Monday, September 04, 2006

Glenn Greenwald tackles the two biggest and most persistent myths about terrorist surveillance under FISA:

It is now undeniably clear to everyone that the sole hope Bush supporters have for staving off disaster in the midterm elections is to (a) hype the terrorist threat as shrilly and irresponsibly as possible and then (b) depict Democrats as weak appeasers of The Terrorists whose cowardly refusal to fight them will endanger everyone. One of the principal instruments they intend to use to accomplish that goal begins this week -- with consideration of the bill proposed by Arlen Specter (and a similar one introduced in the House by Rep. Heather Wilson), which would "amend" FISA by making it optional (rather than mandatory) for the President to comply with it, thereby removing all limitations on his power to eavesdrop on the conversations of Americans.

As Bill Frist and others have made abundantly clear, the Specter bill will serve as one of the Republicans' principal political weapons for depicting Democrats as weak on terrorism. The argument, of course, will be that Republicans want to listen in when Osama bin Laden calls and Democrats don't, as evidenced by their opposition to the Specter bill, and that Democrats therefore oppose a surveillance program which most Americans support. Put another way, the Republicans will attempt to exploit this debate by advancing two factually false claims:

Falsehood # 1: the debate is about whether the President can eavesdrop on Al Qaeda and other terrorists;

Falsehood # 2: "most Americans" support warrantless eavesdropping.

Whether Republicans get away with these two factually false claims depends on whether journalists do their jobs by pointing out that these claims are false (not unpersuasive, but false).

No comments: