Last year we rounded-up a selection of the most anti-online privacy politicians in the US, followed by a similar round-up focusing on the UK. Since then Edward Snowden’s PRISM revelations have had a huge impact on the political landscape and have revealed a broad church of politicians who have allied themselves with perhaps the most pervasive spying programme in history. So below we’ve rounded-up five US politicians who have chosen to back the NSA over the rights of the American people and who are definitely worth keeping an eye-on as we head into the new year.
Republican Mike Rogers made our list back in 2012 and it’s no surprise that he enthusiastically backed the NSA’s spying programme. Rogers was the main culprit behind the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (otherwise known as CISPA) that was thankfully hounded out of congress by online privacy campaigners. Since the PRISM revelations, Rogers has made a number of smear attempts on Edward Snowden and even offered to pay for Snowden’s ticket back to the US to face charges. Perhaps most insulting was Rogers saying French citizens should be “popping champagne corks” over the fact the NSA spies on them. Charming!
Lamar Smith joined a minority of Texan Republicans to come out in full support of the NSA, when he voted against curbing the agency’s spying powers. Smith has form when it comes to surveillance legislation. Back in 2012 he introduced the FISA Amendment’s Act, which extended the surveillance and spying powers enjoyed by the NSA for another five years. Lamar Smith is also the primary architect behind the failed, and much-maligned, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and he tried to expand the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to make it easier for police to engage in wiretapping over suspected breaches of copyright.
Democrat Al Franken may seem an unfair entry on this list, given his previous comments on online privacy and efforts to introduce a less draconian CISPA alternative, but Franken showed his true colours during the Snowden affair. Firstly, it must be pointed out that Franken originally supported SOPA and PIPA (but later backtracked), due to receiving a great deal of funding from the entertainment industry, so he never really supported online freedoms in a genuine sense. Nevertheless, Franken’s attempted to whitewash PRISM by saying he was “well aware” of the programme and it’s “not about spying on the American people,” surprised many. Franken’s cosy relationship with the NSA is even more worrying when you consider he’s on the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, which looks at data collection in the private sector.
Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger co-authored CISPA along with Mike Rogers. He’s also a member of the House Intelligence Committee, and represents the district that’s home to the National Security Agency. So he knows a thing or two about mass surveillance. Perhaps unsurprisingly Ruppersberger called Snowden a traitor who is “going to cost lives short term and long term.” But in case anyone thought the NSA broke any laws Ruppersberger assures everyone: “I’m a lawyer. I was trained to follow the constitution. I’m part of the checks and balances and believe me, no one’s going to break the law on my watch.” Wow we feel so reassured…
Like Ruppersberger, Democrat Diane Feinstein is the chair of the House Intelligence Committee and she came out very strongly in favour of PRISM, saying the NSA’s spying programme was an important tool to stop terrorists. Feinstein did soften her position when the extent of the NSA’s spying on foreign allies was revealed, saying she was “totally opposed” to the activity. However, she followed this with a bill drafted to reform the NSA, which has been heavily criticised by activists. According to the EFF, Feinstein’s bill “codifies some the NSA’s worst practices,” including the collection of metadata of phone calls and does nothing to stop the agency from hacking into web services such as Google and Facebook.