aNewDomain — The United States homeland will almost certainly be attacked by terrorists if an anti-terrorist law that has never thwarted terrorists a single time in over a decade is allowed to lapse, President Obama is warning.
“But this shouldn’t and can’t be about politics. This is a matter of national security,” the president said. He appeared to be serious.
Unless the U.S. Senate can reach a compromise over this weekend, a section of the USA Patriot Act used by the Obama Administration to validate the NSA’s mass interception, collection and storage of every American’s “telephony metadata” — details about their phone calls — will expire. (The only court to have considered the NSA program, called “Stellar Wind” and part of the Edward Snowden leaks, ruled that it is illegal because, in fact, the Patriot Act does not authorize it.)
After “Stellar Wind” came to light, top American officials including the president repeatedly said that it had thwarted at least 50 terrorist plots, including 13 in the United States. “But there’s no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate,” the respected journalistic watchdog ProPublica concluded.
The White House has been stalwart in its belief that NSA spying on the telephony metadata of ordinary Americans is absolutely essential to prevent foreign terrorists living overseas from attacking the United States. Just because it has never worked a single time over the last ten years in doing anything useful at all — except providing much-needed American jobs during a time of high unemployment — doesn’t mean that terrorists wouldn’t take advantage of its absence were it to go away tomorrow night, as it will if senators like Kentucky’s Rand Paul get their way.
“If some Senate Republicans believe, as the president does, that we must be vigilant in the face of terrorist threats, it would be irresponsible to let these authorities lapse, even for a few days,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday.
“If I lose these tools, it’s a huge, huge problem,” said mathematically challenged FBI director James Comey. “We use it fewer than 200 times per year, but when we use it, it matters tremendously [in some way, we think, probably].”
Stringing together words into sentences, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also warned of grave peril unless Congress renews Section 215. “We need to recognize that terrorist tactics and the nature of the threat have changed,” McConnell said Friday. “At a moment of elevated threat, it would be a mistake to take from our intelligence community any — any — of the valuable tools needed to build a complete picture of terrorist networks and their plans, such as the bulk data collection program.”
Be afraid. For some reason.
For aNewDomain, I’m Ted Rall.
Cover image: Wikipedia Commons.
Love you, Ted!!