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Boardman writes: "For more than two years, Senator Wyden has been warning that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been operating outside the law for more than seven years. His warnings have been limited and cryptic because he was bound by secrecy law not to tell the truth he knew."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends the NSA spy programs. (photo: Getty Images)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends the NSA spy programs. (photo: Getty Images)

Talk About Police States

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

03 August 13


ith much of the country aware of the extent of government spying on and lying to American citizens, there is now a limited public discussion of what kind of country we want ours to be. The limits of that discussion are illustrated by recent public utterances of two Democratic senators, Diane Feinstein of California and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

For more than two years, Senator Wyden has been warning that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been operating outside the law for more than seven years. His warnings have been limited and cryptic because he was bound by secrecy law not to tell the truth he knew. That ended when Edward Snowden started sharing truthful information that confirmed everything Senator Wyden had implied and more.

On July 24, a near-majority of members of the House of Representatives supported an amendment to a military spending bill that was intended to put some limits on the NSA's ability to spy on all Americans all the time. President Obama opposed any such limitation and, working with House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, managed to defeat the amendment by a vote of 217-205. Each party split fairly evenly, with 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans voting for greater limits on NSA spying on Americans.

On One Side, Senator Wyden Calls for More Transparency and Control

On July 30 on the floor of the Senate, Senator Wyden continued to campaign for more open and effective control of American intelligence agencies and to hold them accountable for violations of law that are still unknown to the public:

... the violations that I touched on tonight were more serious, a lot more serious, than the public has been told. I believe the American people deserve to know more details about these violations that were described last Friday by Director [of National Intelligence James] Clapper. Mr. President [of the Senate], I'm going to keep pressing to make more of those details public. And, Mr. President, it's my view that the information about the details, the violations of the court orders with respect to the bulk phone record collection program, the admission that the court orders had been violated has not been, I think, fully fleshed out by the intelligence community, and I think considerable amount of additional information can be offered without in any way compromising our national security.

And there's the rub - "without in any way compromising our national security" - for in those words, Senator Wyden conceded the conventional framing of the question: the assumption that what the secret agencies do actually does protect national security, even though there's little or no evidence to support that assumption. In a rational world, the burden of proof would be on the intelligence agencies to show that they need to take away freedom to keep us safe and to prove that any serious, credible threat exists.

Americans have lived for decades in fear of threats identified by the U.S. government without credible supporting evidence. Our government routinely inflated the Soviet threat even, as well as obviously non-threatening enemies like Libya or Nicaragua or Cuba (still).

On the Other Side, Senator Feinstein Dismisses Transparency and Control

Rather than fading with the passing of the cold war, American susceptibility to threat was re-invigorated in 2001 by the attacks of 9/11, which demagogic politicians in and out of government routinely invoke to cow those who resist the increasing militarization of domestic society. That's just what Senator Feinstein did during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on July 31:

I was on the Intelligence Committee before 9/11, and I remember how little information we had and the great criticism of the government because of these stovepipes, the inability to share intelligence, the inability to collect intelligence. We had no program that could have possibly caught two people in San Diego before the event took place. I support this [NSA] program. I think, based on what I know, they will come after us. And I think we need to prevent an attack, wherever we can, from happening.

Senator Feinstein ends on a familiar note of fear-mongering, the same fear-mongering that has proved effective for more than a decade now, despite its very thin basis in reality. But this is standard demagoguery and the senator has plenty of company in using it, even among her peers in the Senate.

Why Use Fear-mongering and Falsehood to Defend a "Good" Program?

More troubling, although perhaps not more uncommon, Senator Feinstein uses falsehood to reinforce her fear-mongering. When she says, "We had no program that could have possibly caught two people in San Diego before the event took place," she is dishonest. While it's perhaps technically correct in a lawyerly style to assert that there was no "program," that is a misleading technicality because the CIA knew about those people in San Diego and decided, for whatever reason, not to tell the FBI.

If the purpose of oversight committees is to take a neutral, skeptical view of government programs, then it's a serious problem that Senator Feinstein has the attitude she has and also serves as the chair of the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee.

For those on the Feinstein side of the argument, apparently the most important objective is to maintain and expand the American security state. That requires maintaining the appearance of a threat to national security, and if the threat should actually be minimal or even illusory, that's no reason to change direction, it's just a reason to be grateful that the expansion of the burgeoning police state may proceed with little real danger - unless the American people get wise to the con.

Intelligence Expert Makes Short Shrift of Feinstein's Assertions

Appearing on Democracy NOW on August 1, intelligence expert James Bamford responded to Senator Feinstein's statement with specificity:

... she brings up 9/11. You know, the U.S. government had all the information it needed to prevent 9/11. It didn't need all these bulk data collections and everything else. All it needed to do was have the CIA tell the FBI or the State Department that these two people were coming to the United States - Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi - because they knew it. They knew it because copies of their visas that had been sent to them. And they knew that they were coming to the United States. The problem here wasn't collecting information; the problem was distributing information. So, justifying all this based on 9/11 is just total nonsense.

At the same committee hearing where Senator Feinstein spoke on July 31, the committee chairman - Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont - questioned John Inglis, deputy director of the NSA, as to just how many terrorist plots the NSA had foiled. Inglis started by saying vaguely, "I would say that the administration has disclosed that there were 54 plots that were disrupted...."

NSA Claims 54 Successes, One of Which Might Even Be Real

Under questioning by Senator Leahy, the number of foiled plots quickly dropped to 13, and finally fell to one - one plot that had, maybe, been foiled by the NSA carrying out surveillance that included all Americans. In other words, the NSA is unable to document a single, unambiguous, successful effort at foiling a terrorist plot - but in the best case, the maximum total of successes would be one.

Later the same day, but not before Congress, General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, repeated the assertion that the NSA had thwarted 54 terrorist events.

Again on Democracy NOW, James Bamford put the NSA's record in context, noting that despite years of metadata and email collection,

... we had the underwear bomber, the person that was flying to Detroit that was going to blow up a plane Christmas Day, the Times Square bomber, the two people in Boston that just committed the bombing on the marathon day, and so forth. Now, all those people were communicating internationally, basically. They were all communicating either to Chechnya, or the Times Square bomber was communicating to Pakistan, and the underwear bomber was in Yemen and communicating with other countries in the Middle East and also to Nigeria, for example. So if the NSA had been taking all this attention and paying attention to foreign communications and international communications instead of domestic communications, it might have discovered those.

Why Are We Talking About Having Any Kind of Police State?

Apparently there is general public approbation of the "national conversation" we may be having about Americans spying on Americans. Many in media seem to take a certain smug, self-satisfaction of our "openness" and willingness to confront "hard issues," all of which is bogus in the extreme.

The NSA is only one of 16 secret intelligence agencies under the general control of the Director of National Intelligence. We aren't talking about the others. Even though they have a history of operating outside the law or against it, we aren't talking about them.

We aren't talking about any state intelligence agencies or fusion centers or local intelligence agencies (for example, in New York City or Chicago). Together these number in the thousands.

Fundamentally, we aren't talking about the basic infrastructure of a potential American police state, even though much of that infrastructure is already in place.

For now, the "conversation" is limited to the question of whether the NSA should be spying on us more - or less. Whether the NSA should be spying on us at all is hardly heard above a whisper.

Our current "conversation" is about the size, shape, and authority of our police state apparatus, not whether or not we should have one.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

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. your social media marketing partner


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+37 # jwb110 2013-08-03 10:16
Feinstein may be shooting herself in the foot on this one.

And when the Clinton Administration left the White House Condi Rice was given information on Bin Ladin that effectively said he was a number one danger to the US. Bush, as the decider, said no to the possibility of the danger.
+66 # kochadoodledoo 2013-08-03 10:17
Thank you William Boardman for providing American citizens with this information about government spying and lying and the secrecy laws that allow it. I personally believe the 9/11 conspiracy theories out there because fear-mongering is a control mechanism and although republicans say they want less government, they want MORE control. If America wants to prevent attacks, we might try cooperating with the rest of the world instead of trying to control the rest of the world.
+2 # Rita Walpole Ague 2013-08-06 03:47
Yes, kochadoodledoo, I also wish to thank Wm. Boardmanm, and agree with you firmly that craving of power over all, coupled with endless greed it is. I've come to call it a staph infection that requires all across the globe, especially we Yanks who are soooooo naive and crippled with MSD (manipulation, spin, distraction), to immediately medicate those evil villainaire rulers who are so infected.

+23 # indian weaver 2013-08-03 10:27
Write to Feinstein and tell her what you think of her, in no uncertain terms, I'd suggest. Include McCain. The only good thing these 2 are capable of is dying.
+3 # RLF 2013-08-05 06:10
Probably there is some trash in Feinstein's email or phone calls detailing her corporate bribes or something. I think that the NSA is probably using these new tools of theirs to keep an eye on the house and senate...affair s, bribes, internet dick showing, etc.
+24 # Vardoz 2013-08-03 10:40
If spying on all of us has prevented attacks shouldn't we be told after the fact exactly what was prevented? We knew about the attempts on WTO under Clinton that were thwarted before the Patriot Act. Looks like intelligence worked when we weren't all being spied on. And what is the justification for spending tens of billions of dollars and almost a million employees when they are supposedly just collecting data? Also some stupid teen was shooting his mouth off and said something he shouldn't have not realizing that they were in fact reading content which they lied about and he was an American citizen and is now facing jail time. Richard Clark told us several years ago on Bill Maher that the spy matrix was extremely over bloated and while Americans are being impoverished they are spending tens of billions to "protect us" instead of raising the minimum wage and making it possible for people to live.
0 # hutchr 2013-08-04 14:58
Of course, "they" would say that they can't tell us what has been thwarted because then "they" would know that we were spying on them and how we were spying on them. Of course if they were "thwarted", they would know that their plans had been "thwarted" and they could act accordingly.
+5 # James Marcus 2013-08-03 10:58
The 'Self-Created' sociopathic Monstrosities are exposed, more and more.
Will that be enough?
Deliberate 'Non-Co-operati on' must be added. Peacefully, we can 'Stop Participating'.
Refuse to 'Vote' ( It is pointless, anyway! All Candidates 'rigged'), or 'File Returns' (actually won't do much, any more. 'Printing Presses', especially 'Digital', have replaced 'collection needs')
Do not answer-to -HEM, in any way.
This, a beginning
+34 # Rcomm 2013-08-03 11:19
Incidents like this, under any guise, diminish our Democracy.
The same is true when we punish people like Bradley Manning and Eric Snowden, who attempted to inform citizens. Their actions did nothing more than embarrass the people who wanted to keep this information secret.
We need to recognize our true enemies.
+27 # Helen Marshall 2013-08-03 11:20
Let's remember that we do not know what happened in Boston, there are many disturbing discrepancies in the official story - and the one suspect who was not killed has not yet been tried. He is innocent until proven guilty!!!
+35 # cordleycoit 2013-08-03 11:28
The police state has been with us for years.Enforced by the bully boys from Washington. The thugs will crush any freedoms they see with imagined threats only they can see. The American public are so dumb they line up to be fooled by a press of whores.
+32 # Anarchist 23 2013-08-03 12:50
Many of us are still waiting for an honest, comprehensive hearing on 9/11. Those of us in the 9/11 Truth community already have read much that points out the absurdity of the 'Official State History'. But even after 50 years of cover-up on the JFK Assassination and its 'magic bullet' myth, the 'Official State History' is rarely addressed and never by 'our' government whose course was changed violently on that day. And the 'ship of state' has sailed violent waters every since. We really have never been at peace. It's all about control and the people will no longer be allowed to exercise any kind of freedom; not economic freedom, not local government (see Snyder and Detroit elected govt!) and certainly not the first 10 Freedoms enshrined in the all-but-destroy ed in practice Constitution. One of the most effective actions you can take: don't believe the Official History of ANY of the events now happening!
+20 # Billy Bob 2013-08-03 13:24
"The NSA is only one of 16 secret intelligence agencies under the general control of the Director of National Intelligence. We aren't talking about the others. Even though they have a history of operating outside the law or against it, we aren't talking about them."

I just wanted to repeat that.

We have 16 (SIXTEEN) secret agencies devoted to spying, in the United States of America.

(BTW, Aren't conservatives supposed to care about "efficiency"?)


I also think it's worth repeating that the only spying some of us have a problem with, refers to spying on ORDINARY LAW ABIDING AMERICAN CITIZENS.
0 # 666 2013-08-04 08:07
16? let's see, that's minitrue, minilove, ...
+49 # polfrosch 2013-08-03 13:51
Manning, Assange and Snowden are hunted like no dictator or mass murderer has ever been hunted by the USA. Why?

Long ago a whistleblower talking to journalists from the Washington Post brought down Richard M. Nixon. It was proof the USA was an open society. Then.

Your current not-so-democrat ic-president Obma made the hunt on whistleblowers - and journalists (AP?) a top priority.

I am european, and I am so disappointed how Obama´s "change we can believe in" turned out. It smells like 1984.

If the connection between investigative journalists (We have less and less of them in all western countries!) and whistleblowers is broken through total surveillance, if the security state can listen in on any transfer of information, it´s in a position of absolute power - as the security state can also do whatever it wants to keep it´s wrongdoings secret.

It even has tools like secret courts, secret torture centers, secret wet operations all of which sound pretty "soviet" - and no accountability can be enforced by public opinion.

The security state is working hard to to block any future disclosure of wrongdoings. I assume terrorism is not the only focus of these total surveillance programs.

This is the end of a free media controlling those in power, and the beginning of state controlled media.

Does nobody care in the USA?
+16 # kochadoodledoo 2013-08-03 14:32
Many of us do--we're just not part of the government. An honest government needs no secrets.
+10 # mjc 2013-08-03 16:18
Polfroshch, you do know why. There are many who post here who refuse to believe that that is possible. Investigative journalism is a dying occupation, for sure.
0 # 666 2013-08-04 08:09
"Does nobody care in the USA?"

-- given that sentiment, we could ask the same about germany (or anyone else in the eu...

and btw, aren't you all tired by being our lackeys?
0 # RLF 2013-08-05 06:13
All this intelligence gathering got some dirt on Obama?
+23 # teachnet 2013-08-03 15:21
How many Americans die in terrorist attacks? "a comparable number of Americans are crushed to death by their televisions or furniture each year." (

Cars are far more dangerous to Americans than terrorists, yet we'll kill the planet to keep driving and give up all our rights to keep safe from terrorists.
+17 # Milarepa 2013-08-03 15:58
I remember Ms Feinstein when I lived in Mill Valley and she was mayor of San Francisco. She showed a lot of promise then. Now look at that picture - how sad and miserable she looks. I almost feel sorry for her!
+6 # CandH 2013-08-04 09:08
Russell Tice, one leaker to the James Risen '05 NYT story on NSA mass-spying, in this interview says he had "orders in his hands" to spy on Supreme Court Judge Alito, Congressmen, President Obama when he was a Senate candidate/Senat or, 3-Star Generals/Top Military Brass, various District Court Judges, High-Powered Lawyers, AND Intelligence/Ju diciary Committee Members (INCLUDING Feinstein.)

Also, the NSA is PAYING other countries to mass-spy on US citizens:
+3 # SundownLF 2013-08-05 01:00
Quoting Milarepa:
I remember Ms Feinstein when I lived in Mill Valley and she was mayor of San Francisco. She showed a lot of promise then. Now look at that picture - how sad and miserable she looks. I almost feel sorry for her!

I worked in San Francisco, just six blocks from City Hall, on that horrible day when George Moscone and Harvey Milk were killed. She became mayor and I agree, she seemed to have promise - but has since become a Republican in Democratic clothing. How pathetic! I guess money does that to people...
+23 # curmudgeon 2013-08-03 17:10
And now another 'FEAR' attack by the U.S. Guv ....closing embassies worldwide indefinitely until Aug 31 and warning any U.S. travelers that they 'better watch out'.

Guv by FEAR strikes again..

We like to say our reaction means Al-Qaeda won.... DUH

Since Al-Qaeda is a US invention ...whaddya expect ?

(even bigger) DUH
+4 # keenon the truth 2013-08-04 09:03
Exactly my opinion. I instantly realised what that was about. So they can say, look we need the surveillance.
+19 # CandH 2013-08-03 17:57
Good writing RSN/Boardman! A couple of points:

1--"Underwear bomber" was discovered to be a CIA asset who was closely tracked:

2--"Boston bombers" were closely connected through their media-hoard Uncle Ruslan Tsarni, who was married to to CIA Official Graham Fuller's daughter, and kept in contact with Graham after their divorce:

3--"Why Are We Talking About Having Any Kind of Police State?" This can be best answered by these two clips & this quote:

"There are no nations. There are no peoples. There are no Arabs. There are no Third Worlds. There is no West. There is only one holistic system of systems, one vast domain, interwoven, interacting, multivariate, multinational dominion of Dollars--PetroD ollars, ElectroDollars, MultiDollars, Reichmarks, Drens, Rubles, Pounds, and Sheckels. It is the international system of currency which determines the totality of life on this planet." (from the film "Network," 1976 --

Also, we are looking at a massive worldwide "Police State" now -- How many countries, besides the USA, have surveillance "Police State" systems? There are AT LEAST 77 countries that Israel has sold/installed Verint devices for (Narus was sold to Boeing:) --
+14 # futhark 2013-08-03 22:02
CandH, thanks for including the Boston Marathon Bombing event as one probably set up and executed by the state surveillance apparatus. Also your statement concerning Israel as the nexus or convergence point of surveillance communications is telling. Israel is the one state in the Middle East having a powerful surveillance apparatus active within the United States and an influential lobbying and PR agency, AIPAC, operating here, toward which our politicians act as servile toadies.
+13 # futhark 2013-08-03 21:53
I cringe at the thought that Dianne Feinstein is representing me in the United States Senate and cringe again at the knowledge that in her campaigns prior to 2012 I actually voted for this harpy.
+8 # LibrisFidelis 2013-08-04 09:43
The NSA records every kind of seemingly-insig nificant data just for future potential use, no matter how innocent that data is, to clandestinely operate domestically beyond Top Secretly to acquire data on EVERYONE -- including on the President of our United States!

This data acquisition process has NOTHING to do with any President or with Congress, since BY LEGISLATED LAW neither the President nor Congress has any control or authority over the NSA, and parts of the three NSA Acts that give the NSA this immunity are Top Secret -- with the caveat that ONLY the NSA can determine if a person who has a Top Secret Clearance can even READ the Top Secret portions of the three NSA Acts -- BASED upon NSA's sole judgement as to whether the person with the Top Secret Clearance "has a need to know" what is in the Acts. You should NOT think that I am making any of this up.

This is a clandestine anti-public espionage system that our nation uses against our own people WITHOUT the public's permission -- but with CONGRESS' FULL APPROVAL -- THOUGH IT IS BOTH UN-CONSTITUTION AL AND ANTI-CONSTITUTI ONAL just like the unPatriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act. -- Libris Fidelis July 28, 2013"
+12 # GeorgePenman 2013-08-04 09:53
We have real case studies how broad surveillance can work. It took 30 years and
long term court cases to get the documents that showed what US government
was really up to. See Seth Rosenfeld's book:
"The FBI's War on Student Radicals and Reagan's Rise to Power".

There is no doubt that the immediate result of the Snowden backlash will be not just a chill, but a freezing of journalism just as the national security state is expanding to consume most of the resources we
need to maintain civilized society.

Also there will be an inevitable identification and suppression of
dissidents. Again, see Rosenfeld's account. Orwell had it right.

"The Patriot Act inverts the constitutional requirement that people's lives be private and the work of government officials be public;
it instead crafts a set of conditions in which our inner lives become transparent and the workings of the government become opaque.
Either one of these outcomes would imperil democracy; together they not only injure the country but also cut off the avenues of repair." Elaine Scarry

It is telling that whistle-blowers are severely punished while war criminals
go free.

It says a lot about our future.
+10 # beachboy 2013-08-04 11:14
Why are people in the US talking so disbelieving ? - Apparently many haven't noticed that at least since Vietnam/Cambodi a/Laos the US gov. has lied to its citizens, and battled against them in every sense of the word. The current situation is a result of the many decades of disbelieving 'good people', who just cannot allow their 'wholesome' world to be disturbed by reality. So they flee into TV 'reality', spoon-fed every day and night to the 'babes in the woods', not noticing the complete 're-education' they are undergoing. One of the most astounding facts of US life is the ignorance and misinformation level of the majority of its citizens. Most are actually not able to know the actual story, having accepted the movie story [ or Main Stream Press version] instead!( Hollywood has been a giant US propaganda tool worldwide, perhaps the most important one because of the 'reality factor' and subtlety of its output on the human level.) Great pity that Amy Goodman and excellent people like her are so few in this country. Still, this is the time to watch 'Democracy Now!'and stop all exposure to the MSM propaganda tools. Seize the day! The police state is upon us. No state with peace in mind wastes its money on 16 national spy agencies! Or operates in 71 countries with 'Special Forces'! - Remember the constitution: Take back the commons! No time to loose.
+3 # Walter J Smith 2013-08-04 20:34
Does Barack Obama have a single appointee who is not a professional rhetorical hot air balloon?
+6 # SundownLF 2013-08-05 01:04
And President Obama is strongly advocating for the not-so-smart, misogynistic, bully - Larry Summers - to run the Fed, the most important federal position there is! (And his former Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, is systematically destroying Chicago in favor of the moneyed crowd.) Sigh.
0 # johntinker 2013-08-06 10:25
Here is an index to 2,222 pages of cross-reference d current news that relates the US Federal government:
+2 # CDW 2013-08-06 10:50
Quoted from an unnamed source:

I am prepared to live with the threat of terrorism. I live with the possibility of accidental death every day when I'm out in public, and understand the long term threats like pollution. If I have to add to this the one in a million chance of being bombed to death, so be it.
Creating institutions of fear and persecution will change who we are in the long term. The Inquisition lasted for hundreds of years perpetuated by people doing their job, hunting the terrorist threat of the day, heretics.
Anti-terrorism is a business and a job creation effort in the absence of a manufacturing base in North America.
+2 # Sunflower 2013-08-06 13:38
Here's an important issue: Whoever gets to spy on all of us will be the top dog, because all the rest of the Gov will be susceptible to blackmail! Perhaps even Dianne Feinstein was blackmailed into supporting the NSA, we won't ever know. If you think this is farfetched, check out how the FBI attempted to blackmail MLK,

and that is only one instance that we know about. You can imagine almost all people in power have secrets that would allow them to be blackmailed.

That's why this stuff is PARTICULARLY dangerous!!

And add to the irony, we the people are paying for our own oppression--

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