr. President, this is not the way to go.”

That resulted in Trump’s tweet which freaked out supporters of the bill, and even had a few members of Congress suggesting delaying the vote. Of course, while Trump later when on to tweet about some other topic, hours later, he added another tweet to the original tweet above, suggesting that he was now in favor of the reauthorization:

You will be unsurprised, of course, to learn that in the hours between those tweets, Rep. Paul Ryan (who was soon to go on the floor and completely misrepresent the bill) had spoken to the President.

It’s worth pointing out, of course, that both of Trump’s tweets totally misrepresent the 702 program and the vote today. While there are many, many examples of abuse of Section 702 surveillance powers, there has yet to be any evidence that it was abused to do surveillance on the Trump campaign. But the second tweet is also wrong. The issue was not “foreign bad guys on foreign land” but the fact that the new bill authorizes surveillance of totally innocent people — including American citizens at home in America — without a warrant.

As for the other oddity: some of Trump’s biggest critics in Congress — Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi — just helped to give Trump much greater surveillance powers on Americans without a warrant… despite regularly complaining that he has abused his powers.

…the most powerful member of the Democratic Caucus, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, was notably silent on the bill. If Pelosi had whipped Democrats to vote against the bill and supported the USA RIGHTS Act instead, there?s a good chance that Trump and Ryan would have failed to get their full extension. Yet, just before the floor vote today she said she would not support the USA Rights Act and shamefully voted to hand Trump exactly what he wanted.

Almost worse than Pelosi’s willingness to go along with the NSA was Rep. Adam Schiff’s, D-Calif., who has seen his star rise over the last year being the Democrat?s go-to voice on the Russia investigation. On CNN with Jake Tapper this weekend, Schiff talked at length how he thought Trump was abusing his power and misusing the Justice Department to go after his political enemies.

Nonetheless, Schiff was a leading driver in the House to extend the NSA’s surveillance powers, and has been undercutting the more robust reforms proposed by other Democrats, like longtime Senate Intelligence Committee member Sen. Ron Wyden, for months.

So, in summary: this bill that effectively expands the power of US intelligence and law enforcement communities to spy on Americans without warrants… was supported, then opposed, then supported again by the President while demonstrating he had no idea what was in the bill… then supported by Democrats who keep warning that the President will abuse the wider surveillance powers that they are voting to give him… and then the bill passed just as expected.

This is all kinds of fucked up.

Either way, this now moves on to the Senate. And while there are some Senators who are speaking out against the reautorhization — mainly Senators Ron Wyden, Rand Paul and Mike Lee — it’s widely believed that there’s not enough 4th Amendment supporters in the Senate to stop the bad bill from getting passed as well. And, at that point, it’s quite likely that the President will sign the bill, despite his own tweet complaining about the program this morning.

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Comments on “Trump Doesn't Understand Surveillance Powers; House Votes To Give Him More Of It”

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60 Comments
Andy says:

Re: Re:

We are talking about removing the power to monitor and out americans that have been working with Russian spies, or spies of any other nation…

How crazy does it get that people are fighting to protect americans that are possibly treasonous or have been turned by russian spies..

I do agree that nobody should be outed for doing there political job, but then wonder why sessions had so much contact with russian spies, what part of his job needed him to have secret conversations with russians. This is the type of contact that needs to be outed if needs be.

Anonymous Coward says:

It's not weird

“What was weird was […] (2) having President Trump tweet a series of confused tweets this morning that demonstrated that he clearly didn’t know what the debate is actually about”

That’s not weird. That’s to be expected when you have someone who (a) is clinically insane and (b) is suffering from frontotemporal dementia. Less formally, he’s crazy and senile, so what would be ‘weird” is if he actually managed to make a thoughtful, cogent statement on this — or any other issue.

We all know this. Even the Republicans in Congress know this. It’s an open secret in Washington. Half the people want him removed because he’s quite obviously a clear and present danger to the United States; the other half want him kept around because they believe that they can manipulate him into doing their will. All you have to do is sit in any DC coffeeshop or restaurant or bar and wait. At least one conversation within earshot will turn to this topic and no matter who’s involved, no matter what political persuasion they are, no matter what their motives or agenda, they will all agree that he’s mentally unfit — and then argue about what’s to be done about it.

By the way: “reautorhization” in the last paragraph is a typo.

freedomfan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Besties?

I guess if I thought the President (this one or any other) were listening to what I have to say, then I would want to make the best case for my opinions and have it appeal to him.

I have no idea how much attention this President actually pays to Fox & Friends (I cut the cable over a decade ago) and it’s pointless to speculate. But, I can see the participants of the show addressing him directly 1) because he might be listening and 2) because it appeals to the audience to give the impression that the President listens and that the audience gets to hear whatever "advice" they give him. I have heard hosts on other networks act similarly, so it’s probably a useful tactic.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Besties?

It’s been repeatedly documented that Trump spends most of his time (when in DC) watching television about Trump. As he’s someone with narcissistic personality disorder, that’s not surprising.

It’s also been repeatedly documented that there’s a direct correlation between his tweets and content presented on Fox “News”, the white supremacist propaganda channel. Media Matters reporters, among others, have shown that specific topics, phrases, and words used on Fox have repeatedly shown up in his tweets within minutes.

He’s not capable of understanding even the simplest information; he’s only capable of repeating sound bites that reinforce his hatred of everyone who’s not Trump.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Besties?

You don’t have to watch Fox News to confirm that Trump tweets in response to things he sees on Fox and Friends; you have an Internet connection.

The New Yorker: How “Fox & Friends” Rewrites Trump’s Reality

The Chicago Tribune: FISA fiasco shows ‘Fox & Friends’ controls Trump

Politico: I’ve Studied the Trump-Fox Feedback Loop for Months. It’s Crazier Than You Think.

Anonymous Coward says:

more constitutional toilet paper

if the law requires a line commenting that a warrant is required then everyone is already shitting on the 4th.

They require a warrant no matter what this law says and everyone claiming that the surveillance bill needs this language in it to protect our rights is pretty much making the statement that the 4th is not a legal requirement which means everyone allowing a breach of the 4th has betrayed their oaths of office and are domestic enemies of the American people.

But the Americans are already too ignorant and stupid to know any better and even worse too weak and politically religious to do anything about it.

Every Nation gets the government it deserves!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: more constitutional toilet paper

“But the Americans are already too ignorant and stupid to know any better and even worse too weak and politically religious to do anything about it.”

Making all encompassing comments about a large group of people is absolutely always correct and do not be discouraged when encountering one or more example(s) of it not being applicable because such isolated cases can be easily brushed under the rug as unrepresentative of the whole to which you were addressing and the end justifies the means and blah blah …. amirite?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Constitutionan=toilet paper

“…which means everyone allowing a breach of the 4th has betrayed their oaths of office and are domestic enemies of the American people.”

Yes,yes, but it’s very very important here to primarily blame Trump for the unconstitutional surveillance… even though Congress and Supreme Court are the primary criminals responsible for its existence over many years.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg cherishes the 4th

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: more constitutional toilet paper

Step one: blame everyone else for your obvious failings. Step two: call everyone who disagrees with you stupid. Step three spend about four hours digging yourself out of the hole steps one and two put you in. Step four: quote George Washington’s farewell address. Step five: stop responding to everyone because you got your ass handed to you, again. Step six: repeats steps one through five tomorrow.

Anonymous Coward says:

Trump Thinks Live Tweeting Fox News is His Job

This guy started connecting the dots and its pretty clear that all his whackadoodle morning tweets are just him live-tweeting fox & friends.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/01/05/trump-media-feedback-loop-216248

The problem with it (beside the obvious insanity and incompetence of the dotard) is that since Trump gets is intelligence briefings from Fox instead of, you know, his intelligence services, it makes Fox a prime target for foreign infiltration. Something they are just completely unprepared for (not unlike his campaign staff was) since they don’t have any counter-intelligence training.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/01/10/foreign-spies-watching-and-probably-targeting-fox-news-channel/

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Trump Thinks Live Tweeting Fox News is His Job

This is why the PDB (President’s Daily Briefing) is now nearly entirely useless. Instead of a few dozen pages summarizing everything that the nation’s intelligence (and other) services think is important, it’s now just a few charts and graphs — and he doesn’t comprehend those, or even pay any attention to them. You’re right: the President of the United States, someone in a position to utilize the product of some of the world’s finest research minds, watches Fox “News” and takes his marching orders from them.

I’m certain that somewhere in the Kremlin they are just laughing themselves silly. The couldn’t possibly have predicted that their efforts would result in this. This is like asking the tooth fairy for a quarter and waking up to find half a dozen gold bars.

Ryunosuke (profile) says:

Dear Congressmen/women

ARE YOU CERTIFIABLY, PSYCHOLOGICALLY, CRIMINALLY INSANE? If there is ONE person in this world that these kinds of powers should NOT be given to, It is Trump. He has demonstrated he is NOT responsible with such power, and you just handed these powers over to him on a silver platter with a golden spoon. That is THE most boneheaded move you could have done, and here we are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Not this again. That tired out bullshit claim has been debunked multiple times. Apparently you either missed it, are willfully ignorant or are in denial.

Communications to outside destinations are monitored no matter who is calling whom, been that way for a long time. But don’t let that disturb your paranoid delusions.

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Citation for the proof?????

To be fair, I think those who believe it happened believe that he ordered it despite its being illegal (and other people carried out those orders, because he was the President) – that the fact of what Obama is alleged to have done would be so illegal only makes the offense of his having done it more egregious.

Trump himself has described it as "illegal surveillance" or similar, IIRC – and it probably fits with the level of "people do as the President orders without concern for legality" obedience he thinks he should receive.

So proof that it would have been illegal to do does not constitute sufficient proof that it did not happen, at least not in the minds of those who need it proved to them at this point.

BigKeithO says:

As an outsider watching US politics, I just don’t understand how your country keeps on voting these people into office. Can you not see how your politicians seem to be actively trying to screw you over every chance they get? The response seems to be to vote the worst president the US has ever seen into office and give his batshit crazy party a majority. WTF?

It is a shame watching what has happened and is happening in the US lately. I can’t shake the feeling that we’re watching a once great empire slowly implode in real time.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To explain this, I recommend reading these two excellent articles in The Atlantic:

The Nationalist’s Delusion
https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/11/the-nationalists-delusion/546356/

Donald Trump Is the First White President
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/10/the-first-white-president-ta-nehisi-coates/537909/

There have been many other analyses of course, and I’ve read a lot of them. But these two seem to best sum up why the United States elected a white supremacist who’s in debt to the mob and who’s controlled by Vlamdir Putin.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Can you not see how your politicians seem to be actively trying to screw you over every chance they get?

One word: racism

Slavery is America’s original sin which we have failed to repent for. And until then, we will keep paying the wages of that sin.

President Lyndon B Johnson correctly diagnosed the problem back in the 60s:

"If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you."

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re:

There are a number of issues.

For the presidency, one major culprit is the electoral college. Most people did not vote for Trump, but our electoral system gives disproportionate influence to states with smaller populations.

Same deal with the Senate: every state gets two senators, regardless of population.

The House is intended to be proportional. It’s not, because of a process called gerrymandering, where districts are frequently drawn in a way that disproportionately favors one party. Legislators pick their voters, instead of the other way around.

There are other problems — voter disenfranchisement efforts that often have a racial component, elections held on Tuesdays as a holdover from the nineteenth century (so you could take the two-day ride into the city after attending Sunday services), and an extremely polarized and partisan electorate that sees many people willing to vote for somebody like Trump — or even Roy Moore — because he belongs to the same party they do.

This specific election had its own set of peculiarities. It had two unusual candidates who were both extremely unpopular, a series of surprises and scandals (there’s a term in US politics, "October Surprise", referring to news breaking right before an election that can change its outcome; 2016 had multiple October Surprises), and the Russian manipulation that’s still being investigated.

It was a weird damn year in an electoral system that’s already a little eccentric.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'They aren't responsible with the tools they already have, lets give them even more!'

As for the other oddity: some of Trump’s biggest critics in Congress — Adam Schiff and Nancy Pelosi — just helped to give Trump much greater surveillance powers on Americans without a warrant… despite regularly complaining that he has abused his powers.

… making it crystal clear that all their whining about how Trump was abusing his power was nothing more than empty words, or at the very least they consider the damage he will do acceptable in exchange for granting the NSA even more power to spy on people.

You don’t complain that someone is irresponsible with what they already have and then give them even more to misuse unless you want to completely torpedo your credibility when it comes to raising objections in the future.

Congrats Schiff and Pelosi, you gave the NSA and president even more power to spy on the people you supposedly represent, and all it cost you was any chance to be taken seriously when you raise objections to what Trump does in the future. I’d say I hope you like the trade, but I’ve more in the mood for a bit of schadenfreude, so instead I’ll say I hope you realize just how badly you just screwed yourselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

White House .. represent the views of the President

Nope. This White House operationally represents the views of John Kelly, at least on NatSec matters. And Kelly did corral both the nominal president himself, and the votes in the House, as per WaPo.

_abuse of Section 702 surveillance powers, there has yet to be any evidence that it was abused to do surveillance on the Trump campaign_
Imho, wrong criteria, as it unduly shift burden of proof. Instead, 702 renewal should have been held up until a positive proof of non-abuse and full accounting of campaign surveillance were made public.

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