Will Anything Change?

From “Edward Snowden’s nightmare comes true,” Philip Ewing, Politico:

“Snowden’s worst fear, by his own account, was that ‘nothing will change.’

“One month after the Guardian’s first story…there has been no public movement in Washington to stop the [FISA] court from issuing another such order.  Congress has no intelligence reform bill that wold rein in the phone-tracking, or Internet monitoring, or cyberattack-planning, or any of the other secret government workings that Snowden’s disclosures have revealed.

“There is no modern-day Sen. Frank Church ready to convene historic hearings about the intelligence community….  Far from having been surprised by Snowden’s disclosures, today’s intelligence committee leaders stepped right up to defend the NSA’s surveillance programs.  From Republicans, led by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, to Democrats, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, they’ve been nearly unanimous in their support.”

“One of the things for people who obsess about this stuff, like I do, is we don’t know what we’re buying and we don’t know what we’re paying for this service,” [University of Southern California law professor Jack] Lerner said.  We’re paying with our privacy, and we had a sense that we’re not paying very much…but we’re learning that maybe there is a cost, and maybe the cost is more than we thought it was.”

My strong sense at this point, with a lot more still to learn, is that we have gone overboard in the name of security at the expense of privacy.  We need a Frank Church to get us back in balance.

Petraeus at Congress

Gen. Petraeus testified for about four hours today to both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in closed session.

He told them what we already know, that the Benghazi attacks on our Consulate and our CIA building on 9/11 were terrorist attacks by a local extremist group linked to Al Qaeda, Ansar al-Sharia.

Petraeus said the CIA gave the White House information that was different from what Rice said on five Sunday talk shows.

At some point, the language in the CIA’s talking points was changed from “Al Qaeda-affiliated individuals” to “extremist organizations.”  Neither Petraeus nor Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Acting CIA Director Mike Morell, who both testified yesterday, said they knew who changed those talking points.

Rice had both classified and unclassified information.  Officials with access to both obviously aren’t going to divulge the classified stuff on Sunday talk shows.

But it seems to me they shouldn’t have had her appear at all rather than sell an explanation the Administration knew not to be true.  Or she should have been more non-committal and not pushed the whole spontaneous demonstration/anti-Mohammed YouTube video thing.  You have to walk a fine line between spilling your guts and lying.

If the Al Qaeda reference was considered classified information at that point and was changed for national security reasons, that’s okay.

But if it was taken out for political reasons, that’s very different and very wrong. If the Administration deleted the Al Qaeda reference because they thought it hurt Obama’s re-election argument that he had Al Qaeda on the run, that it would detract from his getting bin Laden, that’s both shameful and stupid.  Americans know that Al Qaeda still exists and remains a threat to us.