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Pres. Obama talks NSA, Rep. Hanna visits Southern Tier, and the net result is?

For the week August 5 – August 10, there has been no end of talk from the Executive and Legislative Branches. President Obama held a press conference on 8/4, and Rep. Richard Hanna of the NY-22 was in the Southern Tier for part of the week. But what does that all mean? What is the real result of all the bluster?

NSA internet surveillence program known as PRISM
Looking at President Obama’s calls to make the NSA, and intelligence agencies in general, more transparent is a welcome sign. It has only taken 2 months of public outcry to get a response from the Obama Administration. During that time the public has become aware of the massive access that the Government has to private and personal information of virtually every American in the nation without cause. In this 2 month span, Congress discussed and voted to restrict the Patriot Act section 215 as well as programs like PRISM – the Amash Amendment (H Amend 413) was defeated in a bi-partisan vote [Rep. Hanna voted against Amash].

So President Obama, late to the issue, is now concerned about the privacy issues that he defended as “transparent” on June 17, 2013, in an interview with Charlie Rose – that was rated by the independent fact-checking source Politifact as a Pant’s On Fire lie.

Jim Harper, director of information policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, is quoted in that fact-check as stating
“The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court’s raison d’être is to prevent any information about surveillance from being made available – much less authoritative ones,” Harper said. “I don’t know of any plausible meaning of ‘transparent’ that encompasses the ‘oversight behind closed doors’ concept.”

But the question remains, how transparent will this sudden change of heart be? In the press conference President Obama did not address what is to become of the records already collected and stored indefinitely by the NSA. President Obama did not comment on how those records are being used, or how abuse is being prevented. That is especially important as Sen. Ron Wyden stated on July 30th

“We had a big development last Friday when Gen. [James] Clapper, the head of the intelligence agencies, admitted that the community had violated these court orders on phone record collection, and I’ll tell your viewers that those violations are significantly more troubling than the government has stated.”

It seems apparent that the “transparency” promised will require more than just the eloquent words of a President that has a failed track record on transparency promises, like a determined effort by members of Congress to ensure legislation as well as oversight is enacted. But Congress is divided on that point.

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)

Rep. Richard Hanna (R-NY 22)


Which brings up Rep. Richard Hanna. As previously noted above, and stated in a prior article I wrote on July 25th, Rep. Hanna has voted against restricting the NSA and other agencies from the blanket powers they currently have. That is at odds with his publicized statements that he is in favor of limiting that power. Rep. Hanna is also absent his support on other legislation to restrict the blanket power of the Government to spy on average citizens, as seen in his lack of support for H.R. 2399: LIBERT-E Act. Thus his stated position seems hollow compared to his actions in Congress.

Yet such flip-flops do not seem to trouble Rep. Hanna as he visited the Southern Tier – finally. Though he has been the representative of a district that covers the Southern Tier and Central NY, he has largely avoided the area until the current recess of Congress.

While this week Rep. Hanna has talked with firefighters and Binghamton University, stating a commitment to help small business and communities, there is no lack of question to his commitment on these issues. Since 2011, when he entered Congress, Rep Hanna has sponsored and/or co-sponsored 22 Bills. Of those he has succeeded in naming a Post Office, and getting 2 baseball commemorative coin legislation passed. As Chairman of the Subcommittee on Contracting and Workforce, and member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and Joint Economic Committee, constituents might expect more but that is not what has been received.

Still, the bigger question may be where has Rep. Hanna been before the current recess of Congress and the announcement of a potential Republican challenger (myself). One might even question if Rep. Hanna would have bothered to address the Southern Tier were it not for the potential of a challenger, as his efforts in the 2012 re-election campaign seemed to display.

Like with President Obama, Rep. Hanna appears to be trailing the needs of constituents. In fact, based on his flip-flops of making statements to constituents and voting opposite on the floor of Congress, Rep. Hanna appears to be a mysterious force in Congress. He has attacked his Party, apparently abandoned his campaign positions, and sided against the Rights and best interests of his constituents (in my opinion) on multiple occasions. One would be hard pressed to define his positions on late-term abortion, immigration reform, drones and legislation restricting their abuse by Government, or several other issues.

None of which adds any credibility or confidence in his ability or desire to actually follow up on everything discussed and presented this week in the Southern Tier.

What has the political talk of August 5th – 10th provided the New York 22nd Congressional District and the nation? Not much when any deeper consideration of what has been said is looked at. While the soundbites sound great, this cursory attempt to maintain political power and placate the public ultimately provides no confidence that anything but the current status quo will be maintained.

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