With the revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and reporter Glenn Greenwald, there seem to be only two possibilities regarding claims by House Permanent Intelligence Subcommittee Chairman Mike Rogers: He either boldly lied about the breadth of NSA surveillance of the American people, or he didn't know and was therefore engaged in incompetent oversight of the NSA.
Either possibility has huge implications for American constitutional government: If Rogers didn't know, what does that say about congressional oversight of these shadowy NSA programs? And if he did know, and was willingly lying to the American people, is that any better?
Rogers, a liberal Michigan Republican (51 percent cumulative Freedom Index score, one of the lowest scores among Republicans), claimed in debate on the Amash amendment, which would have forbidden the NSA from spending any of its funding on the bulk collection of Americans' electronic messages, July 24: “We should have time and education on what actually happens in the particular program of which we speak. And I'll pledge each and every one of you today, and give you my word, that this fall, when we do the Intel authorization bill, we will work to find additional privacy protections with this program, that has no emails, no phone calls, no names and no addresses.”
The Amash amendment — sponsored by libertarian-leaning Republican Justin Amash (94 percent cumulative Freedom Index rating) of Michigan — narrowly failed by a vote of 205-217. A switch of just seven votes would have meant adoption of the amendment. False denials on the House floor that the NSA was collecting the American people's e-mails, such as Rogers', may have swayed enough votes to ensure the amendment's defeat.
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