New House Plan Props Up NSA Surveillance of Phone Calls

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
New House Plan Props Up NSA Surveillance of Phone Calls

A new bipartisan proposal for overseeing NSA collection of metadata exempts the agency from constitutional standards of surveillance.

Regarding oversight of National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wholesale collection of telephone metadata, Reprsentative Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) has decided to stick a toe in the constitutional waters, but it’s little more than that.

Under a scheme being cooked up by a bipartisan group of congressmen on the House Intelligence Committee (Ruppersberger is the ranking member), the individual phone companies would keep the metadata collected from its customers, and the NSA would have to obtain an order from the FISA court (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, officially) before being granted access to the information.

This is hardly the stringent oversight citizens should expect from their representatives, particularly in light of the oath each of them swore to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution. Even Ruppersberger’s boasts about the proposal reveal a profound misunderstanding of the protections of civil liberties provided by the Constitution.

“We’ve got to have legislation that will take away the concern and perception that people are being listened to,” Ruppersberger said, as quoted in Politico.

So, rather than actually defanging the NSA and immediately stopping their unwarranted surveillance of citizens’ electronic and telephonic communications, Ruppersberger simply wants people to think (“perception”) they are not being listened to.

Not surprisingly, Congress is collaborating with the White House on the effort to leave the NSA able to savage the Constitution like a lion while convincing citizens that the agency is little more than a lamb under the watchful eye of government.

“We’re trying to make this a collaborative effort. These are important programs. And if we can make them function, that’s the most important thing we can do. I think we can do that,” Representative Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), the House Intelligence Committee chairman and fellow NSA water carrier, told Politico.

President Obama is doing his part to make a lot of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Earlier this year, he met with lawmakers and tech industry leaders to consider reforms to the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

In preparation for the publication of his recommendations for changes to the NSA’s practices, the president summoned members of Congress to the White House reportedly to bounce some reform ideas off them.

In reports on the confab, the mainstream media reveal their biases. In January, Time magazine wrote, “The 90-minute meeting focused on two potential changes. One would strip the NSA of its ability to store telephone ‘metadata’ — information about the phone numbers involved in calls, including their length, but not their content.”

Really? The so-called “metadata” doesn’t contain information on the content of phone calls?

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