“We are here today for a very simple reason: to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American.”—Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI).They had a vote in the US House of Representatives on Wednesday evening, on something called House Amendment #413 to House Bill #2397. The amendment was co-sponsored by Congressmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI). As the brief debate and the surprising vote on the amendment would reveal, bi-partisanship on both sides of the question of the amendment’s passing was an unusual feature of Amash-Conyers.
The amendment would have stripped funding for the NSA practice of conducting bulk metadata collection on all phone calls of all US citizens. This practice, defended as necessary by those who claim that, without it, Americans would face getting blown up on a regular basis by terrorists, gives the US government a treasure-trove of intimate personal data that makes the NSA’s job of spying on everybody and everything a lot easier, according to the nation’s spy chiefs.
The vote in the House on this amendment turned out to be much closer than the pro-NSA faction (the leadership of all three branches of the US government) thought possible. The amendment was defeated 217-205, just seven votes short of being passed.
By securing a recorded vote on the amendment, Amash-Conyers provides us with a public record of who, in the face of clear public opposition to the metadata collection, nevertheless supports universal spying on all American citizens.
We need to understand what universal spying on all Americans actually means: the utter destruction of the Fourth Amendment, and so a fundamental attack on the Constitution of the United States, which all members of the US government are pledged to support and defend:
“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”—Oath of a member of CongressOpenly declaring their complete contempt for their oaths in this regard, the fascist spy regime defenders closed ranks around defeating the Amash-Conyers amendment.
The President dispatched his NSA spy chief, General Keith Alexander, to cheerlead for spying on Americans. Alexander told the House they were voting on whether they would allow silly concerns over freedom (schmeedom) to enable terrorists to kill Americans.
The President pressured Democrats to vote “no” on the amendment. Most Democrats in the House told the President to go to hell—they voted “yes” anyway. While a majority of Republicans would vote "no" on Amash-Conyers, 94 Republicans defied their leadership and voted "yes".
The House leadership offered a substitute or “fig-leaf” amendment (#99), the “Pompeo” amendment, which was debated and passed just before consideration of Amash-Conyers. The Pompeo amendment simply restated support for the current law, making no mention of the fact that bulk data collection is unconstitutional and a threat against the liberty of all Americans.
The debates on the two measures provided an opportunity for both sides to present their best (or most willing) speakers to make their cases to the people.
The fascists chose Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who has made a mini-career since Edward Snowden’s revelations were made public, going about defending the destruction of the Constitution as good medicine for what ails America. Additionally, amazingly, the House leadership let fly for one of her last bombing runs on reason, Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN), whose ministry on the virtues of tyranny were strikingly stupid.
Proponents of the amendment, other than Amash and Conyers, included Jim Sensenbrenner (R-MI), the person who authored the Patriot Act, who would once again explain even he is disturbed by how fascist the government is behaving now, and one fairly unknown Congresswoman, who delivered probably the best argument explaining just how stupidly, and treasonously, the entire US government is behaving right now (well, and for some time) in perpetrating and enabling the fascist spy regime.
MIKE ROGERS’ POLITICS OF BIG
Let’s start with what the defenders of universal spying had to say. Mostly, they just wanted people to realize that 9/11 was a real opportunity to finally build the kind of USA that fascists had always dreamed of, an America where the “Politics of Big” hold sway over all of our lives.
Here Mike Rogers explains to us that the NSA spy-on-all-Americans scheme is a model for how ALL government programs should work:
“No other program has the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch doing the oversight of a program like this. If we had this in the other agencies, we would not have problems.”Of course it depends on what the meaning of “this” is.
In the NSA program, the “oversight” amounts to a lot of rubberstamping of things most members of Congress, and almost all Americans had no idea were even going on until Edward Snowden kindly let us know about it. Further, “this” means secret courts redefining constitutional rights of Americans, without any public knowledge or debate “this” is going on. What “this” actually means is a direct assault on constitutionally-protected liberty. And THAT is what Mike Rogers thinks is the model to eliminate "problems" in government. You might call it Congressman Rogers' final solution.
Rogers, whose statements here are quite illuminating and quite amazing, coming as they do from a supposedly small-government Republican, explains to us the impediment to achieving his dream government is undue concern about freedom—and also Facebook!?:
“Think about the people who came here before us in this great body—Madison, Lincoln, Kennedy served here—and about the issues they dealt with and about the Politics of Big and of moving America forward while upholding the Article I mandate to this House in that we must provide for the general defense of the United States and think of those challenges. Think of those challenges that they met. Are we so small that we can only look at our Facebook "likes" today in this Chamber, or are we going to stand up and find out how many lives we can save? Let us get back to the big politics of protecting America and moving America forward. Soundly reject this amendment. Let’s do this right on the Intel authorization bill.”Rogers likened his zealous fascism to the feelings of inept spy, Nathan Hale, whose main contribution to America is a slogan:
“In September 1776, Gen. George Washington sent Captain Nathan Hale to secretly gather intelligence about the British forces in New York. When discovered by the British, Hale was executed as the first American spy and spoke his famous last words: 'I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.'"But Nathan Hale was spying on the British enemy—NOT on all Americans as the potential enemy. And the rebels were fighting, in part, against the very sort of abusive general searches, conducted by the British against many American homes and businesses, that the NSA is using against all Americans. Nathan Hale would count Mike Rogers as the enemy.
Then Rogers made the argument much heard in the fascist ranks that “In June 1944, America and our allies had an important secret.” Usually this is followed by “and what if Edward Snowden had revealed that!?”
But that secret was about an impending invasion of Europe to destroy Nazis, not an ongoing and successful effort by the United States government (acting like a bunch of Nazis) to destroy the liberty of all American citizens.
Rogers’ “Politics of Big”, in the context we are discussing, just shows how arrogant and confident the fascists are that the American people are too stupid and too asleep to care about their rights—for the only “Politics of Big” that comes to mind in this context is that of Rogers’ best pal, Big Brother.
FACTS AND FALSE NARRATIVES
On Wednesday, Bachmann was not railing against gay marriage, she was demanding that Americans stop caring about freedom and start paying attention to what Bachmann called “facts”. Just in case people were laughing too much at that to pay attention, Bachmann supplied an extended explanation of what she meant by “facts” in regard to the NSA:
“We need to deal in facts. And the facts are real. And the facts are these. The only people who have benefitted from the revelation of classified information, by someone who worked for this government, who intentionally and unauthorized declassified some of the most sensitive national security information that we have, the only result is that those who are engaged in Islamic jihad will have been benefitted. And those that we seek to protect have not.”As some people have pointed out, this is essentially the same argument against freedom made by that other fascist jerk, Barack Obama (here in a statement to the press made on June 7, 2013):
“If every step that we’re taking to try to prevent a terrorist act is on the front page of the newspapers or on television, then presumably the people who are trying to do us harm are going to be able to get around our preventive measures. That's why these things are classified.”Obama also explained in his statement his basic assumption about governing priorities:
“When I came into this office, I made two commitments that are more important than any commitment I made: Number one, to keep the American people safe; and number two, to uphold the Constitution.”The problem is, the presidential oath says nothing about the Constitution being only a secondary consideration.
The president pledges to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States”, the legal code upon which is based presidential power and authority. Further, protecting the rights of the people is the fundamental duty of any president seeking to “keep the American people safe”. When a president or when the Congress and the courts divide these ideas into conflicting concerns, the people’s safety, their liberty, and the security of the nation, are automatically imperiled.
Currently, the government of the United States views the fundamental liberty of the American people, and the people themselves, as threats to the government. The notion that the liberty of the people is only temporarily endangered is a lie. In fact, so secret are the workings of the governmental enemies of the people, that the US military refuses to release the names of the enemies the USA is fighting in the eternal wars on terror.
How can the people make any informed decision in their voting, when the government is treating informed voting as too threatening to its war policy to tolerate?
Again, as Michele Bachmann says: “the only result [of better informing voters about government spying on them] is that those who are engaged in Islamic jihad will have been benefitted.”
How can that statement be treated as anything other than Bachmann’s usual buffoonery UNLESS one interprets it to mean that any American citizen who feels they have benefitted to have learned the truth about the US government’s fascist spy regime—must be engaged in Islamic jihad?
While idiotic, THAT is a typical rationale of the pro-NSA fascists, to whom everyone is a potential enemy—including the American people.
As Representative Tom Cotton (R-AR), explained the function of the American people in the fascist spy regime scheme:
“Some of you’ve heard the analogy that if you want to search for a needle in a haystack, you have to have the haystack.”Cotton argued that the “haystack” would no longer be available to the NSA to poke through if the Amash-Conyers amendment was passed, and that this tool was necessary to enable the USA to keep fighting (and fighting and fighting and fighting) the wars people now understand have been catastrophic mistakes:
“Folks, we are at war. You may not like that truth. I wish it weren’t the truth. But it is the truth. We’re at war. Do not take this tool away from our warriors on the frontline.”Cotton was chosen to speak on that point, because he has combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, thus giving the impression that war veterans would naturally be pro-NSA, and pro-fascist.
CAPTAIN GABBARD, BEN FRANKLIN, & EXPENDABLE LIBERTY
“Countless men and women from my State of Hawaii and all across the country have worn the uniform and put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and our liberties. I cannot in good conscience vote to take a single dollar from the pockets of hardworking taxpayers from across the country to pay for programs which infringe on the very liberties and freedoms our troops have fought and died for. Ben Franklin said: They who give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”Before this, a number of speakers, all proponents of the Amash-Conyers amendment, had pointed out the fascist defects of current government behavior:
Justin Amash (R-MI): “Opponents of this amendment will use the same tactic that every government throughout history has used to justify its violation of rights—fear.”
John Conyers (D-MI): “We have learned that this law has been misused to allow the collection of call detail information on every phone call made in the United States under a bizarre interpretation of the statute’s authorization to collect ‘‘relevant’’ information. As my colleague and author of the statute, Representative Jim Sensenbrenner [author of the Patriot Act], has stated, ‘This expansive characterization of relevance makes a mockery of the legal standard.’ ”
Jim Sensenbrenner (R-MI): “I rise in strong support of the Amash amendment. I do so as the person who was the principal author of the PATRIOT Act in 2001…What [the Amash-Conyers amendment] does do is to prevent the collection of data of people who are not subject to an investigation…The time has come to stop [bulk data collection on all Americans], and the way we stop it is to approve this amendment.”
Mick Mulvaney (R-SC): “It’s a question of balancing privacy versus security. It’s a question beyond that. It’s a question of who will do the balancing. Right now, the balancing is being done by people we do not know, by people we do not elect and, in large part right now, by somebody [James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence] who has admitted lying to this body at a hearing. That’s wrong.”
Zoe Lofgren (D-CA): “I want to talk about the much ballyhooed oversight. Every year, there is a report to the Judiciary Committee, an annual report, on section 215. This year, the report was eight sentences—less than a full page. To think that the Congress has substantial oversight of this program is simply incorrect.”Congresswoman Lofgren introduced into the Congressional Record a letter sent from the Department of Justice to Congressman Sensenbrenner, which claimed the number of “unique identifiers” queried against the entire database of phone records of Americans were very few: “NSA has reported that in 2012, fewer than 300 unique identifiers were used to query the data.”
Lofgren noted about this that it is a joke to claim that the records of every American citizen are required to enable the search of a few hundred records a year. Of course, the DOJ argued that what makes the entire database of all US phone records “relevant” is that the NSA wants to be able to search everyone and everything.
In other words, the government has redefined relevance to thwart the legal limitations imposed by the Fourth Amendment. The government has redefined liberty in the same way—viewing it, as Barack Obama plainly said, as a secondary or actually as an expendable consideration.
THE TRAITORS LIST
As noted, one of the chief benefits to voters of the Amash-Conyers amendment was, as Congressman Amash said in the debate, to create a public record answering a vital question about each representative:
“We are here to answer one question for the people we represent: Do we oppose the suspicionless collection of every American’s phone records?”A majority of the House of Representatives voted “no”, that they do not oppose this unconstitutional betrayal.
We have the names of these Representatives, a Traitors List of fascists, who need to be removed from Congress.
The American people already wish to fire ALL of Congress. Realistically, that will not happen.
But, let us start at least with the Traitors List (the “noes” are the traitors—the 12 non-voting reps had better have a good excuse other than cowardice).