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Fox Guest Uses the "It's Been Going on for Years" Lie to Defend the Patriot Act

Reported by Melanie - December 22, 2005

As News Hound Janie reported earlier today, the dishonest spin du jour conservatives are using to defend George Bush's authorization of domestic spying is that it has been going on for a long, long time - as far back as the Carter era. Today (December 22, 2005) on Your World, Fox hosted a guest who used the same argument about, believe it or not, the Patriot Act.

David Asman, substituting for Neil Cavuto, hosted Heather Mac Donald of the conservative Manhattan Institute and Fox's "legal analyst," Andrew Napolitano. The title of the segment was, "Why is the Patriot Act Getting Last Minute Treatment?" and Asman opened asking why Congress isn't "making a resolve" to put this "legislation on its agenda?" However, as is so often the case on Fox, the discussion didn't center around either the title or Asman's initial question.

Mac Donald went first: "Americans have nothing to fear from the Patriot Act," but the "ACLU and good libertarians" have "put out lies about it." It is "shot through with controls, with judicial review. It merely brings the law up to the 21st Century technology."

Napolitano said: "The value of the American system is that between the government and the bad guy, we put a neutral judge." The "neutral judge restrains the government." The Patriot Act "takes the judge out of the picture."

Mac Donald again: "The Patriot Act has judges at every step of the way and the power it has have existed for 20 years." Provisions like "delayed notice for searches have existed for 20 years." This power "has existed for 20 years and there has been not a single abuse for 20 years much less in the five years since the Act was passed." It's "nothing new."

Mac Donald continued: "This has nothing to do with the 4th Amendment search warrant rights." These are "public documents that are being gotten." The "government has internalized norms of restraint for the last 30 years." The problem in the past was that the FBI was "so worried about hypothetical privacy violations that it was not using even the extent of its powers. We have nothing to fear from the government under this Act."

Comment: Again, it was never made clear to the audience precisely which provision or provisions of the Patriot Act were being discussed. (If that had been done, the audience might have heard something it didn't like.) All we know is that Napolitano is adamant about the need to have judicial oversight, and Mac Donald can't understand what all the fuss is about since "this power" has existed for "20 years." Cumulatively, if Fox's audience hears the 20-year-argument about Bush authorizing spying as well as about the Patriot Act, they'll wonder what all the fuss is about too, and think those who oppose both are being unreasonable. Bingo!

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