On his show last Friday, while the NSA story was blazing its way through the tubes, Rush Limbaugh said, “So there is clearly — somewhere, somehow, in some form or another — a coup taking place, and there is an assault on privacy, and there are assaults on people because of their politics and their ideology. It is taking place; it’s undeniable.”
An assault on privacy, he said. Limbaugh continued, “I don’t want my government doing this. I do not want my government preoccupied with paying this close attention to what every citizen is doing every minute of the day. This government’s already too big, it’s too damn powerful, and it’s too unforgiving — and this doesn’t have anything to do with competent intelligence gathering. Throwing wide nets like this is BS. It’s assuming way too much to think that this is not a big deal. Left-wing overreaction, my backside.”
Uh-huh. Yeah. Rewind several years to 2007 and 2008 when Congress and the Bush administration passed the Protect America Act, along with the FISA Amendments of 2008. The entire Republican establishment was lined up in jingoistic lockstep behind the Bush administration’s efforts to eavesdrop without warrants and spent countless hours both scaring their listeners to death while shaming liberals and the Democratic Party over any and all resistance in codifying the administration’s illegal covert wiretapping.
But as we’ve learned time and time again, selective amnesia doesn’t seem to permeate the zero barrier between January 19, 2009 and January 20, 2009, so let’s take a look at some history, shall we? Yep. Here goes…
On August 15, 2007, Limbaugh said, “[Then Senator Hillary Clinton] opposed the FISA reforms that would allow us to listen into communications and see the communications of international terrorists who are communicating with other international terrorists, even outside the country whose messages simply happened to flow through US telecom networks. You know, again, I’m a little bit surprised that somebody with a record so weak on these things would somehow deign to lecture this president.”
On February 29, 2008, Limbaugh said, “Nancy Pelosi is refusing a vote on the new security bill, the new FISA bill. They still, the Democrats, when it comes to national security, the defense, the protection of this country, I don’t care who our candidate is, they cannot be trusted with it, the Democrats cannot.”
On July 10, 2008, Limbaugh said, “Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, the Democrat Party, have tried to undermine the FISA court, they’ve tried to undermine the FISA bill, they have stood in the way every time it’s come up for a vote, though, after all the huff and puff that they do, they eventually pass it.”
And now these very same surveillance programs are egregious invasions of privacy, according to Limbaugh — the laws he helped to pass as the central media spokesman for the Republican Party and the Bush administration are now considered a “coup taking place.”
Who else on the right has suddenly emerged as a Johnny-come-lately Greenwald civil libertarian?
Monday morning, Joe Scarborough, during an interview with Glenn Greenwald, referred to the the NSA’s eavesdropping and data monitoring operation as “excessive” and “expansive,” even though Scarborough has been one of the most vocal supporters of the CIA’s use of torture as a counter-terrorism measure, going so far as to shout down guests on his MSNBC show.
Monday night, Bill O’Reilly lashed out at the NSA, referring to the PRISM operation as “unconstitutional.”
But here was O’Reilly in 2006 praising warrantless eavesdropping with Newt Gingrich as revelations about the Bush program came to light:
O’REILLY: Well, the ACLU doesn’t want that, but here’s my argument. And this is a winner all day long. The wiretap laws are set up to prevent criminal — criminal abuses, investigating criminal cases. This is a military matter. It’s a military matter.
O’REILLY: You can intercept anything you want, any kind of communication you want without a warrant in a war. And that’s it. And that’s what they should do.
O’Reilly was ballyhooing the idea that within the boundries of the war on terrorism, the military could do anything it wants to do.
What about Glenn Beck? Yesterday, he called Edward Snowden a “hero” and tweeted, “I think I have just read about the man for which I have waited. Earmarks of a real hero.” And, “The NSA patriot leader is just another chance for America to regain her moral compass and set things right. No red or blue. Just truth.”
Rewind to February, 2008, when Beck passionately demanded that the Protect America Act, with its warrantless eavesdropping powers, be renewed immediately:
Now, after 9-11, you remember we came up with all kinds of new — aggressive new laws to combat a new kind of enemy. One of them was the Patriot Act. Another one was the Protection — Protect America Act. This was an extension of our eavesdropping. It helped our government listen in and find terrorists.
Well, over the weekend, the House failed to pass this bill, which would have prevented the Protect America Act from lapsing — an extension requested by the president. It’s got a six-month sunset over and over again. He feels — and I happen to agree with him — that this congressional game-playing by Nancy Pelosi will end up killing Americans.
The Democrats who opposed the eavesdropping were responsible for potentially killing Americans!
It was advocacy like this from Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Beck and the right-wing establishment that created the Protect America Act and especially the FISA Amendments of 2008, which included Section 702, under which the operation that Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and the others have been describing for the last handful of days was initiated. No, the FISA debate wasn’t solely about wiretapping phone conversations, it also included internet data monitoring. This was widely discussed and debated during the final two years of President Bush’s second term in office. It’s all on the record.
Sure, it can be argued that as soon as the raunchy sausage-making was revealed, the vomiting naturally ensued. I mean, who could’ve guessed that force-feeding intense, well-marketed horror stories about terrorism into minds of the American public and news media in order to establish a massive eavesdropping infrastructure would give rise to the NSA’s intelligence gathering operations just several years later? Here’s just one of the videos produced by the Republican Party as a means of scaring the piss out of the American people during the early 2008 fight to renew the warrantless eavesdropping codified in the Protect America Act:
If you’re wondering how all of this began, look no further than fear-mongering like that video — a video which, again, was literally produced by the Republican Party and posted on GOP.com.
Other than some heretofore unknown details such as, but not exclusively, the FISA court’s authorization for the NSA to collect over three months of Verizon phone records, along with the PRISM data analysis program, of course, the nuts and bolts of what the NSA is doing is all outlined in those laws that the conservative movement demanded with every fear-mongering chunk of hyperbole they could muster. The fact that so many people, especially and almost exclusively on the right, are shocked by the NSA story is an egregious abrogation of personal responsibility, consistency and memory.
So we can assume that Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Joe Scarborough and Bill O’Reilly will pitch in and finally help to repeal the 2001 AUMF, the USA PATRIOT Act and all the rest of the post-9/11 madness they helped to establish. Great! Now we can finally ejector-seat that horrendous era onto the slagheap of historical American blunders. We can also assume that, if there’s another attack, that these same actors won’t turn around — yet again — and blame the Democrats and Obama for weakening our national security structure. No. Of course they won’t do that.