Timed contrition has a certain air of the false. Today Rep. Pelosi of California stated that she found a report on the National Security Agency’s history of massive, continuing privacy infractions to be “disturbing.”
As quoted by Politico, Rep. Pelosi states that “Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of noncompliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner.” She also noted that the NSA’s lack of reportage to Congress concerning its infractions are troubling.
Let’s contextualize this. Here’s the Washington Post, which broke the story that the NSA had racked up an impressive 2,776 privacy “incidents” in a 12-month period, and that the rate that the NSA was breaking the law was increasing:
The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance.
Given this, I would argue that simply stating that the NSA should be subject to increased oversight is a flat claim. It means nothing, given that the NSA refuses to tell those that oversee it what it is doing, something akin to the petulant child who breaks a lamp and hides the pieces before his parents find out.
So for Rep. Pelosi to state that the NSA should report its “incidents of noncompliance” is somewhat laughable. From the Post:
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.
So, there’s that.
However, we have a case of irony that we should open, and drink from, because in this situation it is too rich a vantage point to abstain from. The Post — if you haven’t read its full report, do so now — states that the NSA committed “serial telephonic data collection” that broke the law. One such case “involved the unlawful retention of 3,032 files that the surveillance court had ordered the NSA to destroy.” Those were kept, with each file containing “an undisclosed number of telephone call records.”
That this is the sort of revelation that Pelosi finds troubling is humorous, as she was the key voice in the House for keeping the NSA’s phone metadata program in place. The Amash amendment would have passed if she had not thrown her weight behind it. So her efforts to save a key piece of the NSA are circling back and troubling her.
In fact, I don’t think that the good Representative is troubled at all. I think that her statement is nothing more than padding for her left flank. By dressing down the NSA publicly, Rep. Pelosi can claim to be on the side of civil liberties. Yet she’s doing so while protecting those violate them.
If Rep. Pelosi is as disturbed as she now claims to be, let’s see what sort of legislation she moves forward to curtail the NSA’s programs that are breaking privacy laws daily.
Top Image Credit: Curtis Fry