CNN’s Wolf Blitzer focuses this segment with Senator Rand Paul, who has certainly been vindicated more than he probably expected by Barack Obama’s task force on NSA surveillance, by asking whether he plans to sue the NSA to stop the more egregious programs identified by the Edward Snowden leaks. Paul’s reaction to the report and to the earlier federal court ruling are about what you’d expect. Keep going past, though, to the discussion about Snowden and NSA chief James Clapper. Paul argues that while Snowden broke the law, Clapper’s perjury is a far more damaging crime (via Real Clear Politics):
“If they are going to come to us and lie,” Paul says, “it really damages their credibility” when it comes to claims about the necessity of their surveillance. Josh Gerstein at Politico has more on that this morning from the task force’s report, which didn’t exactly find a great track record from these surveillance programs:
But the big changes the committee is calling for may be less vexing for Obama than one painful, half-buried conclusion: Vacuuming up all that data the National Security Agency collects in its call-tracking database, the panel says, hasn’t actually done much to protect the country from terrorism. …
The review group’s finding that the much-debated metadata program hasn’t really accomplished much isn’t mentioned in the report’s executive summary or any of the 46 recommendations, but it appears, in an understated tone, about a third of the way into the 300-plus-page document released by the White House on Wednesday.
“Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks and could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using conventional section 215 orders,” the report says.
In a footnote a few pages later, the panel members are even more blunt: “The section 215 telephony meta-data program has made only a modest contribution to the nation’s security … and there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome would have been different without the section 215 telephony meta-data program.”
With that conclusion coming from Obama’s own team in a very public report, Gerstein wonders just how much political capital Obama will spend attempting to keep those programs in place. One has to wonder just how much more political capital Obama plans to spend on keeping Clapper in place, now that his testimony on this topic has been exposed again as misleading.
Update: Fixed subject-verb disagreement in the subhead (“Do,” not “Does”).