Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Al Franken: “Nothing Surprises Me”

The junior senator from Minnesota calms us down.

“I’m on the Judiciary committee and the Judiciary committee has jurisdiction (over) N.S.A. and on (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) and the Patriot Act,” he said. “I availed myself of these briefings so nothing surprised me and the architecture of these programs I was very well aware of.”

Only over the last week, through disclosures in the media, have the American people have learned that the N.S.A. has gathered information from internet and cell phone servers.

Last week, as the first disclosures were coming out about the N.S.A.’s collection of phone data, Franken said that: “The American public can’t be kept in the dark about the basic architecture of the programs designed to protect them.”

On Monday, he said, “I think there should be enough transparency that the American people understand what is happening…But I can assure you that this isn’t about spying on the American people.”

Franken, chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, also said there are aspects of security programs that he should be aware of but the public should not.

“There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that’s not appropriate for the bad guys to know,” he said. “Anything that quote the American people know, the bad guys know so there’s a line here, right? And there’s a balance that has to be struck between the responsibility of the federal government to protect the American people and then people’s right to privacy. We have safeguards in place …The American people can’t know everything because everything they know then, the bad guys will know.”

I don’t think Sen. Franken is asking us to “trust us” in the vein of certain administrations that have dealt with issues like this and said “Don’t worry your pretty little head about things we think you don’t have any business knowing about.  Nothing to see here; move along.”  His views are more an acknowledgement that yes, there are things the government does in secret that would be compromised if they were made public, and it’s always been that way.  People in Congress and the media who are shocked, shocked have not been paying attention.

I also don’t think he wants us to give up our natural healthy skepticism.  Trust is something that must be earned, and just because an institution has been in place for a long time doesn’t mean it is above scrutiny.  No one is saying that.  The focus, though, should be on the process, not on the shiny object or the gasping headlines.

Via Bob Cesca; HT to FC.