Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee Hearing (video here; transcripts here) on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and their (lack of) oversight and accountability was pretty vacuous. Seeing as how the committee virtually ensured nothing was at stake during the hearing, it was dreadfully boring. Having slogged through the entire video recording, I almost want to write committee chair (and one of my senators) Dianne Feinstein and request three hours of my life back.
The vast majority of the automatons participants seemed to rotate between three modes of operation:
Bashing Edward Snowden and “the media” for exposure of the National Security Agency’s activities
Emphasizing the legal and transparent nature of everything the NSA, FISC, etc. do
Praising the dedication, patriotism, intelligence, etc. of the United States’ national security employees and the members of the committee
Taking a page from the Condoleezza Rice book of fearmongering, the committee members stoked fear about the constant terrorist threats that the United States is purportedly facing. DiFi opened up the hearing with a completely irrelevant news update about the recent al-Shabaab attack in Kenya. Several other members, notably NSA Director Keith Alexander, repeatedly implied that disrupting the NSA’s programs would result (or would have resulted) in terrorist attacks upon American soil.
Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden, the two on the intelligence committee who have been mildly critical of the NSA, were the lone exceptions to the hours-long monotony. They at least asked some questions that could not be characterized as softballs, but were really unable to pursue a line of questioning given the five-minute limit that DiFi placed on each senator’s question and answer session with the panelists (Alexander, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole).
The hearing finished up with statements from two NSA supporters, Ben Wittes and Tim Edgar. Their sycophantic performances ensured the hearing could conclude without any interesting information filtering through to the public.
Several senators in their non-questions to Alexander and Clapper seemed to have a less than adequate grasp of the hearing’s subject matter. Marcy Wheeler comments that these senators “filibustered themselves so they wouldn’t have to ask any questions (and therefore betray ignorance).”
DiFi again should win the award for most supercilious defense of a secretive government national security program. Opening the hearing with the statement that “The public has a misperception and that must be corrected,” she gaslighted throughout the hearing, uttering such ridiculous assertions as “Much of the press has called this a surveillance program. It is not.”
It is very hard to escape the conclusion that Glenn Greenwald came to after watching the hearing: “The very idea that meaningful reform of the NSA will come out of this annexed, captured, corrupted Committee is ludicrous on its face.”