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Hullabaloo


Sunday, March 16, 2014

 
From the "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" files

by digby

Matt Stoller dug up another blast from the past about our history of spying on congress.
First, here’s Abzug, who had received her CIA file the night before the hearing. It’s pretty obvious the CIA was fighting disclosures, and only gave her the file at the last minute because it simply had to. The file detailed extensive surveillance of her activities as a member of Congress and as a private attorney, including surveillance of her work when she represented entertainment figures during the House Un-American Activities Committee red-baiting episodes. It also showed violations of attorney-client privilege. Colby responds that CIA surveillance happened to her and three other members of Congress in ‘perfectly natural’ ways, namely because she was talking to foreigners who might be suspicious. 
There's more at the link. You'll especially enjoy the part where the Mike Rogers of his day wonders if Freedom of Information requests could be a radical plot to cripple the agency and make America unsafe. (Mr Colby thought it might be ...)

What this means is that what we think of as "oversight" is largely a convenient construct and always has been. It's not useless, mind you.  It provides some avenues for officials outside the White House and the agencies to have access to classified material. And you never know, at some point they might even find a way to tell the people.  But the point is that from the very start of the surveillance state after WWII, the system has been closed and it has been abused and no amount of "oversight" has ever been enough to keep that from happening.

I don't know that any rules or laws will ever be adequate to that task. Social norms are actually probably more important in something like this (which is why it's so depressing to see so many people defending this stuff and condemning those who object.) In my opinion, as long as we are the world's policeman, the best we can probably hope for is constant pressure from the (mostly impotent) overseers, the legal system, and a free press, with the outcome being a constant growth and then restraint of the Deep State apparatus. If the constitution works, it should be possible to keep it mostly in check. But if any one of those pieces of restraining power breaks down, who knows what could happen?

ICYWW, Stoller's post was kicked off by this interview with Jason Leopold who is called a "FOIA terrorist" by some government agency because he files so many FOIA requests.

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