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We Live Under a Total Surveillance State in America -- Can We Prevent It from Evolving into a Full-Blown Police State?

It's our duty to save democracy from the authoritarianism emerging from the Executive Branch.

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—Both Feinstein and Rogers, like Obama, repeatedly claimed the NSA was not conducting illegal surveillance. Even after the Washington Post  published its story on "thousands" of abuses involving tens of thousands of individual cases, Feinstein  declared that "as I have said previously, the committee has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes," and Roger  said that he had seen he had seen "no intentional and willful violation of the law."

The paper also reported that "Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) did not receive a copy of the 2012 audit until the Post asked her staff about it."

Feinstein then changed her story, claiming that she had received the report under a different name. But the point was undeniable: she has clearly failed her oversight duties, not even bothering to read whatever study she saw revealing NSA abuses, let alone doing anything about them or even informing her own constituents of them. 

—Numerous members have  accused the House  Intelligence Committee of withholding information from them. As the Guardian reported on  August 14 , “Morgan Griffith, a Republican who represents Virginia's ninth district, has been critical of the committee for blocking attempts by non-members to obtain information about classified programs. On  August 4 the Guardian published a series of letters he had written to the committee requesting more details, all of which had gone unanswered.

Congress needs to elect Members of the Senate and House Intelligence committees who see their job as checking and balancing Executive power, not merely serving as spokespeople for it.

B. Indict Executive Branch Officials When They Commit Perjury

Executive Branch officials not only regularly lie to but hide information from Congress, most notably recently when director of National Intelligence James Clapper  denied in open session that the NSA was collecting data on American citizens, and then compounded his lie a few days later by claiming he had misunderstood the question. Senator Wyden quickly revealed that he had sent the question over to him the day before the hearing. NSA chief Keith Alexander has also repeatedly lied to Congress. The  N.Y. Daily News  reported on a  June 18 House Intelligence Committee hearing, for example, that ”NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander testified his agency’s programs are subject to strict oversight.” Alexander also testified at the same hearing that NSA surveillance had caught the N.Y.C. Subway and Mumbai bombers, another lie  revealed by the  Guardian as noted above.

But though senators and representatives know they are being lied to by Executive Branch officials, they have not had the courage to indict them for perjury when they do so. Congress has allowed director Clapper and General Alexander to remain in their posts after knowing beyond any doubt that they have committed perjury before it. This lack of courage must end. The only way to stop Executive officials from lying to Congress and the American people is for Congress to swear them in and punish them when they are caught lying, at very least by dismissal from their posts, but ideally by criminal prosecution.

C. Give Congress the Right to Declassify Data Indicating Waste, Fraud, Abuse and Crimes By the Executive

One of the most shocking revelations concerning congressional oversight is that even when a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee like Sen. Wyden learns that the Executive is committing crimes against the American people, that senator is  muzzled from revealing it to them. Although the senator could release this information on the floor of the Senate without fear of prison, he or she fears being attacked for jeopardizing national security, being removed from the Intelligence Committee, censure by colleagues, and/or losing the next election.

 
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