The “Obscene 14” House NSA Negroes

by Glen Ford

They are more than useless; they have chosen the side of the enemy.”

Last week, 14 Black members of the U.S. House indelibly marked themselves as tools of the Surveillance State, wholly unfit to represent any African American constituency. The “Obscene 14” aligned with Democratic and Republican leadership to narrowly defeat (217-205) a bill that would have defunded the National Security Agency’s program to spy on the telephones of every American household. Had only half of these U.S. House Negroes acted in accordance with the overwhelming sentiments of their constituents – and with the historical Black Consensus on peace and social justice – the Bush-Obama surveillance regime would have been dealt its first serious setback in more than a decade of fascism-in-the-making. All 14 should be excised, like a malignancy, from the African American polity.

The Black people of Texas are especially ill-served. All four Black congressional representatives – Al Green, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson, and newcomer Marc Veasey – voted with the NSA spies and their current boss in the White House, as did three of the four Georgia Black lawmakers: Sanford Bishop, Hank Johnson, and David Scott. Two of Florida’s three Black congresspersons pledged allegiance to universal surveillance: Corrine Brown and Frederica Wilson.

Full List of the Obscene 14:

Terri Sewell (AL)

Corrine Brown (FL)

Frederica Wilson (FL)

Sanford Bishop (GA)

Hank Johnson (GA)

David Scott (GA)

Robin Kelly (IL)

Donald Payne Jr. (NJ)

Gregory Meeks (NY)

G.K. Butterfield (NC)

Al Green (TX)

Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)

Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX)

Marc Veasey (TX)

Five of the shameless lawmakers openly advertise themselves as “progressives.” Florida’s Frederica Wilson and Corrine Brown, Texas’ Eddie Bernice Johnson and Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Georgia’s Hank Johnson, are members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus, where Jackson-Lee serves as a vice chair. But then, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, who bullied a minority of her party into line with the president and House Republican leadership, was once upon a time a co-chair of the PCC. (Steven Horsford, the Nevada Black Congressman, is also a PCC member. He failed to vote on the NSA bill.)

Nearly two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus were in their right minds last week. Among the 25 “yes” votes for defunding the NSA program were, commendably, Rep. James Clyburn, the South Carolina lawmaker who serves as House Assistant Democratic Leader, but balked at towing Pelosi’s and Obama’s line, and North Carolina’s Mel Watt, who awaits confirmation as the new head of Federal Housing Finance Agency, for which he will need a full court press from the White House.

The Cardinal Sin

In making common cause with the Surveillance State, the Obscene 14 have thrown in their lot with same forces that have, for the past two generations, placed Black America under hyper-surveillance – the foundation of both mass Black incarceration and the social environment that allows the stalking and murder of hundreds of innocent Black people every year in the United States. African Americans, more than any other U.S. constituency, have an existential interest in ending the Surveillance State. In that struggle, the Obscene 14 and their ilk are more than useless; they have chosen the side of the enemy, and will inevitably commit more treachery.

All 14 should be excised, like a malignancy, from the African American polity.”

Back in October of 2002, only four members of the Black Caucus voted for George Bush’s War Powers Act, Congress’ consent to the invasion of Iraq. Of the four, only Georgia’s Sanford Bishop – who voted, predictably, for continued NSA bulk telephonic spying – remains in the House; William Jefferson (LA), Harold Ford Jr. (TN) and Albert Wynn (MD) are, thankfully, gone. Yet, 2002’s “Four Eunuchs of War” have been replaced and reinforced in infamy by today’s Obscene 14 – a full third of the CBC. In the intervening decade, the historical Black Consensus on peace and social justice has been assaulted as never before by the massive entrance of corporate money into Black politics, and the ascent of a corporatist Black militarist to the White House – which are, in reality, two aspects of the same phenomenon. The Obscene 14 have chosen their side in the U.S. War Against All. The last place such persons belong is in leadership positions among the people who suffer most from racial and political surveillance.

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