On Tuesday, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander went before the House Intelligence Committee, hat in hand, to address concerns over the agency's recently revealed spying practices. "I'm sorry, did I say hat in hand? I meant middle fingers a-blazin'," Jon Stewart said. Alexander more or less told the committee that the NSA's work was the only thing standing between America and another major terrorist attack. "Yes, the intelligence community's attitude could best be described as 'Are we done here? Because I need to get back on that wall. You need me on that wall. You can't handle the truth. Show me the money. You had me at hello. We ain't teachin' radio, radio teachin' us. That's not a knife, this is a knife. I'm not a stripper, I'm a dancer.'"
Of course, most of the members of House Intelligence Committee said they had no idea what was going on. "And they have every right to be outraged and surprised," Stewart said. "Well not every right, no right." In 2001 Congress passed the Patriot Act, giving the NSA access to "any tangible thing." "That's the actual phrase that's in the Patriot Act," Stewart added. "Our nation has to have access to any tangible thing except wishes and fairies." Congress renewed that act two more times, and in December 2012 shot down an amendment requiring more disclosure.
"So the very legislature that is bewildered by the scope and reach of our spying apparatus, granted them that scope and reach," he said. That's like saying "I can't believe you stayed out all night and got drunk, just because I left you with a keg of beer and a note that said do whatever the fuck you want for as long as you want."
Finally, Rep. Mike Rogers stepped up to the plate and pointed out that it was "disingenuous" for Congress members to be shocked by all these practices they approved. Also, it's not a big deal, since, in Rogers words, you can't have your privacy violated if you don't know it's being violated. "Spying is like healthcare," Stewart noted. "If you never find that tumor in your ballsack, it can't kill you."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.