They Hate Our Freedoms

Mouthpieces for the VRWC are warning darkly that challenges to the President’s powers will not be tolerated. They are calling for an investigation … of the New York Times. It is legal for the executive branch to secretly authorize spying on citizens, because the White House says so.

Bottom line: Righties hate our freedoms.

Today’s Self-Parody Award goes to the blog Let Freedom Ring, which proudly displays the blurb “The blog where pursuing liberty is everything.” You guessed it — the blogger declares that Bush has the power to wiretap without oversight, and the “leakers” at the New York Times need to be investigated.

I’m listening to the Usual Bobbleheads on ABC’s This Week, however, and even Cokie, Sam, George, and George et al. understand that Bush is engaging in a dangerous usurpation of power. They are assuming Bush meant well by it but is in the wrong nonetheless. When these boneheads get a clue, you know the Right is experiencing a massive talking point failure.

What’s more interesting to me is that the wiretap story has sucked all the air out of the Iraqi election story. We’ve not been reduced to absolute despotism, yet. So do your bit and write your representative and senators to let them know you believe the Constitution still applies.

Today the argument turns on whether the president acted legally or illegally. Bloggers across the spectrum are becoming “expert” in all manner of statutes they probably never heard of before yesterday. And some have resorted to, um, revising the statutes to be sure Dear Leader’s acts remain within legal bounds. Blogger Glenn Greenwald writes,

Defenders of the Bush Administration are resorting to outright distortions and deliberate falsehoods about the Foreign Intelligence Security Act (FISA) in order to argue that the Administration’s warrantless eavesdropping on U.S. citizens complies with the mandates of that statute. To do so, they are simply lying — and that term is used advisedly — about what FISA says by misquoting the statute in order to make it appear that the Administration’s clearly illegal behavior conforms to the statute.

This is a real case study in how total falsehoods are disseminated by a single right-wing blogger who is then linked to and approvingly cited by large, highly partisan bloggers, which then cause the outright falsehoods to be bestowed with credibility and take on the status of a conventionally accepted talking point in defense of the Administration.

A blogger named Al Maviva wrote a staggeringly dishonest post which he said was based upon what he called a “little legal research” concerning FISA. He then proceeded to deliberately mis-quote the statute in order to reach the patently false conclusion that “the President probably does have the power to order NSA to monitor suspects, without a warrant, in terrorism cases.”

This post was then cited and linked to, in some cases with approval, by several large conservative bloggers, and thereafter wormed its way up to the conservative motherload of Internet traffic, Instapundit, who approvingly linked to it. I have no doubt that — thanks to law professor Instapundit and these others Administration defenders — tens of thousands of people (at least) have now read this “legal analysis” defending the legality of the Administration’s conduct which is based on a glaringly unethical distortion of the language of FISA.

Wow, righties lied. That’s like, so, what they always do.

[Update: John Cole of Balloon Juice, who ran a correction to the Al Maviva link, says I called him a “liar.” Well, not specifically, but I can see why he might have taken offense. I apologize to John Cole. We have all been duped from time to time. I don’t apologize to Al Maviva, however. And this blog has long chronicled the pattern of misdirection and misinformation that typifies rightie “political discussion.”]

Greenwald, an attorney, continues to explain what the statute actually does say. Put simply, “the Administration engaged in surveillance in clear and deliberate violation of FISA.” See also Laura R.

The question is, why? From an editorial in today’s Washington Post:

Mr. Bush said yesterday said that the program helped address the problem of “terrorists inside the United States . . . communicating with terrorists abroad.” Intelligence officials, the Times reported, grew concerned that going to the FISA court was too cumbersome for the volume of cases cropping up all at once as major al Qaeda figures — and their computers and files — were captured. But FISA has a number of emergency procedures for exigent circumstances. If these were somehow inadequate, why did the administration not go to Congress and seek adjustments to the law, rather than contriving to defy it? And why in any event should the NSA — rather than the FBI, the intelligence component responsible for domestic matters — be doing whatever domestic surveillance needs be done?

The obvious answer is that the NSA surveillance served some political agenda. I strongly suspect (i.e., am damn sure) that if all the facts were known, we’d find out that some surveillance was conducted on Bush critics and political opponents, not enemies of the U.S.A.

A few quick points:

First, several rightie bloggers are comparing the New York Times “leak” of the FISA violations with the Bush Administration leak of Valerie Plame’s classified status. If the latter was wrong, so is the former, they say. But the morality of the acts depend on whose interests are served — the powerful, or the people? When the powerful use “leaks” to manipulate the news and mislead the people, that’s wrong. But when a newspaper uncovers illegal activity by the powerful, that’s why there is a First Amendment.

Second, no one is saying that the government should not conduct surveillance on possible terrorists. That’s not the issue. The issue is that Bush usurpsed a power that law and the Constitution do not give him.

Third, Democrats should use this episode to remind voters that conservatives don’t believe in a right to privacy.

See Doctor Who at Kos, Avedon, and Billmon for more.

23 thoughts on “They Hate Our Freedoms

  1. ..and all of these subversions to democracy have netted how manny terrorists? All I heard the Patriot Act nabbed were embezellers and such…

  2. The Bushies claim the NSA operation stopped a guy who was going to blowtorch the Brooklyn Bridge. I have a hard time believing that was a serious plan.

  3. Blowtorch the Brooklyn Bridge? If the guy was smart he would have used sawzall with a long extention cord. Better yet, a Dewalt 24 volt cordless reciprocating saw with a 24 tooth bi-metal blade.

  4. I sometimes wonder about what is the difference between this administration and the Nixon administration. The main difference seems to be Woodward working to uncover the crimes of Nixon and now doing his best to help Bush cover up his crimes. So very sad.

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  6. Schieffer on face the nation quoted an unnamed white house official as crowing thet this would put the dems in a box. Again Repubs don’t believe in the constitution, a right to privacy or the illegality of illegal acts. this blind exceptionalism needs to be the message dems shout. Even Lindsay Graham admitted he had not been told and this needed investigation. Biden who said he took part in writing the fisa law 25 years ago admitted he wonders what did they want that fisa would not let them do.

  7. Bonnie-Just the type of irony this crew likes. Think of how the right enoyed using Nader to derail the 2000 election and hoped for a repeat in 2004.

  8. “white house official as crowing thet this would put the dems in a box.”

    How the hell would this put them dems in a box? The dems might put themselves in a box — they have a talent for that — but I don’t see how the president admitting to an illegal activity puts them dems in a box.

  9. I too am amazed that it sucked the air out of the Iraq election story.

    And shocked at Junior’s defiance, the meanness in his tone, at how he said he’d do it again, all while claiming to protect our civil liberties (you can tell he was told to say that last part).

    It reminds of a showdown between a very petulant child who’s been caught and their parent. Who’s going to rule?

  10. Seems this white house is just FULL of SECRETS. Have any of you heard of a man named John Gilmore? He is the rich libertatian who sued after He tried to board a plnae without showing ID.He demanded to know what law made it legal to demand ID be shown before he could travel.When the case reached the 9th cir court of appeals, the JUSTICE dept told the court yes there was a law that required people to show ID before boarding a plane , but that is is a “SECRET LAW” THAT COULD ONLY BE DISCLOSED TO THE JUDGE IN A SEALED FILING.This law is so secret in fact,the justice dept doesn’t even want John Gilmores lawyer to see it.

    Now I don’t know what is happening with the case(last i knew the 9th circuit had it?) and I am not agruing whether or not John Gilmore was being a pain in the ass.. to me nothing else about the case matters except what the justice department said in court about a “SECRET LAW”

    How can there be a secret law? There can’t be just one,, there has to be more..Why would it be a secret if there was a law , in fact, that required ID to board a plane? What is the prize for making that a secret?Is their desire to use it to detain unsuspecting women who happen to lose their ID while on vacation?..This happened to me once, many years prior to 911.I was able to get back on the plane with no ID and return home after I lost my wallet …Now what would happen? Would it turn out I would need a lawyer after trying to board a plane with no ID under the same circumstances now, having broke some new “SECRET LAW”?

    The idea of the NSA or the PENTAGON or any government agency SPYING on Americans , the idea of “SECRET LAWS”, the idea of Americans being detained without charges, makes me afraid of what we don’t know.

    And for any American to defend any of it is an outrage.What this comes down to is that righties need to stop and take a good hard look at what they have become.What they are doing here is standing behind the actions of a political party over their own country.On it’s own that is sad enough but they seem to prop up those same people and their protection as the logic that excuses this behavior.

    The problems with that are many, but here are just a few.Will the righties still love these laws when they are no longer the party in power? Do they trust the otherside not to turn and use the very laws they created against them?IF they decide it is ok for bush to spy and have secret laws and places world wide where folks can be sent to draw answers out of them , then it will have to be ok for the otherside to do the same.. and if your not breaking some secret law what do you have to worry about???Don’t be afraid righties,, the other side will be fair!LOL.

    But mostly I wonder what we have become when we decide that WE are more iimportant then the constitution so many have died to preserve.People forget, or worse don’t even know what our troops fought for over the years. I hear righties SCREAM that the troops died so I had the right to run my mouth..NOT TRUE and such a foolish statement.They fought and died to protect a document that is our countries basis., so it would be here for us today and our kids tomorrow,, they believed the document was WORTH dying for. Now we have a bunch of chicken shit self important righties saying scrap the damn constitution,, just save my sorry ass in Iowa(insert any state with no chance of ever being attacked by terrorists here).

    The righties are willing to just blow off a document that so many died for to save their sorry asses today from the boogieman.. BOO! And the same righties will claim we hate the troops?? Yet they are willing to scrap the very document the troops are suppose to be fighting to protect.

    IF the righties throw out the constitution and they allow the way our country has been since our founding,, then the terrorists have won.. is that their goal?

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  12. “conservatives don’t believe in a right to privacy.”

    Of course they don’t, Maha. They think that “privacy” means abortion and birth control, and other private matters of women. I gave up on that point years ago.

    What is more important here is that they apparently don’t believe in the fourth amendment of the constitution (which pretty clearly protects all of us). They sure like the second amendment, but apparently not the fourth, now that the preznit has declared it unnecessary.

    I wonder how they’ll feel when Bush declares martial law and hence declare the second amendment “contrary to national security interests.”

    I’m not worried about the hardcore koolaid drinkers; they’re a lost cause. They’d love a dictator, as long as the dictator took care of them. Idiots. I’m sure that many upper-middle-class jews in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Warsaw thought it would never get that bad, either.

    Now our real hope (Lord help us) is Congress.

    I can’t believe I just typed that.

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  14. Sorry, sweetie. My hope is that the huge egos in Congress and the Judiciary branches will not like hearing that they have now become irrelevant.

    “What weighs 2000 pounds and lives in the circus?”

    “That’s irrelevant!”

    “You’re right! Irrelevant!”

    Dunno, but Feingold and Barr (strange bedfellows, no?) sound pissed as hell, and Bob Graham went on tv to say that Condi Rice was lying to Chris Matthew’s face.

    Stranger things have happened. Maybe their own power grab will help bring down the big power grab. From what I read in the funny papers, the pentagon and intelligence services are chewing nails.

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  16. erinyes — you mean,

    “Paris is again becoming a refuge for increasing numbers of thoughtful Americans fed up by their nation’s takeover by religious fanatics and neo-fascist empire-builders. We may be looking at a new `lost generation’ fleeing Dick Cheney’s Mussolini America.”

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