Remember how the Obama administration was supposed to be the most transparent in history? While the usual critics will say it hasn’t been so since day one, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee is starting to get a little tired of the secrecy himself – particularly that surrounding the National Security Agency.
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt.) criticized the Obama administration Wednesday for such a glaring lack of transparency on the NSA’s controversial surveillance programs that he actually gets his information about them from whistleblower leaks and the media… not classified meetings.
Let’s say that again: High-ranking and presumably trusted members of the federal government know less about the government’s surveillance programs than we do.
“We sometimes find we get far more in the newspapers — we get crossword puzzles as well — we get more in the newspapers than in classified briefings,” Leahy said when asked about a disturbing New York Times report last week.
The article, based on Edward Snowden leaks, suggested that the NSA actually collects information from our social media accounts in order to “create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information.”
Leahy said he’d never heard of the program before reading about it in the Times. Still, he’s disturbed by it.
“If it’s accurate,” Leahy said, “it appears to contradict earlier representations the NSA is not collecting profiles or dossiers of American people.”
NSA boss General Keith Alexander said that the Times’ story mis-characterized the program. He said that social network analysis is used to track foreign targets, not American citizens.
“We’re not creating social networks on our families. We aren’t doing that. And the insinuation that we’re doing that is flat out wrong, and I take exception to them taking a classified document that dealt with foreign, not understanding it,” he said.
Of course, they could theoretically be used for that.
Additionally, the Times neglected to follow the NSA’s recommendations on the story.
“Here they have all these documents that they’re trying to leak out without all the understanding,” Alexander said. “We did give them insights. They didn’t take all the data. I don’t know what and why.”
Fun fact: Patrick Leahy was in The Dark Knight.