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Bernie Sanders Brings Honest Talk On NSA Spying To Vermont

This weekend, Senator Bernard Sanders organized a town hall meeting to discuss what he called “an issue of huge consequence”: The system of electronic spying on Americans set up by the military’s National Security Agency – the NSA.

The meeting featured David Cole, professor at the Georgetown University Law School, and Heidi Boghosian, head of the National Lawyers Guild.

At the meeting, Senator Sanders warned, “When George Orwell wrote 1984, about the role of government surveillance, knowing everything about everybody’s life, he had no idea where we would be today in 2014, and we have no idea where, in terms of technology, this world will be in 10 years from now or 20 years from now. What we do know is the ability of those who have that technology to know virtually everything about our lives is real now and is only going to become more dangerous in years to come.”

A video of the meeting begins here:

2 thoughts on “Bernie Sanders Brings Honest Talk On NSA Spying To Vermont”

  1. Tom says:

    How are we supposed to stop a rogue government (agency)? Corruption abounds from the Supreme Court to the Presidency and all through Congress. The military/industrial complex has become the be-all and end-all to the detriment of us citizens, with Homeland Security it’s civilian contain and control arm. In the same way that the CIA eliminated the Kennedys, MLK and any other “undesirables” they see fit to “disappear” in one form or another, the whole of HS is out of control and unaccountable to anyone and ol’ Bernie could suddenly have an unfortunate accident or medical episode visit him and that would end any talk of meddling in their affairs.

  2. Tom says:

    The first congressman to battle the NSA is dead. No-one noticed, no-one cares.

    “Pike will pay for this, you wait and see—we’ll destroy him for this.” —Mitchell Rogovin, CIA special counsel, 1976

    Last month, former Congressman Otis Pike died, and no one seemed to notice or care. That’s scary, because Pike led the House’s most intensive and threatening hearings into US intelligence community abuses, far more radical and revealing than the better-known Church Committee’s Senate hearings that took place at the same time. That Pike could die today in total obscurity, during the peak of the Snowden NSA scandal, is, as they say, a “teachable moment” —one probably not lost on today’s already spineless political class.

    In mid-1975, Rep. Pike was picked to take over the House select committee investigating the US intelligence community after the first committee chairman, a Michigan Democrat named Nedzi, was overthrown by more radical liberal Democrats fired up by Watergate after they learned that Nedzi had suppressed information about the CIA’s illegal domestic spying program, MH-CHAOS, exposed by Seymour Hersh in late 1974. It was Hersh’s exposés on the CIA domestic spying program targeting American dissidents and antiwar activists that led to the creation of the Church Committee and what became known as the Pike Committee, after Nedzi was tossed overboard.

    Pike was an odd choice to take Nedzi’s place—he was a conservative Cold War Democrat from a mostly-Republican Long Island district, who’d supported the Vietnam War long after most northern Democrats abandoned it, and who loathed do-gooder Kennedy liberals and Big Government waste. So no one expected Pike to challenge the National Security State and executive privilege so aggressively and righteously—and some argued, recklessly—as he wound up doing.

    (further down the article)

    Pike was less interested in sensational scandals like Church’s poison darts and foreign assassination plots than he was in getting to the guts of the intelligence apparatus, its power, its funding, its purpose. He asked questions never asked or answered since the start of the Cold War: What was America’s intelligence budget? What was the purpose of the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies and programs? Were they succeeding by their own standards? Were taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Were they making America safer?

    Those were exactly the questions that the intel apparatus did not want asked. The Church Committee focused on excesses and abuses, implying that with the proper reforms and oversights, the intelligence structures could be set right. But as the Pike Committee started pulling up the floorboards, what they discovered quickly led Rep. Pike and others to declare that the entire intelligence apparatus was a dangerous boondoggle. Not only were taxpayers getting fleeced, but agencies like the NSA and CIA were a direct threat to America’s security and democracy, the proverbial monkey playing with a live grenade. The problem was that Pike asked the right questions—and that led him to some very wrong answers, as far as the powers that be were concerned.

    It was Pike’s committee that got the first ever admission—from CIA director William Colby—that the NSA was routinely tapping Americans’ phone calls. Days after that stunning confession, Pike succeeded in getting the head of the NSA, Lew Allen Jr., to testify in public before his committee—the first time in history that an NSA chief publicly testified. It was the first time that the NSA publicly maintained that it was legally entitled to wiretap Americans’ communications overseas, in spite of the 1934 Communications Act and other legal restrictions placed on other intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

    It was also the first time an NSA chief publicly lied to Congress, claiming it was not eavesdropping on domestic or overseas phone calls involving American citizens. (Technically, legalistically, the NSA argued that it hadn’t lied—the reason being that since Americans weren’t specifically “targeted” in the NSA’s vast data-vacuuming programs in the 1970s, recording and storing every phone call and telex cable in computers which were then data-mined for keywords, that therefore they weren’t technically eavesdropping on Americans who just happened to be swept up into the wiretapping vacuum.)

    Pike quickly discovered the fundamental problem with the NSA: It was by far the largest intelligence agency, and yet it was birthed unlike any other, as a series of murky executive orders under Truman at the peak of Cold War hysteria. Digging into the NSA’s murky beginnings, it quickly became clear that the agency was explicitly chartered in such a way that placed it beyond legal accountability, out of reach of the other branches of government. Unlike the CIA, which came into being under an act of Congress, the NSA’s founding charter was a national secret.

    (read the rest)

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