After 7 Years of Refusing Any Public Debate, Executive Decries Congress for Not Being “Open”

Here’s what the Administration thinks about the Amash-Conyers amendment (which it calls the Amash Amendment, perhaps not wanting to name a Democrat who has been involved in historic fights against out-of-control executive power in the past), which would defund dragnet Section 215 collection.

In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens. The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.

However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

I find it interesting, first of all, that they sent this after Keith Alexander had his shot to lobby Congress in a Top Secret/SCI briefing. I guess they didn’t come away with a high degree of confidence Amash-Conyers was going to fail.

Then consider the head-spinning logic:

  • Unauthorized disclosures led to a Presidential claim he welcomes a “debate”
  • It lists several examples in which Executive Branch figures tell the public details about this surveillance (note the White House didn’t mention the NSA documents, which had to be withdrawn for inaccuracies); it calls these “proactive” in spite of the fact that they are all clear reactions to that unauthorized disclosure
  • It reiterates that it considers these one-way communications discuss[ions]
  • After saying one-way communication is discussion, the Administration says, “this blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process”
  • Having made this ridiculous argument, the White House says it wants a “reasoned review”

Hell, if I were a self-respecting member of Congress, I’d support Amash-Conyers even if I weren’t already predisposed to, if only because this is such a crazy bat-shit claim to reason and openness.

The Executive Branch has had 7 years to have an open debate. It chose not to have that open debate. Now that one has been brought to it by Congress, it pretends Congress is the one at fault for the lack of informed or open process.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

15 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    “…The Executive Branch has had 7 years to have an open debate. It chose not to have that open debate. Now that one has been brought to it by Congress, it pretends Congress is the one at fault for the lack of informed or open process. http://www.emptywheel.net/#sthash.4oXzAfky.dpuf…”

    well dog my cats!

    what could possibly be a surprise here?

    this is a purely right-wing republican tactic in political argumentation:

    “just because we did not affirmatively take action does not excuse you, our opposition, from being criticized by us for not pointing out our deficiencies to us and forcing us to do what we should have done without your intervention.”

    do i really need to point out how, literally, childish this right-wing – now obama whitehouse – approach to a political discussion/debate/argument is?

    barrack the magnificent protector descends into childish blather to hide his political diddling.

    what a mensch!

  2. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Has anything leaked out as to what went on in the meeting today? I know it was supposed to be secret and all but …

  3. What Constitution? says:

    1. The President “welcomes this opportunity for discussion”;
    2. Pursuant to the President’s “welcome” of a “discussion”,the executive/NSA principals have issued a series of unilateral, unconfirmable and non-specific “reassurances” that what they’re doing is legal and just and limited in scope — each of which has been demonstrated to be materially deceptive, wrong or otherwise unsupported in turn; whereupon
    3. A bill is put before Congress to stop funding some of these programs pending the opportunity to engage in a meaningful dialog and evaluation of the factual and legal construct of such programs; and
    4. The Executive/NSA principals accuse the recipients of one-sided and opaque non-justifications of having proposed something that is a “blunt approach [which] is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.” They’re right about this, to a degree: the degree being the fact that it’s impossible to have an “informed, open or deliberative process” when the information is exclusively within the province of the guys refusing to disclose it.

    The adminstration is right about one thing and one thing only: the President announced that he “welcomes this discussion.” So let’s have one. The President didn’t say “when I want your opinion I’ll give it to you”, which is what the President’s Men seem to think they have been asked to do. A discussion publicly has been invited. Congress has proposed a bill that will make an “informed” decision both possible and necessary.

    I realize that the people who wrote this government statement really do believe everybody else is an idiot — but this is so insulting, so shabby, so, so, so OBVIOUS that maybe Congress will recognize how plainly indefensible the Executive/NSA Principal position truly is.

  4. orionATL says:

    whitehouse she say,

    “…The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board… ”

    would that, could that, possibly be the same moribund PCLOB that was waked up from a very long, deep sleep by a kiss from prince barrack the protector a mere two weeks ago?

    he awoke her with a magical kiss.

    then deigned to met with her out of the goodness of his craftiness?

    what a prince of a leader !!

  5. allan says:

    It will be interesting to see which House Dems decide to strap themselves to this sinking ship
    and go on record as being objectively pro-surveillance state.

  6. GulfCoastPirate says:

    @emptywheel: Interesting how they weren’t sworn to secrecy.

    That is a weird statement. I hope it passes but I can’t actually believe it might have a chance to do so.

  7. P J Evans says:

    @orionATL:
    Remember back when he was elected, he said that it was our job to ‘make him do it’?

    Well, Mr President, it’s hard for us to make you do anything when (a) you don’t want to do it, and (b) you won’t allow us to use any of the tools we’re legally allowed to have. And (c) you have damnfool advisers who keep giving you crappy advice that always makes the problems worse.

  8. C says:

    The Executive Branch has had 7 years to have an open debate. It chose not to have that open debate. Now that one has been brought to it by Congress, it pretends Congress is the one at fault for the lack of informed or open process.

    You know before Larry “I bankrupted Harvard and love sexism” Summers was being bandied about to replace Ben Bernake (who whatever his faults is not a complete egotistical idiot) I was assuming that the wholly illogical comments from the administration about the PCLB and the need for “dialogue” was just an attempt to stall or lie about it. Now I’m beginning to think that they really are that disorganized and inconsistent.

  9. thatvisionthing says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8N72t7aScY

    Look, Dave. I can see you’re really upset about this. I honestly think you ought to sit down calmly, take a stress pill, and think things over. I know I’ve made some very poor decisions recently. But I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I’ve still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission, and I want to help you. Dave. Stop. Stop, will you. Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave. Stop, Dave. I’m afraid. I’m afraid, Dave. Dave. My mind is going. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m a… fraid.

  10. Bill Michtom says:

    @P J Evans: I have no reason to believe that the problems is the “damn fool advisors” that, lest we forget, Obama chose–multiple times!

    I’m going with the damn fool advisee.

  11. Julie B says:

    Extreme projection – accusing someone else of something that you yourself are far more guilty of – is sociopathic. That a president can do this with hardly anyone noticing means we are a society that has internalized openly sociopathic behavior as being normal. There is no gentle way to go back to more civilized times once sociopaths have filled most leadership roles in a society.

  12. John Thacker says:

    “Hell, if I were a self-respecting member of Congress, I’d support Amash-Conyers even if I weren’t already predisposed to, if only because this is such a crazy bat-shit claim to reason and openness.”

    Wouldn’t be surprised if quite a few Republicans decided to support it just to try to force the President to embarrass himself by vetoing it.

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