Senate Confirms Former FBI Lawyer For Judgeship, Despite Long Record Of Papering Over Abusive Surveillance Tactics
from the this-vetting-process-seems-even-weaker-than-the-NSA's dept
The overreach of intelligence agencies has generated tons of news and commentary. So much, in fact, that even our normally gridlocked representatives have been propelled into action. More than 20 pieces of legislation are currently in the works, aimed at rolling back the abuses of intelligence agencies and the expanded PATRIOT Act.
With so much attention being paid to the fact that agencies like the NSA and the FBI trampled all over Americans' civil liberties, you'd think that a few of our Senators might have found former FBI counsel Valerie Caproni's oversight of a decade's worth of abusive tactics by the FBI to be a bit problematic. In the current climate, one would have expected the Senate to shoot down her nomination for a seat as a judge on the Southern District Court of New York -- especially considering the court's history as the go-to venue for terrorist-related cases.
But no, her nomination sailed through 73-24, thus placing another judge aligned with the administration's "see no evil [in our intelligence agencies]" viewpoint. If you're bringing a suit against any number of overreaching government agencies for violation of your rights, you'd better hope your case gets assigned elsewhere.
Here's the vote breakdown.
Worth noting: there's pretty much a partisan split on the vote. Only one of the 24 "nays" was a Democrat -- something not too surprising considering she was the administration's nominee. Some Republicans just enjoy voting against Obama, no matter what's at stake. What's more surprising is some of the names that voted for Caproni, including most of the sponsors of a bill aimed at ending the secret legal interpretation that makes it legal for the NSA to sweep up huge amounts of phone data.
Of the bill's seven sponsors and co-sponsors (Merkley, Leahy, Heller, Begich, Franken, Tester and Wyden), only Merkley and Heller voted against the former FBI lawyer. All of these sponsors should have voted down the nomination, if for no other reason than maintaining a consistent tone on surveillance overreach. Caproni acting as head counsel for the FBI during a near-decade-long run where the agency completely dismantled the legal framework surrounding requests for phone records, starting with free-flowing National Security Letters before steadily devolving to the point agents were issuing requests via Post-It notes or simply calling up service providers and asking them to send over the requested records.
For senators concerned the NSA is abusing its power to collect phone data, they certainly don't seem too concerned about placing someone who defended even worse behavior in her own agency in the position to create damaging precedent.
Maybe Caproni had some redeeming qualities that haven't made it to the public eye quite yet or maybe they're more convinced than I am that she'll recuse herself from cases dealing with untargeted data collection, the FBI or anything conceivably related. Or maybe this is exactly what it looks like -- a vote along party lines intended to mark something, anything off the "To Do" list and allow the reps to move on to more pressing matters, like their own legislation.
No matter what the excuse, Caproni's new position is a win for intelligence agencies and the administration that loves them.