Friday, July 26, 2013

A Bipartisan Warning on Surveillance

To the Editor:
   To his credit, when president Obama has something important to say, he has said it directly to the American people, and has said it well. Disposable "White House Spokesmen" have been relegated to sending up untested political weather balloons. This one deserves to go down in a hail of gunfire. To suggest that Congress' efforts to set bounds on unreasonable search and seizure is not "...the product of an informed, open and deliberative process" is an outrageous provocation. It is the Executive that has kept us in the dark here, gathering all our secrets into its own dark web and revealing nothing.
   I voted for "change" in 2008 and I voted for "transparency in government" in 2012. And I'll go on voting for them until I get them. This isn't it.
Barry Haskell Levine

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A Bipartisan Warning on Surveillance

Published: July 25, 2013Lawmakers have given the Obama administration a bipartisan warning: patience is growing thin with its expansive and unwarranted surveillance of Ameri
In one of the most unusual votes in years, the House on Wednesday barely defeated an amendment to curtail the National Security Agency’s collection of every phone record, limiting it to records of people targeted in investigations. The vote was 205 to 217, and what was particularly remarkable was that 94 Republicans supported the limits, along with 111 Democrats who stood up to intense lobbying by the White House and its spy agencies.
The amendment was sponsored by Representative Justin Amash, a Republican of Michigan, one of the most anti-government libertarians in the House. On this issue, he found common ground with Democrats and moderate Republicans who are also concerned that the N.S.A. is needlessly violating the privacy of ordinary citizens.
Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a Republican of Wisconsin and an author of the Patriot Act, said the measure imposes the standard for collecting data in a criminal trial. Representative Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat of New York, said the amendment would reimpose the original intent of Congress.
“No administration should be permitted to operate above or beyond the law as they have done in this respect,” Mr. Nadler said.
The arguments for unlimited record keeping were remarkably thin. A White House spokesman said the amendment was not “the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process” — a laughable assertion considering how uninformed the administration wants the public to be about the loss of privacy. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, said supporters seemed to have forgotten Sept. 11.
But the closeness of the vote suggested that a growing number of lawmakers no longer respond reflexively to the waving of the 9/11 flag, or the patronizing insistence of government officials that they should be trusted implicitly. That reflects an increasing skepticism in the public, as reflected in several opinion polls, as people become aware that the N.S.A. isn’t following the common-sense practice of spying only on those suspected of terrorism.
A 51 percent majority in the House with strongly bipartisan opposition is hardly a vote of confidence in a program as intrusive as universal phone-record collection. More and more lawmakers and voters are starting to pay attention to the arguments of longtime intelligence critics like Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, who said on Tuesday that the opportunity had finally arrived to stop an omnipresent surveillance state that once seemed irreversible.

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