Today's Congressional hearing -- one of many to come -- into the NSA's wiretapping program has given us a peek into the spies who are spying on us, seemingly without significant oversight.
The hearing is being held by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and NSA Director Keith Alexander has testified that the controversial surveillance program foiled more than 50 potential terrorist attacks on the US, as the New York Times reports:
"'These programs are immensely valuable for protecting our nation and securing the security of our allies,' General Alexander said at a rare public oversight hearing by the House Intelligence Committee.
"In addition, the deputy director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sean Joyce, listed two newly disclosed cases that have now been declassified in an effort to respond to the leaking of classified information about surveillance by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor.
"Mr. Joyce described a plot to blow up the New York Stock Exchange by a Kansas City man, whom the agency was able to identify because he was in contact with 'an extremist' in Yemen who was under surveillance. Mr. Joyce also talked about a San Diego man who planned to send financial support to a terrorist group in Somalia, and who was identified because the N.S.A. flagged his phone number as suspicious through its database of all domestic phone call logs, which was brought to light by Mr. Snowden's disclosures."
Speaking of Snowden, he's the gift that just keeps on giving, isn't he? Unstoppable. Seems he's learned from others before him -- leave the nation before you make your big disclosures. It's more commensensical, as Raisin Brain would say. He's no fan of the Bush Crime Family, as the Chicago Tribune reports:
"Edward Snowden told an online forum run by Britain's Guardian newspaper that he considered it an honor to be called a traitor by people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, and he urged President Barack Obama to 'return to sanity' and roll back the surveillance effort.
"Taking questions from readers and journalists, Snowden talked about his motivations and reaction to the debate raging about the damage or virtue of the leaks. Snowden remains in hiding, reportedly in Hong Kong.
"Snowden said disillusionment with Obama contributed to his decision but there was no single event that led him to leak details about the vast monitoring of Americans' activity.
"'It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress -- and therefore the American people -- and the realization that Congress ... wholly supported the lies,' said Snowden, who had worked at an NSA facility in Hawaii as an employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton before providing the details to the Guardian and Washington Post.
"Snowden referred to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's testimony to Congress in March that such a program did not exist, saying that seeing him 'baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.'"
Maybe our various and sundry "intelligence" agencies have learned a lesson from the Snowden incident. Don't hire private contractors who have little allegiance -- or accountability -- to the feds and expect them to keep their traps shut when the sexy details pass over their screens.
But for the sake of honest and open governmental practices, I hope not.