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Rich Lowry and David Dreier Spin The Patriot Act As A Piece Of Civil Liberties Legislation

Reported by Ellen - December 27, 2005

On last Thursday’s (12/22/05) Hannity & Colmes, Republican Congresman David Dreier complained about the “gross politicization” of the Patriot Act. Then he and substitute co-host Rich Lowry immediately threw truth-telling out the window in an attempt to spin, spin, spin the straw Patriot Act into gold.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D) was also a guest. Nadler was that all-too-rare species, the plain talking, clear case-making, unintimidated Democrat. He started off by saying that he’s calling for a special prosecutor to investigate the president and the vice president over the authorization of warrantless spying on Americans. Speaking of Bush, Nadler said, “It’s clear he broke the law… If we had an honest Congress, we’d be considering impeachment.” Nadler said he’s calling for the appointment of a special prosecutor because he thinks that might be possible to achieve.

Alan Colmes asked Dreier how we can trust the president and referenced Bush’s 2004 statement, caught on tape, in which he claims there will be no wiretapping without warrants. Dreier dismissed that along with any concern about being spied upon. “You know what? If you’re not communicating with Al Qaeda by email or telephone, you’re not going to be a target.”

Comment: When the records come out about whose calls were actually wiretapped, I have a feeling Dreier is going to have to eat those words. If I'm right, I hope to serve them to him.

Colmes characterized Dreier’s argument – that if you’re not breaking the law, you don’t have to worry about the government breaking the law – as “specious.”

Dreier claimed the president has the authority then quickly changed the subject to the “politicization” of the Patriot Act.

In fact, much if not all of the politicization of the Act comes from the Republican leadership and the White House. As conservative Republican Senator John Sununu states on his website, he has been part of a bi-partisan effort working for more than a year to reform portions of the Patriot Act. That effort was met with little co-operation from the Bush Administration. When Sununu and his bi-partisan group sought a temporary extension of the Act in order to gain more time to work out the differences, the Bush Administration refused, only to flip-flop after the stinging rebuke of the Senate filibuster. Furthermore, it’s not just politicians who have expressed opposition to the current Act. Many business groups do as well.

Then it was Rich Lowry’s turn. Nearly ever sentence out of his mouth was a distortion or an outright lie. He started by calling any talk about impeachment “absurd.” Perhaps we ought to let Lowry know that a current online poll by MSNBC (not scientific) shows that 85% of more than 162,000 respondents (the current tally) believe Bush’s actions justify impeachment. The normally conservative Barron’s magazine considers Bush’s actions impeachable as well.

Lowry then put forth the lie that “Every administration has maintained that the president has the inherent authority under the Constitution to order warrantless searches for foreign intelligence.” Dreier added to the misinformation by claiming, “Jamie Gorelick said that.” Lowry and Dreier either didn't know or didn't care about the important distinctions that a) the law at the time did not prohibit physical searches without a warrant and b) unlike Bush, Clinton was not claiming authority to circumvent any law. See Media Matters’ excellent debunking of these myths.

Lowry and Dreier then tried to hold up the Patriot Act as a piece of civil liberties legislation. Lowry said, “Congressman (Dreier), isn’t it correct that there is more of an oversight (sic) Section 215 than there is for a grand jury subpoena, which a judge doesn’t sign off on?”

Dreier said that was “absolutely right,” and that there are 30 civil liberties protections in the new act “so that we CAN enhance the civil liberties of Americans so that they’re not jeopardized.”

Senator Sununu has a different view, as do a number of other politicians, including Republican Senators Larry Craig and Lisa Murkowski along with a number of business organizations such as the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and National Association of REALTORS.

Next Lowry perpetrated the distortion that Clinton's warrantless search of Aldrich Ames’ home was similar to what Bush did. Lowry didn't mention that the Ames investigation took place before the 1995 FISA amendment requiring warrants for physical searches.

Then it was back to glorifying the Patriot Act. Dreier said “the new Patriot Act” provides “the opportunity for this judicial oversight. We’re enhancing the ability to go after criminals at the same time…”

Nadler interrupted. “I’m saying that it establishes the illusion but not the reality of judicial oversight. That’s what has to be improved.”

Dreier, perhaps finally admitting that Bush and the party leadership have suffered a humiliating defeat over the Patriot Act, said, “We’re going to get it done.”

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