Part 2 – includes audio, and how Rep Thompson could have prevented Snowden’s leaks
Don’t miss Part 1

Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA)

The other day as Restore the Fourth visited Rep Mike Thompson’s office, we unexpectedly recorded his staff’s view that whereas citizens’ private calls should be monitored with no suspicion or warrant, his staff’s conversations with voters should only be recorded with advance permission.  In the recording we hear staffers refusing to address the group’s main concern – what role the Congressman thinks warrants should have in surveillance – and instead spending a full minute trying to get a journalist to turn off his recorder.  It was stunning and kind of hilarious.

And in the same meeting, we discovered Rep Thompson could have singlehandedly prevented the Snowden leaks, but chose not to.

First, great news: to end the NSA’s warrantless surveillance programs this fall, just 7 folks in Congress need to change their votes from “NO” to “YES” on the Amash-Conyers Amendment that was narrowly defeated last month.

Rep Thompson is one of just 10 California Democrats who voted against Amash-Conyers and its requirement for warrants; moreover, he was on the Intelligence Committee that was supposed to be providing NSA oversight these past 6 years – the key “Congressional oversight” that the president boasts about in every speech defending the NSA.  California senior Senator Feinstein has been similarly keeping thousands of abuses and breaches secret – or failed to learn about them at all.

The vast majority of Democratic California Congressmen – 27 Reps – already voted for Amash-Conyers to end warrantless surveillance, but Rep Mike Thompson’s committee has been standing in the way in several ways – including, misleading others in Congress by withholding documents, and insisting there have been no abuses – until they’re revealed in the newspapers.  On the day of our meeting, NSA defenders’ other “oversight” claim was being fully debunked too – as we learned judges for the secret FISA court had secretly ruled some programs unconstitutional, and had expressed outrage over misleading reports and deceptions that have continued for years in the dark.

We previously wrote a bit about our meeting here, where Thompson’s staff reacted to a journalist’s recorder by saying, with a severe irony deficiency, “I would have preferred it if you had asked if I could be recorded.”

Here is that recording, with some context:

And the recording reveals a larger context: when a Representative like Thompson’s staff is visited by constituents, accountability isn’t the staff’s goal.  They’d rather not answer any questions, especially about the specifics of legislation he voted on or the reasoning behind the vote.  In fact, they would vastly prefer any such discussion to be secret, off the record, or not happen at all.

They generally achieve this by offering to be Good Listeners while treating any effort to obtain information as impolite or argumentative.  When discussing the NSA, they of course also say that the answers to most questions are secret, and even secret from them.  While touting Thompson’s “Blue Dog fiscal conservatism” they insist they have no clue what any of these programs cost.  They took notes as we spoke, but we have yet to receive the promised answers to any of our questions from last Wednesday.

They did admit that most of the calls from voters on the Amash-Conyers Amendment were in favor of passing it and ending warrantless NSA surveillance – but they also say they didn’t get many calls.  That’s why it’s important to contact his office by email (zip 95401 won’t be ignored), by phone at (707) 542-7182, and ideally, attend the rally this Wednesday at his office:  Protest Rep Mike Thompson’s NSA Support this Wed Aug 28  – We’ll gather in front of Rep. Thompson’s office starting at 4:30 pm. Vigil begins at 5:00 pm. Speakers begin at 5:30 pm. — Speakers will include civil liberties attorneys, policy analysts, community leaders and activists.

Rep Thompson Could Have Prevented Snowden Leaks
Restore the Fourth’s Gareth Scott made an important point in the meeting: Edward Snowden did not want to throw away his career and risk his life – and would never have done it if the US public had been able to learn the truth about NSA abuses without his help.  Snowden watched Director of National Intelligence James Clapper commit felony perjury under oath in Congress – and waited for weeks to see if the lie would be corrected by Thompson or anyone else on the Committee who knew the truth.

<crickets>

Only then did Snowden give up on “Congressional oversight” and book his ticket for Hong Kong.

We went on to point out that Thompson was one of the only people in the country who knew better and could have corrected any of the lies without being busted as a whistleblower traitor.  Thanks to the Speech or Debate Clause in the Constitution, he can’t be prosecuted for anything he says on the House Floor.  (Thompson’s staff didn’t seem to know what that was.)  It’s the same rule that let brave Senator Mike Gravel read aloud from the Pentagon Papers to reveal classified lies.

If Rep Mike Thompson had simply had the integrity and courage to stand up and say, “I know what James Clapper said isn’t true,” Snowden’s revelations would never have happened.
Thompson’s staff looked very troubled but did not disagree.