When does "oversight" become McCarthyism?
This is exactly the sort of rhetoric and behavior that makes me mistrust the secret surveillance state:
Mike Rogers, a Republican representative from Michigan, interviewed by NBC’s Meet the Press, said Snowden was “a thief whom we believe had some help”, and added that there was an “ongoing” investigation into whether Russia had aided Snowden.
“I believe there's questions to be answered there,” Rogers said. “I don't think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the [Russian intelligence service] FSB.”
Rogers added: “Let me just say this. I believe there’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
“We have questions that we have to answer but as someone who used to do investigations some of [the] things we are finding we would call clues that certainly would indicate to me that he had some help and he stole things that had nothing to do with privacy,” said Rogers.
The Democratic chair of the Senate intelligence committee, Dianne Feinstein, a staunch defender of the NSA’s programmes, also spoke to Meet the Press. She said Snowden had joined the NSA “with the intent to take as much material down as he possibly could”.
Asked if he was aided by the Russians, Feinstein said: “He may well have. We don’t know at this stage. But I think to glorify this act is to set a new level of dishonour.”
Rogers' comments were backed by Michael McCaul, chairman of the House committee on homeland security. Speaking from Moscow, the Texas Republican told ABC’s This Week: “I believe he [Snowden] was cultivated by a foreign power to do what he did.”
McCaul said he could not “definitively” say it was Russia that helped Snowden. “Hey, listen, I don't think … Mr Snowden woke up one day and had the wherewithal to do this all by himself. I think he was helped by others. Again, I can't give a definitive statement on that … but I've been given all the evidence, I know Mike Rogers has access to, you know, that I've seen that I don't think he was acting alone.”
These allegedly responsible overseers made wild accusations on television, without producing any evidence (as Feinstein even admits) that Snowden was working on behalf of Russia. Now, the last I heard we weren't at war with Russia anymore, but I guess you just can't ever trust those Ruskies.
How can we possibly trust people who would behave in this way?
We've had some experience with this sort of thing in the past you might recall:
McCarthyism is the practice of making accusations of disloyalty, subversion, or treason without proper regard for evidence. It also means "the practice of making unfair allegations or using unfair investigative techniques, especially in order to restrict dissent or political criticism."
Some things never change. Which is why relying on "trust" and "confidence" is such a dangerous practice.
Greenwald doesn't hold out a lot of hope that congress will do much to "reform" these practices, although he is glad to see some of the proposed changes even if they don't go far enough. Ryan Lizza and Chris Hayes are more optimistic. I lean more toward Greenwald on this because I think that even the post-Watergate reform minded congress approved changes that were pretty weak tea, with a rubber stamp "court" and hamstrung oversight committees, so it's hard to see how this gridlocked, dysfunctional institution can accomplish what needs to be accomplished. Still, I think it's important to raise these issues and have them out in the public domain so that everyone who is impacted, from the public to the big global tech businesses, to our allies and our own government can start off from the same premises. I don't know what will come of it, but I'd guess that those who actually care about the constitution and civil liberties will be more alert going forward. That's a big deal even if it doesn't fully solve the problem.
Update: Also too, this:
U.S. security officials have told Reuters as recently as last week that the United States has no evidence at all that Snowden had any confederates who assisted him or guided him about what NSA materials to hack or how to do so.