from the this-question-isn't-so-much-pertinent-as-it-is-long-and-pointless dept
Apparently, Sen. Dan Coats wasn’t clear on the specifics of Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee meeting. The discussion was supposed to revolve around reforms of existing surveillance programs and a general push for more transparency and oversight. Coats, however, arrived with a head full of angried up blood and proceeded to pull a complete Abe Simpson.
Each senator was given five minutes to ask questions and receive responses. Coats blew his allotment by asking a question that wasn’t a question, but was filled with contempt for nearly everyone who a.) wasn’t the NSA and b.) wasn’t a charter member of the National Surveillance Network Booster Squad.
Normally, I’d just excerpt a bit of it, but the whole thing is amazing in its complete tone-deafness. (There’s a clip of it below, which should also be viewed to get the full “Old Man Yells at
Cloud Americans” experience.) What makes Coats’ pro-NSA rant even more jarring is the fact it followed directly after Ron Wyden aggressively painted Gen. Alexander into a corner about the NSA’s cell site data collections, forcing the NSA head to use the “not under this program” escape hatch.
Well, Madam Chairman, the word trust has come up a couple of times here. And I think that’s clearly something we’ll have to deal with that makes it difficult to convince the American people that very significant measures have been taken to protect their privacy.
What’s disturbing to me is that, despite the information that has been provided, declassified, made available to the public, made directly available to the media, has not resulted in always accurate analysis and presentation by the media or understanding by the public. They — they just don’t want to believe it.
I was shocked one morning in listening to a major network program, on one of the major networks, having discussed previously General Alexander, General Clapper and others at NSA [pause] that that media outlet had been briefed, given relevant, classified information to certain people who were in charge of this programming [pause] only to have, in a discussion during that program, a comment by the lead individual of, “Look. They’re listening to everything we say.”
This was after a detailed discussion about the programs — what NSA does and doesn’t do, what the intelligence committee does and doesn’t do — knowing that the leadership of those media outlets had been [?], briefed and given accurate information. And yet, because it’s pleasing to the public — because you’ve got to throw raw meat out there to those that refuse to look at the facts. This continues.
I don’t know how we address this problem. I commend you, Madam Chairman and the Co-chair, for having an open hearing here. I don’t know how many press opportunities or press people will walk away and at least give an accurate analysis and reporting of what is said here.
But it’s very frustrating to know that we have programs that comply with the law, and have been approved by the Congress, that have been approved by the President of the United States, that are saving American’s lives. And their efforts to compromise those programs, to convince a non-trusting public [longer pause] I guess my question goes to this: that is, we will be presented with a number of proposals in terms of how to further protect American people’s privacy. And what I would like to know, and what I would like the committee to know, is that your very clear and direct and unpoliticized analysis and conclusions as to what kind of compromise to your operational programs — the result, if we implemented these reforms.
What is the consequence of trying to convince a public that apparently doesn’t want to be convinced — what is the compromise in terms of operations and loss of life to those who have dedicated their life to trying to protect Americans? What are we losing by having to go through this tortured exercise of trying to get feedback to — that no matter what we say, no matter what is provided [pause] The FISA court is now looked down on as “can’t be trusted.”
Do we need another organization to oversee the FISA court, to oversee your programs? How can we trust that second organization? If we can’t put our trust in this committee, in this Congress, in this President — that what we’re trying to do here is provide protection for the privacy of American people but save their lives from another horror situation like 911.
We have proven that we have prevented these programs from going forward. We will not probably always be successful. But have you not had these programs in place, I would hate to think what we might be talking about here this morning, what kind of headlines and what kind of incidences we would have been reporting — and the public’s demand for why didn’t you, if you had the capability to stop it, why were you prevented from doing it?
A brief pause and then this bit of hilarity as Coats catches a glimpse of the clock.
I guess I don’t have a question. My time is up.
Evidentally, Dan Coats believes the best way to improve the NSA’s oversight is to shut up and stop questioning the government. Shorter version: this would be a great country if it wasn’t for all the people. Like many other supporters (and Gen. Alexander himself, who claimed that if the NSA had the bulk records collection in 2000, it could have prevented the 9/11 attacks), Coats conjured up the 9/11 Pt.2 spectre, implying that our blood will be on our hands if anything even slightly stymies the NSA’s collection activities. By the end of his non-question, he bore a startling resemblance to someone who had forgotten where he was and what he was supposed to be doing — not really the sort of image an “overseer” of national security programs should project. And by attacking the public for its lack of trust, he came across as someone who clearly shouldn’t be trusted. How ironic.
Filed Under: congress, dan coats, intelligence committee, nsa, nsa surveillance, oversight, senate