By Stephen C. Webster on January 03, 2014

In a letter sent Friday, Senator Bernie Sanders demanded to know if the National Security Agency (NSA) has spied upon any members of Congress.

The independent senator said he is "deeply concerned" about recent revelations from whistleblower Edward Snowden, who provided documents showing that the NSA is syphoning up metadata from every phone call made in the U.S., and listening in to calls coming in from or going out overseas.

"In my view, these actions are clearly unconstitutional," Sanders wrote. "As U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon wrote recently, the NSA programs are 'almost Orwellian.'"

Sanders also cited the diplomatic fallout from revelations that the U.S. spied on the leaders of allied nations, such as Germany, Mexico, France, Brazil and others. "This particular revelation has caused serious foreign policy setbacks for the United States, weakened our ability to work cooperatively with our allies, and caused an increase in anti-American sentiment throughout the world," he explained.

It all led to one simple question: "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?" He added that "spying" would include collecting metadata from calls made by officials, observing web traffic, pulling details from personal emails or collecting "any other data from a third party" that's not normally available in the public sphere.

Of course, just because he's asking the question does not mean that the NSA will answer truthfully. NSA Director Keith Alexander has already admitted that he lied to Congress about the effectiveness of the agency's spying programs in stopping terrorist plots. After boasting to officials in June that the NSA had foiled up to 54 plots against U.S. national security, he revised the number down to one or two while being questioned by Senator Patrick Leahy in October.

Sanders is perhaps the most outspoken senator when it comes to matters of privacy and the NSA's activities. After Judge Leon ruled against the NSA's phone dragnet, Sanders applauded the decision and declared that the agency is "out of control" and operating without constitutional authority. He's since filed legislation that would impose broad new restrictions on how the agency gathers intelligence.

"Kids will grow up knowing that every damn thing that they do is going to be recorded somewhere in a file," he warned during a June appearance on MSNBC. "I think that will have a very Orwellian and inhibiting impact on our lives."

This video was aired by MSNBC on June 10, 2013.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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