Friday, June 7, 2013

Everyone That Doeth Evil Hateth the Light

My Right Wing Acquaintance Number One linked to a Washington Post article on the PRISM program FISA seizure of telephone and Internet data.  His one remark, "'scholar' president."  I'm grateful to him for supplying such a clear example of his partisanship.  As the article makes clear, the current electronic surveillance programs are survivors from the Bush-Cheney era, though the Clinton administration also jacked up surveillance after the Oklahoma City bombing.  When a Republican administration did such things, Democrats howled about civil liberties, and Republicans accused them of softness on terrorism if not treason.  When Obama took over, Democrats suddenly became fans of wiretapping and data-mining, and declared themselves the real tough guys on terrorism and national security.  (Actually, the stage was set even before Obama was elected, when he supported and then voted for the original FISA bill.  Then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted against it.  But while many Democrats attacked Obama then, most gradually went along with the program.)  I don't remember RWA1 having anything to say about it at the time, though he wasn't on Facebook then.  But I've known him for forty years, and at most I would expect him to criticize it quietly and equivocally in private while publicly maintaining Party discipline.  He would say that he's no fan of Bush, which may be true; but I don't recall him ever making any public criticism of the man or his policies either.

At alicublog, Roy Edroso helpfully collected some examples of right-wing support for this kind of surveillance under Bush.  I think that one of the rightbloggers he quotes is right: liberals do owe Bush and the Republicans an apology, for standing by quietly or even defending policies from Obama that they attacked when Bush implemented them.  But the same applies in reverse: Republicans can hardly attack Obama for policies that originated as Bush policies.  If they didn't mind when Bush's security apparatus was tapping their phones, why should they object to Obama's security apparatus doing it?

Someone, I think on Democracy Now! a day or two ago, pointed out that one reason Obama's getting some serious criticism and opposition from the corporate press is that their toes are being stepped on.  As long as Bush and Obama were just picking on a few swarthy "terrorists", they didn't much mind.  Noam Chomsky has always said the same thing about Nixon and Watergate: as long as the government just trashed the offices of some antiwar hippies, the media didn't care.  It was only when Nixon made the mistake of targeting rich, respectable and powerful people as his enemies that he got into trouble.

This morning, Democracy Now! reported that "Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein told reporters in the Senate gallery that the government’s top-secret court order to obtain phone records on millions of Americans is, quote, 'lawful.'"   
Speaking on MSNBC, she said the leak should be investigated and that the U.S. has a, quote, "culture of leaks."
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: There is nothing new in this program. The fact of the matter is that this was a routine three-month approval, under seal, that was leaked.

ANDREA MITCHELL: Should it be—should the leak be investigated?

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN: I think so. I mean, I think we have become a culture of leaks now.
She said that like it's a bad thing!  Leaving aside the fact that the administration itself uses leaks when it suits its purposes, why shouldn't their malfeasance be exposed?  Of course it's hardly surprising that people like Obama and Feinstein don't want their secrets revealed; again, I wish I'd saved a link to the video clip where Obama told an activist that while transparency was important, he just couldn't do his job with the American citizenry breathing down his neck, watching everything he does.  That may well be true, but his abuse of secrecy (not unique to him: again, he's just following in his predecessors' footsteps) has made it imperative to shed light on his activities.  (See also this piece at the Atlantic, pointing out that although Obama talks about the importance of "debate," he works hard to thwart it.  The information about the NSA data grab didn't emerge because Obama wanted a debate on privacy and surveillance -- it was leaked without his consent.)

One point that isn't not important, but it amuses me.  Apparently our government wants the National Security Agency to be referred to simply as "NSA," not "the NSA."  I noticed that, deliberately or not, Glenn Greenwald still uses the article.