That the US "big brother" surveillance state would not keel over and die in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations is hardly surprising. But the means by which the government, and in this case the House Intelligence Committee, have set about defending, legitimizing and promoting full state intrusion into personal privacy is a comic sight to behold.
Enter today's hearing between the NSA Director Keith Alexander, and House Intel Committee's Mike Rogers (R-Mich) and Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md), who nearly a week after the initial Edward Snowden charges have resorted to the oldest trick in the book: calling him a liar.
From the Hill:
The NSA leaker is lying about both his access to information and the scope of the secret surveillance programs he uncovered, the heads of the House Intel Committee charged Thursday.
Emerging from a hearing with NSA Director Keith Alexander, Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Dutch Ruppersberger (Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel, said Snowden simply wasn't in the position to access the content of the communications gathered under National Security Agency programs, as he's claimed.
"He was lying," Rogers said. "He clearly has over-inflated his position, he has over-inflated his access and he's even over-inflated what the actually technology of the programs would allow one to do. It's impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do."
"He's done tremendous damage to the country where he was born and raised and educated," Ruppersberger said.
Asked how much additional information – including other FISA verdicts – Snowden has in his possession, Rogers said, "No one really knows the answer to that today. I think we will know the answer to that shortly."
Someone will, but not the general public: because it is easy to accuse Snowden of lying when the government can claim the national security exemption when anyone demands to confirm if Snowden is actually telling the truth. In other words, it is our (classified) word over his.
Just to stir it up a little more, and invoke imagery of Daniel Craig in a tux driving an Aston Martin, the hint that Snowden was a double agent is quietly being tested:
Rogers said investigators are also trying to determine whether Snowden has any relationship with foreign governments – something national security officials don't know yet, he said.
If that fails to gain traction, there is always the accusation that he should have just follow proper whistleblowing protocol. No really.
"Some people are saying that he's a hero. He's broken the law," Ruppersberger said. "We have laws in the United States for whistleblowers, for people that think there's an injustice being done. All he had to do was raise his hand. … Under the whistleblower law, he is protected. Yet he chose to go to China."
And when all else fails, go for good old character assassination, and the media's favorite fall back plan: shooting the messenger.
"I hope that we don't decide that our national security interests are going to be determined by a high-school dropout who had a whole series of both academic troubles and employment troubles," Rogers said.
Well, there is a high-school dropout... and then there is a successful community organizer who supposedly was familiar with the constitution, until proven otherwise. Repeatedly.