[This is a schizoid piece - I wrote the first half angered by an ad on tv from Congresswoman Nancy Johnson. And then after writing it, I saw the news piece about the Republican majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee voting to give Bush the right to have warrantless wiretapping, zero oversight. So the first part is germane, because it's about the warrantless wiretapping. And then I talk briefly about the Senate Judiciary Committee cave in at the end.]
Part 1: Nancy Johnson
Before my coffee even, the Today Show sent me to the computer.
In a piece comparing Democrats' political ads and Republican ones, where the topic was the Democrats making the case the Republicans haven't made us safer while the Republicans make the case that they have, they excerpted an ad from incumbent Nancy Johnson, running for her Congressional seat in Connecticut.
The ad they showed was this: against the background of ominous music and a sickly green computer screen with pictures of suspicious men on it, the voiceover says gravely: "A terrorist plot may be unfolding. Should the government intercept that call or wait until the paper work is filed?"
That is a LIE. The FISA law NEVER makes you wait to intercept the call. If the government has suspicions, it is allowed to tape that call INSTANTANEOUSLY, you do not have to file any paper work BEFORE doing so. If you have suspicions you just tape away, the FISA court gives the government the benefit of the doubt, and the government has THREE DAYS to file for the warrant. (This law only covers calls involving taping an American citizen's phone call.)
The government can certainly manage to file by the end of three days, can they not? Do we pay their salaries to do things, or not? The FISA court is notably accepting of the government's point of view and in the past has turned down very, very few requests for a warrant.
Now it's true, if the government applied for a warrant to tape John Kerry's campaign headquarters during the election and said it had to do with the war on terror, I have a feeling FISA might have refused to okay that request for a warrant. Would that be okay with Ms. Johnson, I wonder?
But if there is a genuine reason for suspecting someone of being involved in a terrorist plot, NO ONE, NOT ONE SINGLE DEMOCRAT wants to stop that interception. We just want SOME OVERSIGHT OF THIS ARROGANT ADMINISTRATION, and asking them to file with the FISA court by the end of three days does not seem too much.
But Ms. Johnson, like most people in the Bush administration, refuses to win an argument by truthful means... they have to DISTORT the actual argument in order to win, they can't win on the real merits, but instead choose to pull the wool over people's eyes so they don't know what the actual situation being argued about is.
The TODAY Show, in its commitment to glimmering entertainment, of course does not consider it "fact checking" to explain the inaccuracy of this ad. Let's just go down on the Titanic jabbering away about half-truths and half-lies.
I did a google news search and see Ms. Johnson's unedited ad is worse, and slimes her opponent Chris Murphy. (Her ad can be seen here.)
Here's her expanded ad copy:
"A call is placed from New York to a known terrorist in Pakistan. A terrorist plot may be unfolding. Should the government intercept that call, or wait until the paperwork is filed?
"Nancy Johnson says act immediately. Lives may be at stake. Liberal Chris Murphy says no -- apply for a court warrant even if valuable time is lost. Chris Murphy: Wrong on security. Wrong for America."
"Even if valuable time is lost" is a TOTAL LIE. You can begin taping immediately, you can get a warrant later. She is smearing her opponent by changing the FACTS of how the FISA laws work. That is called lying.
As you see and as Ms. Johnson clearly knows unless she's mentally handicapped, there is no scenario in which ANYONE is saying apply for a court warrant BEFORE taping the call. NOT ONE DEMOCRAT ALIVE.
Instead, President Bush is being asked to obey the law, written by Congress to avoid misuse by the government - and they can listen to the call IMMEDIATELY and if they need to keep listening, they must file within three days. That filing within three days is to PROTECT US.
(The FISA law was written by Congress after Nixon's resignation, once it was discovered he had been taping the calls of "personal enemies" who were in no way connected to national security. Given the Bush administration's penchant for secrecy, manipulation and lies, and Karl Rove's semi-admired "fame" for dirty tricks, it's not hard to imagine that the Bush administration may have OTHER reasons for wishing not to follow the law asking for warrants.)
Besides, if the call in question is from a "known terrorist," there is NO WAY that FISA won't approve the call when, three days later, somebody follows the law and applies for the warrant.
So to correct her ad, it should say: "Liberal Chris Murphy says the FISA law DOES let you intercept the call immediately; he just wants the President to follow the FISA law, which is for citizen protection oversight, and file for a warrant within three days." Nancy - think we can live with some laws maybe? So the President just doesn't become King every time he shouts "terror terror terror"?
So... Nancy Johnson is a liar. Vote for her (and other Republicans) at your peril.
Vote instead for Chris Murphy. Get the rubber stampers of Bush out of office.
Part Two: the Senate Judiciary Committee Caves In
While I was about to post the above, I saw on the front page of the Huffington Post that the rubber-stamping Congress, in the persons of Republican Senators on the Senate Judiciary Committee, has just voted on party lines in favor of passing a law basically ALLOWING Bush to do his warrantless wiretapping. Because he's so trustworthy, and asking his administration to get a warrant after three days is just TOO difficult. I mean they couldn't react to Katrina in three days, how can they fill out a form in three days? (Articles are here and here.)
I get it, he's King. Who knew when the country and the Supreme Court sort of elected our "uniter not divider" who was opposed to nation building that we actually got ourselves a king? And his name is even George! We fought against King George III in the American Revolution. And now suddenly we have our own home-grown King George. Great. Democracy, to hell in a handbasket.
Of course, this law hasn't passed yet, but it is further reason to get RID OF THE RUBBER-STAMPING BUSHI-ITE Congressmen/women and Senators.
The Republican committee members who voted to give Bush the legal blank check to tape anybody at any time with no oversight were: Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Charles Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas, Sam Brownback of Kansas, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
The Democrats opposed -- and interested in protecting us from the new King George -- were Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Joseph Biden of Delaware, herbert Kohl of Wisconsin, Dianne Feinstein of California, Russell Feingold of Wisconsin, Charles Schumer of New York, and Richard Durbin of Illinois.
Specter and company clearly feel that asking the administration to file for a warrant within three days is just too much to ask. The government is very busy running a bankrupting war and inflaming Muslims around the world, they just don't have time. Plus they are so trustworthy, clearly the Bush administration will ONLY do things that are good for the country. I mean, they've tortured prisoners and sent them off to other countries secretly, just like communist Russia used to do. But we don't care. Because being American means nothing. As long as King George tells us we're safe, then we're happy.
Those Republicans on that committee bring shame on themselves.
Please get rid of these rubber-stamping members of Congress and the Senate. There may still be time to get the country back. Maybe.
P.S. There's additional information on this topic in the New York Times here. Though it's true that all the Republicans in the committee voted in favor of the "blank check" version, there's a quirk. The article says that the committee also voted on a plan "drafted by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, [which] would affirm that the foreign intelligence law passed by Congress in 1978, requiring court approval for eavesdropping, [w]as the "exclusive" means of authorizing wiretaps in the United States against suspected terrorists and spies."
In other words, the Feinstein proposal reasserts that the FISA law is the law of the land. And for some reason Republicans Specter and Graham also voted in favor of this plan, even though it contradicts the main proposal they supported. A glimmer of hope in that, I guess so, though it seems a bit confusing. But thanks to Specter and Graham, that Feinstein plan will also be sent to the Senate. Which one will Specter and Graham vote in favor of there though?
And there is an important post on this issue today as well, by Shayana Kadidal.