Richard Cohen’s Edward Snowden Assessment, Revised

You can read his column here.

Being both a former CIA analyst-turned-whistleblower-turned-Hill staffer, my background–and my sense of the history of these things–lead me to offer the following:

The only traitors in this episode are executive branch officials who knowingly subverted the Constitution through the radical abuse of these surveillance authorities behind a cloak of secrecy–from the flagrantly illegal STELLAR WIND warrantless surveillance program to the PATRIOT Act’s Sec. 215 and the FISA Amendments Act’s Sec. 702/703/704 authorities.

In October 2011, the FISA court ruled the Sec. 702 authorities unconstitutional as implemented by the Obama administration, yet the Congress as a whole was not made aware of that ruling in the run up to the reauthorization vote on the FISA Amendments Act in 2012. A secret ruling declaring a key surveillance statute unconstitutional was withheld from the Congress as a whole prior to a key vote to reauthorize said authorities. Let that sink in.

What Snowden helped expose was the subversion of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States behind a cloak of secrecy…and the classification system cannot be used to conceal crimes, including crimes against the Constitution. The question Mr. Cohen–and every other American–should be asking is whether that subversion took place with the knowledge, and thus the assent, of a sitting President.

If the Attorney General did not make President Obama aware of the October 2011 FISC ruling, it means that cabinet and sub-cabinet executive branch officials effectively conspired to keep the Congress as a whole in the dark about the ruling before the vote, and that those involved should be fired and prosecuted for lying to Congress. And if President Obama did know about the ruling and elected not to share it with the Congress as a whole before the 2012 FISA Amendments Act reauthorization vote, it raises the kinds of questions the Senate Select Committee confronted in the Watergate scandal.

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