Thursday, January 23, 2014


Here's a seemingly significant report that's going to have absolutely no impact:
An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency's program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only "minimal" benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down.

The findings are laid out in a 238-page report, scheduled for release by Thursday and obtained by The New York Times, that represent the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational.

The report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance....
No it isn't. The debate's going to stay stuck where it is -- a tiny handful of civil-liberties-minded legislators (of both parties) will complain about the program, backed by a lot of voices outside government, but throwback pols (again of both parties) will keep things pretty much the way they are.

Yes, it's not surprising that most D.C. politicians support programs that seem to enhance national security, but the report says this program is utterly worthless:
"We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation," said the report.... "Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack."
Here's a question: Why doesn't the Republican Party treat this as a golden opportunity to take on the Democrats and possibly win over voters who currently lean Democratic, in all likelihood without alienating the GOP base? Republicans know that the president wants only modest changes to the current surveillance regime. It's safe to assume that Hillary Clinton, the 2016 presidential candidate most likely to win the general election, will also defend NSA surveillance. Why not try to move the Republican Party as a whole to Obama and Clinton's left on this issue? Why not push for big changes to the NSA? Not only will much of the GOP base be receptive -- the base distrusts Obama and regards the snooping as part of his fascist campaign to enslave all True Patriots -- but a nation of wired citizens, including those in the center and left, is also wary of the snooping. Republicans can be their champion, too! What's not to like? (As an NSA skeptic, I'd be pleased.)

But it won't happen, and the reason it won't happen is similar to the reason immigration reform isn't being embraced by the GOP. The GOP can't shift to a pro-reform position on immigration because the angry old white people in the party's base won't stand for it. NSA surveillance is the same -- except, in this case, the angry old white people have names like John McCain rather than Joe Sixpack. The throwbacks aren't enraged people who watch Fox; the problem is people who appear on Fox (and on NBC and CBS and ABC and CNN), as well as the veterans of the Reagan and Bush administrations who advise them. They're the ones keeping the party from embracing surveillance skepticism.

C'mon, GOP. Embrace your inner Paulbot. You could force this issue to the forefront. But you won't, will you?


Victor said...

The Republicans have spent 13+ years ratcheting up the fear in the goobers.

How do you as a party reverse field?

How do you wind down the rubes after your color-coded terror charts, and other policies and actions, have made and used the hysteria you produced to your advantage, for years?

Sure, many of them hate Obama, and hate the idea of his droning people, and listening in on conversations!

But they'll want THEIR next President to be able to do the same things!

No, the Republicans can't move to the left on any issue, because on top of training their dogs to salivate at the changing of a color chart, or the sound of a bell, any change in intonation might lead those same dogs to bite you in your ass!!!

Ah, the wages of sin...

Ten Bears said...

"Throwback" = Cro-Magnon?

There is ample evidence Neaderthal was far more advanced, evolved - mentally, physically, socially - than their contemporaries: the Clan of the Cave Bear. They were only assimilated through the shear force - violence - of numbers.

Angry old white dogs: grunting butt humping bug eating cavemen. Less than suffeceintly evolved, less than Human.

No fear.

Philo Vaihinger said...

Actually, it's working class whites of all ages and both parties, and quite a few non-whites or the working class, as well.

The Wall Street wing of the GOP has always favored high immigration of low wage workers to keep wages down.

And the liberal, professional non-whites of the Democratic Party want more votes as well as the "browning of American."

Pedro Alberto Arroyo said...

I think they'd jump at the thought of pivoting on security and painting the administration as despotic. They like this policy - I'm not sure it has to do with much more than that.

On immigration, though, I couldn't agree more: the party wants reform, but you can't vote for it and survive a primary challenge.

Emily Jacob said...

I think it's working class whites of all ages and both parties, and quite a few non-whites or the working class, as well and On Immigration issue, I also couldn't agree that party who want to more reforms.