Ron Wyden, Refusing to Play Prosecutor, Says We Need to Ban Dragnet Collection of Purchase Records

Meet the Press continues to spew absolute idiocy regarding the Snowden leaks. In an attempt to get Ron Wyden to call Edward Snowden a criminal today, Chuck Todd suggested because Wyden is a Senator he has the authority to decide who gets prosecuted or not.

Todd: Where are you on Snowden? Is he whistleblower? Is he a criminal? And if he’s brought back to the United States, should charges be brought up against him?

Wyden: Chuck, I decided a long time ago if somebody was charged criminally I wasn’t going to be just doing running commentary. But the bottom line is this is a debate that shouldn’t have started that way, it should have started with the House leadership– [interrupting]

Todd: But did he commit a crime? Did he commit a crime?

Wyden: I think that’s something for lawyers–

Todd: You’re in the United States Senate! You have the–you can’t tell me whether he committed a crime?!

Wyden: I’m not a prosecutor, I’m not a prosecutor. And I can tell you years ago in the House I asked the Tobacco executives whether nicotine was addictive, they were under oath, they said no, and the prosecutors said they couldn’t prove intent. Here’s what the bottom line is for me. The American people deserve straight information from the intelligence leadership. If the American people don’t get it, you can bet there’ll be other situations like this.

It must be tedious for Todd that the Fifth and Sixth Amendments might inhibit his ability to sow controversy on a Sunday show, but they nominally exist in this country.

And the rush to force Wyden to convict Snowden led him to ignore what Wyden actually said.

When Todd asked Wyden, the Senator described some other things that needed fixed. In addition to ending the bulk collection of phone records right away, Wyden said,

  • We’ve got to fix this back door search loophole in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
  • We ought to ban all dragnet surveillance on law abiding Americans–not just phone records, but also medical records, purchases and others

Todd interrupted Wyden as he talked about back door searches to prove he didn’t know what the fuck Wyden was talking about (he believed it entailed getting records without court review in an emergency). Later, having been told that the government was reading the emails of innocent Americans without a warrant and possibly collecting bulk records of their purchases, but proven ignorant about what that means, he asked Wyden if there was anything else that would make us feel insecure about our privacy.

Ron Wyden implied today that the government is collecting bulk records of our purchases (almost certainly in search of our beauty supply and pressure cooker purchases).

But revealing critical details like this is not what Chuck Todd believes Senators are for. Their job is to determine guilt or innocence on the Sunday shows.

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 Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, 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 in Grand Rapids, MI.

18 replies
  1. Frank33 says:

    The First Amendment mandating Freedom of the Press is abused by the One Percenters, such as Chuckie Todd. He admits he is not a journalist. We can assume Chuckie has been promoted to “Mockingbird”, and gets his orders from the American junta, of the treasonous Generals, Hayden Clapper, and Alexander.

    There is no worse example of a corporate propagandist serving the One Percent, than Todd. It is amazing that a liar such as Chuckie is NBC News Political Director and Chief White House Correspondent. He directs the propaganda and he said it is not his job or the corporate propagandists job to report facts. Rather their job is to lie for the billionaires. Now Chuckie is helping the Secret Government consolidate its dictatorship with more lies and slander.

    Todd attracted the attention of liberal critics when, as TPM puts it, he suggested that It’s Not Media’s Job To Correct GOP’s Obamacare Falsehoods. But is that a fair reading of what Chuck said? Not according to him. In response to the criticism, Chuck tweeted “Somebody decided to troll w/mislding headline: point I actually made was folks shouldn’t expect media to do job WH has FAILED to do re: ACA.”

    “What I always love is people who say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”

  2. Arbusto says:

    I guess NBC thinks of MTP as a clown show. How else would so many GOPers pitching their tripe and with the likes of Tim Russert and Davie Gregory as talking heads, then up the pain level by using one of the worst reporters ever, Chuck Todd, as a fill in.

  3. scribe says:

    Yet another example proving the truth of Mencken’s maxim that the most un-convincable man is the one whose paycheck depends on remaining unconvinced.

  4. What Constitution? says:

    Chuck Todd is the man who dismissed respect for the Constitution with the truly abominable explanation that respecting the Constitution was a luxury of a a “view from 30,000 feet”. It may be a wonder that he remains employed in any position of responsibility these days — but it isn’t any sort of surprise that this loathsome toady would think himself clever by grandstanding such an exchange with a responsible adult like Sen. Wyden.

  5. allan says:

    Chuck Todd apparently learned his Constitutional Law from Season 1 of the series 24 : presidential candidate David Palmer is targeted for a revenge assassination because, as a US Senator, he had found a Serbian nationalist guilty of terrorism and authorized his elimination by a US Special Forces team that included Jack Bauer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24_%28season_1%29

    Articles 1, 2 and 3 powers rolled into one.

  6. jerryy says:

    Strange that Chuck Todd did not then ask for some analysis from the data collection, ie if lots of folks are using debit cards to purchase groceries and gas, the economy is getting better, but if lots of folks are using credit cards for that, the economy is poor because people are financing the basics. And Mr. Todd used to be involved in analytics….

  7. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    Just SOP for Sunday shows, EW. Don’t get bogged down in their idiocy. You have more important things to do…

  8. john francis lee says:

    If Wyden is going to appear at these sideshows he should answer such questions truthfully,

    “Speaking as the sold-out, candy-ass that I am, afraid to do my job … afraid to exercise oversight over the NSA, I can only stand in awe of Edward Snowden. I only wish I were half the man that he is.”

  9. misterrogers says:

    Aw cmon, Chuck Todd is very kind to pretend that anybody gives a rat’s ass what Wyden thinks. The abject and servile congress Wyden sits in is a sandbox. Their job is to funnel graft to the party they’re assigned to and defer to their betters.

    A real government (or the closest thing we’ve got to a real government, the Human Rights Committee) reasons from the authorities:

    The State party should:

    (a) take all necessary measures to ensure that its surveillance activities, both within and outside the United States, conform to its obligations under the Covenant, including article 17; in particular, measures should be taken to ensure that any interference with the right to privacy complies with the principles of legality, proportionality and necessity regardless of the nationality or location of individuals whose communications are under direct surveillance;

    (b) ensure that any interference with the right to privacy, family, home or correspondence be authorized by laws that (i) are publicly accessible; (ii) contain provisions that ensure that collection of, access to and use of communications data are tailored to specific legitimate aims; (iii) are sufficiently precise specifying in detail the precise circumstances in which any such interference may be permitted; the procedures for authorizing; the categories of persons who may be placed under surveillance; limits on the duration of surveillance; procedures for the use and storage of the data collected; and (iv) provide for effective safeguards against abuse;

    (c) reform the current system of oversight over surveillance activities to ensure its effectiveness, including by providing for judicial involvement in authorization or monitoring of surveillance measures, and considering to establish strong and independent oversight mandates with a view to prevent abuses;

    (d) refrain from imposing mandatory retention of data by third parties;

    (e) ensure that affected persons have access to effective remedies in cases of abuse.

    Wyden is too brainwashed and too weak to begin at the beginning like this. The outside world will have to impose this over time.

  10. RexFlex says:

    Maybe Chuck was thinking Sen. Wyden should follow Joe Lieberman’s example following the Wikileaks- Paypal adventure where the former Senator got to play thug and tell corporations who he thought it was a good idea to do business with. Maybe?

  11. Randy says:

    I’ve never seen Chuck Todd interview anyone without it seeming he’s trying to impress someone with his “my genius is being wasted doing this” attitude.

    Chuck Todd always looks like he just pulled his wig out of a dog’s ass. He bounces around in his chair so much as if he forgot to remove his Jeb Bush buttplug before leaving his dressing room. He taps on the table, clicks his pen and shuffles his papers so often that I hardly notice when he tries to make his point with his facial tics and hand gestures. I’m sure if he ever browsed his insurance plan’s formulary he could find something to make himself appear more seemingly lifelike. He’s hard to listen to on his own show. On MTP he comes off as a complete dolt. He and/or David Gregory will one day run NBC’s news division and won’t we all wish Tim Russert hadn’t kicked the bucket. Not.

    P.S. The soup of the day is chicken noodle with a hint of curry.

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