Holder: Trust me, the NSA’s surveillance is totally cool

posted at 12:01 pm on January 24, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

How would he know? When asked by MSNBC, the nation’s top legal officer hadn’t even bothered to read the 238-page report from the normally-pliant Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB) that concluded that Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act gave insufficient legal basis for the collection and retention of massive amounts of data from American domestic communications. At least one federal judge has similarly ruled, although 15 others have reached the opposite conclusion.

Holder says, just be patient, or something:

Attorney General Eric Holder dismissed a new government watchdog report which declared some NSA programs illegal, insisting that the spy agency’s vast secret surveillance is on strong legal footing.

In an exclusive, wide-ranging interview on Thursday with msnbc, Holder also spoke about new voting rights legislation, Republican Voter ID laws, Wall Street prosecutions and the Obama administration’s efforts to reform the War on Drugs with more rehabilitation programs. (See video below.)

On the NSA findings, Holder said he hadn’t read the new report from the government’s privacy and civil liberties board, but noted that “at least 15 judges on about 35 occasions have said that the program itself is legal.”

When asked about judges who disagree, including a Washington federal court that rebuked the bulk data collection last month, Holder, himself a former Washington judge, contended the legal consensus is now clear.

Ah, it’s the consensus that Holder reviews, and not the actual report itself. Holder did insist that he’s working with a key official to ask whether the NSA should conduct that kind of collection and retention, even if it can. However, the key official in this case is James Clapper, the man who repeatedly lied to Congress about the NSA program, so good luck in getting a straight answer there.

Maybe Holder will just look for consensus again. But isn’t it the job of the Department of Justice to investigate potential wrongdoing in government, rather than just sit back and watch consensus develop? Or at least show some interest in reading a government panel’s report that declares it illegal before dismissing that conclusion out of hand?

The Attorney General does have some good news for Edward Snowden in another appearance. He’s open to cutting a plea deal with the man who stole the nation’s most sensitive secrets, and then skipped the country:

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that prosecutors would hold talks with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden if he were willing to plead guilty to criminal charges.

“If Mr. Snowden wanted to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers. We’d do that with any defendant who wanted to enter a plea of guilty,” Holder said during an appearance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.

While the attorney general suggested a plea deal was a possibility, he dismissed calls for a pardon that would absolve Snowden of legal responsibility for disclosing classified information he obtained while working in Hawaii as a contractor for the NSA. In recent weeks, editorials in the New York Times and Britain’s Guardian newspaper urged some form of amnesty for Snowden because of the debate over surveillance triggered by his revelations.

“We’ve always indicated… that the notion of clemency was not something we were willing to consider,” Holder said at UVA. “Were he to come back to the United States and enter a plea, we would engage with his lawyers.”

Snowden got better news from Russia today:

Snowden has said the time isn’t right for him to return to the United States, where he could face criminal charges for leaking classified information. Russia gave him asylum for a year.

Now Russia says it will continue to extend asylum protections to Snowden and won’t send him back home.

That word came Friday from Alexy Pushkov, a legislator who is head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Duma, Russia’s lower house. He spoke about Snowden at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Snowden wants to return home, he says, but not to face legal action:

In an online chat Thursday, Snowden said that returning to the U.S. “is the best resolution for all parties,” but “it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistle-blower protection laws.”

He pointed out that the U.S. government’s Whistleblower Protection Act doesn’t cover someone like him, a former government contractor.

“There are so many holes in the laws, the protections they afford are so weak, and the processes for reporting they provide are so ineffective that they appear to be intended to discourage reporting of even the clearest wrongdoing,” he wrote. “… My case clearly demonstrates the need for comprehensive whistle-blower protection act reform.”

So the plea deal isn’t on track, then. Had Snowden limited his revelations to just the Section 215 surveillance, I’d be more open to the “whistleblower” argument. But he didn’t; he exposed other surveillance efforts that were entirely legitimate (if embarrassing) efforts at capturing foreign signals intelligence, harming our ability to conduct those efforts and the partnerships that our intelligence agencies need to coordinate security and counter-terrorism efforts. If, however, the US thinks he has even more damaging material to release, CNN’s discussion shows that it might make sense to get Snowden out of the cold and resecure the material:


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“Trust me” — Goebbels

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Yeah, I’d trust Holder about as far as I can throw an elephant, with a broken arm.

rbj on January 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Holder doesn’t know who approved Fast And Furious in his own department, but he knows what’s going on in the NSA? Either he’s ignorant or he’s a liar, either way he’s not to be trusted.

Socratease on January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

Sorry, not in the habit of trusting guys that belong in an orange jumpsuit.

antipc on January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

whatever obama wants…I’m cool with it…
-holder

cmsinaz on January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

I used to laugh at all this but now I’m actually scared. The power of Holder and Obama to take down “opponents ” is truly frightening…

sandee on January 24, 2014 at 12:25 PM

I’m sure the obama administration will act responsibly with the information they gather.

HumpBot Salvation on January 24, 2014 at 12:26 PM

They’ll come at you sideways.
It’s how they think. It’s how they move.
Sidle up and smile. Hit you where you’re weak.
Sort of man they’re like to send believes hard.
Kills and never asks why.

mad saint jack on January 24, 2014 at 12:31 PM

Holder went on to say that the NSA had been instructed to investigate itself and the NSA found nothing wrong with the NSA’s actions.

jukin3 on January 24, 2014 at 12:33 PM

Don’t trust this man.

Don’t trust this one either.

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:35 PM

Vote for/against the policies…not the person.
 
verbaluce on January 21, 2014 at 1:30 PM

 
I guess we’ll mark this down as another “for”.

rogerb on January 24, 2014 at 12:36 PM

There really is no “NSA surveillance” that I have been able to find so far. It has all been FBI surveillance where they have requested NSA collect and store the data. FBI works for Holder.

crosspatch on January 24, 2014 at 12:38 PM

If an individual in the government promulgates bad policy once, we correct them and watch.

When an individual in the government promulgates bad policy consistently, we remove them from office… permanently.

The abuse of power is reprehensible and unforgivable. The abuse of American citizens by American politicians and their lackeys is contemptible, reprehensible, unforgivable… and foolhardy.

thatsafactjack on January 24, 2014 at 12:41 PM

Geez, HotAir is really slipping…..No Beiber Threads???

ToddPA on January 24, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Had Snowden limited his revelations to just the Section 215 surveillance, I’d be more open to the “whistleblower” argument. But he didn’t; he exposed other surveillance efforts that were entirely legitimate (if embarrassing) efforts at capturing foreign signals intelligence, harming our ability to conduct those efforts and the partnerships that our intelligence agencies need to coordinate security and counter-terrorism efforts.

.
What you are referring to is Snowden’s exposure of the equivalent of Section 215 surveillance the United States was performing against the citizens of OTHER democracies … with the assistance of those countries governments.

Nice double standard you have there, Ed.

Blowing the whistle is only applicable when it’s done with respect to America?

Otherwise … so we ENABLE other democratically elected governments to “go all Stasi on their citizens” … what’s the big deal?

Right, Ed?

PolAgnostic on January 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Holder is a thug on dope.

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:48 PM

“Trust me!” – first words to always come out of a con-man’s mouth.

GarandFan on January 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

Thank you Mr. Snowden. If you have to die, you’ll die for so much freedom and liberty. So many sheepleton give up both, for NO security either, just for the illusion thereof.

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 12:51 PM

The law means nothing to Eric Holder or to Obama. Neither will stand up for the rule of law and neither will enforce the law as mandated under the constitution and in the oath they swore. Their word means nothing.

Obama and his lackey, Holder, have shamelessly disregarded the law, picking and choosing which laws they will enforce and which laws they will ignore. Entire state openly defy federal law in drugs and ‘sanctuary’ for illegal aliens, harboring and cosseting illegal aliens, and Holder and Obama not only don’t enforce the law, they collude in breaking federal law. However, if a state tries to implement clean and fair elections by asking it’s citizens to present ID at the polling place, Obama and Holder castigate that state and sue them, trying to invoke long outdated ‘civil rights’ law to prevent these states from making certain that their elections are clean and fair. Obama and Holder have tainted their offices by breaking the law in their own right. Obama legislates from his desk regularly, bragging about bypassing congress which has the sole power to make or change the law. Eric Holder’s office engineered “Fast and Furious” which resulted in arming Mexican drug cartels and has been linked to the deaths of two federal agents and at least 300 Mexican nationals as well as US citizens on both sides of the US/Mexico border.

So…Snowden would be a fool, indeed, to trust the word of either Holder or Obama.

thatsafactjack on January 24, 2014 at 1:03 PM

Obama critic indicted for campaign-finance fraud, obstruction

libfreeordie on January 24, 2014 at 9:22 AM

verbaluce on January 24, 2014 at 9:33 AM

lostmotherland on January 24, 2014 at 11:51 AM

Constantine on January 24, 2014 at 12:58 PM

segasagez on January 24, 2014 at 1:10 PM

 
Crickets on this thread, though. Must be a server problem.

rogerb on January 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Thugs over you!!!

Schadenfreude on January 24, 2014 at 1:22 PM

This poor sick Republic is doomed.

rplat on January 24, 2014 at 1:33 PM

…says the guy who was busted perpetrating 4 Felony crimes of Perjury before Congress and is now the only AG in US History to ever be CENSURED.

easyt65 on January 24, 2014 at 1:42 PM

The only reason this guy is not occupying Scooter Libby’s old cell is because the DOJ refused to press changes against him and Obama will not hold anyone kissing or protecting his @$$ acountable for anything, as long as it benefits him…

easyt65 on January 24, 2014 at 1:45 PM

Looking at this guy defines how the word ‘corrupt’ has lost it’s meaning.

RdLake on January 24, 2014 at 1:50 PM

However, the key official in this case is James Clapper, the man who repeatedly lied to Congress about the NSA program, so good luck in getting a straight answer there.

Especially since the consequences of perjury and misleading Congress were zero.

I think Snowden is a whistleblower. The truth was never going to come out any other way. Everybody would have stonewalled, which is what they did anyway

David Blue on January 24, 2014 at 2:21 PM

He pointed out that the U.S. government’s Whistleblower Protection Act doesn’t cover someone like him, a former government contractor who committed espionage.

FIFH

GWB on January 24, 2014 at 2:39 PM

Crickets on this thread, though. Must be a server problem.

rogerb on January 24, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Heh!!

Bitter Clinger on January 24, 2014 at 2:49 PM

Nice double standard you have there, Ed.

PolAgnostic on January 24, 2014 at 12:47 PM

How is it a double standard? We don’t protect the civil liberties of citizens of other nations. It’s not our job. If you think we shouldn’t spy on our “allies” then you are very naive. The NSA is supposed to be collecting information out there. The reason everyone here is up in arms is because it isn’t supposed to do so on American citizens. That’s not a double standard, it’s an understanding that our government is supposed to be protecting our nation, not everyone else’s.

GWB on January 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM

I used to have a modicrum of trust for the federal govt until this administration started using its agencies and data against political enemies. Now no one in govt is to be trusted. Thanks Obama and Holder.

iamsaved on January 24, 2014 at 3:27 PM

I trust Holder as far as I can throw the building I’m working in. And it is not made of balsa wood (it’s 1/4 mile from one end to the other, housing about 9,000 people).

Which means the NSA is doing some very illegal things.

sadatoni on January 24, 2014 at 3:46 PM

How is it a double standard? We don’t protect the civil liberties of citizens of other nations. It’s not our job. If you think we shouldn’t spy on our “allies” then you are very naive. The NSA is supposed to be collecting information out there. The reason everyone here is up in arms is because it isn’t supposed to do so on American citizens. That’s not a double standard, it’s an understanding that our government is supposed to be protecting our nation, not everyone else’s.

GWB on January 24, 2014 at 2:57 PM


Let’s go back to the statement you coveniently IGNORED.

What you are referring to is Snowden’s exposure of the equivalent of Section 215 surveillance the United States was performing against the citizens of OTHER democracies … with the assistance of those countries governments.

Nice double standard you have there, Ed.

.
The citizens of the U.K. and Germany were outraged to discover the collaboration between the United States and their own governments to collect the same types of data being collected against Americans under Section 215.

Point out to me the U.S. President … or even elected politician … who has said America should NOT set the bar for freedom and civil liberties and/or regardless of how staunch an ally you have been fighting FOR democracy, we will treat you the same as the countries fighting to OVERTHROW democracy.

The U.K. and America have fought and shed blood together fighting the same wars for over a century – including in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If our goal was to become a Surveillance State, where the ruling elites monitor EVERTHING the citizens say and think, we should have left Hussein and the Taliban alone – they already had that approach in place.

Seeing the hypocrisy yet?

PolAgnostic on January 24, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Either he’s ignorant or he’s a liar

Socratease on January 24, 2014 at 12:13 PM

They’re not really mutually exclusive, especially in this administration……………….

GWB on January 24, 2014 at 5:14 PM