Right Wingers Claims on Secret Spying Program Don't Fly Either

Wednesday, December 21, 2005 at 02:18 PM

Since posting the piece about Bush's specious justifications for his warrantless wiretap program I've been wondering what the wingers were going to pull to make Bush's warrantless wiretap program sound more palatable to their faithful.  Here's a shock--first indications are their going to try to pull the old "Carter & Clinton did it too" trick which...also won't fly.

For example, check out the piece on Free Republic which reproduces Jimmy Carter's Executive Order No. 12139, in full and accurately, then summarizes it inaccurately as saying "[T]he Attorney General is authorized to approve electronic surveillance to acquire foreign intelligence information without a court order, but only if the Attorney General makes the certifications required by that Section."

On the surface it sure seems to make the fuss over Bush seem silly.  But, as you probably guessed by now, Carter's Order is much more limited and very different from Bush's program.

The Carter Order says that a warrant is not needed if specified certifications and procedures are employed, AND the surveillance is performed under 1802(a)(1). It doesn't apply to ALL searches, just those authorized under 50 USC section 1802(a)(1). and 1802(a)(1) only applies to cases in which "the electronic surveillance is solely directed at" either communications "between or among" foreign powers, or to acquiring "technical intelligence...from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power." In fact, 1802(a)(1)(B) specifically requires that warrantless searches present "no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party."

Yet it took over 40 comments to the freep post before anyone bothered to point out that Carter's Order doesn't allow spying on US citizens AT ALL, which makes it very different from, and much more legal than, Bush's program. And, of course, even after that the posters just kept assuming that Carter's order was equivalent to Bush's, while bashing all things Carter, Clinton, and liberal.

whoever dredged up the info has done their job. They've caused confusion.  Probably a lot of  confusion, which will convince some people that the whole warrantless spying outcry is simply hypocrisy.  And they'll get lost in the explanation of why the Carter Order is so different from what Bush has been doing.

So a lot of time and energy will have to be spent debunking this nonsense.  And of course the free republic crowd will never think it was debunked, because the debunking will be done by the mainstream and the left, neither of which they trust.  And you can pretty much bet that Fox won't debunk it.

I guess the lesson is the usual lesson we learn from the right: if you can't actually be right, at least be confusing.