I agree with John at AMERICAblog and Stephen Kaus at Huffington Post that the righties are missing the point on the NSA issue. By several million miles.
The righties are grasping to their bosoms a new Rasmussen poll finding that 64 percent of Americans believe the National Security Agency should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. Even 51 percent of Democrats surveyed said yes. Bush is vindicated! they crow. This has just gotta hurt the left, they exclaim. America is OK with NSA, says Little Lulu.
However, Rasmussen doesn’t seem to have included some critical distinctions, like “warrants” or “judicial oversight.” The righties are still waltzing with a straw man — that us lefties object to surveillance of possible terrorists. But it’s not the snooping, it’s the snooping without warrants, that we object to.
I mean, even I would say yes to the question “Should the NSA intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States?” Just so long as the NSA follows legal procedures.
And let’s not forget the Bushies have already demonstrated a proclivity for using the NSA for purely political purposes. They used the NSA to snoop on UN delegates and Mohamed ElBaradei of the IAEA, for example. Without proper oversight, we have no idea who the Bushies really are snooping on.
Ezra Klein writes,
There’s no doubt the NSA should — nay, must! — tap the phones of suspected terrorists. The only issue is whether they are an agency unbound, freed from all judicial oversight and/or congressional constraint. Administration apparatchiks will try to twist it into a referendum on the president’s authority to tap phones in the War on Terror. It’s not. It’s a referendum on whether any President should ever be trusted with the tools and authority of a totalitarian dictator.
Just try explaining that to righties, though. Or try explaining physics to a hamster, which is nearly as futile.
I’m fascinated by the way so many rightie bloggers flip off the question of legality as so much noise and focus only on how the issue will impact politics. For example, winger Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom wrote (italics are Mr. Goldstein’s),
Poll numbers of course have no bearing on whether or not the NSA program authorized by Bush (to the extent it has been revealed) is legalâ€”but it does suggest that in spite of the decidedly anti-administration slant being put on the program by most of the legacy media, a strong majority of Americans believe that the program is a good idea, and that the President is using appropriate historical authority in authorizing and defending it.
Will these results convince partisan Democrats whoâ€™ve been pushing the story that theyâ€™re not likely to gain much politically by pressing the issue? That remains to be seen. And it remains to be seen how SCOTUS will rule on inherent authority for foreign intelligence wiretapping.
Translation: Who cares if the President is running the Constitution through a shredder, as long as it’s hurting Democrats?
Of course, Mr. Goldstein has managed to bullshit himself that “case law” supports Bush’s warrantless wiretaps; Scott at Lawyers, Guns and Money says otherwise. But you know righties; they could get a memo from God saying the warantless wiretaps are unconstitutional, and they’d just write off God as a terrorist sympathizer.
Update: See also Glenn Greenwald.