Saturday, July 20, 2013

One Page, Eight Sentences

Trey Smith

As the uproar over mass government surveillance has continued to grow, the defenders keep saying that these various programs are not free agents because members of Congress have been kept informed and oversee the activities of America's various spy agencies. As is their wont, this line represents what we easily could call A LIE. In order to be fully informed and to provide rigorous oversight, members of Congress need lots of information and we learned on Wednesday that this is far from the case.
Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren revealed that an annual report provided to Congress by the government about the phone-records collection, something cited by intelligence officials as an example of their disclosures to Congress, is "less than a single page and not more than eight sentences".
Eight sentences, if that much, in the annual report! That's about the volume of information that one could fit on a 4" x 6" index card! It is more generalized than CliffsNotes!

A 6th grade student, who was assigned to write a book report, most likely would receive an F grade if said book report was less than one page and no more than eight sentences. Imagine trying to summarize the US Constitution, Holy Bible, The Great Gatsby or the Zhuangzi in so few words.

The Guardian and other publications have written reams about these once-secret programs. Almost every single article written thus far has featured far more than eight sentences. I'm sure that more articles are forthcoming.

So, to say with a straight face that members of Congress have been kept fully informed is disingenuous, at best. The vast majority of them haven't been kept even minimally informed. They basically have received a single sheet of paper FROM the NSA that tells them that the NSA is keeping us "safe" from terrorism and abiding by the look the other way.


But maybe the NSA is onto something. If one page and eight sentences is considered by the Executive Branch to provide sufficient information, why don't we extend this idea to the realm of political campaigns. Beginning in 2014, all candidates for political office will be limited to explaining their candidacy to voters in a less than one-page flyer that features no more than eight sentences.

No more TV and radio ads.

No more emails and podcasts.

No more stuffing of mailboxes with scads of flyers, letters, postcards and pleas for contributions.

Just. One. Piece. Of. Paper...for the entire campaign.

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