- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 9, 2013

Media frenzy over old news that the National Security Agency monitors the vast patterns of citizen communications has distracted and alarmed the public, leaving it to ponder both the content of the Fourth Amendment and the motivations of newly uncloaked “whistleblower” Edward Snowden, a former IT security contractor with the federal agency who shared its clandestine details with a pair of news organizations. But wait. National Intelligence Director James R. Clapper issued some details of his own via a straightforward public statement about the stakes at hand:

“Over the last week, we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe. In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context — including the extent to which these programs are overseen by all three branches of government — to these effective tools,” Mr. Clapper said.

“In particular, the surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress. Their purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information, including information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyberattacks against the United States and its allies.

“Our ability to discuss these activities is limited by our need to protect intelligence sources and methods. Disclosing information about the specific methods the government uses to collect communications can obviously give our enemies a ‘playbook’ of how to avoid detection,” he notes.

Mr. Clapper also released pertinent details about Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which offers parameters about intelligence methodology and is a must-read for those concerned about their privacy and/or media hysteria. Find it here: Dni.gov under the “Newsroom” heading.

And an odd cultural moment of sorts: Both filmmaker Michael Moore and independent media mogul Glenn Beck praised the aforementioned Mr. Snowden in simultaneous tweets after The Guardian revealed his identity on Sunday. Mr. Moore: “hero of the year.” Mr. Beck: “the NSA patriot leaker.”

AMERICANS ALREADY KNOW

The full results won’t be released until Thursday, but an upcoming Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll reveals that 85 percent of Americans say it’s likely that their “communications history, like phone calls, emails, and Internet use,” was “available for businesses, government, individuals, and other groups to access without their consent.”

The poll also found that cellphone and Internet service providers both ranked toward the lower end of institutions that Americans “trust to responsibly use information” about them. In each case, almost half of respondents said they trusted those institutions “not very much” or “not at all.”

HOLD THE PHONE

“Dear [Decision Maker]: The Obama administration is currently overseeing the mass confiscation of private phone records. This practice is a gross violation of the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the spirit of American justice.”

“I do not urge, but demand immediate action be taken to curb this abuse of power. The government has no right to collect and store the private data of otherwise innocent Americans.”

— Suggested text for a letter of protest to lawmakers and officials launched by FreedomWorks on Friday; 3,000 have already been sent via email.

“Whether it’s a Republican or a Democrat occupying the White House, this is what big government looks like, unless we act now to stop it,” notes Matt Kibbe, president of the 4-million member grass-roots group.

FAITH AND FREEDOM

There’s a predictable silence in the mainstream media about the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s three-day Road to Majority conference, which begins Thursday at a bustling hotel two blocks from the White House. The event boasts a veritable who’s who list of conservatives and Republicans ready, willing and able to rumble. Among the speakers:

Sens. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Ron Johnson and Jeff Sessions; Reps. Paul Ryan, Michele Bachmann, J. Randy Forbes and Louie Gohmert; Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, Allen B. West, Rick Santorum, John Bolton, Michael Medved, Pat Robertson and Donald Trump.

The conference mission, a spokesman says, is grass roots: “The conference will energize, train, and equip our top activists and chapter leaders on voter registration, voter education, get-out-the-vote, lobbying their legislators, building a church and neighborhood organization, and utilizing social media to mobilize supporters.”

CIVIL DISCOURSE

It’s not cheap. But it’s interesting. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership — a nonprofit devoted to Civil War history — is offering what they deem a five-day, “once in a lifetime” commemorative travel package for those with a close eye on the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. All lodging at the handsomely appointed Gettysburg Hotel and some meals are included, as is a gala that includes the food and dance of the era, plus a movie premiere, welcome gifts and other fare, which perhaps would have confounded those who lived in the area around 1863.

Prices start around $2,700 per person; information here: hallowedground.org.

POLL DU JOUR

59 percent of Americans say “high-ranking IRS officials” were aware of the agency’s targeting of conservative groups; 84 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of Democrats agree.

58 percent overall disapprove of the way President Obama is handling the IRS matter; 83 percent of Republicans and 32 percent of Democrats agree.

54 percent overall are following the IRS story closely; 66 percent of Republicans and 48 percent of Democrats agree.

50 percent overall say “high-ranking Obama officials” were aware of the targeting; 72 percent of Republicans and 26 percent of Democrats agree.

49 percent overall say the IRS matter is “very serious”; 69 percent of Republicans and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,529 U.S. adults conducted June 1-4.

Assorted ballyhoo and balderdash to jharper@washingtontimes.com.