If there was any good news to come out of this weekend’s CRomnibus festivities, it was that you can now make any Democrat immediately cringe by implying that Eizabeth Warren is their side’s equivalent of everyone’s favorite showboating Republican presidential contender, Ted Cruz. But that’s about it. The rest of the CRomnibus is just an endless string of soul-crushing spending provisions, Wall Street handouts and complete budget funding for a bunch of agencies you don’t even know exist until you accidentally run afoul of them.
There were some winners, though. Republican legislators managed to scale back a few of Michelle Obama’s school lunch reforms, which will mean that fewer middle- and high-school kids will be able to gross out the Internet with their meager and disgusting meals (proven to keep them from obesity by ruining their delicate teenage appetites). Leadership was also able to cancel out EPA regulations that would have compelled cattle and dairy farmers to report and control the “methane gas emissions” from their herd, and prevent them from having to purchase EPA indulgences just so that their cows can safely fart and burp on American soil.
And while you were busy wondering if the government was going to shut down, and busily poring over 15 pounds of the CRomnibus bill, Congress took advantage of the distraction to pass a sweeping endorsement of the NSA’s warrantless data collection program.
With nearly no public notice or debate, Congress on Wednesday approved legislation that critics say blesses the warrantless collection, dissemination and five-year retention of everyday Americans’ phone and Internet communications
The controversial language was quietly incorporated into an intelligence authorization bill that passed the Senate on Tuesday and then the House on Wednesday.
The legislation, privacy advocates say, sanctions for the first time the executive branch’s warrantless collection of American communications under Executive Order 12333, issued in 1981 to authorize the interception of communications overseas.
Section 309 of the intelligence bill sets a five-year limit, with many exceptions, on the retention of U.S. persons’ communications collected under that order, which was issued well before widespread use of cellphones and the Internet….
The good news is that Congress has managed to update a law that was written in 1981, before anyone was using email to do anything other than direct troop movements along the USSR’s Western border. The bad news is, they don’t much care to do anything to the law that reflects any update in technology made since the Reagan administration, and the provision basically rubber stamps what the NSA is already doing. But at least they’re being remarkably efficient in the Obama administration’s service for once: the update comes just in time for a rather large expansion in the Obama Administration’s surveillance program.
The New York Times reported in August that the Obama administration is rewriting internal policies to allow the FBI direct access to a database of raw communications collected under the executive order.
Yaaaaaaaay. I suppose it’s only perfectly appropriate that the U.S. Congress is taking note of the holiday spirit by adopting the same policy towards privacy as the Elf on a Shelf.