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Weissman writes: "Thanks to Snowden and Greenwald, two unexpected glimmers of hope have appeared on the horizon. They are only glimmers, but the time has come to build on them and quit telling ourselves all the well-known reasons we can never win."

Rep. Justin Amash. (photo: AP)
Rep. Justin Amash. (photo: AP)


Can Drinking Tea With Republicans Curb the Surveillance State?

By Steve Weissman, Reader Supported News

03 August 13

 

obody is listening to your telephone calls," President Barack Obama promised the American people. It was at a press conference on June 7, and he was responding to a story that Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald had just published on the National Security Agency's (NSA) blanket surveillance of telephone, email, and other electronic communications. With the full authority of his office, Obama flatly denied what would become the most explosive claim made by Greenwald's prime source, whistleblower Edward Snowden, a private contractor for Booz Allen Hamilton who had worked in Hawaii for the super-secret National Security Agency.

Snowden has just secured a year's asylum in Russia, but his words continue to haunt his homeland and its relations with key countries in Europe.

"Not all analysts have the ability to target everything," he said in a video interview that Greenwald recorded with him in Hong Kong the first week in June. "But I sitting at my desk certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone from you or your Accountant to a Federal judge to even the President if I had a personal e-mail."

Top officials from Obama's national security team loyally parroted the president's assurance that the spying did not target content, but only the numbers called and other metadata. Like Obama, they absolutely denied Snowden's claim that low-level analysts and private contractors like him could access the content of personal phone calls, emails, and web browsing.

Whom should we believe - an unknown computer geek called Snowden or the president of the United States and his top national security officials?

Appearing Sunday morning July 28 on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," the intrepid Greenwald defied officials to make their claims and denials under oath. He also promised to reveal how NSA analysts could access content, a simple process he subsequently documented with an article on the agency's super-access software interface XKeyscore.

Greenwald's defiance seems to have worked - or was it the growing readership of his and Snowden's revelations? In hearings Wednesday before Senator Pat Leahy's Judiciary Committee, the NSA's deputy director John Inglis conceded that agents could track the telephone calls of millions of Americans. He was quick to add that agents "tend to be judicious" in their searches. The government also declassified more information about NSA's surveillance programs. But, as Stephen Colbert would say, Greenwald's reports and official documents on our growing surveillance state are still far "truthier" than anything from Team Obama, which is why we continue to publish Greenwald here at RSN.

For most Americans - and not just news junkies and infomaniacs - the continuing flood of revelations and forced admissions has clearly had an impact. The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows that 55% of Americans consider Snowden a whistleblower against 34% who see him as a traitor. The poll was taken before Russian granted Snowden asylum and will likely change, one way or the other. Even so, people are losing whatever faith they had left in what their government tells them. Obama and his officials increasingly look like the butt of Groucho Marx's old joke about the cheating husband whose wife had just caught him in the act. "Who are you going to believe?" he asks her. "Me or your lying eyes?"

Thanks to Snowden and Greenwald, two unexpected glimmers of hope have appeared on the horizon. They are only glimmers, but the time has come to build on them and quit telling ourselves all the well-known reasons we can never win.

The first came from a place where nothing is supposed to happen, the bitterly divided U.S. Congress. In late July, the libertarian Republican Justin Amash, a Tea Party favorite, joined with the liberal Democrat John Conyers to put together a coalition that nearly passed an amendment to cut off all funding for the NSA's bulk collection of electronic communication. The vote was unexpectedly close, 205 to 217. The fight has just begun, including an invitation to Greenwald to appear by video before a bipartisan House panel on domestic surveillance.

The second glimmer of hope comes from Europe. As I wrote in a previous column, the NSA's heavy hand in Germany has created a mini-scandal that is challenging Chancellor Angela Merkel's re-election. Several German manufacturers fear that Washington is passing their industrial secrets to their American competitors, while Frau Merkel's government has just cancelled a Cold War-era surveillance pact with the United States and Britain.

"The move appeared largely symbolic, designed to show that the German government was taking action to stop unwarranted surveillance directed against its citizens without actually jeopardizing relations with Washington and London," reported the Associated Press. "With weeks to go before national elections, opposition parties had seized on Snowden's claim that Germany was complicit in the NSA's intelligence-gathering operations."

The German press also responded with nuance to Snowden's new asylum. "Russia of all places, a country that is anything but a flawless democracy," wrote the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, "A country in which a former intelligence agent rules the country with an iron fist. But to blame the whistleblower for all this would either be malicious or naïve. Snowden had no other choice."

Snowden's revelation that the NSA has poured some $150 billion into Britain's signals intelligence agency GCHQ in the last three years could create problems there as well, though the British, right and left, are well-practiced at putting a happy face on their servile dependence on the United States. "In a 60-year alliance," said a government spokesman, "it is entirely unsurprising that there are joint projects in which resources and expertise are pooled, but the benefits flow in both directions."

Toothless European lackeys, however opportunistic, and Tea Party Republicans, however principled, do not make the most alluring allies. But their varied reactions to the NSA's blanket surveillance open a new world of possibilities for effective political action. To quote the immigrant labor activist and songwriter Joe Hill, "Don't mourn! Organize!



A veteran of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement and the New Left monthly Ramparts, Steve Weissman lived for many years in London, working as a magazine writer and television producer. He now lives and works in France, where he is researching a new book, "Big Money: How Global Banks, Corporations, and Speculators Rule and How To Break Their Hold."

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

 

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+12 # DaveM 2013-08-03 20:04
It could work! Drink enough tea that they have to go to the bathroom, and after they "excuse themselves".... read and photograph their playbook!
 
 
+7 # stoher9 2013-08-04 06:47
Yes, Then if you let anyone know about what you read, you would be charged under the Espionage Act and threatened with the death penalty. Besides, we already know what their playbook is about. It's about the total corporatization of the world through FEAR! Profit is All!
 
 
+3 # cordleycoit 2013-08-03 21:05
Does anyone who knows the intelligence operators, Generals and high ranking apperatcheckist s will not be imprisoned for lying to the American People trust the reforms that the congress will limply assign the naughty men in in-charge? Ever see a lying scumbag general lose a star over their randy sexual adventures? There will be no cat food diets for Alexander and company. Not as long as Obama is in office.
 
 
+8 # jwb110 2013-08-04 09:52
Quoting cordleycoit:
Does anyone who knows the intelligence operators, Generals and high ranking apperatcheckists will not be imprisoned for lying to the American People trust the reforms that the congress will limply assign the naughty men in in-charge? Ever see a lying scumbag general lose a star over their randy sexual adventures? There will be no cat food diets for Alexander and company. Not as long as Obama is in office.


Clinton gets an Impeachment for a blow job and these guys violate the Constitution and go free. Huh!?
 
 
+1 # kochadoodledoo 2013-08-05 03:55
Makes us Americans look like FOOLS.
 
 
+11 # BobboMax 2013-08-03 21:22
I think we're a bunch of lucky frogs- Manning & Snowden suddenly turned the heat up and a whole demographic suddenly had to admit to itself that we might not have the best possible government, that it might have its own self interest at heart, rather than the good of the citizens who pay the bills. It's still an open question whether those citizens will have the courage to jump out of the nice warm soup pot and deal with the cold realities of the national and international industrial security establishment, but for the first time in a long time, I have some hope.
 
 
+5 # Annietime13 2013-08-03 21:38
Michael Hastings, Michael Hastings, Michael Hastings
 
 
+5 # Rick Levy 2013-08-03 21:46
Be careful. The tea that progressives drink with Republicans might turn out to be hemlock.
 
 
+8 # ishmael 2013-08-03 22:29
".... Tea Party Republicans, however principled ...."

Oh, pu-leeeeze!
 
 
+5 # RMDC 2013-08-04 04:25
"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls," President Barack Obama promised the American people."

It is true that "no BODY" is listening to your phone calls. But the words are meant to deceive. No person is listening. But a machine is. Recording and storing your phone calls as voice files in a massive database is "listening." The machine is listening and recording. One could argue that a machine is a "body" but normally people don't think that way.

The NSA and other national security agencies tap right into the fiber optic cables and switches at phone companies so they collect all traffic. Additionally, they intercept all signals that go up to cell towers and from there to satellites and back down. This is "Listening." All of these signals are captured, categorized, sorted and stored in massive databases. The data bases are searched, data-mined, analyzed later on.

If the FBI or someone wanted to "listen" to a phone call in real time, they could do it, esp. for cell phones. You can buy a cell phone interceptor at Radio Shack for a few dollars. The FBI has the same things but better. But they don't do this because it is a waste of time.

Obama's comment is deliberately dishonest and he knows it. The fact is that the government has very sophisticated ways of monitoring people every minute of their lives. It does not need to "listen" as if this were some phone call from the 1950s on a phone with a rotary dial.
 
 
+2 # mjc 2013-08-04 12:18
And as a distraction from the revelations about the NSA we are now witnessing the closing of some 14 or more embassies on Sunday and maybe more to come...BECAUSE. ..we are told...al Qaeda in the Arabian Penninsula may...MAY...be planning an attack. Some bombmaker genius is supposedly the source of the threat but we know about this...our "policemen" say...because the conversation were trapped in phone or email messages. Reminds me so much of pre-Pearl Harbor when the US had HINTS that the Japanese might be planning an attack...but no one thought it would the naval base at Pearl Harbor. Apparently our foreign policy failures need hard and imaginative excuses at the ready to defend our failures to recognize trouble.
 
 
+1 # RMDC 2013-08-05 03:52
Yes, the closing of embassies in the middle east is just a silly puppet show created to make americans think the surveillance system is working. Obviously, the national security people know there might be a bomb since they've been monitoring all the phone calls and email is the middle east.

I don't buy it. If a bomb goes off, I'll believe it was planted by some US agent just for propaganda purposes. They got all the people out so there won't be any deaths. The building blowing up will be a good show.

The US had a lot more than hints about a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. they had exact knowledge. The US was listening to Japanese radio transmissions. And it knew enough to get all the good ships like air craft carriers out of Pearl Harbor so they would not get sunk. The US "steered" Japan toward Pearl Harbor because it would have a better propaganda effect. In reality, the Japanese should have attacked the Philippines but most americans did not know as much about the Philippines as they did about Hawaii.
 
 
+1 # kochadoodledoo 2013-08-05 03:58
If corporations are people, then that machine is a body.
 
 
0 # cwbystache 2013-08-04 04:51
Was tried by Maggie Smith with Mussolini. That worked well.
 
 
+7 # reiverpacific 2013-08-04 08:04
I hate to keep repeating myself -as one or two facts are repeated in this article- but again, I.F. Stone's prescient and concurrently historical statement; "All governments lie but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out".
Looks like that tea that is parodied in the title was laced with that hashish and dispensed with a firm hand throughout the administration and it's allies -for once, like "Boner" toeing the conformist line in a litany of official, self-contradici ng bull-pucky.
Also, from the article, I've always thought that Progressives and Libertarians could find some common ground on issues of freedom of speech and action and unwonted, unwarranted spying on citizens.
I have a local Libertarian friend, well-educated, much-traveled and news savvy, with whom I have many spirited discussions and disagreements but with whom I find myself aligned on this and other related "National Spy Agency" and "Homeland Security" matters. Our common ground is love of freedom, liberty of comment, challenge and movement and refusal to march in lockstep with anybody until proven trust-and respect-worthy.
It's always the conformists and finks who are the true enemy and 'own' the seats of power -but the seat cushions are gettin' slippery and slimy so they may yet slither off and jam their own machinery! We just need to keep on shoving.
More whistle blowers are needed and a forthright, honest press (sadly, mostly overseas or 'alternative').
 
 
+1 # robcarter.vn 2013-08-04 16:40
"Obama's national security team parroted his assurance that the spying did not target content, but only the numbers called and other metadata."..[.. .].. "Whom should we believe - an unknown computer geek called Snowden or the president of the United States and his top national security officials?"

Yes in the land with the highest convicted felons rate in the World, where no officials or Gov't employees since Nixon, is a criminal.

It's safe to have low paid employees recording stuff so everyone in USA can be blackmailed to do as you want and pay ransom etc such as yoy the evesdropper might demand.

Good one Obi-One smart leader.
 

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