The Lies Mike Rogers Told Congress About The USA Freedom Act

from the almost-none-of-this-is-true dept

One of the most obvious ways that you knew the USA Freedom Act that passed out of the House yesterday was clearly not real NSA reform was the simple fact that the NSA #1 defender in chief, Rep. Mike Rogers, not only voted for it, but spoke strongly in favor of it on the House floor.
In typical Mike Rogers fashion, his statement is quite incredible for its bald faced lies. Let's dig in.
It is commendable that we have found a responsible legislative solution to address concerns about the bulk telephone metadata program so that we may move forward on other national security legislative priorities. Our obligation to protect this country should not be held hostage by the actions of traitors who leak classified information that puts our troops in the field at risk or those who fear-monger and spread mistruth to further their own misguided agenda.
Got that? The only reason that this debate is happening is because Ed Snowden revealed how the NSA was breaking the law. Rep. Sensenbrenner wrote the original USA Freedom Act to make it clear that what the NSA was doing directly violated what he intended the law to be when he wrote the original USA Patriot Act. To argue that revealing the NSA breaking the law makes him a "traitor" is just one of many of Rogers' continued lies and mistruths. But that opening paragraph also makes it clear that Rogers views the USA Freedom Act as a mere nuisance, which needs to be passed to get the privacy groups to shut up -- though, of course they won't.

And, despite all of Rogers' claims, there is still no evidence at all that any of the information "puts our trips in the field at risk." As for "fear-mongering" and "spreading mistruth" that has been the currency of Rogers himself -- in fact, in this very sentence, where he talks about "traitors" and putting the troops at risk.
Following the criminal disclosures of intelligence information last June, the Section 215 telephone metadata program has been the subject of intense, and often inaccurate, criticism. The bulk telephone metadata program is legal, overseen, and effective at saving American lives. All three branches of government oversee this program, including Congress, the FISC, inspectors general, and internal compliance and privacy and civil liberties offices in executive branch agencies.
Actually, that's not even close to true. The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board and the internal White House review panel both found that the Section 215 program was not at all effective. The PCLOB directly stated that "Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, "does not provide an adequate basis to support this program." The White House's own review task force equally found that there was no basis for the program. One of the panel members, in discussing the evidence they saw concerning the "effectiveness" of the program stated:
“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.”
Later he's asked about whether the Section 215 program stopped any terrorist attacks, and Stone stated outright: "We found none."

Similarly, when the program was actually tested in court (not one of the FISC rubber stamping proceedings with no adversarial process), Judge Richard Leon similarly noted that the NSA failed to provide any evidence of effectiveness:
The Government could have requested permission to present additional, potentially classified evidence in camera, but it chose not to do so. Although the Government has publicly asserted that the NSA's surveillance programs have prevented fifty-four terrorist attacks, no proof of that has been put before me.
Similarly, Senator Patrick Leahy, who knows just as well as Rogers how the program has been used, has said that there is no evidence the program was effectively used to stop terrorism.

So Rogers appears to be flat out lying here. All of the evidence is against him, but he just can't stop.

He continues with his speech:
Despite the effectiveness of the program, and the immense safeguards on the data, many Americans and many Members of this body still have concerns about a potential for abuse. The legislation we are considering today is designed to address those concerns and reflects hundreds of hours of Member and staff work to negotiate a workable compromise.
Again, everyone has already said the program is not effective. And, furthermore, the legislation does not actually address the concerns. The original legislation addressed some of those concerns, but nearly everything that addressed concerns has been removed. The "hundreds of hours" was time Rogers' staff spent trying to strip the bill of any real meaning.
The USA Freedom Act provides the meaningful change to the telephone metadata program that Members of the House have been seeking.
Except it doesn't. Even the author of the bill, Jim Sensenbrenner has admitted that it does not do that.

And, finally, Rogers tops it all off with an insult for the President -- from the very same White House that actually demanded the House water down the bill to make it this useless.
If we had the fortune of having a Commander in Chief firmly dedicated to the preservation of this program as is, we may have been able to protect it in its entirety. With that not being the case, I believe this is a workable compromise that protects the core function of a counterterrorism program we know has saved lives around the world.
Sure, perhaps he's playing to his base with the Obama snub, but just the fact that he notes that this bill "protects the core function" of the bulk spying program, shows what the USA Freedom bill is really about.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 23 May 2014 @ 11:56am

    Lives saved, huh...

    What about all the lives ruined/terminated by the illegal actions of the government employees involved, looking both at the formally authorized illegal activity like tipping other law enforcement agencies based on unlawfully intercepted information and the unauthorized illegal activity (LOVEINT, etc.)?

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