O'Reilly's "All Distortion" Zone Tackles the Georgetown Panel on NSA Spying

Monday, February 06, 2006 at 09:24 AM

Now I watched the C-SPAN coverage of Alberto Gonzalez's speech at Georgetown a while back, and stayed alert for the panel discussion that followed it.  Which is to say, I actually saw the four panelists take a shot at either excoriating Bush and his NSA spying program or praising Bush for his NSA spying program.

Bill O'Reilly it seems did not bother to watch this, though it certainly did not stop him from devoting a segment of his show to how unfair the whole thing was to David Rivkin who, of course, was O'Reilly's guest.

Transcript excerpt of last night's O'Reilly insanity, courtesy of News Hounds, my comments in bold:

RIVKIN: I mean, there is a real problem with the quality of debate, particularly in academic circles and these are the people, of course, who educate future lawyers. It is a serious problem. My only view is you engage them as much as you can, perhaps an exercise in futility but I certainly went there. I spent an hour and a half of my time. I debated three law professors and maybe I convinced one person in the audience.

O'REILLY: Was it three against one?

[No, I saw the damn panel, it was two against two, which is much more favorable to the admin's view than opinion in the legal community at large, where most people think the Bush/Gonzalez claims are patently ridiculous]

O'REILLY: OK. But this speaks so poorly of Georgetown University which was, at one time, a fine school. It speaks so poorly for this university that it has gone so far left and I think Georgetown alumni should absolutely let the school know how it feels. We called the President of the school. He's hidin' under his desk. They all know what's goin' on there, that Georgetown University has become a hotbed of radical left thought, particularly in its law school. The fact that YOU had to stand up against three when they coulda had two and two proves my point, does it not?

RIVKIN: One of the three professors was more sympathetic to the administration. He was not from Georgetown, but two professors were certainly very critical, but quite frankly, I'm used to situations where it's five to one.
[Ridiculous; Robert Turner was one of the four panelists, and he totally advocated the Bush view that NSA's program is legal; Turner went so far as to make the ludicrous statement that FISA "doesn't apply to war" (which Rivkin also claims) even though it has an explicit provision suspending the warrant requirement for 15 days in time of war.  And God forbid that some members of a panel discussing the legality of a spying program should be "very critical" of it.]

O'REILLY: But why should it have to be that way?

RIVKIN: You're right. It shouldn't ...

[Well, (1) it should have to be that way when the person in the minority is presenting a distinctly minority viewpoint, don't you think?  Damn few people of any experience and status are buying the admin's ridiculous theories to justify the NSA program.  (2) if it shouldn't be that way, then O'Reilly sure should have had someone on to counter Rivkin, or should have on two people to counter Rivkin and O'Reilly who were in total, loving agreement.]

[End of Excerpt]

As I said, I watched the Georgetown panel.  Rivkin came close to babbling.  One of his main points was that you don't need a warrant if the target of the surveillance "has no expectation of privacy."  In Rivkin's warped view, you should expect that there's surveillance of your call if you, as a U.S. citizen, call someone in Peshawar "during wartime."

Near as I can tell, Rivkin's claim comes down to this: if you know, or even suspect, that there's surveillance on you, then you aren't entitled to the protection of a statute that regulates surveillance on you.

Totally apart from the absurdity that someone calling a relative in Peshawar should expect to be under surveillance, Rivkin's theory is pure Catch 22 (Yossarian, can you hear me?).  In his theory, the very fact that the NSA program is now known means that you no longer have any expectation of privacy, so FISA no longer applies because we learned about the administration's violation of FISA.  Maybe you violate FISA as long as no one knows you're violating it, but the minute they find out you're violating it, then you aren't violating it (Yossarian, can you hear me now?).

And, not a thing said by O'Reilly or by Rivkin even addressed the real danger of the NSA program: no one will ever know if it's really focused solely on communications for which there is real cause for suspicion, until a court or some other neutral entity gets to oversee it.

In case you haven't guessed already, Turner and Rivkin, the two who argued in support of the NSA program's legality, both worked for...Reagan.  What do think the odds are that theories like the Rivkin convolution seemed pretty damn sensible to the smiling cowboy from California?  And still do to the smiling cowboy from Texas?