First we have the Snowden revelations that the NSA, with permission or not from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has been spying well beyond our imaginations on all of us. For most people, it's not really important, depending on what the 'spooks' do with all of the information they've collected. It's obvious, most of us follow the law, we're not terrorists and so we have little to be afraid of. And truthfully, we're thankful if they government nips any threats in the bud. So far though, for security reasons or just not having discovered any, we're not hearing about any success stories.
What most of us mind is that fact that we're being spied on -- and it's not what the government might find out. It's who has access to our metadata. We know our government can't keep secrets -- look at Snowden and Manning.
Is the vulnerable NSA protecting or selling or metadata? Is it making it's way to marketers or even our bosses -- do they find out what's in our emails and text messages where we might reveal that they're jerks, the result being we lose our jobs for speaking our minds? Or what about "private" pictures (selfies) that consenting adults may be sharing with their significant others? How long until the NSA's vulnerabilities allow the release of these potentially embarrassing, private shots?
A few months ago we found out that it's not just the US public that's being spied on. We found out that leaders of other countries are being tapped. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is just one example -- the breach was so onerous that President Obama had to beg her forgiveness and say he knew nothing about it. That's truly embarrassing.
Now we find Senator Bernie Sanders this past week, speaking for most in the Senate, sending a letter to the NSA trying to find out if this wanton spying was being done on members of Congress. After all, they they think they're privileged people, generally above the law. Bernie put it in a letter demanding the NSA come clean and answer yes or no -- are members of congress being spied on and victims of data collection.
The mealy-mouthed NSA, faced with a direct question, did what it always does -- deflected the answer when it doesn't suit them to be completely honest. Here's their answer from NSA spokesperson Vanee' Vines who responded to Sanders' letter on Saturday in an emailed statement:
NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons. [which means none] NSA is fully committed to transparency with Congress. Our interaction with Congress has been extensive both before and since the media disclosures began last June. We are reviewing Sen. Sanders’s letter now, and we will continue to work to ensure that all Members of Congress, including Sen. Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.
Simply stated, the answer is Yes, members of Congress ARE being spied on.
Now to make matters a bit more complicated, the FISA secretive intelligence court on Friday approved the government’s request to continue collecting bulk information about domestic phone calls. It said it would allow the government to continue collecting metadata, or details about numbers people dial and the time and duration of their calls.
Look for Congress, when they return next week, to take a much deeper investigation into these matters. When it was just their constituents that were having metadata mined, they didn't give a horses ass about it. But now that Congress members visits to porn sites, male and female escorts, boyfriends, girlfriends, mistresses, contacts with lobbyists and other potential embarrassing information might be collected and possibly discerned down the road, we the people's rights might finally be protected. This could be the fire under the asses of the asses sitting in congress to do something.
And who do we really owe a h/t for bringing this all to light -- Edward Snowden and to some extent, Chelsea Manning. From THE HILL:
Details about the court are usually kept secret, but the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) said in a statement on Friday that it was releasing information about the renewal “in light of the significant and continuing public interest” in the program, which was revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden last year.
So while former Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano claims there should be no clemency for Snowden, she might be forced to change that tune when Congress gets wind of just what her agency and others like it is collecting on ALL government officials.