Congress refuses to act on NSA reform legislation despite an overwhelming number of Americans expressing opposition to the agency’s pervasive surveillance. Since October bills in both the House and Senate have remained stuck in respective Judiciary Committees. Aides say there is no indication they will move forward anytime soon.
Rep. Jim Sensebrenner’s USA Freedom Act, designed to stop the NSA’s dragnet collection of data, is stalled in the House. Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, is holding back the bill from markup as he waits for the Obama administration to take a formal stand on the legislation.
In the Senate Judiciary Committee Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, is waiting for recommendations from Attorney General Eric Holder and the intelligence community before moving forward with his bill.
Rolling back unconstitutional surveillance faces stiff resistance in the Senate from the likes of Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). Feinstein is the Intelligence Committee chairwoman.
Congressional leaders say there may be no action on legislation until the summer of 2015 when provisions of the Patriot Act governing data collection are set to expire.
In June NSA whistleblower Russ Tice, who was instrumental in blowing the cover of the Bush administration’s use of warrantless wiretapping, told Peter B. Collins the NSA is blackmailing top congressional leaders.
“They went after – and I know this because I had my hands literally on the paperwork for these sort of things – they went after high-ranking military officers,” Tice said, “they went after members of Congress, both Senate and the House, especially on the intelligence committees and on the armed services committees and some of the – and judicial. But they went after other ones, too. They went after lawyers and law firms. All kinds of – heaps of lawyers and law firms. They went after judges. One of the judges is now sitting on the Supreme Court that I had his wiretap information in my hand. Two are former FISA court judges. They went after State Department officials. They went after people in the executive service that were part of the White House – their own people.”
Former NSA crypto-mathematician William Binney and other whistleblowers have faced intimidation for daring to reveal details of the agency’s unconstitutional surveillance program.
“They violated the Constitution setting it up,” Binney told James Bamford and Wired in 2012. “But they didn’t care. They were going to do it anyway, and they were going to crucify anyone who stood in the way.”
Binney believes America is now a totalitarian state.
Bamford writes “there is no doubt that [the NSA] has transformed itself into the largest, most covert, and potentially most intrusive intelligence agency ever created.”
Many Americans understand the NSA surveillance grid is a tool designed to go after political enemies. In June fifty-seven percent of voters nationwide told Rasmussen Reports NSA data will be used by government agencies to harass political opponents.