As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Friday, January 16, 2009

Trying Hard Not To Understand

This has been amply discussed, but the ignorance is so strong that I'm compelled to add my voice. The FISC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court) made a public ruling yesterday on a case involving a challenge to the 2007 Protect America Act. In it, they ruled that the 2007 law, which authorized certain kinds of surveillance, did not violate the Fourth Amendment. They are not the final word on the matter, and their ruling is subject to Supreme Court review. But they ruled that the kinds of warrantless surveillance explicitly authorized in the PAA was Constitutional.

This, of course, has NOTHING to do with Bush's unconstitutional and illegal warrantless wiretapping plan, which he undertook without the consent of Congress shortly after September 11, 2001. There has been no ruling whatsoever on the legality of going forward with that program despite it being contrary to federal statute. Nevertheless, this has not stopped the denizens of the insaneosphere to go all two snaps up and a circle and claim that Bush has been "vindicated". What's depressing is that traditional media figures like The New York Times' Eric Linchtblau - who has been following this issue and should know better - are parroting the same nonsense. Glenn Greenwald documents the atrocities:

Is it really that hard -- especially for people who pretend to be experts in this controversy -- to tell the difference between (a) whether the President had the authority to eavesdrop on Americans in violation of a Congressional statute and (b) whether the Congress is constitutionally permitted to enact a statute authorizing warrantless eavesdropping? Apparently it is hard, because hordes of right-wing advocates, including those who claim to be "legal experts," are falsely claiming today that the FISA court did (a) (namely: found that the President had the power to order warrantless eavesdropping in violation of a statute), rather than what the court actually did: (b) (found that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit Congress from legalizing warrantless eavesdropping).

Since Lichtblau's article was placed online, a copy of the actual decision became available (here - .pdf). The only question it addresses -- as I explained earlier today -- (here) is whether the Protect America Act is constitutional under the Fourth Amendment (see also Anonymous Liberal's update here). That's the only issue it addresses. It has nothing to do with the core of the NSA scandal: whether George Bush acted properly by ordering eavesdropping in violation of the law.

But if you are a reader of right-wing Bush followers, you would have been fed today a completely alternative reality in which the FISA Court "vindicated" Bush's so-called "Terrorist Surveillance Program."

Russ Feingold makes essentially the same comment here:

“The recently declassified decision by the FISA Court of Review in no way validates or bolsters the president’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. The decision, which only addressed surveillance authorized by the Protect America Act (PAA) enacted in August 2007, did not support the President’s claim of constitutional authority to violate the law. Nor did the decision uphold the constitutionality of the PAA in all cases, but rather it upheld only the Act’s application in this particular case. Finally, it is my view that the Court’s analysis would have been fundamentally altered if the company that brought the case had been aware of, and thus able to raise, problems related to the government’s implementation of the law, about which I have repeatedly raised concerns in classified settings.”

It's expected for the mouth-breathers on the right to engage in triumphalism over this. But for the media to be so completely clueless is just frustrating, though expected in many ways as well. Of course, Vaughn Walker is still going to make a ruling in the Al Haramain case, so watch them write some "just when you thought it was legal..." narratives to cover their own bad reporting.

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