Shutdown Helps NSA Shed Even Pretense of Surveillance Oversight Efforts

The eagle also provides an essential government service and has not been furloughed.NSA logoJames Clapper, director of national intelligence, made a great big deal at a hearing last week about the shutdown affecting work at the National Security Agency and having to furlough 70 percent of civilian workers. Those were the civilian workers, not the full staff. NSA surveillance is still going on.

Andrea Peterson at the Washington Post crunched the numbers the best she could (because the actual total of NSA employees is classified) and based on what little has been said, she calculated that about 15 percent of the NSA’s full staff of employees has been furloughed.

But, even though the NSA is still at work, that not-exactly-independent, not-necessarily-reform-minded surveillance evaluation team the White House put together is not meeting, because of the shutdown. Peterson reports:

While the National Security Agency (NSA) has largely escaped the government shutdown, the panel investigating NSA spying practices has effectively been frozen. Politico reports that as of Friday, the five-member Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies lost its staff to the furlough associated with the government shutdown.

The group, which is largely comprised of intelligence community and White House insiders, was initially scheduled to remain running during the furlough. However, former acting CIA director Michael Morell declined to attend a scheduled meeting Tuesday, citing the shutdown: “While the work we're doing is important, it is no more important than — and quite frankly a lot less important — than a lot of the work being left undone by the government shutdown, both in the intelligence community and outside the intelligence community.”

By Friday, the office of Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, which is facilitating the panel, reversed course and determined that panel members' staff should be furloughed, according to Politico's sources. While in theory the members are unpaid, so the panel could continue without support staff or payment for travel expenses, that seems unlikely.

Morell’s comments and completely symbolic gesture don’t exactly inspire any sort of faith in this group. Clapper’s flip-flopping on furloughing the staff that assisted the review team is also pretty telling.  

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  • Paul.||

    But, even though the NSA is still at work, that not-exactly-independent, not-necessarily-reform-minded surveillance evaluation team the White House put together is not meeting, because of the shutdown. Peterson reports:

    I'm not sure why this is so complicated.

    NSA Surveillance: Essential.
    NSA Oversight: Non-essential.

  • SomeGuy||

    but isn't protecting the people (their rights) essential? bahahahah i am dreaming

  • John C. Randolph||

    Why isn't that greasy little shitstain in jail yet? The whole fucking country knows that his minions are committing BILLIONS of illegal wiretaps every goddamned day.


  • anon||

    Please tell me that's a rhetorical question; I don't think it's possible to go so long without knowing the correct answer.

  • PapayaSF||

    Investigators are leaving Clapper be for now, hoping they can work their way up the clandestine network, and, eventually, bust whoever who his boss is.

  • juris imprudent||

    Some guy that goes by Heisenberg.

  • Loki||

    I won't be surprised at all if after SHUTDOWNMEGGEDON is over they quietly forget about this "panel" and nothing else will happen.

  • ||

    The shutdown, at least in terms of distracting people (once again) from the NSA shit, has been a complete boon to the administration.

  • Rich||

    Don't be so cynical, Epi. Why, I'll bet the NSA is pretty close to solving that Benghazi thing.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Given the amount of data they collect, I'm sure they know precisely who the guilty are.

  • A Secret Band of Robbers||

    They still have to process it, and to do you would require the assumption that they give a shit about terrorism.

  • juris imprudent||

    Don't be ridiculous they wouldn't dare surveil the communications of the overlords.

  • Rich||

    The letter telling NSA staff to go home informs them that "If you ... wish to appeal this action ..., you must file your appeal within 30 days .... You may obtain a copy of the appeals form from the MSPB website".

    *** goes to MSPB website ***
    Due to the shutdown of the Federal Government, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board has ceased all operations until further notice.

    Now, to be fair, the form *is* available on the site. But ... will "all operations" be up and running within 30 days, hmmm?

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I once was going to write "NSA Go Home" all over their walls 100 times

  • seguin||

    "NSA they go the house? What is this? LOCATIVE! LOCATIVE!"

  • SweatingGin||

    Does anything taste quite as nice as lightly grilled schadenfreude?

    Maybe progressive tears.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Good work, Boehner. Now the intelligence community and White House insiders aren't there to keep the intelligence community and White House in check.

  • Lord Humungus||

    Related: Jacob Appelbaum Doesn't Have Much Hope for the Future of Privacy

    They know damn well that they’re violating everyone’s rights; they’re breaking the wiretap act so often you can’t even begin to punish them. If they just wiretapped one person one time it would be a major felony, but if you do it 330 million times a second, what is that? Well, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s a business plan. So the utopias we’re reduced to are not like Ursula Le Guin, The Dispossessed-style anarchist moon utopia, but instead we are reduced to, "Someday we might have a limited government again, we might have a state that protects us."

    I don’t measure my government by the fact that it’s not as bad as North Korea. I measure my government by what it is supposed to do, the ideals it is supposed to live up to. So, for me, utopia is this idea that we might have a liberal democracy again, period.
  • ||

    Sad but true, too many people either just don't care about 1984-style governance or they're actively in favor of it.

    Maybe there's hope in Rand Paul but I can't help but feel that, even if he is somehow elected, the scum will just keep doing what they want regardless.

  • np||

    Needs more slinging rocks from the moon. Less democracy and more throwing people out of air locks.

  • Aloysious||

    I'm really starting to not like this
    Clapper dude.

  • ||

    Nobody likes the clap.

  • Rich||

  • Pathogen||

    These people do... don't other them.

  • ||

    Don't worry everyone, the panel members will still be paid once the shutdown ends.

  • sarcasmic||

    Makes you wonder if the "oversight" people do anything in the first place.

  • Austrian Anarchy||

    I stopped wondering long ago.

  • juris imprudent||

    They look over stuff, or was it overlook?

  • benji||

    Republican gets destroyed by Bill Maher on Obamacare:

  • Irish||

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh, Welch. This is why when you go on Bill Maher, you bust him in the fucking nose and don't let up.

    He's not intelligent enough to make an actual argument, so he relies on his audience's laughter to cut off his opponent, relies on numbers by having the conservative/libertarian severely outnumbered, and just generally talks over people with his smug, idiotically condescending tone.

    That's why you have to handle this like Christopher Hitchens.

    Hitchens: (Ahmadinejad) has said that he thinks the Messiah is coming back.

    Maher: So does George Bush by the way.

    (Audience laughs because they don't know what a joke is)

    Hitchens: Your audience, which will clap apparently anything, is frivolous. (Audience boos) Fuck you. (Hitchens flips them off) Fuck you.

    I've been on the John Stewart show, I've been on your show, I've seen you make about five George Bush IQ jokes per night. There's no one I know who can't do it. This is now the joke that stupid people laugh at. It's a joke that any dumb person can laugh at because they think they're smarter than the president. Like the people who make booing noises in your audience. (Audience boos) (While flipping them off) None of you are smarter than the president.

    THAT'S how you roll when you go on Bill Maher's show, Welch.

  • anon||

    I really love how he flips the audience off and's like "Yeah, fuck you idiots."

  • Sevo||

    It's a shame he didn't point out that stupid people *make* the joke.
    You could write Maher's jokes a week in advance and mail 'em in.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Politics is war by other means. It's all a zero-sum game, a battle for the whip with which to take from others, which is precisely why all of the hatred, enmity, and Robber's-cave attitudes find their perfect expression in political conflict.

    Matt wants to engage people in polite political discussion, but There is no polite political debate to be had--the state is the monopoly of coercion, and the only thing for an advocate of the NAP to do is to say no to aggression in any form. If you go into a political discussion and start handing out plaudits to statists for their asinine, unexpected comments, you deserve to get skewered by YouTube idiots. Either stop appearing on shows like these or stop being nice about it.

  • ||

    Surprise, surprise! Pro-amnesty rally will go on despite shutdown

    I'm sure a Tea Party rally would've got the go-ahead too guys.

  • Calidissident||

    Don't disagree with the decision, although I agree it likely would have been different had it been a Tea Party rally

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    "because the actual total of NSA employees is classified"

    Providing this information would be a severe danger to the national security of NSA's budget.

  • Irish||

    CNN has journalism students on for an interview, Irish weeps for the future.

    There are people on this show who say they wouldn't even bother talking about Ted Cruz. They get their news exclusively from Twitter and Washington Post. They all have punchable faces. One guy says he's 'old school' which apparently means that he wakes up to NPR. One dude says he gets news from Wapo and, I shit you not, Buzzfeed. A girl likes to get her news from Slate.

    They simply cannot talk enough about John Stewart, and it seems that none of them realize that he's been telling the same joke for 5 years.

    One guy says we shouldn't let people get away with spreading 'falsehoods.' The example he uses is people calling Obamacare 'unconstitutional' when, his words, "the Supreme Court ruled it's constitutional." It never occurs to this nitwit that people saying the ACA is unconstitutional are saying that it ACTUALLY violates the constitution and that the Supreme Court got the decision wrong. This would take an additional second of rational thought, which apparently our journalism students are incapable of.

  • Pathogen||

    ""the Supreme Court ruled it's constitutional." It never occurs to this nitwit that people saying the ACA is unconstitutional are saying that it ACTUALLY violates the constitution and that the Supreme Court got the decision wrong."

    And I've been told that the SCOTUS never actually said that Obamacare was constitutional in its present form, It would be unconstitutional as a penalty, yet constitutional as a tax,(which of course must originate in the house of reps) the answer to the question nobody asked...

  • Ghetto Slovak Goatherder||

    This is why I write opinion pieces in my local paper. I'm a science major, and I write more coherently than the journalism graduate students.

  • Pathogen||

    Journalism is easy, just cut/paste from UPI/AP/Reuters/etc., splice in a couple of reaction shots, and wrap that shitbird up.. easy as pie...

  • ||

    The year 2000 called, it wants its intro back.

  • ||

    the Supreme Court ruled it's constitutional

    Actually, Mr. Future Journalist, the SCOTUS ruled a portion of it constitutional, and another major portion of it unconstitutional. There are many lawsuits in progress, at least a couple of which will probably reach SCOTUS, challenging other portions.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    I dont think that student is a detail guy.

  • PapayaSF||

    I'm sure the guy believing that the Supreme Court has the Last Word on the ACA believes the same thing about Citizens United, right?

  • ||

    In this hilarious age when people will admit straight-up that "it's OK when our side does it" when prompted, holding them to task on hypocrisy is difficult.

  • Sevo||

    And: "Pelosi: Impossible to negotiate"
    This prolly has to do with her inability to form a complete sentence, but she claims that those darn rethuglicans aren't all on the same page!
    Imagine that! People who aren't in lock-step!

  • anon||

    Obviously this is why we need more government, to make sure we're all on the same page.

  • Pathogen||

    Yes, I can see it now, a cabinet level position called the "Same Page Czar™"...

  • Rich||

    Dammit, stop giving them ideas!

  • ||

    OK, I can handle the Jets almost intercepting and then blocking a punt. Now let's see if Geno can do something with it.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    Isn't it amazing how Clapper managed to get sentenced, pardoned, and return to his former position so quickly? What a country!

  • Pathogen||

    They know who you are, Anonbot...

  • C. Anacreon||

    Don't get down on our chubby bath-oil friend LardoSardo. In this month's print version of Reason, they quote him in the "commenters of the month" section, along with Xenocles and Paul. I don't remember the quote exactly, it was something about some sort of bean footage.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    Damn you again whoever got me hooked on XCom. Also, there should be a game where we get to be the aliens.

  • Knarf Yenrab (prev. An0nB0t)||

    The writing is abominable, but the gameplay is wonderfully existential if you play it the right way (classic iron man with hidden potential turned on). I lost a half dozen supports the last time I played through, but the threat of losing veterans makes for a much tenser game than the standard restart-level, always-win game.

  • ||

    What type of game is XCom?

  • seguin||

    Turn-based tactics with team building. Great game. I think you can get the original on abandonia.

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

  • anon||

    You got that wrong. Warty fucks his victims to death, not himself. At least, not to date.

  • Pathogen||

    More like this, I assume..

  • SweatingGin||

    Someone in china is considering how to extract the essence for use as an aphrodisiac.

  • Pathogen||

    Yeah, in the big sausage fest known as China, they need more aphrodisiacs...

  • Archduke von Pantsfan||

    The official space jam website hasn't been changed since 1996.

  • PapayaSF||

    OMG, the design and the HTML really take me back....

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    Chitty chitty bang wont like this at all, lol

  • cavalier973||


    Daycare worker is arrested for sexually molesting infants.

  • Irish||

    School gives out assignment asking students to 'prune' two amendments from the bill of rights and add two new ones.

    I feel like I wouldn't have a problem with this if the assignment in any way was about the amendment process. If they said 'you need to convince the American public to adopt your amendments' and explained the way amendments are created, then this would be a decent assignment.

    Instead, it says that the student is part of a 'task force' whose job is to revise the Bill of Rights.

    So in addition to being morally dubious and bound to offend many of the children's parents, this assignment also is based on total falsehoods and has nothing to do with the real amendment process.

    It also says that the GOVERNMENT of the United States 'considers it outdated' and wants it changed. This sounds more like an illegal coup than an amendment process.

    This seems like a pretty terrible assignment.

  • ||

    Obviously the 2nd would be the first to go, but what would a progtard choose next? 1st or 10th?

    Anyway, two new Amendments:

    1. You can haz free shit

    2. Congress shall have the authority to make any law necessary and proper to ensure social justice for the People.

  • Anonymous Coward||

    May as well "prune" the 10th, since the Supreme Court declared that it was a mere "truism" (U.S. v. Darby) and the 4th since it's dead letter. My first amendment would be: Article I, Section 8, clause 3 shall henceforth read as follows: [The Congress shall have Power] To regulate only the transportation of goods with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;

    Article I, Section 8, clause 13 is amended as follows: The Congress shall have Power - To make only such laws as are necessary for the Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

  • Pathogen||

    "School gives out assignment asking students to 'prune' two amendments from the bill of rights and add two new ones."

    Only two? They need a trifecta..

  • C. Anacreon||

    "Many American believe"

    Way to go there, teach, just keep setting a good example for your kids.

  • Eduard van Haalen||

    The A paper:

    I wud git rid of the amendment with the gunz and the one abut property and instid id have a rite to helf car and a rite 2 a pesful wurld b cuz we shud help ech other and not shut ech othir The End

  • Pathogen||


  • ||

    Or we can just go with the Mothers' Bill of Rights

  • Irish||


    I'd almost forgotten that existed.

  • Irish||

    Preserve Our Children's Innocence and shield them from gun violence in America, both real and scripted.

    Demand that our government create the same strong regulations for guns as they have for toys, cars and food.

    I swear this gets dumber every time I see it. The fact that she thinks guns are less heavily regulated than toys is always hilarious.

  • PapayaSF||

    The big diff is that the regulations regarding toys, cars, and food do not involve making it difficult or impossible for most adults to own any of those things, which are the kind of regulations I suspect she wants for guns.

    Also, an interesting use of the word "scripted." I guess using the obvious word "imaginary" would have been too embarrassing.

  • Pathogen||

    Well, that's simple enough, make sure that the guns package says "Recommended for ages 18 & up", make sure it contains no melamine or radium in its paint, and stamp"Maybe harmful or fatal if swallowed" on the frame, and its large enough that toddlers can't swallow it... problem solved.

  • widget||

    I watched the movie "Toy Story" for the first time yesterday. The bad next-door-neighbor kid straps an M80 firecracker to a toy green soldier and blows him (it) to smithereens. The only one holding a gun was the little green toy soldier. There's a deep message in there somewhere.

  • Francisco d Anconia||



    That is all.

  • widget||

    I've had Silk Road account for a couple of years. I didn't purchased anything there, just look-see. Contrary to some news reports, Silk Road did not host guns, ammunition, or contract killings. It was drugs and fake drivers licences.

    So yesterday, when I fully understood that Silk Road had gone down and I had some time on my hands, I set up an account with Sheep Marketplace. Ya know, so I could see what it's all about. The SM has Glocks for sale at about $2800USD. That seems a bit expensive to me, but I don't know. There are about 15 of them for sale, from one unvetted vendor: a rebellion in the making.

  • ||

    That's considerably higher than what an untraceable weapon would usually run. Last I had seen, handguns went for something closer to 3x retail, not 7x.

  • ||

    One of the best Dodger games I've ever seen. I Love LA!

  • ||

    Kirk Gibson disagrees.

    The Dodger Home Game Process:
    1. Arrive no earlier than the bottom of the third.
    2. Spend the next three innings texting and looking around to see who's there and who sees you.
    3. Leave no later than the top of the seventh.
    4. Pay no attention to the guys running around in pajamas and spikes.


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