The government might be shut down, but both parties have agreed that the National Security Agency's dragnet surveillance programs will not be impacted by the stoppage.
However, fulfilling the requests of citizens or journalists trying to obtain information about the government's activities has been deemed not "an essential service."
As journalist Glenn Greewald tweeted Wednesday morning:
During the shutdown, NSA will be spying on you, but regretfully, is unable to process your FOIA requests about them http://t.co/2xlug9yLO1
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) October 2, 2013
The link is to a NSA/CSS press statement which reads:
Due to the government shutdown, FOIA/PA requests or inquiries submitted to the FOIA/PA Office will not be addressed until the office reopens.
The contradiction has been hit on by other commenters who say the selectivity of the shut down reveals much about the government's priorities.
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Writing at Common Dreams on Tuesday, author and activist Norman Solomon argued not only should the NSA not be funded throughout the so-called "shutdown," but that it should be permanently shuttered:
At the top of the federal government, even a brief shutdown of “core NSA operations” is unthinkable. But at the grassroots, a permanent shutdown of the NSA should be more than thinkable; we should strive to make it achievable.
NSA documents, revealed by intrepid whistleblower Edward Snowden, make clear what’s at stake. In a word: democracy.
Wielded under the authority of the president, the NSA is the main surveillance tool of the U.S. government. For a dozen years, it has functioned to wreck our civil liberties. It’s a tool that should not exist.
And Rabbi Michael Lerner, writing at Common Dreams on Wednesday, pointed the finger at Democrats, arguing they've made it all too easy for the shutdown to hurt everyday workers, but have preserved funding for the sacred cows of war and military spending. Lerner writes:
If [Democrats] had a backbone, they would have insisted that if the government is going to be shut down, then all of the government will be shut. Instead, they’ve taken the standpoint of the Republicans in dividing “essential services” from “non-essential,” and saying only non-essential services are to be shut down. So when it comes to taking care of the poor and the powerless, those services get shut.
What they should have been saying, and could still say, is this: the government finances and the ability to pay the national debt impact everything, and if the Republicans want to shut down the government, then everything will be shut. So, no pay for anyone who receives government pay, including the Congress (which right now continues to get paid), the entire military (after all, we are not in a war, and if we are still fighting in Afghanistan, we shouldn’t be), the entire homeland security, NSA, FBI, etc. including the people searching us when we get on airplanes (and if the airports have to shut down, that’s another consequence of the Republican’s move), the border guards and the entire Immigration and Naturalization service.