A selection of this week’s Washington Report. To read the full write-up click here
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MATT DRUDGE WAS RIGHT The Fix writes, “Say the words “Matt Drudge” to any political junkie and you will get one of two responses. The first will be strong disdain for Drudge’s eponymously-named news site and its tilt toward outrageous headlines and conservative viewpoints. The second will be sheer awe for Drudge’s continued ability to pull in massive amounts of web traffic using a site that any teenager with an affinity for the Internet could make in under 15 minutes. …Love him or hate him, “Drudge did — and does — have an impact. So, it’s worth going back 15 years this week to a speech Drudge gave at the National Press Club in which he outlined his vision of the future of journalism.
“We have entered an era vibrating with the din of small voices. Every citizen can be a reporter.” Later, he added: “The Net gives as much voice to a 13 year old computer geek like me as to a CEO or Speaker of the House. We all become equal. And you would be amazed what the ordinary guy knows.”
AMERICANS AND THEIR ODD RELATIONSHIP WITH WIRETAPPINGThe Fix writes, “The National Security Agency’s large-scale tracking of Americans’ phone records has drawn sharp criticism of government overreach from privacy advocates. But, polls over the past decade show broad support for wiretapping phones of suspected terrorists –even as many express concern that the government is not doing enough to protect individual rights. Seven years ago, a Washington Post-ABC News poll found 54 percent of Americans saying it was “acceptable” for the NSA to listen in on phone calls and e-mails of terrorists, even if this is done without a court order. Views were divided sharply on partisan lines, with 82 percent of Republicans approving of the practice and 68 percent of Democrats saying it was “unacceptable.” In that same survey, 51 percent of the public said the U.S. government was not doing enough to protect individual rights as it conducted the war on terrorism, with concern peaking among Democrats.”
U.S. INFO GATHERING Top intelligence officials claim “considerable inaccuracies” in both the initial Guardian phone data story (fueled by a blogger) and The Washington Post’s subsequent Thursday report that says U.S. analysts for years have tapped into the servers of nine Internet companies (who deny helping) so the National Security Agency and the FBI can better track possible foreign threats, CNN says. In a statement, National Intelligence Director James Clapper said the code-named PRISM program “cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.” Apparently data is collected overseas, especially via credit cards. Both developments, on top of investigating journalists, raise questions about balancing civil liberties and the post-9/11 surveillance state, as National Journal’s Michael Hirsh explains. One day into the uproar, Congress already plans to review surveillance laws and many “key” documents have been declassified.
MEMBERS KNEW Members of Congress, meanwhile, made it clear they’ve known for years about the collection of Verizon “metadata” on tens of millions of phone calls. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., explained why the feds need the tool. “It’s called protecting America,” she said.
“I said it before and I’ll say it again: Presidents have shown repeatedly that they would rather risk civil liberties than deadly attacks, and it’s not hard to understand why. Civil liberties can be debated and restored, after all, but lives can’t.” Jill Lawrence (National Journal)