This is stupid.
Change takes time. Without looking, try and guess how many days passed between the terror attacks of September 11th and the passage of the Patriot Act. Got a guess in mind? OK.
Forty-five. This is remarkably fast for legislation, of course (see below), but it's still 50 percent longer than the time that's passed since we discovered that the government was collecting phone data. And that's just the phone data! The PRISM revelations came out a month ago tomorrow. The details of NSA collection of email metadata only came out last week.
Politico specifically mentions the Church Committee, impanelled to review the government's surveillance in the wake of revelations during the 1970s. That committee was formed years after the initial revelations.
When has Congress moved quickly on anything recently? The six-month anniversary of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary passed last month, without a single new piece of legislation passed at the federal level. Immigration reform, a key priority among many Republicans following the shellacking of Mitt Romney last year, has only passed one chamber of Congress. As the sadly accurate joke goes, the only thing that Congress moves quickly on these days is naming post offices.
And, yes, many elected officials will be loathe to demand reforms to programs that they themselves helped enact. Dianne Feinstein is nearly as complicit in this surveillance as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Of course she'll defend it. But, besides:
Members of Congress have called for change. As we detailed earlier this week, seven senators have introduced legislation that would demand the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) release information about its authorization of the surveillance systems. Two members of the House have done the same. Sixteen members of Congress filed an amicus brief in support of an ACLU effort to do the same.
The reason the focus is on the FISC, incidentally, is because members of Congress feel as though they don't have enough information about the programs. Is this perhaps an attempt to get political cover for reversing themselves? Perhaps. But it's still a step toward new legislation.
That secret court is slightly less secret. The judges that sit on the FISC have shown an increasing willingness to reveal details of how and why they allowed the surveillance that exists. In a surprise decision last month, the court determined that a key ruling could be released under a Freedom of Information Act request. It has unsealed aspects of a ruling against Yahoo and asked the Department of Justice to argue why Google and Facebook shouldn't be allowed to report on the number of times they get secret data requests.
Part of this may very well be an effort to respond to the idea that the court acts as a rubber stamp for the government. Regardless of motivation, it's insight that didn't exist a month ago today.