Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Netanyahu is a foreign leader

I think it's really strange that in that story about how the Obama Administration spied on communications between Netanyahu and members of Congress is fuss made over spying on Netanyahu, and not that it was spying on members of U.S. Congress.

Netanyahu is a foreign leader. It's not surprising that our government is spying on him, nor would it be surprising if the Israeli intelligence service was trying to listen in to President Obama's private conversations. That's what espionage is. It is not just limited to hostile governments. Intelligence services have always spied on friends as well as enemies.

But intercepted and listening in on conversations of members of Congress is a different matter entirely. The U.S. is not supposed to turn its spying capabilities to monitor domestic political opponents. FISA, the law that supposedly limits government surveillance (I say supposedly because it seems pretty clear that American intelligence services routinely ignore the law, with no negative consequences), makes a distinction between United States Persons (which includes all U.S. citizens and aliens who are legally admitted to the U.S.) and everyone else. Every member of Congress is a U.S. Person. The law does not allow the warrantless surveillance of a conversation involving a U.S. Person.

I don't know if these spying allegations are true, but if they are spying on members of Congress should be the big deal, not spying on Netanyahu. Members of Congress should be raising hell about this, even though, according to Ed Snowden, U.S. Persons are regularly surveilled without a warrant despite that being a criminal offense. Maybe if members of Congress started giving a shit about these kind of violations the violations against everyone will stop.