by Patrick Devlin

As reported late last week, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who, late last year, was rumored to be considering, or being considered as a prospective left-challenge candidate to take on the putative front runner Hillary Clinton in the up-coming race for the presidency, made an angry and impassioned demand of the National Security Agency that it reveal if or if it is not spying on elected US officials and their staffs. In a letter to NSA Director Keith Alexander that Sanders made public on January 3, the senator said he was “deeply concerned” about the recent revelations regarding the Obama administration’s expansion of the world-wide spying regime carried out by the nation’s spy agencies stating the he found reports that America spies on foreign leaders (both our friends and our enemies) were “disturbing.”

The NSA, responded promptly and respectfully to the senator’s demand ensuring Sanders that he as a national elected official at the highest level of government should have no fear because;

“NSA’s authorities to collect signals intelligence data include procedures that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Such protections are built into and cut across the entire process. Members of Congress have the same privacy protections as all U.S. persons”

The agency, further attempting to assuage the senators fears, ensured that the agency will “continue to work to ensure that all Members of Congress, including Sen. Sanders, have information about NSA’s mission, authorities, and programs to fully inform the discharge of their duties.”

No word at this time as to how Sanders reacted to being told the same thing that regular American citizens have been told about the total surveillance program that its government has been pursuing and expanding upon for decades, an explanation re-framed nicely by President Obama this past June when us ‘lil citizens were advised, “Let me be very clear about some, uh, of the hype that we have been hearing over the last day or so…Nobody is listening to your telephone phone calls”, and further, “This program, by the way, is fully overseen not just by congress but by the FISA court.”

Translation: “Don’t worry folks, though you may not fully understand the steps we have to take in this scary world, believe me we’re just trying to do our job as your protectors. And by the way, you folks gave us this authority anyhow – so what’s the worry?”

In light of the structure set in place that allows me to give these protectors the authority they claim that I have given to them, I mean in this land where secret courts discuss the application of secret laws the violation of which could result in an American citizen being permanently detained in our very own ‘gulag’, Senator Sanders (a law maker) may not be aware of the 2009 agreement that governs the dissemination of un-checked and un-redacted data about Americans, stolen through warrantless wiretaps by our secret spy agencies, to our ‘partner’ in the Middle East, Israel. I know about this due to a report published in the Guardian by Glen Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewan MacKaskill in September 2013 that disclosed to the public a memorandum of understanding that was revealed by Edward Snowden. This memorandum of understanding between The US and Israel shows that we are giving unwashed SIGINT, illegally collected spy data on all Americans that the memo defines as, “unevaluated and unminimized…metadata and content”, to the Israelis and simply requesting of them (i.e. in an agreement that does not contain a single measure of enforcement) to “Destroy upon recognition” any illegally collected spy data that involves communications of (and the list is long so pardon me for being complete):

“US Government officials includ(ing) officials of the Executive Branch (including the White House, Cabinet Departments. and independent agencies); the House of Representatives and Senate (members and staff); and the U.S. Federal Court system (including, but not limited to. the Supreme Court). “Officials” include civilian and military members and employees performing the official business of these branches of govemment (sic), and is independent of seniority or position.”

So we can be sure that as of the effective date of this ‘data sharing agreement’ (which the Guardian pinpoints to be in 2009) the Israelis’ were cognizant that the NSA was indeed spying on Congress, the White House, the US Judiciary right up to the Supreme Court and the Pentagon.

Sanders may also remember a hearing in the body that he is a member of, also in June 2013, where Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) asked Attorney General Eric Holder the same essential question only to be on the receiving end of one Holder’s now famous mealy-mouthpiece responses where the lawyer for the president said that the NSA has “no intent” to train its all-spying eyes on Congress and their staffs.

Holder may at that time have wanted to reiterate his similar parsing of another constitutional requirement, this being that our citizens be provided with “due process” (see here for what this entails), when in 2012 the Attorney General told America; “‘Due process and judicial process are not the same.” (this theory propounded by Mr. Holder was actually spoken to an audience of law professors and law students, at the law school of Northwestern University in Chicago).

All of this serious concern about the limitless surveillance of Americans (of even those Americans who think they may have some kind of protected status as a privileged citizen, read: elected officials) by the ‘folks’ who allegedly write the laws and protect us citizens from lawlessness, kind of reminds me of the Democrats’ and Obama’s recent discovery that their inaction to prevent the cuts in SNAP benefits that ended in November 2013, effected 25 million households and 22 million children (10 million of whom live in what the government itself describes as “deep poverty”, and that the end of long-term unemployment benefits will imperil an estimated 3.3 million poor Americans in 2014. Pushing for support of this land’s suffering citizens is commendable, of course. But in an election year and after prolonged and concerted inaction? I call it dubious and cynical theatrics, very much akin to Senator Sanders’ recent apoplexy about being warrantlessly surveilled.