Olivia Cattabriga / Art Director

Teddy Tauscher

Equinox Staff

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, Associate Professor of Political Science at Keene State College William Bendix explained the problems the United States Congress faces while deliberating issues of surveillance.

At a lecture in the Putnam Science Center, Bendix gave an update on his work trying to measure the effectiveness of Congress. Bendix focused the lecture on a case study involving congressional oversight of surveillance from 2001-2013.  According to Bendix, he started his research back in 2005 as a graduate student focusing on only the Patriot Act at first and then widening the project to other surveillance legislations.

The Edward Snowden leaks in 2013 about the natures of the National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance changed the entire direction of the project because there was so much information that had been leaked that Congress could now deliberate on, Bendix said.

Bendix highlighted when congressional oversight of surveillance had gone awry and when it had been effective.

Bendix pointed to 2008 as a positive example of congressional oversight. According to Bendix, the FISA Amendment Act was put in place in 2008 and was used to regulate how intelligence was collected. While this was a success for Congress, Bendix also said that the discussion that resulted in this law was only possible because the information had been leaked beforehand.

According to Bendix, the inability to discuss classified information, such as the 2008 case of FISA courts, is one of Congress’s shortingcomings and not one that can be easily rectified.

Bendix identified 2011-2012 as a time when Congress had been ineffective, as it was not able to deal with a surveillance program called Upstream, which had been found to be both nonproductive and bad for privacy. The reason was that Congress was again blocked from discussing the program, as it was secret at the time.

Despite the problems that the secrecy of these programs caused, Bendix stressed that the secrecy of these programs was necessary, and so was the discussion of them in Congress, which Bendix describes as a problem with no clear solution.

According to Bendix, privacy is a difficult issue for most people because we all have a need to share some of our information with a select group of people, but we don’t necessarily want the whole world knowing what we share.

“We struggle to think about why we value privacy and we struggle to think about when we want our privacy protected and to what degree we want our privacy protected and under what conditions are we willing to relinquish our privacy,” said Bendix

However, Bendix said these issues of privacy shouldn’t be something that people have to worry about, but should be solved by public policy from elected officials who can deliberate effectively and who have been advised by experts on the subject.

The event was put on by KSC Political Science Professor Michael Welsh.

“It’s tremendously precinct. Political science goes through these phases where it’s interested in various things, it’s inserted for a while in environmental politics, it’s interested in gender politics, right now it’s on the verge in a lot of interest in national security politics, and there’s not so many people in this early stage who have done advanced research on this stuff,” Welsh said.

Keene State student who had previously taken a course on congressional politics with Bendix, Nicole Wood, said that she was surprised by the in-depth surveillance that occurred after the Patriot Act.

According to the Department of Justice website, the Patriot Act was enacted by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support and “armed law enforcement with new tools to detect and prevent terrorism.”

KSC Political Science major Isabelle Handy said she was surprised by the point Bendix made that while Congress may be dysfunctional in many situations, in others it truly has our best interests at heart despite the negative connotation it now seems to bring with it.

Bendix’s work is culminating in a book he is co-authoring about congressional oversight of surveillance post 9/11.

Teddy Tauscher can be contacted at


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