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The PJ Tatler

by
Bridget Johnson

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January 7, 2014 - 8:15 am

The National Security Agency wouldn’t confirm or deny Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) query about whether the agency was spying on members of Congress, but also hasn’t answered his letter directly.

“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 NSA said in a statement.

Sanders said last night on CNN that he posed the question to NSA director Keith Alexander after receiving questions about the extent of surveillance activities.

“My initial thought was, of course not,” Sanders said of the question about whether Congress was spied upon. “But I thought about it, and I wasn’t sure what the answer was. And being unsure about whether or not the NSA is spying on members of Congress made me think that it’s imperative to get a flat, straight- out answer from these guys. What we do know, of course, is they have tapped the phones of foreign leaders around the world who are our allies.”

“Forty years ago , we had a president named Richard Nixon and he was prepared to do everything that he could to destroy his political opponents. And what I worry about is, if you have some other president like that or some rogue agent within the NSA, there’s just an extraordinary amount of information and power that they can have over Congress, blackmail members of Congress, not a good situation.”

Sanders said the NSA explanation that it only collects mass metadata yet doesn’t monitor phone calls suggests “that everybody at the NSA is and always will be wonderful, angelic, law-abiding human beings.”

“What happens if you have a rogue agent in the NSA? What happens if you have a president, somebody like a Nixon, who has no scruples at all and wants to destroy his political opponents, wants to know what’s going on in a political campaign, wants to hold a member of Congress, put him in a blackmail situation and leak information to a political opponent?” the senator said.

“I think one doesn’t have to be paranoid to be thinking that at some day in the future, that could happen. And I think when you have so much information being controlled by a secret agency, it is a real threat to American democracy.”

As far as NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Sanders said he wouldn’t support letting him off scot-free.

“My own belief is that I think, I would hope that the United States government could kind of negotiate some plea bargain with him, some form of clemency. I think it wouldn’t be a good idea or fair to him to have to spend his entire remaining life abroad, not being able to come back to his country,” he said. “So I would hope that there’s a price that he has to pay, but I hope it is not a long prison sentence or exile from his country.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
Wadday mean "if" Bernie? We currently do have a rogue president.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I still marvel at the MSM's ability to paint Nixon as such an ugly man, when the reality of Obama is so far worse, as you ponited out.

I tell myself I am not surprised, but I still find myself unexpectedly in wonder. And for noticing this unbelievable abuse of power across all agencies, I apparently am a wearer of the tinfoil hat.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sanders is living in a fantasy world. He equates what Nixon did in the Watergate burglary with what Obama has done and is doing to our Constitution. That's like comparing stealing an apple to robbing a bank. Obama has abused the use of EVERY federal agency to destroy and defeat his opponents as well as his personal enemies. We don't have to be clairvoyant to know what Obama will do with the NSA's data base.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (10)
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I'm so fed up with our Representatives dancing around the obvious. "What IF?" This regime is at war with hard-working American taxpayers, and we have nothing but impotent fools on the Hill more concerned about their careers and pockets to do their job and actually REPRESENT their constituents.

Just disgusting.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
The dystopian fantasies of yesteryear are now a reality. We’ve allowed the coming of an age where the civil liberties our forefathers fought so hard for are being eroded by the day. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly are mere ghostly images of their original intent. We’ve woken up to an Orwellian Society of Fear where anyone is at the mercy of being labeled a terrorist for standing up for rights we took for granted just over a decade ago. Read about how we’re waging war against ourselves at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Like everyone else, my first reaction was "What do you mean WHAT IF Kemosabe??" We have had a rogue president since January 2009, and he won't be happy until he's used every power at his disposal to destroy his political "enemies."
"Doddering old fool" is absolutely right. And deliberately, despicably blind old fool applies just as well.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Wadday mean "if" Bernie? We currently do have a rogue president.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Exactly, he's already used "sealed" court documents against an opponent. If is not at issue.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
that at some day in the future, that could happen

Yep. "Some day in the FUTURE."

Bernie's sense of alarm is touching, but he's every bit the doddering old fool ho looks like in his photo.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
?

What is Bernie Sanders' opinion of the Obama Administration using the IRS to target conservative groups?
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sanders is living in a fantasy world. He equates what Nixon did in the Watergate burglary with what Obama has done and is doing to our Constitution. That's like comparing stealing an apple to robbing a bank. Obama has abused the use of EVERY federal agency to destroy and defeat his opponents as well as his personal enemies. We don't have to be clairvoyant to know what Obama will do with the NSA's data base.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
I still marvel at the MSM's ability to paint Nixon as such an ugly man, when the reality of Obama is so far worse, as you ponited out.

I tell myself I am not surprised, but I still find myself unexpectedly in wonder. And for noticing this unbelievable abuse of power across all agencies, I apparently am a wearer of the tinfoil hat.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Of course, Nixon was the man who gave us the Leviathan that is the EPA, so maybe that ugliness is warranted...
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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