Two and a half months ago, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida used outrage at the unfolding NSA surveillance scandal to declare his intention to offer an amendment to an otherwise unrelated piece of legislation. That amendment would have ended the NSA’s massive collection of personally identifiable information without a direct connection to terrorism. The idea was nice on paper, but two features of his effort were disturbing:
1. Rep. Grayson provided a link in his messages promoting his amendment — but the link wasn’t a way to contact members of Congress to ask them to support the Grayson amendment. Rather, the link directed readers to a .com website set up by Grayson on which (until a few days ago) the text of the amendment was not listed, but where regardless of that people were asked to sign a “petition” supporting the amendment. On the side, they were asked to surrender their personally identifiable information to Rep. Grayson for his fundraising purposes.
2. When Rep. Grayson went through the motions of introducing his amendment a few days later, he knew it would not pass in the committee to which he submitted it. Furthermore, he did not mention even once the “petition” he had initiated or the number of people who had signed it. There is absolutely no evidence that Alan Grayson has used the “petition” for any purpose other than data mining his supporters’ contact information for his own re-election campaign purposes.
This does not look good, but perhaps it is simply a temporary blunder. Perhaps Alan Grayson has stepped up to the plate and worked hard for actual, serious and consequential legislation to stop the NSA from engaging in unconstitutional surveillance of innocent people. Let’s check in:
1. Is Alan Grayson continuing to promote his .com website? Yes, as this Tweeted graphic from last week shows:
3. Has Alan Grayson re-introduced his “Mind Your Own Business Act” legislation in any form — as an amendment, bill or resolution? No. A search of Thomas, the U.S. Congressional database, reveals that since mid-June, when he pulled his “Mind Your Own Business Act” stunt, Alan Grayson has introduced 7 pieces of legislation. None of them have anything to do with the issue of NSA surveillance, or surveillance more broadly.
4. Has Alan Grayson engaged in any legislative act to support others’ bills to restrict NSA surveillance? No. The ACLU maintains a very helpful list of legislation introduced by Congress to reform NSA surveillance authority and protect Americans’ constitutional rights. Following the links for each bill, I encourage you to find the sponsorship and cosponsorship information for each bill. As noted in point 3 above, Alan Grayson is not a primary sponsor of any of these bills. He has also failed to cosponsor a single one of the reform bills offered by his more productive peers. It wouldn’t take Alan Grayson more than 5 minutes to act, but not a single cosponsorship by Alan Grayson on NSA surveillance exists.
Alan Grayson has had two and a half months to follow up his self-serving data mining with some kind of consequential action on NSA surveillance. He has failed this test utterly. Don’t believe Alan Grayson’s hype.