Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wiretapping Rationalizations: What We Can Learn from Jane Harman's Change in Tune

I just can't let this pass today, so the Cybersecurity Act and electronic health records will have to wait.

On Tuesday I wrote about what could be "game changing" revelations in regards to the Bush Administration wiretapping program. As I'm sure everyone has heard by now, not only have new revelations been leaked about the wiretapping program and the violations therein - indicating a far more comprehensive and illegal program than even formerly believed (at least in terms of what the "establishment" thought) - a jaw dropping article in the Congressional Quarterly by Jeff Stein hit the newstands this week as well.

Check out what I posted about this article and its ramifications on Tuesday.- You can also check out four fairly recent posts I've made on the larger issue of FISA, wiretapping, and Obama's deeply disappointing transformation from a transparency and privacy advocate to a defender of Constitutional abuses. For those go here, here, here, and here.

As usual, I came across Glenn Greenwald of's brilliant piece yesterday exposing the rank hypocrisy of Rep. Jane Harman's sudden outcry over the alleged violations of her right to privacy by the government (now that its happened to her) - even as she made the direct opposite arguments for the past two years as the program's number one Democratic defender. A program, that explicitly allows for what has just happened to her!

What is especially telling about the arguments she makes now is how they can inform us regarding how intellectually dishonest and logically nonsensical the assertions that have been made by those that want to A. retroactively protect those that broke the law (i.e. Telecoms and Bush Administration) and B. continue the wiretapping program...and even weaken is what occurred.

Now, amazingly, all those same rationalizations made by program defenders, could be made against what Harman is now arguing (and this is what Greenwald does) - something she literally was JUST ARGUING herself! By the least, this offers a "teachable" moment...and really exposes how absurd the case is for an invasive, unconstitutional, and government power expanding wiretapping program!

Glenn Greenwald lays out these absurdities in his piece "Angry, Partisan, Civil Liberties Extremist"

Blue Dog Rep. Jane Harman -- once the most vigorous Democratic cheerleader of Bush's NSA warrantless eavesdropping program -- is rip-roarin' angry today. Apparently, her private conversations were eavesdropped on by the U.S. Government! This is a grave outrage that, as she told Andrea Mitchell, demands a probing investigation...


So if I understand this correctly -- and I'm pretty sure I do -- when the U.S. Government eavesdropped for years on American citizens with no warrants and in violation of the law, that was "both legal and necessary" as well as "essential to U.S. national security," and it was the "despicable" whistle-blowers (such as Thomas Tamm) who disclosed that crime and the newspapers which reported it who should have been criminally investigated, but not the lawbreaking government officials.

But when the U.S. Government legally and with warrants eavesdrops on Jane Harman, that is an outrageous invasion of privacy and a violent assault on her rights as an American citizen, and full-scale investigations must be commenced immediately to get to the bottom of this abuse of power. Behold Jane Harman's overnight transformation from Very Serious Champion of the Lawless Surveillance State to shrill civil liberties extremist.


Ultimately, even if a few so-called "laws" were "broken," surely the people who did it were acting to protect us from possible foreign espionage. Are we now going to start subjecting the good men and women working to keep us safe to harassing, expensive investigations every time some member of Congress pipes up and claims they were victimized by "illegal" acts?

Think how overly cautious our intelligence community will become, what that will do to morale, how much it will handcuff us in our Wars. And if, at the end of the day, all of this doesn't convice the "Rule of Law" purists among us to let bygones be bygones, I'm sure all reasonable and decent people can at least agree that the methods our government uses to eavesdrop on us are among the most sacred State Secrets that exist, and thus simply cannot and must not be reviewed by any tribunal for legality and propriety lest we all become deeply vulnerable to the Terrorists.

Jane Harman is so shrill and angry today. She sounds like some sort of unhinged leftist blogger. As The Washington Post's Dana Milbank so insightfully asked this week, what could any Democrat possibly have to be angry about? After all, they won. I wonder how long it's going to be before Harman joins the ACLU? What's that old saying -- a "civil liberties extremist" is a former Bush-enabling, Surveillance State-defending Blue Dog who learns that their own personal conversations were intercepted by the same government that they demanded be vested with unchecked power:

Click here to read the rest of the article, a video clip of Harman being interviewed on this growing scandal is also included.

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