Posted by: cjobrien | 26 February 2008

Fly At Night Fizzles on The Professor’s FISA Fizzle

 Well, Kurt disagrees vehemently with me over the usefulness of FISA for protecting Americans. I’m not surprised – Kurt is an excellent apologist for conservative politics. But his headline, “The Professor Fizzles on FISA” misses the point and his response offers nothing in the way of tangible evidence for his position. I argued previously, largely based on Ed Brayton’s assessment, that the Congress allowed provisions of FISA to lapse that are unnecessary to begin with and did not affect the overall strength of FISA. Instead of addressing the argument, Kurt attempts to bluff his way with the usual irrelevant rhetoric taken as argument by most conservatives these days. “Trust us and the Bush administration, we know what’s good for your protection – and if you protest, you’re not only un-American but probably a terrorist yourself”.

Kurt can’t address the issue. Instead we’re asked to identify whether our phones are being tapped by FISA – I guess if I knew that I’d have to draw the conclusion that the FISA provisions Kurt wants really don’t work anyway – if I could figure out who is tapping me, I suspect the terrorists would be able to figure it out. What Kurt wants is for the rest of us to “trust” the Bush administration to do what’s right. That’s not going to happen – the administration is not trustworthy and people are getting tired of being bullied into submission over the fear of another terrorist attack.

Again, what evidence does Kurt offer that I or any others are wrong about FISA? I cite Brayton that we can still listen in on terrorists under FISA and in reply, Kurt offers that the professor is “intellectually dishonest”; I suggest that the provisions dropped were unnecessary for surveillance and Kurt says the professor “uses labels to diminish people”; I point out that under original FISA intelligence officers can retroactively seek a warrant and Kurt responds that the professor exhibits “a high level of agitation”; I suggest Republicans have purposefully confused FISA with provisions of the Protect America Act and Kurt retorts with “the professor is less believable out of his profession”. Wow, I’m stunned – I guess I should have seen the light on FISA long ago. Come on, Kurt, who is really addressing the issues and who is ignoring them in favor of commitment to a political platform? – that may work in Lassen County, but fortunately the nation is much larger and more diverse.

The potentially tangible argument Kurt offers is that offered by Defense of Democracies. They offer nothing more tangible themselves than the fear mongering: if we don’t trust them on FISA and the Democrats don’t renew the provisions, we’re all going to die. They offer nothing to prove that. We are simply to trust them. If I asked Kurt and these folks to write an essay in my college classe on why the Democrats should have renewed FISA they’d all be getting low C’s or Ds.

I ask the question again, Kurt – would you trust a Pelosi Presidency or (heaven forbid!) a Hillary Presidency, with the same FISA abilities you favor? Would you trust them only to be spying on terrorists?



  1. The is something about Republicans and other right wing groups that makes it impossible for them to see the “real” effects of their various attempts to seize the ultimate power. For instance, had McCain and a group of sane moderate Republicans not banded together with some Democrats to divert their less-than-American friends from implementing the “nuclear option”, the current Democratic Congress would have made the Republicans even more irrelevant than they are. For some reason, Republicans think that all the extra-constitutional powers that Bush and Cheney have secured for themselves, their disdain for Congressional oversight, their claims of immunity from DOJ supoenas, their violation of FISA law with impunity will NOT apply to the coming Democratic Presidency. Did they somehow believe that Bush would be President-forever? Or that Congress would be Republican forever?

  2. Absolutely correct – which is why my question to Kurt will never be answered. They are perfectly willing to give broad surveillance powers with no oversight and no opportunity for redress to their annointed kings, but could not stomach the same powers in the hands of the opposition. The only accross the board solution is to talk about such powers in the context of constitutionality and not in the context of fear.

  3. The appeal to fear is shameful. Is mere survival enough? What makes us worth saving cannot be jettisoned; if it is, if all we think about is staying alive, we’re no more worthy of that than are our enemies. “Whenever I hear the president mention, oh, every 12 minutes, that his greatest responsibility is ”to protect the American people,” the insufferable civics robot inside my head mutters: ”Actually, sir, your oath, the one with the Bible and the chief justice and the Jumbotron, is to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. For the American people are not mere flesh whose greatest hope is to keep our personal greasy molecules intact; we, sir, are a body politic — with ideals.”” – Sarah Vowell

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