June 11th, 2013 at 9:41 am

Prepping for NOW! with Alex Wagner on MSNBC at noon (whoops…I shouldn’t use exclamation points because I’m on the Acela’s quiet car…shhhhh).

On the NSA leak, I thought this NYT editorial neatly elaborated on the points I made the other day:

–please, politicians: we beg you to stop falling over each other to tell us how much you want to have this debate.  We’re only having it because of a phat leak and we’re not even really having it because of the secretive nature of the information.

–if we did have such a national discussion, and we should, it would explain what the President means when he very correctly points out we can’t have 100% privacy and 100% safety.  It would either answer these questions posed by the NYT ed board…

Are the calls and texts of ordinary Americans mined for patterns that might put innocent people under suspicion? Why is data from every phone call collected, and not just those made by people whom the government suspects of terrorist activity? How long is the data kept, and can it be used for routine police investigations? Why was a private contractor like Edward Snowden allowed to have access to it? So far, no one at the White House seems interested in a substantive public debate.

…or explain why such questions must go unanswered.

According to a poll out this AM (in the WaPo) almost twice as many people (62%) think it’s more important right now for the government to investigate terrorists threats than to not intrude on personal privacy (34%).  So I’d say many of us are ready to listen with a sympathetic ear.  But the minds attached to those ears will be a lot less open if public officials continue to avoid either the necessary revelations as per the questions above or frank explanations of why they cannot answer them.

We’re also slated to discuss immigration reform.  Jon Chait argues that the legislative prospects for a bill are a lot better than you might think.  OTEers know that I basically agree, based on one number: 27% (Romney’s share of the Latino vote).

That said, as Chait intimates, the question of whether comprehensive reform passes probably comes down to one question: is John Boehner willing to violate the Hastert rule?  That’s the rule that says the majority will only allow those bills to come to the floor than can pass with majority support.

The other thing to watch here is the path to citizenship.  From here on in, that path becomes more like a Navy Seal obstacle course on the Island of Horror.  Advocates may well need to ask themselves whether any bill is better than no bill.

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4 comments in reply to "NOW!…(soon)"

  1. Bearpaw says:

    It’s interesting — by which I mean disappointing but predictable — that a similar privacy/security poll in 2006 had similar overall results, but with the Repub/Dem breakdowns roughly reversed.

    If you oppose it when “the other side” is in power, then you need to oppose it period. It’s not just hypocritical otherwise, it’s *stupid*.

    It’s also deeply wrong — and sometimes intentionally manipulative — when so many people present the topic as a simple trade-off between security and privacy. Less privacy does not automagically result result in greater security. Less privacy can easily result in significantly *less* security.

  2. David C says:

    We have already, voluntarily, given up our right to privacy to Google, Amazon, and the rest. These organizations have no obligation to treat us well, only to make money for their stockholders. Why should we worry about the government riding on their coattails?

  3. Bill Gatliff says:

    Not trying to be condescending, but it seems the notions of “privacy” and “evidence” are not well-understood by the common person. Fix that problem, and a lot of this drama will simply fall away because people will be able to realize that what NSA is doing is exactly what they WANT them to be doing.

    Verizon et. al already know who you are calling, and nobody seems to have any problems with that. In fact, they parrot that information back to you each month on your phone bill! And even if they KNEW you were calling somebody naughty, there would be nothing they could do about it because (a) they aren’t a law enforcement agency, and (b) calling even a naughty person isn’t against the law.

    That’s why Snowden’s justification for revealing PRISIM et. al to the outside world is so misinformed, narcissistic and schizophrenic: NSA having a point-and-click interface to every phone call record in the universe (if that’s what they really have, I don’t know) only helps them understand who they need to go talk to or keep a watchful eye on. It doesn’t directly allow them to send anyone to jail, because those call records simply cannot be used in that way due to our Constitutionally-guaranteed rules of evidence.

    It’s kind of like standing on a street corner, and noticing a car with a known bad guy in it going by. And then noticing the car behind that one, and wondering if that second car is related or not. Seeing those two cars going through the same intersection isn’t an invasion of anyone’s privacy, and is not evidence that any crime is being committed. It’s just suggesting that, maybe, you should wander down the street and see what’s going on.

    Snowden screwed himself and worked the rest of us into a lather over something he didn’t understand. Had he perceived the situation correctly, he would have realized that what we was witnessing was our government doing exactly what the citizens are asking it to do. I will be glad when his fifteen minutes are up.

  4. Bill Gatliff says:

    I can answer one of your questions to the NYTed board: a contractor had access to such sensitive information because our nation currently wants “smaller government” e.g. smaller government payrolls, but they still want SOME work to get done.

    Mr. Snowden’s security clearance procedure was almost certainly the same that would be required of anyone else, government employee or otherwise.