The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 5 Additional Content

Episode 5 of The Shill Report was a podcasting first for the team– we invited a guest on the show. Casey Hendrickson gave us a behind the scenes look in to the life of a local talk radio show host, then we discussed the way the media covered the Amash amendment. Finally, we watch Jay Carney have a bad week and played WAL’s favorite game:  JAY CARNEY SAID WHAT!?!!?  It was a really fun episode that we hope you enjoy as well.

You can find the latest episode here and past episodes on iTunes and WAL-Radio. The Shill Report also plays every Sunday night on Indiana Talks radio.


Rachel Maddow is clearly irritated by the continuing Weiner scandal. She did not focus on his texting habits; instead she noted that his continual lying to the public and the media about how much he has changed.

“Part of the way he lied the second round of times is that he’s doing this sort of redemption tour in the press where he’s talking about what a changed man he is, and how he’s totally focused on his family, and he’s all about making apologies while he’s still continuing that behavior,” Maddow continued. “So the press was really used by Anthony Weiner in order to convey the second round of lying.”

Had we decided to use this clip in the show, I think the conversation would have taken some interesting turns. Does the press really get “used” in cases like this? Isn’t the mainstream media really just looking for stories with “sizzle” to sell copies and ads? If that is the case, it seems like this exactly the kind of story those types of news organizations crave.



Not minute by minute like CNN, FOX, and MSNBC…

Kate O’Brian – president of Al Jazeera America – was quoted in an interview with the Huffington Post as saying:

“We would certainly cover the Royal Baby. It’s an important story. It’s an interesting story, but we wouldn’t do it in a minute-by-minute, breathless, day-in-day-out way that we’ve seen some of the competitors out there doing,” she continued. “But we would do it in a way that we deem appropriate in terms of the news – the buffet of news that is out there every day.”

Thankfully there is a network news organization that understands the context of this story against the truly important news of the day.



Melissa Harris Perry decided to wear tampon earrings in protest of who knows what:

Glenn Beck retorted with condoms on his fingers to mock Perry:

And we still don’t know what the hell Geraldo was thinking…

These are the kind of stories that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #TheShillReport.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expanded and explained the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

Ripley: Pelosi Played Major Role in Defeat of Amash Amendment


If you think the dynamic duo of the White House and Republican House leadership are to blame for the defeat of the Amash amendment, you could be mistaken. Foreign Policy Magazine recently published a story with confirmation from insiders, that Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) played a major role in stopping the Amash amendment from passing on Wednesday night. The bill that called for the defunding of the NSA’s ability to spy on innocent American citizens, was narrowly defeated (205-217) by 12 votes.

“Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say,” said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it’s unlikely there would’ve been more Democrats for the amendment.”

Civil libertarians and the far left side of the Democratic Party are rightly irritated by this development. The Huffington Post reported that in response to their backlash, Pelosi spent most of the following day doing damage control for her “no” vote and vigilant efforts to kill the bill.

Pelosi was far less enthusiastic about her vote, suggesting that while she opposed the bill to stop the wholesale data collection, she isn’t comfortable with how the program is being handled.

“I don’t want anybody to misunderstand a vote against the Amash resolution yesterday,” Pelosi said, adding that she was putting together a letter with members who voted both for and against the amendment that will raise “concerns about how the metadata collection is conducted.”

Pelosi did not vote for the Patriot Act in 2005, nor did she vote in favor of the latest reauthorization of the bill. Her mixed message approach to surveillance has left her base unsure where she truly stands on the issue. This frustration turned to heckling after she made negative comments about Edward Snowden at a conference last month. Given these types of reactions to her comments, it should be no surprise to Pelosi that the laws that allow these surveillance activities to continue have become deeply unpopular with many of her constituents. This revelation begs the question: why did she work so hard to kill an amendment that her base supports? It’s a given that the Constitution is not important to her, perhaps she actually enjoys encounters with angry voters  – like the one below.

All Eyes on Amash: Taking on the NSA


This piece is part of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley follows the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) just had the biggest week of his political career. He took on the White House, the Intelligence Community, and establishment Republicans and almost won. By a narrow vote, the House rejected the Amash Amendment (205-217) that would have prevented funds from being used to illegally spy on innocent American citizens under the Patriot Act.

Initially, the House leadership sought to block the bill from reaching floor, fearing the ramifications of forcing members to vote on the very complicated issue of surveillance in America. Ultimately, Amash successfully argued to the Rules panel that he was only seeking to limit the NSA’s “blanket authority” to collect records and metadata under the Patriot Act.

“In order for funds to be used by the NSA, the court order would have to have a statement limiting the collection of records to those records that pertain to a person under investigation,” Amash explained to the panel. “If the court order doesn’t have that statement, the NSA doesn’t receive the funding to collect those records.”

With a vote eminent, the White House made an unusual move and spoke out against the Amash Amendment. “We oppose the current efforts in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process.”


The White House also mobilized members of the administration in to action. Director of National Intelligence James “I forgot the Patriot Act” Clapper and NSA director Gen. Keith “Collect it All” Alexander called for emergency meetings with members of congress to lobby against the amendment. Ironically, the meetings were held at the “Top Secret” level, preventing the attendees from disclosing what was discussed.

Amash posed the question of liberty to the members and started something that has not happened in a very long time –a true bi-partisan debate on the house floor.

“We’re here today for a very simple reason – to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American,” Amash said. He then warned that those opposed to the amendment will use fear as their weapon and asked the key question, “Do we oppose the suspicionless collection of every American’s phone records?”

Speaking against the bill, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI) invoked 9/11 and begged members to not revert our security level back to where it was on 9/10/2001. He also urged the House to ignore “Facebook likes” and vote for the “security” of the nation, apparently unaware that “likes” come from constituents.

Michelle Bachman (R-MN) likened the data collected by the NSA to what’s available in a phone book. If that’s the case then why doesn’t the NSA just check under ‘T’ for ‘Terrorist’ to catch the bad guys? Tom Cotton (R-AK) won the boogeyman award with his impassioned reminder to members that America is “at war” and that passing the Amendment would cost lives – which caused many to question “with whom?” and “where is the declaration of war from Congress?”

On the other side of the isle, Amash orchestrated an impressive line-up of bi-partisan supports including James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the creator of the Patriot Act. Sensenbrenner strongly supported the Amash amendment, saying that the current interpretation of the law is far from what it was meant to be.

Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) reminded the member that congressional oversight was seriously lacking on these matters. She pointed out that the last oversight report to Congress about activities under Section 215 of the Patriot Act was “eight sentences” long – apparently that is sufficient for those who wish to capture the information about billions of phone calls and emails every day.

Jerry Nadler (D-NY) encouraged members to stop the government from misusing Section 215 of the Patriot Act to engage in the dragnet collection of all of our phone records. “Congress did not grant the executive the authority to collect anything that it wants so long as it limits any subsequence search of that data.”

While the amendment did not pass, it did manage to draw together some unusual allies. Libertarian Republicans found themselves standing next to many House Democrats, while President Obama and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) found new allies in John Boehner (R-OH), Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Michele Bachmann (R-MN) to defeat the measure – strange bedfellows indeed.

Aside from exposing the new breed of Obama-Republicans currently occupying seats in the House, the Amash amendment has redefined the narrative about surveillance in the United States. When the White House opposed the amendment, President Obama claimed ownership of the practices at the NSA. The days of blaming former President Bush are over.

House members were also forced to reveal their position on the 4th Amendment of U.S. Constitution. We now know that there are 217 members of congress who are willing to violate the law and their oath of office. They made a false choice between security and liberty. Security is a myth, while liberty is a natural right guaranteed by the Constitution. Fortunately, this problem is an easy one for the voters to fix. After all, the mid-term elections are just around the corner.


Watch the video below to see Congressman Amash lead the debate on national surveillance:

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 4 Additional Content

Episode 4 of The Shill Report focused on the a terrorist making the cover of Rolling Stone, George Zimmerman’s attorney – Mark O’Mara – lashing out at the media, the possible long-term consequence of the Bradley Manning trial, and Jay Carney’s “intern-gate” fiasco.

You can find the latest episode of The Shill Report on iTunes, WAL-Radio, and

We’re pretty proud of this episode, but it went a little long. There just wasn’t enough time to get to all of the great stories of the week. That’s why we created Page 2. Here’s the rest of the news that didn’t make the pod, but is certainly worth a look.


The Washington Post has struggled to find a conservative voice in the blogging world. In a recent article, Eric Alterman examines the Post’s history of trying to fill this complicated position and the unintended consequence of some interesting choices for the job.

It is no secret to anyone that conservatives have conducted a remarkably successful, decades-long campaign to undermine the practice of honest, aggressive journalism with trumped-up accusations of liberal bias. They have made massive investments of time and money in groups and individuals devoted to “working the refs,” and these have yielded significant ideological dividends—which, as might be predicted, have only encouraged them to keep it up.


Larry Elder took Morgan to task over his coddling of Rachel Jeantel and his “stupid” assessment of her character. Elder was relentless in his assault on Morgan and even went as far as to attack him for his bleed heart liberal positions. I can’t think of another instance where a show host allowed a filibuster like this to happen. It’s an explosive exchange that we simply did not have time to cover.


The “Round Mound of Rebound” went on CNBC’s Closing Bell and spoke with Maria Bartiromo about his views on the Zimmerman trail. Barkley agreed with the verdict and felt that both men should have walked away. He called out the media for not have a “clean heart” when reporting news like this. Barkley presented a well thought out and well delivered position on the case. If you miss the 24/7 coverage of the trail now that it’s over, then this is a “must watch” clip.

These are the kind of videos that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #The Shill Report.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expanded and explained the narrative and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media with the example you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

The Shill Report Page 2: Episode 3 Additional Content

With 3 episodes up and available on iTunes and on the WAL-Radio site, The Shill Report is in full production. This past week we talked about the mainstream media pushing the Zimmerman trial 24/7 at the expense of real news and Chuck Todd’s sanity. Next up was former MSNBC staffer Jeff Cohen and his rant against his former employer for covering the Snowden scandal as if the station were state owned and operated like the Obama administration. We moved on to Chris Hayes and his rant against Rand Paul employing Jack Hunter. Finally, the civil war within the Washington Post was too much to pass up. The editorial board apparently wants the source of their papers published stories to go to jail. It’s a fun episode that you can listen too here.

However, that’s a lot of content for an hour long podcast.  Naturally, some news stories had to get cut. It would be a shame to let the research and commentary go to waste, so each week I’ll share the pieces that were left on the cutting room floor, but are still fit for print.

The announcement that the employee mandate under Obamacare has been delayed until 2015 sparked quite the controversy within the GOP. Many conservatives are hammering away at the healthcare law, calling for a complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act. These renewed attacks have put the Democratic supporters on their heels…literally. GOP strategist Nicole Wallace ran in to a liberal buzz saw on the Morning Joe after being accused of politicizing the delay.

Later in the segment, former Obama advisor David Axelrod fielded softball questions from the panel and reaffirmed the good intentions and success of Obamacare. Nicole Wallace and Fortune editor asked if the decision to delay the mandate until after the midterm elections was politically motivated, however; Axelrod deflected the question and stuck to talking points.

Rachel Maddow and Freedom Coalition Chief Ralph Reed argued over DOMA on NBC’s Meet the Press. “Gay people exist,” Maddow said to Reed, “there’s nothing that we can do that make more or less of us exist…You just are arguing in favor of discrimination.”

Reed responded that by Maddow’s logic President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Former President Bill Clinton, Senator Harry Reid, and Senator Pat Leahy were all “bigots” for voting in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act.

Raul Labrador (R-ID) and MSNBC host Alex Wagner went back and forth on how the Republican Party can best manage the immigration issue in the House of Representative. Labrador disagreed with the largely Democratic panels suggestion that the Republican’s “pander” to the Hispanic community by passing the flawed Senate immigration bill. Wagner too issue with being called out for using administration talking points and hilarity ensued.

These are the kind of videos that Ryan Ripley (me), Chris Spangle, and Joe Ruiz break down on #The Shill Report.  We record weekly and can be heard on WAL Radio site and the online radio station – Indiana Talks. We strive to review journalism and dig in to the stories of the week. We expand and explain the narratives of the week and crack wise in the process. It’s a lesson in managing your media using the examples you are bombarded with every day. We like to say that the media breaks the news and we fix it. Give it a listen, we think you’ll like it.

If you would like to send in a story for us to possible use on the show, send a message to @werlibertarians on Twitter and use the #TheShillReport hashtag. You can also leave us a message on the We Are Libertarians FaceBook page.

Ripley: All Eyes on Amash


This piece is the first of a weekly series in which WAL Contributor Ryan Ripley will follow the moves of libertarian Republican Justin Amash.

After Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) retired it was unclear who would take up the mantle of liberty and assume the role of the defender of the Constitution in the House of Representatives. Michigan Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) is making a strong case that he is the man for the job. He has stuck to the principles of limited government and the non-interventionist position on foreign policy that earned Congressman Paul the respect and loyalty of libertarians and conservatives nationwide.

The 33-year old congressman from Grand Rapids, Michigan has caught the ire of establishment Republicans largely due to only voting along party lines 77 percent of the time. Former advisor to President George W. Bush and failed GOP king-maker Karl Rove went as far as to call Congressman Amash “the most liberal Republican” in Congress.

Congressman Amash took to social media to defend his voting record. In fact, if you want an explanation for every vote that Amash casts, you can find them on his Face Book page. It does not take long to realize from his comments that Amash will vote against any legislation that he believes to be unconstitutional – regardless of the party or representative advocating for the bill.

Here are some of his recent Facebook comments on an amendment to the Farm Bill:

“I voted yes on the Marino of PA Part B Amendment 41 to H R 1947, which repeals the Biodiesel Fuel Education Program, a federal program that provides grants to nonprofits to educate fleet operators and the public on the benefits of using biodiesel fuels instead of fossil fuels. We need a comprehensive approach to energy, and the federal government shouldn’t be favoring one industry over another. It failed 194-230.”

With his principled approach to legislating, it is not surprising that Amash enjoys a 100 percent rating from The Cato Institute, Freedom Works, and Club for Growth.

In a recent move that will further inflame Karl Rove and will likely cause John McCain to call him a “wacko bird,” Amash sent a tweet to his followers that explained his intentions to defund the NSA with amendments to the Department of Defense appropriation bill that is currently under consideration in the House.

“Most important bill this week: DoD Approps. We can defund #NSA’s unconstitutional spying on Americans-if House leaders allow amendments.” – Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) – July 15th

The amendment blocks funds from being used to “collect tangible things pursuant to an order under section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 if such things to no pertain to a person who is the subject to an investigation.”

Amash faces an uphill battle as some law makers seek to prevent such amendments from being considered. The Hill published parts of a letter written by Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) to his fellow congressmen about possible rule changes for H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014.

“While this is not the traditional process for this bill, there are a number of sensitive and ongoing issues related to national security that are more appropriately handled through an orderly amendment process ensuring timely consideration of this important measure.”

Congressman Amash is not afraid to make waves as he continues to put liberty above ideology. His latest move to defund the NSA’s ability to spy on American citizens is just one of his many stands for civil liberties. He is the new conscience of the House of Representatives and is a person that all lovers of individual freedom and liberty should be following.

Watch the video below to learn more about Congressman Amash and his views on the current political landscape.

Ripley: Open Letter to Senator Dan Coats


Senator Coats,

In your June 18th op-ed in the Wall Street Journal you urged your fellow congressmen to stop politicizing the NSA surveillance leaks – at least until they have all of the facts. You also spoke of the “trust deficit” that is growing and sought to correct the narrative surrounding the intelligence scandal.

“For the record, the government is not and cannot indiscriminately listen in on any American’s phone calls. It is not targeting the emails of innocent Americans. It is not indiscriminately collecting the content of their conversations and it is not tracking the location of innocent Americans through cell towers or their cell phones.”

A lot has happened since your opinion piece went to press. On June 20th, Glenn Greenwald released the story “The Top Secret Rules That Allow NSA to Use US Data Without a Warrant” where we learned that the FISA rules regulating the broad surveillance of American citizens do not provide complete protections.

The Guardian revealed: “Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.”


Knowing that US intelligence agencies can use data “inadvertently” collected form domestic US communication is important due to the recent PRISM slides released by the Washington Post.

These slides clearly demonstrate the ability of the US intelligence community to access the emails and online information from at least 9 domestic internet sites and show that in some cases this surveillance is done in real-time and directly from the company’s servers.


We also know that the United States government is sharing that data with the United Kingdom to circumvent UK law’s and data privacy regulations:

The Washington Post reported: “According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.”


It is understandably difficult to oversee these programs. I’m sure that you recall the testimony of the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. When Senator Ron Wyden asked, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Mr. Clapper replied, “No sir, not wittingly.”

Since then, Mr. Clapper has apologized for lying to Congress and attributed his “least untruthful” statement to his poor memory.

The Guardian reported: “In the full letter, Clapper attempted to explain the false testimony by saying that his recollection failed him. “I simply didn’t think of Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” he wrote to committee chairwoman Dianne Feinstein on 21 June.”


Unfortunately, these recent releases conflict with your statements concerning the government’s ability to target emails and data of innocent Americans. The “trust deficit” is certainly growing, however, by now it is clear that it is the actions of the US intelligence community, not grandstanding congressmen that’s cause the trust issues.

In response to the new information provided by the Guardian and the Washington Post, I have three questions that I would appreciate answers to:

  1. Will you revise your statements from your June 18th op-ed in light of the leaked information from the press in order to significantly reduce the “trust deficit”?
  2. Will you call for the resignation of Director of US Intelligence James Clapper? Lying to congress is a serious offense, and forgetting the law that grants the majority of power for his organization to operate is unacceptable.
  3. Will you support legislation such as H.R. 2399 – LIBERT-E Act and bills like it that seek to prevent the mass collection of records of innocent Americans under section 501 of FISA and 215 of the USA Patriot Act?

Ripley: Tax Hikes for Fort Wayne


This week the Fort Wayne City Council approved increasing the local option income tax (LOIT) from 1 percent to 1.35 percent. The LOIT is expected to raise $13.5 million in revenue for city projects and public safety. During the same meeting, the council also created a new property tax in the form of a Cumulative Capital Development Fund which raises $800,000 in year one and up to $2 million annually in subsequent years.

Both tax increases were adopted by the Republican controlled council by a vote of 6-2. Councilmen Mitch Harper (R-4th) and Russ Jehl (R-2 rd) voted against the measures.

Mayor Tom Henry praised the council for their leadership on investing in Fort Wayne’s future.

“Fort Wayne City Council tonight voted favorably on one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne,” Henry wrote in a prepared statement. “By investing in ourselves, we’re saying we’re committed to a great quality of life, tremendous neighborhoods, new jobs, and business growth.”

Yes, that quote is correct. The mayor of Fort Wayne called the passage of these tax increases “one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne.”

The city administration has struggled to come to terms with the implementation of the property tax caps that occurred in 2008. Since then, the city has “lost” $53 million in revenue. Instead of reducing their budget to reflect the impact of the tax caps, the city decided to deplete savings and other funds to maintain service and spending levels.

“This is not a huge tax increase, it’s catching up to what we lost,” Republican Councilman At-Large John Crawford said, “Just because we decreased property tax revenues doesn’t mean the cost of running the city went down.”

And that comment reveals a true problem: “… what we lost”. The city feels a disturbing sense of entitlement to the contents of our wallets. The effects of this wrong mindedness are poor spending habits and skewed fiscal values that typically lead to deficits and fiscal trouble.

Council President Tom Didier (R-3rd) preferred to think of the tax increases as “tax relief” to help justify the new rates. However, this explanation is a stretch.

A family with a household income of $20,000 and a home valued at $58,000 will see $10 in property tax relief and will pay an additional $60 in income tax. If you make $53,000 per year and have a home worth $105,000 the property tax relief is a whopping $1 with an additional $175 owed to the city in income taxes. Double the income and value of the home from the last example and property tax relief jumps to $4 per year with an additional $347 of income tax to pay.

Apparently, Mr. Didier believes that $1 in property tax relief in exchange for having to pay an additional $175 in income taxes is a good deal for residents. Perhaps this kind of thinking is what got the city in trouble in the first place? We’ll be sure not to spend the “relief” all in one place, Mr. Didier.

During council comments, Tom Smith (R-1st) supported the tax hikes due to the balanced nature of the plan. He felt that the combination of cutting employee benefits, increasing taxes, and the aforementioned property tax relief struck the right balance and would also increase revenue for other units of government in the area.

What Mr. Smith forgot is that for a budget plan to be truly balanced, spending cuts must be included as well. The two dissenting councilmen – Mr. Harper and Mr. Jehl – found many areas to cut and re-think as part of a balanced plan that did not include a tax increase. Unfortunately, their plan was reject by the Mayor’s administration and their fellow council members.

The blanket rejection has much to do with the impact of increased revenue (taxes) on the Community Economic Development Fund. Traditionally, this fund has struggled to keep pace with the $65 million backlog in road work needed in Fort Wayne and the increasing costs to maintain the park system. With the tax increases comes a surplus of funds – upwards of $30 million over the next four years. There is a danger here that Mr. Harper correctly pointed out.

“How do you expect the administration now to use pay-as-you-go when they have not over successive administrations,” Mr. Harper said. “There’s a temptation to use that for future bonding. The prudent thing would be to say let’s keep the revenue at an adequate level to take care of our needs, but not produce something that is a temptation for use of future bonding.”

I do not agree with Mayor Henry that these tax increases are “one of the most important initiatives in the history of the city of Fort Wayne.” There were far better options. Cutting the budget to a sustainable level is an important initiative. Reducing the massive bond debt that the city holds due to a lack of planning is an important initiative. Tackling the $60 million street backlog with legacy funds is an important initiative. Pursuing a plan that achieves all of these initiatives without raising income taxes IS an important initiative. Instead, the council took more money from our pockets and slashed city employee benefits to make up for shortfalls that were predictable and preventable.

During the next election cycle the voters have an important initiative: restore fiscal responsibility to their city’s government.

Ripley: Senator Coats & The Trust Deficit


Senator Dan Coats (R-IN) took to the pages of the Wall Street Journal urging his fellow congressmen to stop politicizing the NSA surveillance leaks – at least until they have all of the facts. Coats, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, emphasized the strict oversight that the programs are subject to and the overall legality of the practices in place.

“These programs are legal, constitutional and used only under the strict oversight of all three branches of the government, including a highly scrutinized judicial process,” said Coats. “I can attest that few issues garner more of our attention than the oversight of these programs.”

Senator Coats also noted the “trust deficit” that Americans have towards their government due to the slew of scandals circulating in the media and sought to reaffirm that protections built into the system that protect the civil liberties of American citizens.

“For the record, the government is not and cannot indiscriminately listen in on any American’s phone calls. It is not targeting the emails of innocent Americans. It is not indiscriminately collecting the content of their conversations and it is not tracking the location of innocent Americans through cell towers or their cell phones.”


The “trust deficit” is a growing problem, as Senator Coats pointed out. Unfortunately for him, his op-ed made it a little bit larger.

The Guardian released the FISA court rules that allow the NSA to use the data of American citizens without a warrant. The two documents – Procedures used by the NSA to target non-US persons and Procedures used by NSA to minimize data collected from US persons – contradict the Senator’s claims.

“Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant,” the Guardian reported.

A key loop-hole is determining the location of a targeted person.

“In the absence of specific information regarding whether a target is a United States person,” the documents state “a person reasonably believed to be located outside the United States or whose location is not known will be presumed to be a non-United States person unless such person can be positively identified as a United States person.”

We also learned from the Guardian that the broad orders and question of location put a majority of the authority in surveillance directly in the hands of the analysts involved with the case, and not the FISA court. If it is learned that a subject is located in the US, the analysts can still inspect emails and messages and can listen to phone calls to verify the person’s location – without a warrant.

During his testimony at a recent House Intelligence Committee hearing, Deputy Attorney General James Cole confirmed that probable cause – in some cases – is determined by the analyst and not the FISA court. He explained the strict guidelines for targeting an American for surveillance, but noted “we do not have to get separate court approval for each query.” Again, no warrants.

As a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Coats has NSA oversight responsibilities and knows about these rules. Why would he decide to not disclose these broad rules and special cases?

Speaking of oversight, how can we rely on congress to conduct their oversight duties when officials can lie directly to them without consequence? Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, was asked at a March Senate hearing, “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” Mr. Clapper replied. “Not wittingly.”

Later Mr. Clapper acknowledged that he gave the “least untruthful” answer possible in light of the documents released by Edward Snowden to the Guardian. This exchange raises the serious concern of whether congress is truly able to provide oversight and preserve our constitutional rights if their questions do not have to be answered in the “most truthful” way possible.

Unsatisfied with FISA rules and the effectiveness of congressional oversight, Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Mark Udall (D-CO) – colleagues of Senator Coats on the Senate Intelligence Committee – are working with members of congress to re-open the Patriot Act to restore privacy rights to the American people.

“The recent disclosures of government surveillance activities have highlighted the gap between the government’s interpretation of the PATRIOT Act and the public’s understanding,” Wyden said. “This gap has allowed the government to create secret programs that violate the civil liberties of law-abiding Americans who have absolutely no ties to terrorism or espionage.”

Senator Coats closed his op-ed with the prediction that support for the NSA programs will grow “as sensationalism and fear are replaced with fact.” But even his own colleagues – who get the same intelligence briefings he does – are appalled by the actions of the NSA and are seeking legislative remedies to the blatant violations of the 4th Amendment. Coats is clearly on the wrong side of the argument. The ACLU has concluded that the rules that supposedly protect Americans’ privacy are weak and riddled with exceptions. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has drawn the same conclusion based on the documents released by the Guardian.

Glenn Greenwald (Guardian reporter) has demonstrated that the United States government can and does listen to phone call of American citizens without a warrant. If Senator Coats truly wants to reduce the “trust deficit” he should retract his op-ed, assume that Snowden has given up the entire story to the Guardian, and revise his statements. Only once the truth is told can there be an honest debate about surveillance in America.

Ripley: Secret Government Programs Are NEVER Transparent


“Transparent” is the word President Obama used to defend the NSA surveillance programs that allow the federal government to spy on American citizens. The President insists that the massive data collection is being done with “checks and balances” and that Congress has been briefed every step of the way.

“It is transparent,” President Obama told Charlie Rose in an interview on PBS. “You’ve got a federal court with independent federal judges overseeing the entire program. And you’ve got Congress overseeing the program, not just the intelligence committee and not just the judiciary committee – but all of Congress had available to it before the last re-authorization exactly how this program works.”

The federal court that the President cited is a secret court authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The decisions of the court are classified as are the warrants that it approves. In the case of Verizon, the company was not allowed to disclose the existence of the warrant or communicate about it unless executing the terms of the order or seeking legal counsel.

The President wants us to believe that the FISA court is acting in an oversight capacity, but it looks more like a rubber stamp.  The Wall Street Journal reported that the FISA court has only declined 11 out of over 33,900 surveillance requests made by the federal government over the past 33 years.

And then we have congress. Last week less than half of the Senate attended an intelligence briefing with James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and other officials – The Hill reported. Instead, many Senators opted to catch the early flight back to their districts.

“The truth is that members always come in at the end of the game, and as a result they take as gospel the assessments that they receive from the intelligence community,” Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, told The Hill.

Even when Congress is paying attention, it has proven difficult for representatives to share information with the public. Ron Wyden (D-OR) pushed for a letter from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to be made public that revealed “on at least one occasion” the FISA Court found that “minimization procedures” used by the government while collecting intelligence were “unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment” as reported by Wired Magazine.

Following this release, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a Freedom of Information Act request the details behind the FISA court’s ruling. The Justice Department attempted to block the request by claiming that such documents top-secret.  The EFF sued and a FISA court judge rejected the Justice Department’s argument that releasing the opinion would violate FISA court rules and allowed the EFF to continue with their lawsuit.

“The FISA court has made clear that there is nothing in its own rules that prohibits disclosure of the 2011 opinion we’re seeking. So we go back to district court and continue our fight under FOIA, having removed DOJ’s argument that it has no discretion to release FISA material,” David Sobel, a lawyer for EFF, told Mother Jones.

Secret courts that issue secret orders – overseen in secret hearings by representatives sworn to secrecy – are not transparent. If they were, we would not have needed whistle blower Edward Snowden to tell us that the government is spying on us in the first place. Nor would the EFF need to fight in court to get the details about the government violating the 4th Amendment rights of millions of Americans. Someone should get the President a dictionary. He keeps using the word “transparent”, but it does not mean what he thinks it means.