Catching Up with Robert Litt

May 21, 2014– Remember spook superlawyer Robert S. Litt? He’s featured here several times. Litt was the one who told Fearful Leader Clapper that it was an adequate explanation of his lie about NSA dragnet eavesdropping to say he was “thinking about” something else. There’s plenty more. I haven’t got time at the moment, and I also hoped to post something about the imminent Justice Department release–under court order–of the drone war legal memos–but I couldn’t let the Robert Litt news pass without comment.

Representing General James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, Litt attended the House Rules Committee markup session on new legislation that supposedly will restrict the National Security Agency eavesdropping. Litt was instrumental in leading the legislators to weaken their bill, substituting a vague definition for what requires court approval. The House had already left it up to the administration to define the broad category limits–probably the equivalent of giving your teenager the car keys without thinking about it–but that wasn’t enough for the spy mavens. They preferred a definition which enables them to nominate categories and thus obtain broad swathes of data anyway. The result is so obviously flawed that a number of backers of this bill have withdrawn their support.

Here’s the question: Did the director of national intelligence cynically manipulate the bill in order to ensure its defeat, did he–represented by Mr. Litt–engineer a happy solution that leaves the NSA virtually unfettered, or were General Clapper’s objectives both of these things?

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