About Those Violations…

The Demolition Of Obama’s Credibility In The NSA Domestic Spying Scandal

The Demolition Of Obama’s Credibility In The NSA Domestic Spying Scandal

“It’s true we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do, refuse to show — and that includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics. We shouldn’t forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information online under strict guidelines and for narrow purposes, and the willingness of some other governments to throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.” — President Obama, August 9, 2013

My, what a difference a week makes:

“The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents,” reports Bart Gellman in the August 15, 2013 edition of the Washington Post.

And this paragraph is particularly damning:

“In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.”

So much for the President’s claims of the lawfulness of the NSA’s activities on his watch.

The question we should be asking now is the same one then-Senator Howard Baker asked during the hearings into the Watergate scandal: “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” Specifically:

Did Attorney General Holder, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, or NSA Director General Keith Alexander tell the President about the FISA court’s finding that at least one of NSA’s collection methods was unconstitutional?

Did Alexander or Clapper tell the President about the May 2012 NSA internal audit that found thousands of privacy or civil liberties violations, and that the trend of violations actually increased after the passage of the FISA Amendments Act?

These questions matter. Honest, factual answers to them will tell us a great deal about whether the President has been mendacious about the NSA’s actual domestic surveillance misdeeds, or whether he has truly become a captive of the Intelligence Community—willing to believe whatever it tells him, ready to defend it’s leadership and employees no matter what is revealed by whistleblowers like Edward Snowden.

If we find that the President has deliberately lied about both these violations and his knowledge of them, it will not simply implode his credibility with the public; it will open him up to charges that he knowingly subverted the Constitution in the name of “national security”. Let that one sink in as you recall another domestic spying scandal and how it unravelled another presidency 40 years ago.

Alternatively, if we discover that the President was not made aware of these violations, it will mean that cabinet-level officials and flag-rank officers who are apostles of the Cult of the National Security State are the ones really running the government—doling out information to only those fellow Cult members who can be trusted, withholding information from even the nation’s chief executive, the Congress and the FISA court if the sharing of it will threaten the powers and prerogatives of this unelected cabal.

I honestly don’t know which outcome would be worse, but either represents a direct threat to what is left of our anemic republican form of government.