Wednesday, October 30, 2013

NSA Is Out Of Control. Time To Rein It In.

As published in Delaware Liberal Blog by Progressive Populist.

 James Clapper, the Obama Administration’s Director of National Intelligence has said NSA does not “wittingly” collect data on citizens.  General Keith Alexander, NSA’s Director as well as his predecessor have testified that NSA is not spying on or collecting data on citizens.  Even the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee has told the media that the American intelligence community is not intrusively monitoring the communications of our citizens without a warrant.

So the House Intelligence Committee is clearly in the pocket of the government institutions whose activities it is supposed to be monitoring on behalf of the American people.  With the revelations provided by  Eric Snowden and Glenn Greenwald and other journalists and whistleblowers, we know the opposite is the truth.  We are now living in the Surveillance State many of us once feared would reappear after the Senator Frank Church hearings in 1975, which resulted in legislation to get a rogue intelligence apparatus under control.  Sure enough, here it is again.

Finally we hear from Senator Feinstein, who recently stated that intelligence data collection was no different from the functioning of local grand juries.  Now she acknowledges that unaccountable monitoring of phone conversations of many of our allies is a breach of trust and an impediment to our ally relationships.  Even hawkish former California congresswoman Jane Harmon now advocates reforms to rein in our intelligence apparatus.
It seems to me that there are at least two major criteria on which to evaluate the massive scale of surveillance being undertaken by NSA, as well as the various intelligence missioned agencies they service.  First, the damage being done to trust in our government by our citizens as a result of the infringement of our civil liberties by our post 9-11 Patriot Act.  Second, the results produced by NSA and other intelligence/counterintelligence activities as a result of the massive ramping up of domestic surveillance.

Various polls and studies are widely disseminated by the media showing public trust of our federal government at an all time rock bottom. The damage is clear.  Very similar in fact to the post Watergate period.  In the surveillance arena, the Church Commission did a major service to our democracy with the reforms instituted then to enhance oversight and transparency.  Over time, public trust greatly improved.

We can do it again through congressional work on Patriot Act reforms and aggressive oversight of our intelligence apparatus.  The mission of NSA, originally focused on foreign signal intelligence, needs to be significantly reviewed and clarified.  The FISA court process currently does not involve advocacy of citizen civil liberties and should, according to former Senator Gary Hart and others he is working with on the due process component to our surveillance policy.   In addition, House and Senate congressional oversight needs revitalization, as do their security clearance policies which deny key leaders needed  information on intelligence operations.

Rep. Alan Grayson points out that non-Intelligence Committee members are routinely denied information from both the committee and the intelligence agencies they need to properly advocate for the privacy and civil liberties of their constituents due to absurd policies on security clearances.  Further, he argues that he and his peers are routinely lied to and misled about intelligence matters impacting their constituents they are elected to serve, in the name of “security”.  He argues that the Intelligence Committee is complicit with the agencies in misleading and denying access.

In the results area, there are already some distressing indications that the disproportionately huge increases in our domestic surveillance are not yielding huge results.  In fact, the results are miniscule. NSA has reported that 54 terror attacks have been thwarted; 25 in Europe, 11 in Asia, 5 in Africa and an underwhelming 13 in the USA.

42 of these 54 were interrupted plots and 12 involved terrorist activities of material support.  Surveillance of foreigners, ours and that of foreign governments,  yielded 1/2 of these.  Four plots have been detailed by intelligence agencies,  including a San Diego terror supporter sending money to Al Shabab in Somalia, a NYC subway plot foiled, a Chicago supporter of terror providing support for the unfoiled Mumbai attack and a plot against the NY Stock Exchange foiled.

Senator Ron Wyden pointed out that of these four terror projects, only two were significantly impacted by  Federal surveillance.  He also pointed out that of the 54  plots, the evidence suggests the overwhelming majority were foiled not by surveillance but by traditional  informant help.

Peter Bergen of CNN estimated that of 33  terror plots derailed he studied, the evidence showed that of 29 were stopped not by surveillance but tips and informants.
Are we getting any kind of a reasonable return on investment in our surveillance of our own people in conjunction with both the massive  human and financial commitment of national resources ?  It sure doesn’t appear so to me.  A tough minded audit of results and payback are imperative.

Of course the American public would and should not have privy to much of the how-to of our surveillance and intelligence gathering process for obvious reasons.  But through our representative democracy process, our elected law and policy makers must have much more hands on oversight of NSA and other agencies who have, as history has shown,  the natural inclination to overreach and deny access to those who are charged with both maintaining our security as well as our civil liberties.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Vet To Cruz: Keep Your Slimy Hands Off My Monuments

This post first appeared in Delaware Liberal on 3/14.

Ted Cruz, you dishonor your title, Senator.  You do not deserve it.  You dishonor all U.S. military veterans and the monuments built to honor us.  Yes, I say us.  I am the third generation in my family to serve as an officer in the U.S. Army.  My father served in WWII and Korea.  His father served in WWI.  The monument you visited with your merry band of nut cases over the weekend was built to honor our brothers and sisters who served the UNITED States of America.  Get it?  They served and many gave their lives not just for Texas or Alaska, but all the United States, every damned one of them and all of them together.  Why do I mention Alaska?  Because your insulting, hypocritical visit to these memorials included your evil twin sister, Sarah Palin.
You two represented the leadership of your seccessionist tribe of teabaggers who stand for the neoconfederacy you advocate to replace our United States.  You argue for the un-uniting of our nation-state, yet you visit shrines built to memorialize those who stood for preserving our United States against external threats to our existence.  You two represent an internal threat to our unity and existence.
To add to the insult you made by visiting the WWII Memorial, you and your tribe carried the battle flag of the confederacy.  What a cruel irony.  The flag representing the seccessionist southern army which fought for and lost the cause of taking our nation apart for a thoroughly dishonorable objective.
Here's another cruel irony.  Your father sought refuge in this United States of America for his family on the premise of a better life than he thought you might have faced in Cuba.  You all immigrated to and sought citizenship in the USA.  Now you advocate tearing it apart.
Shame on you.  As a proud veteran I demand you demean yourself in some other venue.  Take your hypocritical presence to a more appropriate memorial...perhaps memorializing the now dead confederacy you are trying to revive.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Let Me Count The Ways The Tea Party Loves Us

35 by my count.  Maybe you can add to the list.  Not satisfied that there are thousands of varieties of teas they can throw overboard, they have voiced at least 35 issues they want the President to “have a conversation” about to end the shutdown and/or the debt ceiling crisis.

Here they are: Repeal O-care, defer O-care, end the O-care individual mandate, delay O-care, mitigate O-care damage, repeal the medical device tax, reduce government spending, no new taxes, cut federal benefits (except their own), cut the deficit, fund FEMA, fund the National Weather Service, fund Head Start, back pay for furloughed Federal employees, fund veterans benefits, fund the National Parks, fund D.C., fund the military, fund air traffic controllers, “get something out of this”, meet on a budget, create a conference committee, create a committee of twenty, approve the Keystone pipeline,  fund military death benefits, reform the tax code, energy regulatory reform, a one year debt limit waiver, block net neutrality, end Dodd-Frank, means testing for Medicare, tort reform, repeal the public health trust fund, end coal ash regulations,  end EPA carbon regulations, end Social Security block grants…..I’m sure more have been raised since I started typing this list.

In sum total, replace the Democratic Party/Obama agenda which won by a margin of 5 million votes  with the failed Romney campaign platform.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


As originally published October 3 in Delaware Liberal, by ProgressivePopulist. That is me. With permission.

Tom Hayden has a brilliant analysis of the stakes in the upcoming elections for Democrats and Progressives.  He says:
“…The logic of voter turnout data all but guarantees right-wing Republican congressional victories in 2014 and a sealing of the divide of America into two countries for the foreseeable future. White House operatives privately acknowledge that GOP gerrymandering plus low turnout make 2014 a war to keep the Senate Democratic and show gains while losing the House. There are eight battleground Senate seats where Mitt Romney won the popular vote in 2012 and incumbent Democrats are either retiring or vulnerable to defeat.”
What the Republicans are doing with the current standoff is solidifying their base, in particular the tea party core currently in control of their party, neutering their leadership. How are they doing it?  By inflaming the racists in their grassroots to motivate a white turnout.  This government closure has nothing to do with Obamacare(ACA).  It has everything to do with the racist perception that this black President’s signature legislation from his first term and perhaps full term is aimed to help the 15% of our citizenry without health insurance.  And who do they think they are?  Our fellow African American citizens and some Hispanics thrown in.
They don’t care about a United States of America.  They care only about the birthright of their White America.  You know, the people they claim built this country.  Thus Hayden’s reference to two countries.
Hayden goes on to explain  a counter strategy being worked by PDD’s and Democracy for America’s Howard Dean:
“Thanks to Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, campaign resources are being invested in Virginia’s legislative election this year, with Iowa, Pennsylvania and Michigan to follow. These potential wins could minimize losses in the long term attempt to salvage the 2010’s from a major Republican counter-attack on the Thirties, Sixties and the Obama era. Unfortunately, the failure already has been cemented by the reapportionment process. ”
He goes on to cite racism as one of the key drivers behind the right wing’s insane move to burn down the American house with financial collapse.    Check Hayden out at his Peace And Justice Resource Center.
In a parallel analysis, Joan Walsh of offers an historical review of from whence the Republican’s have come since the Nixon Southern Strategy.  She says in her recent post on race baiting by the right: “On the day the Affordable Care Act takes effect, the U.S. government is shut down, and it may be permanently broken. You’ll read lots of explanations for the dysfunction, but the simple truth is this:” It’s the culmination of 50 years of evolving yet consistent Republican strategy to depict government as the enemy, an oppressor that works primarily as the protector of and provider for African-Americans, to the detriment of everyone else. The fact that everything came apart under our first African-American president wasn’t an accident, it was probably inevitable.”
I recommend you go to for her full text.  These two respected writers/activists have nailed it, if it wasn’t clear to you before. I know.  Many of you, not wanting to believe the racism that motivates the current irrational Republican Party, tell me that they did this to Clinton too and he was white.  But remember that he was called “the first Black President”.  And his signature piece of legislation was welfare reform, perceived by right wingers as mainly serving African American’s, though factually incorrect.   This was designed to appease the racists.  It didn’t work too well as impeachment history will explain.
We know some, maybe many of the Congressional Republicans are neither stupid nor unaware of the consequences of their treasonous behavior in this manufactured crisis.  There is nothing rational about racism and hate.  It overwhelms otherwise reasonable people and infects and damages their perceptions and thought processes.
It is now quite obvious.  This explains the completely irrational fabrication of the factual world many of us live in with huge Republican distortions of reality and insane drive to wreck the Obama Presidency, even if it means first wrecking the economy with default for the first time in our history.  But, not so insane for those 30-50 teabaggers in Congress who know they live in gerrymandered districts assuring their reelection while all collapses around the rest of us.
There it is, fellow progressives.  In plain and clear black and white terms.