Publicly the Obama Administration continues to insist that there is nothing untoward about the massive NSA surveillance schemes, and that every bit of it is absolutely vital to national security.
Privately, however, the administration sees the writing on the wall. Public outrage at the surveillance is already trickling into Congressional votes, with Justin Amash (R – MI) nearly getting an amendment to defund NSA surveillance put into the military spending bill. Sooner or later, the NSA’s wings will be clipped.
Officials are gearing up for the day when the NSA schemes, uncovered by whistleblower Edward Snowden, will have some actual limitations associated with them, and are cozying up to some in Congress trying to keep the juiciest of the powers intact.
And even before that day of reckoning comes in Congress, some of the most obscene excesses are already being trimmed back a bit, with the Justice Department finally admitting in a filing this week that if they intend to use NSA surveillance against someone in court they would have to tell the defendants about it.
That should be obvious, as that’s how pre-trial disclosure has always worked. The Justice Department had previously argued that disclosing information about the evidence to be used against detainees would threaten the secret surveillance schemes.
Analysts familiar with the situation say that the courts probably would’ve eventually shot down the Justice Department’s old position, which it now claims was “never the government’s position” to begin with, though they say without the Snowden leaks it could’ve been quite some time before the government stepped back from that stance. Either way, the government is trying to get out of doing so in the current case by promising not to use that evidence.
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