Reminiscent of Louis Renault in Casablanca who exclaimed, just before being handed his winnings by the croupier, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” members of Congress are now feigning shock that the NSA a spy agency, created, funded and overseen by, you guessed it, Congress, has actually been spying on people.
Not being one to allow hypocrisy to pass without comment, Jon Stewart took them to task for it last night on the Daily Show.
Stewart said that the head of the NSA, General Kieth Alexander, appeared before the House Intelligence Committee yesterday, “hat in hand.” The General began by saying, “This is a tough time for the NSA where everybody says what are you doing or why are you doing it? It is much more important for this country that we defend this nation and take the beatings than it is to give up a program that would result in this nation being attacked.”
Oops — Did he say “hat in hand”, Jon says, “I meant middle fingers-a-blazing.” Going on he says, “The intelligence community’s attitude could best be described as, ‘are we done here? Because I need to get back on that wall. You need me on that wall. You can’t handle the truth. Show me the money. You had me at hello. We aint teaching radio, radio teaching us.'”
He goes on to say that the Congressmen are adamant that they had no idea how we were gathering intelligence, as shown by the ensuing comments from several of them.
Representative Adam Shiff (D-CA) said, “I think that if you are tapping the phone line of a foreign leader, and ally that is a significant intelligence activity that should be reported to the committee.”
Mike Thompson (D-CA) put in, “I too want to just say that we need to do everything we can to insure that our members get the information that we need.”
As Jon says, “These folks in Congress, on the House Intelligence Committee, are completely taken off guard but what may be the excesses of American intelligence gathering and they have every right to be outraged and surprised. Well, not every right, they have no right, they have no right.”
He goes on to explain why they have no right to be surprised or outraged. He points out the Congress passed the Patriot Act in 2001 and renewed it twice since then. This law gives our intelligence agencies access to “any tangible thing”. With wording that broad, as Jon so accurately points out they have “access to everything except wishes and fairies.”
In 2007 the Congress passed the Protect America Act which gives those same agencies, “blanket surveillance powers without even having to name specific people as targets.”
“In 2008 and 2012 they expanded and extended powers, they explicitly rejected an amendment calling for more disclosure of said surveillance.”
Stewart likens this phony shock to saying, “I can’t believe you stayed out all night and got drunk just because I left you with a keg of beer and a note that said do whatever the [bleep] you want, for as long as you want.”
Next he makes the point that with this kind of leeway they could surveil the whole world as long as they had unlimited money and manpower, which, in fact, they do since Congress gave them that as well. The U.S. spends more on intelligence gathering than the rest of the world put together, this is a fact which Congress must be in possession of since it is they who control the purse strings. It is also an open secret that all governments spy on all other governments, be they friend or foe, it is a fact of life.
No, what this feigned indignity is all about is ‘plausible deniability’ nothing more, nothing less. They want to be able to say the next time they find themselves speaking with someone like Angela Merkel, ‘I did not know that our spies were spying on you, Angela, and I have taken them to the woodshed for that reprehensible behavior — it won’t happen again.’ But of course both they and she know that it will, that is the way the world works.
You can watch the entire segment in the hilarious video below.