Yesterday, tax day, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) posted an article titled “Tea Party, Taxes and Why the Original Patriots Would’ve Revolted Against the Surveillance State,” and it wouldn’t surprise me if the authors were wearing tri-corner hats with hand-written “Rand Paul 4 Prez” placards stacked up on their desks while they hammered out the post.
The EFF is, in its own words, “the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world,” and has stationed itself on the front lines in the battle against the National Security Agency and the intelligence community. It’s best known recently for pursuing NSA to release an 85-page opinion from the FISA Court detailing an operation a FISA judge had ruled unconstitutional.
Believe it or not, I admired the EFF’s strategy on this FISA matter. Rather than clandestinely horking documents from an inside source, it pursued NSA through perfectly legitimate means, specifically the Freedom of Information Act. That said, this article and its irresponsible lionization of the tea party is a huge red flag, as well as a further indication of an emerging and ill-advised alliance between the libertarian far-right and the far-left.
If the following chunk of the EFF’s tax day article doesn’t make you rethink any future donations to the organization, I don’t know what will:
Today the Tea Party movement continues the legacy of the founders, championing the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Never afraid of controversy, Tea Party activists and elected leaders are fighting against mass surveillance in the courts and in the halls of state legislatures and Congress.
It’s difficult to find a more ridiculous whitewashing of the tea party outside of the tea party itself. The legacy of the founders? Wow. First of all, the tea party doesn’t even understand the actual Boston Tea Party, much less the intent of the founders. Yet the heretofore respected EFF has bedazzled the tea party with the gilded legacy of the almighty founders. As for the leaders the tea party has elected, is there one — just one — who’s not completely nuts or totally unqualified for the post?
It gets worse.
Conservative attorney and founder of Judicial Watch Larry Klayman was the first plaintiff to challenge the program’s unconstitutionality. So far, his lawsuit in Washington, D.C. has been successful. In December, the federal judge in the case wrote, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval.”
Shorter version: Hooray for Larry!
What the article fails to mention is that Klayman is hardly motivated by privacy-rights or the unconstitutionality of illegal searches, Klayman simply likes to sue people. Hell, he sued his own mother. He sued Clinton 18 times, he sued Dick Cheney and now he’s suing Obama.
On top of his very frivolous lawsuits, Klayman is an Alex-Jonesian Birther crackpot who despises the LGBT “agenda,” and who’s openly discussed overthrowing the president who he thinks should “put the Quran down.” This is the lunatic who the EFF is embracing. Are they really this stupid? Don’t they know? If not, here’s Right Wing Watch with the harrowing details.
And while we’re talking about privacy rights, perhaps the EFF should quiz the tea party and Klayman about where they stand on privacy as it pertains to a woman’s right to choose. Just suggesting.
Back to the founders. History proves they were absolutely not in lockstep on issues of privacy and speech. To name a couple of examples, George Washington was quite fond of spycraft and John Adams infamously signed the Alien & Sedition Acts. And what about Madison, who was quoted favorably in the EFF post? Here’s Professor Stephen F. Knott:
Madison collaborated with Alexander Hamilton in drafting The Federalist Papers, which claimed that presidential “secrecy and dispatch” were essential to a successful foreign and military policy. Madison and his co-authors argued that “the business of intelligence” was left for the president to manage “in such a manner as prudence may suggest.” As a congressman in 1790, Madison led the effort to create a presidential “secret service fund” that was exempt from traditional congressional oversight — this allowed the president to spend money for services of a sensitive nature, including intelligence gathering, without revealing to Congress how those monies were spent. (In 1805, as the nation’s secretary of state, Madison actually procured a prostitute at the request of a foreign ambassador, dipping into this same public fund, no doubt thinking that a happy ambassador would make for a good friend of the United States.)
And there’s a lot more about Madison that EFF didn’t bother to mention. So regardless of where you stand on NSA and the intelligence community, let’s not get all delusional about who the founders were and what they believed.
In terms of optics and long-term strategy, it’s unclear whether the EFF along with the “Stand With Rand” crowd on the left really grasps the repercussions of legitimizing weirdos and villains like Klayman, the Koch-funded FreedomWorks (also cited in the EFF article) and the tea party in general. Whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat, whether you’re right, left or center, these groups ought to be vigorously marginalized so the adults in the room can carry on with the business of running the country. Augmenting the legitimacy of Klayman and the tea party only serves to provide more power and more visibility for the other vile things they stand for. And why the hell would anyone really want to be on record having supported people who will absolutely turn around tomorrow and continue to blurt out awful, hateful things (see again the Klayman dossier as well as the tea party’s record on race)?
What does this say about EFF, what with the word “electronic” in its title, has to have taken three minutes to research Klayman and the tea party? What does it say when it’s so egregiously bear-hugging this rogues gallery of sociopaths? Nothing good, I assure you — at least from the perspective of anyone outside of the ranks of the Snowden bubble.