At a press conference today, Speaker John Boehner addressed the arrest of a man who allegedly planned to poison him in Ohio:
"We live in a dangerous country," said Boehner, "and we get reminded every week of the dangers that are out there. We saw what happened in Paris a week ago.
"My personal situation, I'm not going to get into it, but, you know, it's one thing to get a threat from far away. It's another when it's three doors from where you live. Obviously, this young man has got some health issues, mental health issues, that need to be addressed, and I hope you get the help that he needs. But I do want to thank the FBI and the Capitol Police, West Chester Police, and others [who worked to] resolved this issue rather quickly.
"With regard to the threat to the Capitol, coming frankly not far from where I live, the first thing that strikes me is that we would have never known about this had it not been for the FISA [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] program and our ability to collect information on people who pose an imminent threat.
"I'm going to see this one more time because you will hear about for months and months to come as we attempt to reauthorize the FISA program. Our government does not spy on Americans unless they are Americans who are doing things that frankly tip off our law enforcement officials to an imminent threat. It was our law enforcement officials and those programs that helped us stop this person before he committed a heinous crime in our nation's capital."
The political tables have turned almost 180 degrees. President Obama uneasily defends surveillance programs of the National Security Agency, while his liberal and libertarian opponents accuse him of lawlessly abusing his powers. The spectacle might even be entertaining, were it not for its worrisome implications. Republicans, the most reliable constituency for the surveillance policies that have protected the nation since September 11, are starting to walk away from them.
Should Americans fear the possible abuse of the intercept power of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland? Absolutely. In the midst of the unfolding scandal at the IRS, we understand that bureaucracies are callous creatures, capable of manipulation. In addition to deliberate misuse, closed intelligence agencies can make mistakes in surveilling legitimate targets, causing mountains of trouble. Consider Muslim names.
One part of the problem may be that far too many people are cleared to handle sensitive material. So many that the government cannot adequately investigate their backgrounds and their character. So many that secrets aren't really secret any longer.
Local news reports reveal that last night the Charlottesville, Virginia, city council voted to ban drones:
"City council also passed a resolution banning drones," reports NBC 29. "The use of drones for surveillance is not allowed in Charlottesville. the resolution supports a two year ban on drone use and prohibits city entities from purchasing them.
A notional woman named “Julia” recently made her debut on the Obama campaign’s website. Julia, it seems, needs help at every stage in her life, and if the president has his way, the government will be there to assist her in, among other things, getting a college education, finding a job, securing birth control, and providing for her retirement. But it turns out that all this assistance will not be enough for the hapless Julia as she moves through life. It seems she will also need some close air support.
Investigating Chinese surveillance is a rather lonely job. For all the dissidents yammering about dramatic arrests and torture and harvesting of organs, you can’t really guarantee publication or much of an audience unless you can prove that there are links to America: brand name corporations, scary cutting-edge U.S. technology, insidious Washington collusion. That’s the trifecta—and, now, if you could somehow squeeze the elections in there somehow…
“Breaking a Promise on Surveillance,” is the headline of a New York Times editorial this morning. At issue is an Obama administration proposal to allow the FBI to obtain lists of anyone’s email correspondents and web browsing history by issuing a National Security Letter without going to court.