Senators Fly Home Early, Miss Classified NSA Briefing

June 18th, 2013

Whistleblower Edward Snowden recently leaked proof that the National Security Agency has been conducting widespread spying operations on US citizens. Many Americans exploded in outrage after discovering that their personal communications might have been compromised. Some officials even claim that the agency can listen to cell phone calls, and Snowden confirmed in a Q&A with The Guardian that NSA analysts can read the contents of citizens’ emails without a warrant.

Given all the uproar over this issue, one would think that senators would have eagerly attended last Friday’s early afternoon classified hearing with NSA head Keith Alexander. However, more than half of them couldn’t be bothered to attend and caught early flights home to their districts for the weekend. While it’s certainly important for even elected officials to spend time with family, a later flight could have easily gotten everyone home in time for the weekend’s Father’s Day celebrations. Senators are paid quite well by the taxpayers who elect them. Why are so few of them willing to attend a Friday afternoon hearing under special circumstances when so much is at stake?

Business As Usual in Washington DC

Self-serving politicians care more about their own interests than those of their constituents. Take Friday’s NSA hearing for example. The last official vote took place on noon that day, and the hearing was scheduled shortly thereafter. More than half the senators viewed that vote as the last official obligation and began scurrying to make plans for an early trip home. Only 47 out of 100 senators bothered to stick around to hear classified info on a reviled program that both liberals and conservatives agree violates the Bill of Rights.

At the beginning of the hearing, Senator Feinstein was quoted by The Hill as saying, “It’s hard to get this story out. Even now we have this big briefing — we’ve got Alexander, we’ve got the FBI, we’ve got the Justice Department, we have the FISA Court there, we have Clapper there — and people are leaving.”

If National Security Is So Important, Why Skip a Classified Hearing?

Politicians tend to lean on the national security excuse whenever citizens raise questions about programs that violate civil liberties. When details on these programs are sought, officials will conveniently state that all the relevant information is classified. In fact, those who claim Edward Snowden should be considered a traitor for leaking info on NSA spying operations say that he should have instead reported the wrongdoing to Congress. However, based on last Friday’s poor effort, legislators don’t seem that interested in learning info that has been classified by the executive branch.

Are our elected officials doing proper due diligence to ensure that the executive branch isn’t abusing its power? When the nation explodes in outrage over revelations that a government agency has been stealing private data, senators should stick around for the hearing and do their job. A lot of their constituents had to work through the entire weekend at harder jobs for lower pay. Unfortunately, it is unknown which senators chose an early trip home over their oath to the Constitution.

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About the Author: Barry Donegan

Barry Donegan is a singer for the experimental mathcore band Look What I Did, a writer, a self-described "veteran lifer in the counterculture", a political activist/consultant, and a believer in the non-aggression principle.