National Security Agency’s Surveillance critics face Obama in Oval Office

Struggling to salvage a massive surveillance program, President Barack Obama faced congressional critics of the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ telephone records Thursday as snowballing concerns made new limitations on the intelligence effort appear increasingly likely.

44599d95-398b-4537-a540-3eac8ab5e9b2 National Security Agency's  Surveillance critics face Obama in Oval Office

    Obama and Vice President Joe Biden joined lawmakers on both sides of the issue for an Oval Office meeting designed to stem the bleeding of public support and show Obama was serious about engaging. Among the participants were the NSA’s most vigorous congressional supporters — the top Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate intelligence panels — alongside its most stern critics, including Democratic Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado.

    The lawmakers departed the rainy White House grounds without speaking to reporters. But in interviews later, they said there was a consensus that the surveillance efforts are suffering from perception problems that have undercut trust among the American people.

    “There is openness to making changes,” said Rep. C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger of Maryland, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.

    Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, top Republican on the Senate’s intelligence panel and a strong NSA defender, said Obama and the lawmakers didn’t agree to take specific steps but brought up a number of proposals that will be fleshed out over the August congressional recess.

    “A lot of ideas were thrown out,” Chambliss told The Associated Press. “Nothing was concluded.”

    Wyden, in an interview, said he and Udall had sought to convince Obama of the urgency of addressing rising concerns. He said he proposed strengthening the government’s ability to get emergency authorization to collect an individual’s phone records, so that pre-emptive collection of everyone’s records would no longer be necessary.

    “I felt that the president was open to ideas — and we’re going to make sure he has some,” Wyden said after returning to Capitol Hill.

    Wyden and two Senate colleagues also unveiled legislation Thursday to overhaul the secret federal court that oversees the programs, which critics decry as largely a rubber stamp. The senators aim to make the court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, more adversarial by creating a special advocate who could argue for privacy during closed-door proceedings and appeal decisions. A companion bill would diversify the court’s bench by ending the chief justice’s sole authority to pick its judges.

    “These bills do not compromise national security, but they put a necessary opposing view in the FISA court and assure ideological diversity of judges,” said Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M. Another of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the Obama administration was receptive to the ideas, although White House officials declined to comment.

    Debate over the line between counterterrorism and invasion of privacy has been heating up since former government contract systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked classified documents exposing the NSA’s monumental capability to sweep up data about phone and Internet use, including programs that store years of phone records on virtually every American. Snowden’s revelations have prompted a national rethinking over government surveillance powers that have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

    Russia decided on Thursday to grant temporary asylum to Snowden, who has been in a Moscow airport hotel for more than a month, despite America’s insistence that the fugitive be sent home to face prosecution on espionage charges.

    In Washington, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., said he stressed to Obama the role Congress must play in ensuring that U.S. spying isn’t infringing on Congress’ intent or on civil liberties. He said his committee would further probe the issue, including in a classified hearing he’s hoping to hold in September.

    Extending its efforts to defend the programs to the public, the White House pledged to help Americans understand as much as possible about how they work, even as it staunchly defended their efficacy in keeping a post-9/11 America safe.

    “That process will continue,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney. “But I don’t think that we can sensibly say that programs designed to protect us from terrorist attack are not necessary in this day and age.”

    The more information about the programs the government has released, the more it has fed even greater concerns about the scope of the surveillance and whether Obama’s national security team has been truthful in describing it publicly in the past.

    After the administration on Wednesday declassified more documents about an email mining program, Wyden said they showed the government had “repeatedly made inaccurate statements to Congress” about the effectiveness in countering terrorism. And new details released about the phone records program created new fodder for critics by confirming for the first time that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, the government can also examine records of people who called people who called the targeted individual — netting millions of people’s records in a single request.

    Meanwhile, the head of the NSA openly clashed with lawmakers including Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., over the agency’s statements that telephone and email data collection helped foil 54 terror plots.

    Rising tensions have stoked concern at the White House that surveillance programs Obama considers crucial will soon be undermined or even dismantled — despite the fact that many Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come to the NSA’s defense.

    Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, has threatened to seek to end the phone records program if it’s not proven effective. And Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., signaled Thursday that unless an agreement is reached on releasing more of the secret court’s opinions, he would push Congress to use its “power of the purse” to compel their disclosure by withholding funding for certain programs.

    Even some staunch advocates for a tough national security stance have become outspoken critics, including Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who helped write the USA Patriot Act but now says the phone records collection goes far beyond what he envisioned and may not be renewed. Sensenbrenner was among the lawmakers who shared concerns in the session Thursday with Obama and top officials, including Biden, National Security Advisory Susan Rice and White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler.

    The White House also was spooked by a House vote last week to dismantle the program, which failed by a narrow 217-205 margin.

    2 Replies to “National Security Agency’s Surveillance critics face Obama in Oval Office”

    1. THE REAL CREATORS OF THE SUBURBS

      ( This paper is what I
      experienced while trapped in a large US city. BTW, Obama now wants to
      move "disadvantaged" folks into "better" areas. Since he's an expert on
      where rich Hollywood Jews live, he could "diversify" them with the L.A.
      homeless. He could also change Beverly Hills into Burka Hills! Is this
      the "change" Obama has promised?)

      The suburbs are booming, but not fast enough. Yessir, you ghetto folks
      in inner cities have started a good thing, but there are still lots of acres
      outside the cities without any houses on them. So you've gotta move into
      "untouched" city blocks and do the following:
      Throw trash everywhere. You'll insure that your friends who pick up trash
      and distribute free rat poison packets will keep their jobs. And folks can
      predict the weather by the direction the trash is blowing!
      Walk down the street. Better yet, rhythm down it. And when I say street
      I don't mean sidewalk. Save sidewalks for your friends on cycles. Besides,
      it's hard to fit many cursing, screaming, drinking, pot-smoking kids on a
      sidewalk, and it's also hard to spot keys and other things left in cars when
      you're walking on a sidewalk!
      When walking down a street, turn your head when you hear a car coming
      and stare at the driver. For all you know, it might be one of your enemies
      out to get you. On the other hand, it might be only your neighbor and all
      that hateful staring might make him want to move out.
      Be sure to beget lots of unloved, unsupervised, unwashed two-legged
      "Obama welfare meal tickets" – either through wedlock or (preferably) out of
      wedlock. And let them often ring doorbells, begging for money.
      Turn quiet streets into noisy jungles. Have a blast – a
      long blast with your car horn under your neighbor's window at
      3:00 a.m. Let folks know who the real honkies are! Blow your horn when (1)
      you see the police coming (2) you want to buy some dope (3) you want to sell
      some dope (4) for any other reason. Play your stereo so loudly that folks can't
      hear sirens going to the latest holdup or arson. Be noisy, man, noisy!
      Be cruel to animals, especially "man's best friend." Tie your dog on a
      short chain under a blazing sun with no water or food or love or license or
      dog shots. Make him as mean as you are. Better yet, let your dog run loose.
      Neighbors love to find freshly killed cats (after hearing their screams) and
      other goodies on their lawns. Pit one dog against another in bloody "canine
      cockfights" while friends lounge on car hoods and cheer and make bets! And
      what madness is it where folks move out and abandon pets in the house,
      leaving them nothing to eat but their own droppings? This happens often in the
      ghetto, and almost no one will help the animals.
      Keep a good supply of Saturday Night Specials – also Sunday, Monday,
      Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Night Specials. Your criminal
      presence will improve your neighbor's light bill; when he isn't watching you
      at night (with his lights off), he will be able to read books at night by
      the light of the police helicopter searchlights!
      Here's more insanity: Uncle Sam spends millions of our tax money to
      move you into our neighborhoods where we lose much when we sell our homes.
      So you have your nerve when you glare and swear at us when we don't move
      out quickly; but you're the reason we can't find good buyers! I really wonder
      what you and Uncle Sam will do when lots of folks move to the wilderness and
      live off the land and consequently don't have to pay taxes to support such
      sickness!
      Finally, spread the rumor that all of your troubles are associated with
      skin, even though you and I know that your problem isn't skin. It's sin!!!
      What makes a ghetto? It's not the paint on a house (or lack of it) but all
      of you two-legged pains in the neck!
      For more information on Blockbuster Obama, Google "The Background Obama
      Can't Cover Up."

      (anyone is free to copy and air this paper)

      // Hi CR. Terrific blog that you have. Look above – something unusual that I ran into on the net. //

    2. THE REAL CREATORS OF THE SUBURBS

      ( This paper is what I
      experienced while trapped in a large US city. BTW, Obama now wants to
      move “disadvantaged” folks into “better” areas. Since he’s an expert on
      where rich Hollywood Jews live, he could “diversify” them with the L.A.
      homeless. He could also change Beverly Hills into Burka Hills! Is this
      the “change” Obama has promised?)

      The suburbs are booming, but not fast enough. Yessir, you ghetto folks
      in inner cities have started a good thing, but there are still lots of acres
      outside the cities without any houses on them. So you’ve gotta move into
      “untouched” city blocks and do the following:
      Throw trash everywhere. You’ll insure that your friends who pick up trash
      and distribute free rat poison packets will keep their jobs. And folks can
      predict the weather by the direction the trash is blowing!
      Walk down the street. Better yet, rhythm down it. And when I say street
      I don’t mean sidewalk. Save sidewalks for your friends on cycles. Besides,
      it’s hard to fit many cursing, screaming, drinking, pot-smoking kids on a
      sidewalk, and it’s also hard to spot keys and other things left in cars when
      you’re walking on a sidewalk!
      When walking down a street, turn your head when you hear a car coming
      and stare at the driver. For all you know, it might be one of your enemies
      out to get you. On the other hand, it might be only your neighbor and all
      that hateful staring might make him want to move out.
      Be sure to beget lots of unloved, unsupervised, unwashed two-legged
      “Obama welfare meal tickets” – either through wedlock or (preferably) out of
      wedlock. And let them often ring doorbells, begging for money.
      Turn quiet streets into noisy jungles. Have a blast – a
      long blast with your car horn under your neighbor’s window at
      3:00 a.m. Let folks know who the real honkies are! Blow your horn when (1)
      you see the police coming (2) you want to buy some dope (3) you want to sell
      some dope (4) for any other reason. Play your stereo so loudly that folks can’t
      hear sirens going to the latest holdup or arson. Be noisy, man, noisy!
      Be cruel to animals, especially “man’s best friend.” Tie your dog on a
      short chain under a blazing sun with no water or food or love or license or
      dog shots. Make him as mean as you are. Better yet, let your dog run loose.
      Neighbors love to find freshly killed cats (after hearing their screams) and
      other goodies on their lawns. Pit one dog against another in bloody “canine
      cockfights” while friends lounge on car hoods and cheer and make bets! And
      what madness is it where folks move out and abandon pets in the house,
      leaving them nothing to eat but their own droppings? This happens often in the
      ghetto, and almost no one will help the animals.
      Keep a good supply of Saturday Night Specials – also Sunday, Monday,
      Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday Night Specials. Your criminal
      presence will improve your neighbor’s light bill; when he isn’t watching you
      at night (with his lights off), he will be able to read books at night by
      the light of the police helicopter searchlights!
      Here’s more insanity: Uncle Sam spends millions of our tax money to
      move you into our neighborhoods where we lose much when we sell our homes.
      So you have your nerve when you glare and swear at us when we don’t move
      out quickly; but you’re the reason we can’t find good buyers! I really wonder
      what you and Uncle Sam will do when lots of folks move to the wilderness and
      live off the land and consequently don’t have to pay taxes to support such
      sickness!
      Finally, spread the rumor that all of your troubles are associated with
      skin, even though you and I know that your problem isn’t skin. It’s sin!!!
      What makes a ghetto? It’s not the paint on a house (or lack of it) but all
      of you two-legged pains in the neck!
      For more information on Blockbuster Obama, Google “The Background Obama
      Can’t Cover Up.”

      (anyone is free to copy and air this paper)

      // Hi CR. Terrific blog that you have. Look above – something unusual that I ran into on the net. //

    Comments are closed.