Friday, August 16, 2013

Ron Wyden Speaks on Secret Government

The following exchange took place between a Rolling Stone writer Janet Reitman and Sen Ron Wyden (D-OR) a member of the senate intelligence committee:

Reitman: “In March, you asked the Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, whether the government knowingly collected data on millions of Americans, and he answered "not wittingly" – which we now know was, basically, a lie. Yet Clapper has described it as "the least untruthful" answer he could have given. What's the story behind that?”

Wyden: “
After both the NSA Director and the Director of National Intelligence declined to clarify these remarks in writing, I decided it was necessary to ask the Director of National Intelligence about them at an open hearing. I sent the question over a day in advance so that he would be prepared to answer it. They didn't ask me not to ask the question – and when they've made requests like that for security reasons, I've always respected them. If they had asked me not to ask the question I would have not asked the question, though I would have kept trying to find a way to press them on it. When the Director gave an inaccurate answer to the question, I had my staff call his office later on a secure line and urge them to amend his response. They decided to let his inaccurate answer stand on the public record, until about a month after the Snowden disclosures. Even then, they started off trying to defend his answer, before finally admitting publicly that it had been inaccurate.” [Emphasis added]

What struck me hard between the eyes was the disclosure of the strength and power of the hold that executive agencies of the government have over members of the legislative branch of that government appearing in the emphasized portion of Mr. Wyden's response.
Our national government is supposed to be a limited government and our Constitution spells out the powers of that government and vests “all legislative power herein granted” to the Congress. Which simply means in plain English that the power to make government operate is with the Congress alone. No executive action is permitted without prior legislative action. What Wyden is saying is that “congress crested the agency and the agency controls how congress operates with respect to that agency” and that seems absolutely backwards. It seems that all any nameless government agent need do is pin a National Security label on any project, authorized or unauthorized, named or un-named and the project disappears from public view forever unless there's an Edward Snowden or a Bradley Manning lurking about. It is subject to only as much congressional oversight as the agency deems proper. This is nonsensical and really puts the cart before the horse. Now what do we do about this? Lift the carpet and sweep all this under the carpet until we forget about it – and let it continue?

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