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The purpose of the USA Freedom Act is to manage public perceptions.


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The purpose of the USA Freedom Act is to manage public perceptions.
Topic: Miscellaneous 3:05 pm EST, Nov 17, 2014

The USA Freedom Act will likely be passed in the next few days or weeks. Its important to understand the over-arching purpose here - which is management of public perceptions.

The Whitehouse wants the public to think that the NSA never did anything wrong, and that Edward Snowden is a punk who violated his oath to protect national secrets. Perception IS reality, so maintaining that narrative is the most important priority.

The problem is that Edward Snowden's disclosures have created a situation where the Whitehouse is going to have to answer for the NSA's activities in a court of law, and they stand a considerable risk of losing those lawsuits, because there are a variety of pretty strong arguments that the NSA programs in question are not lawful.

So, the Whitehouse set out to preempt that process, by appointing a blue ribbon President's Review Group staffed with notable academics to take a look at the situation and make policy recommendations. I must admit that I was originally surprised when the President's Review Group recommended that the mass metadata collection program be shut down, but in retrospect it makes sense now.

The Whitehouse needs to moot the lawsuits, because they can't lose in court. If they lose in court, they'll lose control of the narrative. It will be clear that the NSA did something illegal.

The recommendations of the Presidents Review Group buttress the USA Freedom Act. When Congress passes it, the program will be shut down. If the program has been shut down, the lawsuits are moot. If the lawsuits are moot, the Whitehouse won't lose in court. If the Whitehouse doesn't lose in court, then it can continue to claim that the NSA never violated the law, and only people who are very savvy will know better.

The USA Freedom Act is being passed in a lame duck session, which seems to imply that politicians who plan to vote in favor of it didn't want to have to explain their votes on the campaign trail. Perhaps they didn't want to be accused of being soft on terror, but on the other hand, the only way to respond to that allegation is to say, to the voters, that you supported the bill because you thought that balance needed to be restored. If the NSA didn't do anything wrong, then why does balance have to be restored?

I don't think the powers that be wanted this conversation to be a part of the political dialog at all. Thats why it hasn't come up on the campaign trail - even with people like Mark Udall. Despite the deafening complaints out of the left about the Patriot Act leading up the 2008 election and the fact that their loss in this midterm election makes NSA reform slightly more difficult, they didn't make an issue out of it, and its not as if they were afraid to criticize the President, so they weren't holding back for the benefit of his image. The were holding back for the benefit of the NSA.

The USA Freedom Act will pass. The program will be shut down. The lawsuits will be moot and they'll get tossed out. The narrative will be that the NSA never violated the law. The narrative will be that Edward Snowden is a punk. The Whitehouse will control the narrative. Thats what they do.

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