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Military Intelligence Industrial Complex Providing 30% Bonuses to Potential HASC and HPSCI Chairs

Because of Buck McKeon and Mike Rogers’ retirement this year, the Chairmanships of both the House Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee will be up for grabs early next year.

Roll Call decided to see how this was affecting funding for the contenders to replace McKeon and Rogers.Their results were pretty striking. HASC contenders Mac Thronberry and Randy Forbes and HPSCI contenders Devin Nunes and Mike Pompeo are experiencing significantly bigger hauls from defense contractors than in the past.

Four of the top five candidates for the chairmanships of the House Armed Services and Intelligence panels have raised considerably more money this election cycle than they did at a similar point in 2012. The same four have also raised much more money from the defense industry than before – in some cases, more than doubling their takes.

Most of them, too, have raised more money in the first full quarter since the departures of the incumbent chairmen became official, and donated more to other candidates and GOP party committees than in the last cycle.

[snip]

Thornberry, Forbes, Nunes and Pompeo each have raised at least 30 percent more through the first six quarters of the 2014 election cycle than they did over same period of 2012. Only King — who was Homeland Security chairman through 2012 — has raised less. Nunes has raised the most overall: $2 million.

Thornberry, Nunes and Pompeo have more than doubled in the current election cycle the amount they got from the defense sector over the same period in the 2012 election cycle, and Forbes has reaped 40 percent more, while King’s dipped. Thornberry has received the most overall — $344,350.

Thornberry, too, saw the biggest leap from the most recent fundraising quarter than ended in June compared with the same quarter in the 2012 cycle, 84 percent. Forbes and Pompeo also saw increases over that period.

Click through to see how McKeon and Rogers’ retirement announcements set off this boondoggle and how the take has allowed the contenders to fund their colleagues as well.

Ah, democracy as our forefathers intended! Where campaign bribery plays a key role in determining who will oversee the National Security State.

The RNC and the Dead-Enders

If you’ve spent much time in political party conventions, you likely know that the resolution process largely serves as an opportunity for active members to vent. While party resolutions might represent where the ideological base of the party is, nothing prevents the elected leaders of the party to blow off resolutions (though at times resolutions are deemed toxic enough for leaders to undermine by parliamentary stunts).

Which is why I find the response to the RNC’s resolution renouncing the NSA’s “Surveillance Prorgam” (it mentions PRISM and, implicitly, the phone dragnet) so interesting.

There are responses like this, from Kevin Drum, who spins it as pure politics.

I get that politics is politics, and the grass always looks browner when the other party occupies the Oval Office. And there are plenty of liberals who are less outraged by this program today than they were back when George Bush and Dick Cheney were in charge of it.

But holy cow! The RNC! Officially condemning a national security program that was designedby Republicans to fight terrorism!

Benjy Sarlin, in the account Drum linked, got the politics more clear, reading this, in part, as the influence of libertarians who largely gained ascendance as part of a backlash against Bush policies or at least failures.

But the resolution also is a sign of the increasing influence of the libertarian wing of the party, especially supporters of Ron Paul and his son, Rand Paul, who have made government overreach in pursuit of terrorists a top issue. Both Orrock and fellow Nevada Committeeman James Smack, who presented the resolution on her behalf, supported the elder Paul’s presidential campaign.

But I also think there’s more to it.

There is certainly a great deal of opportunism here (note, Democrats’ utter disdain for tech companies’ concerns about the dragnet make this a monetary, as well as political opportunity for the GOP, one already bearing fruit). And while the GOP establishment is still cautiously trying to regain control over the Tea Party forces that it once encouraged, there has also been a slow change in traditional conservatives’ stance, too, which I measure through Amash-Conyers opponent Bob Goodlatte’s changing position.

Goodlatte has issued three statements in recent weeks (January 9, January 17, and January 23) calling for reform (including more civil liberties protections and attention to tech companies’ concerns) and more transparency. In the most interesting of the statements, Goodlatte suggested that if Obama wanted to keep the dragnet he’d have to explain what purpose it was really serving and then argue that that purpose

Over the course of the past several months, I have urged President Obama to bring more transparency to the National Security Agency’s intelligence-gathering programs in order to regain the trust of the American people. In particular, if the President believes we need a bulk collection program of telephone data, then he needs to break his silence and clearly explain to the American people why it is needed for our national security. The President has unique information about the merits of these programs and the extent of their usefulness. This information is critical to informing Congress on how far to go in reforming the programs. Americans’ civil liberties are at stake in this debate. [my emphasis]

As I’ve been pointing out for some time, no dragnet defenders have yet to explain what purpose it really serves, and I’m struck that Goodlatte seems to suggest the same. Note, too, that Goodlatte was among the 6 Representatives who attended Bruce Schneier’s briefing on what NSA was really doing, along with leading GOP dragnet opponents Jim Sensenbrenner and Justin Amash and 3 Democrats.

I would suggest to Democrats who see this resolution exclusively as an overly cynical attack on Obama there may, in fact, be things that could explain why Republicans specifically or reasonable Americans more generally might have good reason to oppose the dragnet.

Now back to the resolution. As Sarlin notes, “Not a single member rose to object or call for further debate, as occurred for other resolutions.” (I like to think that had Michigan’s retrograde Dave Agema been able to participate rather than fending off calls for his resignation, he might have spoken up for authoritarianism.)

Instead of opposition from the Republican Party then, came first this quote to Sarlin,

“I think it probably does reflect the views of many of the people who really want to turn out the vote and who are viewing the world through the prism of the next election,” Stewart Baker, a former Bush-era Homeland Security official, told msnbc in an email. “It’s a widespread view among Republicans, but I think the ones that know this institution best and for whom national security is a high priority don’t share this view.”

Then what Eli Lake reports as a letter (Lake doesn’t say to whom) from just one elected official — KS Representative and House Intelligence Committee member Mike Pompeo — and 7 Bush officials (including Baker) blasting the resolution. Part of the letter, apparently, serves to waggle National Security seniority, as Baker already had.

Their letter says: “The Republican National Committee plays a vital role in political campaigns, but it has relatively little expertise in national security.”

And part of it serves to correct a technical inaccuracy that may not be one.

In particular the letter takes issue with the resolution’s claim that the NSA’s PRISM program “monitors searching habits of virtually every American on the internet.”

“In fact, there is no program that monitors the searches of all Americans,” the letter says. “And what has become known as the PRISM program is not aimed at collecting the communications of Americans. It is targeted at the international communications of foreign persons located outside the United States and is precisely the type of foreign-targeted surveillance that Congress approved in 2008 and 2012 when it enacted and reauthorized amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.”

At issue is the language of the resolution, which starts by discussing PRISM, but then talks about what is clearly the phone (though it would encompass the Internet) dragnet, but then explicitly returns to both, by name of the authority that govern them.

WHEREAS, the secret surveillance program called PRISM targets, among other things, the surveillance of U.S. citizens on a vast scale and monitors searching habits of virtually every American on the internet;

WHEREAS, this dragnet program is, as far as we know, the largest surveillance effort ever launched by a democratic government against its own citizens, consisting of the mass acquisition of Americans’ call details encompassing all wireless and landline subscribers of the country’s three largest phone companies.

[snip]

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to enact legislation to amend Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make it clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity, phone records and correspondence — electronic, physical, and otherwise — of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;

RESOLVED, the Republican National Committee encourages Republican lawmakers to call for a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying and the committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform ot end unconstitutional surveillance as well as hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance; [my emphasis]

7 Bush officials and 1 HPSCI member (but not, oddly enough, the always boisterous Mike Rogers) have weighed in to say that the NSA doesn’t monitor the searches of some Americans and then trots out the tired “targeted at foreign persons” line, without addressing the question of blanket surveillance of communications more generally.

Sarlin, in his piece, similarly retreats to “targeting” claptrap, claiming only that “lawmakers have accused the agency of overreaching.”

Somehow both the Bush dead-enders and Sarlin neglect to mention backdoor searches, which allow the NSA to use metadata collected under a range of dragnets to obtain US content without even Reasonable Articulable Suspicion.

And while it’s not all that surprising that Sarlin chose not to discuss how NSA can get domestic content, as I will show in a follow-up post the collection of dead-enders (Lake fleshed out the list here) who weighed in to deny that the NSA dragnet gets US person content is particularly instructive, as I’ll show in a follow-up post.

65 2010 House Freshmen Re-Authorized PATRIOT with No Notice of Section 215 Dragnet

The White Paper claims that the Section 215 dragnet is legal, in large part, because Congress has twice extended the PATRIOT Act without changing the terms of Section 215. A key of part that argument rests on the Administration’s claim that it gave notice to Congress about the dragnet.

Moreover, information concerning the use of Section 215 to collect telephony metadata in bulk was made available to all Members of Congress, and Congress reauthorized Section 215 without change after this information was provided. It is significant to the legal analysis of the statute that Congress was on notice of this activity and of the source of its legal authority when the statute was reauthorized.

But as I noted, the White Paper actually suggests that a big group of Congressmen — most of the 93 members elected in 2010 — got no notice. While the Administration provided House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers with a description of the program, he appears not to have invited all members of the House to read it, as Dianne Feinstein invited all members of the Senate to do.

Since I wrote that post, Justin Amash confirmed that his class did not get an invitation to read the notice.

Less than two weeks ago, the Obama administration released previously classified documents regarding ‪#‎NSA‬’s bulk collection programs and indicated that two of these documents had been made available to all Members of Congress prior to the vote on reauthorization of the Patriot Act. I can now confirm that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence did NOT, in fact, make the 2011 document available to Representatives in Congress, meaning that the large class of Representatives elected in 2010 did not receive either of the now declassified documents detailing these programs.

I double checked via Twitter, and Amash confirmed that Rogers just never invited the House to read it.

Just 7 2010 freshmen (Sandy Adams, Trey Gowdy, Tim Griffin, Joe Heck, Tom Marino, Ben Quayle, and Dennis Ross) were on either the House Intelligence Committee or the House Judiciary Committee at the time, and therefore presumably had the opportunity to learn about the dragnet there.

The PATRIOT Act Reauthorization passed by a broad 250-153 margin.

But by my calculation, 65 of those yes votes were freshmen who had never had opportunity to learn about the dragnet. Many of them would have presumably voted to reauthorize it knowing about the dragnet (and Mike Pompeo, who played a key role in defeating Amash-Conyers, was a non-vote who would clearly vote yes). But in theory at least Mike Rogers chose not to inform a sufficiently large group that it could have swung the vote.

The Administration claims it informed Congress about the dragnet. But whether acting on his own or at the behest of the Administration, Mike Rogers left a sufficiently large group in the dark so as to negate the validity of that claim.