Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Pro-NSA Camp is Getting Unhinged

Last night's piece by Jonathan Tobin in Commentary, "Snowden, Amash and the Isolationist Peril", is a great example of how the pro-surveillance forces in the GOP are getting desperate.  The tide within the GOP is shifting and they clearly don't like it.  They've decided to flush logic down the drain in favor of emotion and insults.  The main points of the piece were:

1.  Those that want to restore our civil liberties are part of the "September 10th Caucus", as in they want to turn the clock back to before 9/11, inviting another mass casualty attack
2.  If you value civil liberties you are an isolationist
3.  The worldwide travel warning and closure of our embassies justifies the NSA spying

The first point really goes hand in hand with Chris Christie's comments against libertarianism and Rand Paul.  If you aren't for NSA spying on you, your wife and your children, you are in effect betraying the widows and orphans of 9/11.  Please.  I saw 9/11 transpire from my office window.  I didn't need to watch CNN, I was seeing it myself and that image and feeling is burnt into my soul.  I have no problem with the national security apparatus going after terrorists.  I WANT them to go after terrorists.  What I don't want is for them to go after AMERICANS without any probable cause.   I don't want them molesting some 3 year old girl with spina bifida in a wheelchair on the way to Disney World for no legitimate reason.  How in the heck does that add to our security or prevent another 9/11?  The Israelis have much more security than the US but they don't violate little children like that mostly because they are out to actually stop terrorists, not make sure that the ethnic composition of their security checks is appropriate.  What is also laughable about referring to a "September 10th caucus" is that Jim Sensenbrenner voted for the Amash amendment to stop NSA spying on Americans and he was the author of the Patriot Act.  He rightly believes that the government is abusing the power it was given and is not weak on national security at all.

It's also laughable to claim that the government simply didn't have the means to stop 9/11 on September 10th.  That is completely untrue.  The CIA knew that two al-Qaeda operatives (who eventually made it on to jets used in the 9/11 attacks) were living in California and purposely hid the information from the FBI (despite being legally bound to notify them).  If the FBI had this information, they would have had probable cause, been able to get warrants and stop the attacks before they began.  I don't think that we really need to let the government turn on the microphones in our phones remotely and start recording whenever they want.  Oh all these programs are strictly monitored to ensure they aren't abused?  I have two problems.  I really have no faith in secret government courts to limit government power.  And also, if oversight is so strict how come they still don't know for certain what exactly Snowden took?  Just because the NSA has all of our data doesn't mean they are efficiently policing themselves.

The second argument that is being used is that people who don' like the NSA spying are isolationists.  That is actually confusing two different issues, national security and interventionism.  You can be someone who wants the NSA to spy the crap out of American citizens and yet not want to send a dime to Pakistan.  Also, you might want to maximize civil liberties at home and want the US to intervene in the name of freedom and democracy across the globe.  Or you can be a bunch of things in between.  Not wanting your kids phones tapped by the NSA does not mean you don't want to give foreign aid to Israel or that you want to withdraw from NATO or something.  This is just a ludicrous straw man created by some very nervous people.

The third point, that the worldwide travel warning justifies the NSA snooping is about as valid as the other two arguments.  Yes an intercepted communication led to the alert, but it was a communication from al-Qaeda chief al-Zawahiri to the chief of the Yemen affiliate ordering an attack.  Last I checked neither of them were in the US and even if they were, there probably wouldn't be too much difficulty in getting a warrant as probably cause is pretty sufficient to snoop on both men.  All this proves is that the NSA does some good things, but it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that innocent Americans are being snooped on.

People like Tobin and Christie need to get their acts together if they don't want to continue to make fools of themselves. 

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