Supporters of government secrecy and the mass monitoring of citizens are breathing a sigh of relief this week — and that’s a shame.
An effort to defund the National Security Agency’s broad-based collection of telephone and Internet records failed by a narrow margin in the House last Wednesday — despite the efforts of Congressman John Tierney, who stood up for transparency and vote in favor of defunding.
Yet, the Obama administration — which actually once touted transparence as one of its goals — and many congressional leaders fought hard to protect the program, warning that its repeal would endanger the nation. So, after a 217-205 vote to retain the program, the NSA will continue to collect data as part of a still-secret effort.
It’s to his credit that Tierney — who has also battled the Obama administration over NOAA fisheries regulations and practices as well — again broke ranks on this important rights issue.
“My position has been consistent since Day One,” Tierney, the ranking member of the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said last week. Sadly, not enough other Democratic lawmakers did the same. And by voting to go along and get along with administration leadership, the NSA efforts — whatever they are — will go on.
Look, as we’ve all seen in our local dealings with NOAA that government bureaucracies — like NOAA and now the NSA — put their own interests first, and if gobbling up all sorts of unnecessary data is deemed desirable, the NSA will do it. The demands of a free society become secondary.
It is essential that NSA monitoring efforts be brought to heel now. Whatever this agency is gathering today may look to be quaint compared to what it will do tomorrow.