Sunday, November 25, 2007

Joe Klein: Lazy, Stupid, Or Dishonest?

Glenn Greenwald talks from behind the curtain.

[updated Nov. 27]

It's hard to imagine a less credible source of information than Joe Klein's column in Time magazine, unless one is familiar with the work of David Brooks, Charles Krauthammer, or the myriad of other useful idiots who are there just to balance the liberal slant of reality with a "conservative" viewpoint. I put "conservative" in quotes, because quite frankly, most conservatives I meet in the real world are nowhere near as stupid or misinformed as these people.

Klein wrote a column Wednesday:

Unfortunately, Speaker Nancy Pelosi quashed the House Intelligence Committee's bipartisan effort and supported a Democratic bill that — Limbaugh is salivating — would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court, an institution founded to protect the rights of U.S. citizens only. In the lethal shorthand of political advertising, it would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans. That is well beyond stupid.

The Tone-Deaf Democrats

Glenn Greenwald has pointed out that Klein clearly has no idea what he's talking about:

"Well beyond stupid" is a good description for what Klein wrote here. "Factually false" is even better. First, from its inception, FISA did not "protect the rights of U.S. citizens only." Its warrant requirements apply to all "U.S. persons" (see 1801(f)), which includes not only U.S. citizens but also "an alien lawfully admitted [in the U.S.] for permanent residence" (see 1801(i)). From 1978 on, FISA extended its warrant protections to resident aliens.

But Klein's far more pernicious "error" is his Limbaugh-copying claim that the House bill "require[s] the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court." It just does not.

Joe Klein: Both factually false and stuck in the 1980

Not being satisfied by having debased himself, Klein later wrote a sorta-kinda mae culpa that claimed this issue was so complex that he couldn't be sure whether what he wrote was true or not. Of course, that didn't stop him from writing it. What's worse, though, is that he's wrong:

There is no confusion possible about whether the House bill -- as Klein originally wrote -- "would require the surveillance of every foreign-terrorist target's calls to be approved by the FISA court." Anyone who told that to Klein was lying. All you have to do is read the House bill in order to know that. Here is Section 2 of the RESTORE Act -- the very first section after the "Definitions" section:


Sec. 105A. (a) Foreign to Foreign Communications-

(1) IN GENERAL - Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, a court order is not required for electronic surveillance directed at the acquisition of the contents of any communication between persons that are not known to be United States persons and are reasonably believed to be located outside the United States for the purpose of collecting foreign intelligence information, without respect to whether the communication passes through the United States or the surveillance device is located within the United States.

Nobody who can read basic English can fail to understand what this says. As clearly as it can, the bill says that no warrant is required for communications involving non-U.S. persons outside of the U.S. In fact, individual warrants are not even required when a foreign target communicates with someone inside the U.S.; only general approval by the FISA court of the procedures used to eavesdrop is required (see Sec. 105). Thus, Klein's statements about the bill were indisputably, unquestionably false, and all one had to do is read the painfully clear language of the bill to know that.

Time magazine's FISA fiasco shows how Beltway reporters mislead the country

[emphasis and links from original]

Needless to say, Greenwald's right. It isn't hard to figure this out. It's just hard to admit that you've screwed up this badly. Perhaps if this were an isolated incident, I'd assume it was Klein's vanity that was the problem. The pattern, unfortunately, is clear, as Jane Hamsher explains:

I mean, come on. “It would give terrorists the same legal protections as Americans?” Some Republican spinmeister fed that to him whole. Klein just managed to swallow it. Why is Time Magazine letting the guy who said this write about FISA anyway:

People like me who favor this [NSA wiretapping] program don’t yet know enough about it yet. Those opposed to it know even less — and certainly less than I do.

The moment is ripe for someone to call “bullshit.”

Things I Know Today That I Didn’t Know Yesterday

Jane and Glenn do an excellent job of deconstructing all this. The only reason I'm mentioning this here is that I agree it's time to call bullshit. I've been following this issue for some time, and I can tell you that there's clearly no way to mistake what is and is not permissible in this area. Both the original FISA bill and the proposed amendments are written in clear, precise language that are meant, I think, to be understood by intelligence and computer professionals as well as lawyers. Whether that intent existed or not, it is so. Only a fool or someone whose salary depended on his not being able to understand could fail to understand it. As I've observed before, Klein is just such a person.

UPDATE (Nov 27): Every time Joe Klein writes about this issue, his position becomes more confused. Jane Hamsher attempted get a straight answer from his editor concerning why Klein was continually allowed to write such nonsense. According to Jane, what she got was a snotty response followed by a dial tone. Once again, it falls to Glenn Greenwald to try to make sense of it all:

Joe Klein has just posted yet again about his FISA confusion, and it has now moved well beyond farce into an almost pity-inducing realm. If Time has any dignity at all, someone there will intervene and put a stop to this. It's actually difficult to watch.


Doesn't it go without saying: if Klein doesn't have the time or background to understand what he's writing about, then he ought not to write about it? Doesn't anyone at Time agree with that?

Joe Klein digs Time's hole deeper still

How pathetic and embarrassing will their shill become before Time decides to shut him up? Looks like we'll be finding out. Meanwhile, Democratic Congressman Rush Holt (NJ-12) wrote a rebuttal today for the HuffPo:

If federal intelligence and law enforcement agencies want to read the email or listen to the phone call of an American citizen, they have to get - except in emergencies - a judge to issue a warrant allowing them do so, as the Fourth Amendment to our Constitution requires. Such a court order would be easy to get if there is cause to believe that the American's communications are important intelligence for the protection of our security. And in such "emergencies" there would be quick after-the-fact review by the courts. These are not "unimportant, obscure technical details" - this is the heart of the bill.

What's Really in the RESTORE Act

Meanwhile, the text of the "RESTORE" Act remains online, for anyone with more brains than Joe Klein to peruse. I think these two characters will be reporting on it soon.

UPDATE 2 (Nov. 27): Appears I needed to read further at Firedoglake. In a later article, Jane Hamsher writes:

This is their idea of a correction?

In the original version of this story, Joe Klein wrote that the House Democratic version of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) would allow a court review of individual foreign surveillance targets. Republicans believe the bill can be interpreted that way, but Democrats don’t.

I guess nobody troubled themselves to actually read the bill itself, which appears to be written in English.

Shorter Time Magazine: Equal Time For GOP Propaganda

Intellectual relativism is a concept we've become acustomed to from the G.O.P. Now it's a standard part of journalism. What about this surprises you?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna go with... Yes.