Well, it sure is good president Obama has Mitch McConnell and the Republicans to bail him out or he would have no chance of reauthorizing the Patriot Act.
And here I thought that everything Obama stood for or has done since he first took office has been bad for the country. That’s one of those fun and absolute facts Republicans seem to be ignoring – as if this time will be different. This time, so the argument goes, Obama is on the right side. Sure he is.
Establishment Republicans seem to be all for reauthorization, despite the fact it is an affront to privacy, liberty, and let’s not forget the Constitution. But I guess to be a real Republican, one must appear strong on defense – in favor of keeping the homeland safe.
And isn’t that what the Patriot Act was designed to do? Wasn’t it passed to thwart terrorist plots before they had a chance to strike America? They tell us this is why all our data must be collected, because you never know from where the threat may come.
And I suppose it has worked. All that data collection must have stopped hundreds of terrorist strikes. Otherwise, why collect it. Well, if you’re under that illusion – you’d be 100% wrong.
The Washington Times just reported that Inspector General Michael E Horowitz “concluded that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act’s record-snooping provisions. The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from the use of records obtained in response to section 215 orders.”
Section 215 “allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.” But hey, if you have nothing to hide, they say, what are you afraid of?
FBI director James Comey said that maintaining the carte blanche authority to effectively spy on everyone is essential. He said that “If we lose that authority, which I don’t think is controversial with folks, that is a big problem.”
So just how successful has the NSA bulk data collection program been? In 2013 the NSA disclosed that 54 terrorist events had been interrupted — 13 on the U.S. homeland. That’s really good — if only it were true.
The Washington’s blog wrote that “The NSA chief himself admits the numbers are wildly inflated, and there were only one or two terrorist plots foiled. The NSA’s deputy director says that at most – one plot might have been disrupted by the bulk phone records collections alone.” But since that claim, the actual events have “been whittled down to only one that actually relied on the call records program.”
It’s no different from what the government does regarding everything — such as the monthly jobs numbers. They make a big announcement that all is well and later quietly revise that number down to the pitiful reality and ignore the tens of millions of people who have dropped out of the labor force.
In fact, writes the Washington Times, “‘Bulk data collection creates false leads, ties up investigative resources and, essentially, undermines national security,’ said Stephen Kohn, an attorney at Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, LLP. ‘They have a large amount of agents who are working counterterrorism that have no human resources, no leads, no infiltrations, so they have nothing else to do.’”
In other words, FBI agents who used to go out, follow leads, infiltrate potential terrorist cells and use human intelligence are now forced into combing through literally tons of data acquired by the NSA on all of us. It’s a complete waste of manpower, resources, and money and is likely to thwart exactly no one.
Republicans should vote to scrap the entire Patriot Act and pass something which might actually work. Or instead, do what government always does, leave everything intact, rename it, and appropriate more money to fund it.