This week, the US congress voted on an amendment to stop the NSA’s PRISM program which has been making headlines for the past few weeks. Unfortunately, the vote was defeated in the House of Representatives by 217-205, and so the NSA will continue to spy on the emails, phone calls and other communications of innocent people – in direct violation of the 4th amendment of the US constitution.
The debate both before and after the vote centres on the age old question of national security vs civil liberties. We are often told that without this unconstitutionally gathered data, Americans would be more vulnerable to terrorist attack, and we must sacrifice our liberty in order to be safe. (Benjamin Franklin might have something to say about that). This is a rather bitter pill to swallow, since the information the government is using as evidence of the program’s necessity is top secret. How can we judge the merits of the program?
Nonetheless, the above narrative at least shows these elected representatives in a good light. They are wrestling with difficult decisions, at a time when terror threats are known to be a serious risk. The truth, however, is rather more disturbing:
On average, House members who voted to uphold the domestic spy program received an average of $41,635 whereas those who voted to revoke authority for the program averaged $18,765. By the way, the leaders of the two “opposing” parties in the House, Boehner and Pelosi received $131,000 and $47,000, respectively, from the defense-intelligence establishment.
From Wired, where the above article was sourced:
The amendment was proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who received a fraction of the money from the defense industry compared to top earners. For example, Amash got $1,400 — ranking him in the bottom 50 for the two-year period.
As always, follow the money. Or as the Romans said, cui bono.