Quotable Quotes on the NSA’s Illegal Surveillance Program (Updated)

National Security Agency headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland (Reuters / NSA / Handout via Reuters)

National Security Agency headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland (Reuters / NSA / Handout via Reuters)

I haven’t had much time to post about the NSA’s illegal surveillance of all Americans, but I’ve been taking notes. Here are a few highlights (updated 6/9/13 at 10:38 pm)…

“Granting such immunity undermines the constitutional protections Americans trust the Congress to protect. Senator Obama supports a filibuster of this bill…”Senator Obama, December 2007, in a statement he gave about a bill granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies for illegally (obviously, since otherwise they wouldn’t require immunity) sharing private client information under the government’s illegal surveillance program under the Bush administration.

“We can give our intelligence and law enforcement community the powers they need to track down and take out terrorists without undermining our commitment to the rule of law, or our basic rights and liberties.”Senator Obama, February 2008

“The Obama administration, which inherited and embraced the program from the George W. Bush administration, moved Thursday to forcefully defend it.”Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2013

“[President Obama] argued that ‘modest encroachments on privacy’ were ‘worth us doing’ to protect the country. There are some trade-offs involved,’ Mr. Obama said.”New York Times, June 7, 2013

“It is the very sort of thing against which Mr. Obama once railed, when he said in 2007 that the surveillance policy of the George W. Bush administration ‘puts forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we provide.’”New York Times, June 6, 2013.

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience…. In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details then I think we’ve struck the right balance.”President Obama, June 7, 2013

“Look at it this way: this administration is taking unprecedented steps to make sure that the government’s secrets remain private while simultaneously invading the privacy of its citizens…. Many innocents must be violated so that a few guilty people can be stopped. It’s a digital stop-and-frisk….”Charles M. Blow, New York Times, June 7, 2013

“‘I welcome this debate,’ Obama said Friday. ‘I think it’s healthy for our democracy.’ Under further questioning, he said that he definitely didn’t welcome the leaks. Without which, of course, there would be no debate.”Gail Collins, New York Times, June 7, 2013

“In remarks in California on Friday, Mr. Obama sought to reassure Americans that surveillance programs were already controlled by Congressional oversight. But lawmakers involved in such oversight are not so sure about that.”New York Times, June 7, 2013

What surveillance powers does the government believe it has under the Patriot Act? That’s classified.”ProPublica, June 10, 2013, in a Q&A on what is known about the NSA’s surveillance of Americans

“No sir,”Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lying to the Congress in a public hearing in March 2013 when asked “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” When pressed further, he added, “Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently—perhaps—uh, collect, but not wittingly.”

“We don’t hold data on U.S. citizens,”Director of the NSA General Keith Alexander, July 9, 2012, similarly lying.

“With all do respect, senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue. I’d be more than glad to come back in an appropriate setting to discuss the issues that you have raised.”Attorney General Eric Holder, June 6, 2013, speaking to Congress, in answer to the question from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk, “Could you assure us to that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored–of members of Congress– that would give a future executive branch unique leverage over the legislature?” Kirk followed up Holder’s answer with, “The correct answer would be to say, ‘No.'”

“For years, intelligence officials have tried to debunk what they called a popular myth about the National Security Agency: that its electronic net routinely sweeps up information about millions of Americans…. But since the disclosures last week showing that the agency does indeed routinely collect data on the phone calls of millions of Americans, Obama administration officials have struggled to explain what now appear to have been misleading past statements.”New York Times, June 11, 2013, under the headline, “Earlier Denials Put Intelligence Chief in Awkward Position”

“I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner by saying ‘no.’”DNI James Clapper, explaining why he lied to Congress instead of telling the truth by answering “yes” to the question of whether the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans”.

“What we learned in there is significantly more than what is out in the media today. I can’t speak to what we learned in there, and I don’t know if there are other leaks, if there is more information somewhere, if somebody else is going to step up, but I will tell you that I believe it’s just the tip of the iceberg.” — California Representative and Homeland Security Committee member Loretta Sanchez, in reply to a question in an interview on C-SPAN about what Congress members learned in a briefing about the surveillance program.

“The revelation that Mr. Snowden worked for Booz Allen is perhaps the most awkward for Mike McConnell, a former head of the N.S.A. and director of national intelligence who in 2011 was promoted to vice chairman at Booz Allen. He is now responsible for driving Booz Allen’s cybercapabilities and advancing its relationship with his former agency.”New York Times, June 9, 2013

Has the NSA’s massive collection of metadata thwarted any terrorist attacks? It depends which senator you ask. And evidence that would help settle the matter is, yes, classified.”ProPublica, June 10, 2013

“Senator Dianne Feinstein of California … said on Thursday that the authorities need this information in case someone might become a terrorist in the future.”New York Times, June 6, 2013

“ACCEPTABLE”A majority (56%) of Americans surveyed for a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll in answer to the question, “Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?”

“Not too/at all closely” — A majority (52%) of Americans surveyed the the WP/PRC poll in answer to the question of how closely they followed reports about the NSA’s surveillance program.

“[W]ith a Democratic president at the helm instead of a Republican, partisan views have turned around significantly…. Sixty-nine percent of Democrats say terrorism investigations, not privacy, should be the government’s main concern, an 18-percentage-point jump from early January 2006, when the NSA activity under the George W. Bush administration was first reported. Compared with that time, Republicans’ focus on privacy has increased 22 points. The reversal on the NSA’s practices is even more dramatic. In early 2006, 37 percent of Democrats found the agency’s activities acceptable; now nearly twice that number — 64 percent — say the use of telephone records is okay. By contrast, Republicans slumped from 75 percent acceptable to 52 percent today.”Washington Post, June 10, 2013, in an article on the WP/PRC survey.

“In a Pew Research Center/Washington Post poll conducted June 6-9, 56 percent of Americans said the N.S.A’s program tracking the phone records of ‘millions of Americans’ was an acceptable way to investigate terrorism, while 41 percent said it was unacceptable. But a CBS News poll conducted June 9-10, which instead asked about collecting phone records of ‘ordinary Americans,’ found that just 38 percent supported it and 58 percent opposed it.”CBS News, June 11, 2013

“The surreptitious collection of ‘metadata’ — every bit of information about every phone call except the word-by-word content of conversations — fundamentally alters the relationship between individuals and their government…. The government’s capacity to build extensive, secret digital dossiers on such a mass scale is totally at odds with the vision and intention of the nation’s framers who crafted the Fourth Amendment precisely to outlaw indiscriminate searches that cast a wide net to see what can be caught.”New York Times, June 11, 2013, getting it right for a change

“The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We should be thankful for individuals like Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald who see injustice being carried out by their own government and speak out, despite the risk. They have done a great service to the American people by exposing the truth about what our government is doing in secret.”Ron Paul, June 10, 2013, getting it right as usual

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things.”NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in an interview with The Guardian published June 9, 2013

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