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History beyond the headlines on C-SPAN

Around April 28, C-SPAN aired archival footage from an event at which I spoke on February 21 at the University of the District of Columbia exploring "The Life and Assassination of Malcolm X." My comments (from 1:29-1:46 of the original complete clip) were wide-ranging, addressing history, secrecy, corruption, and freedom of thought. Video of my remarks before the Q&A are posted on the C-SPAN site (from which I unfortunately can't embed).

Reviewing the history of the NSA's dragnet revealed by Edward Snowden, I explained that:

One of the themes you heard about tonight pervading the political assassinations of the 1970s is this pattern of obfuscation, and I want to connect that to the particular controversy surrounding the NSA, and the domestic surveillance programs that you've been hearing about over the last year prompted by the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. The congressional reform track, the privacy and civil liberties oversight board, and multiple federal judges are all reviewing these programs, in addition to about a dozen state legislatures.

These were illegal secret programs in clear violation of a federal statute, passed not long after this era we've been discussing: after the Watergate era, after the COINTELPRO exposure and the Church Committee hearings, Congress took several steps to try to put the genie of domestic surveillance back in the bottle. They included a set of Attorney General's guidelines promulgated in 1976 by then Attorney General Edward Levi, They included the foreign intelligence surveillance act, FISA. FISA was written to constrain the CIA and FBI from conducting domestic intelligence particularly because of its historical politicization.
 
It was rewritten 2008, with then Senator Barack Obama's eventual support, to essentially permit most of with the NSA has been caught doing in the last year.... At no point has there been a reason, open, transparent debate about these programs -- not when they were created, at no point over the 10 years since they've been operating, and not in the year since they became central to the American consciousness....
 
Congress has been legislating in the dark... The authors of the PATRIOT Act themselves have crafted a bill to curtail its worst abuses. The head of the Senate intelligence committee, President Barack Obama (the nation's first black president), Attorney General Eric Holder (the nation's first black Attorney General) -- all of these actors, from whom you'd expect some degree of independence, all stand to the authoritarian right of the authors of the PATRIOT Act. Think about that for a second....
From 1:40:34 - 1:46:50, I broaden the context of the discussion to relate it to legal realism, addressing torture, mass incarceration, and corruption in an analysis that may especially interest any law students, or fans of my symposium address at Loyola University School of Law in spring 2012.

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