NSA

Justin Amash Wants to Debate Barack Obama About the Surveillance State

"To those who seem unconcerned, we would say that the evidence we have is that the NSA is collecting information on all Americans."

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Gage Skidmore flickr

The recent revelation that the NSA is engaging in large scale data collection with the aid of major technology and communication companies is more than disconcerting. Even its proponents admit it's "creepy." Who are the American people left to trust in a time like this? Will Adams, the deputy chief of staff for Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), said his boss is now working on bipartisan legislation to combat this overreach and that he would love to debate the president, "Lincoln-Douglas style," about the role of the NSA. I spoke to Adams this afternoon about the scandal and what Amash hopes to do about it. 

Reason: What would Representative Amash say to citizens who believe the NSA data collection does not affect them?

Adams: To those who seem unconcerned, we would say that the evidence we have is that the NSA is collecting information on all Americans. That's the whole point- it is indiscriminate. There may be a proper role for surveillance activity on those who are suspected of violating the law or certainly where there is probable cause that people are violating the law, but the whole point of the scandal regarding the NSA's collection of telephone records and, perhaps, internet records, is that they are doing so indiscriminately, without any specific or particularized belief that the people they are surveilling have done anything wrong. When the government begins to collect massive amounts of information about innocent Americans and stores that data for who-knows how long, that creates a potential for government to use that information for all sorts of mischief.

Reason: Is Representative Amash familiar with Rand Paul's recent legislation, "Restore the Fourth Amendment"? And, how does he think this legislation could affect domestic spying?

Adams: Yes, Representative Amash is familiar with it. There are a lot of legislative efforts on both sides of the Capitol. In fact, we just had a meeting with Senator Paul and several other senators and house members who are strategizing what we should do next week. That includes both legislation and litigation. We're focused right now on our own bill, which we are writing with Representative John Conyers, the leading Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. We think our bill will address many of the issues that have arisen around the disclosure of the NSA's surveillance.

Reason: Is Edward Snowden a hero or a traitor? How does he compare to Bradley Manning?

Adams: We are not yet familiar with all the details of whether or not Edward Snowden exhausted all possible internal remedies before giving the information to the media. It is important and a great benefit to the American people to know about this type of surveillance, which we believe threatens our constitutional rights.

Reason: Jay Carney stated that President Obama "welcomes debate" about this issue. Given the opportunity, would Representative Amash debate the president about the role of the NSA?

Adams: We would love to. Do you mean like a Lincoln-Douglas kind of debate?

Reason: Yes, exactly.

Adams: Yes, of course. If the president is serious about engaging on these kinds of issues, we welcome that. We have to question President Obama's seriousness, though, because he talked a lot about liberty and protecting the rights of Americans when he was on the campaign trail. Unbeknownst to us until recently, he doubled down on President Bush's policies with respect to domestic surveillance. That makes us wonder how genuine his desire is to protect the civil liberties of Americans. But, if he wants to use the recent disclosures as an opportunity to reengage in this debate, we welcome it. As I said, we are working with John Conyers on bipartisan legislation to protect Americans from this type of surveillance, so it's not a partisan issue. We think there are many members on both sides of the aisle who want to solve this problem. If the president is one of them, we welcome him.

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  1. Amash would wipe the floor with President Teleprompter, the Constitutional law professor who apparently has never heard of the Bill of Rights and thinks that the Commerce Clause overrides every other part of the document.

    1. and thinks that the Commerce Clause overrides every other part of the document.

      It does. Or have you not been paying attention?

  2. Do you mean like a Lincoln-Douglass kind of debate?

    Except Lincoln gets to bring his teleprompter.

    1. Wouldn’t Obama be Douglass? And if so, what does he get to bring then?

      1. A slave with cue cards.

  3. Let me be clear… I know who Jay Z is, so there’s nothing to see here.

  4. Ha ha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha haha ha ha ha.

    And I’d love to own a tropical island. Which scenario is more likely to happen?

    1. Are we talking a big island or a small island? Maybe Sandy Island?

      1. Less famous, perhaps, than Atlantis but no less worthy, San Serriffe is a fictional island nation created by journalists at the Guardian. The nation was invented as an April Fool’s Day spoof in 1977; a description of it ran over 10 pages and appeared to fool some people.

        So it’s possible this entire Snowden thing is just a Snowden job?

      2. IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT SIZE WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!

        1. What do you mean “you people”!? I’m just trying to figure out how feasible getting you a tropical island would be. I’m sure we can find you something in a nice resource-poor–micro-atoll range.

          1. I appreciate the effort, jesse, and I’m frankly not picky. As long as Sting isn’t my neighbor I’m flexible as hell.

            1. There’s a joke about Sting also being flexible as hell to be made, but I’m feeling too dull-witted to make it.

  5. Not gonna happen on this planet.

    There isn’t even a parallel dimension where this debate takes place.

    1. Only in my imagination.

    2. So you think we are in the darkest timeline?

      1. Things are usually darkest right before they go completely black.

        1. It’s always best to keep extra goatees around just in case.

    3. There may be a perpendicular dimension where it does though.

      1. Well shit, when are we going to run into it?

        1. It’s running through us.

        2. It’s normal to us.

  6. Here is a problem.

    From what I remember, there was already a court case on telephone metadata and the court ruled the government did not need a warrant for it. Now I can’t remember which court it was so I don’t know if this is Supreme Court precedence. So the metadata angle by itself may not play in the courts.

    Now gathering the metadata of ALL US phone calls may go too far for the courts, we have to hope for that.

  7. We are not yet familiar with all the details of whether or not Edward Snowden exhausted all possible internal remedies before giving the information to the media.

    Anyone using “bureaucratese” will never be an advocate for the American people.

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