It would be nice if we could have a real national dialogue about balancing privacy and national security concerns. But with mouthpieces like Sean Hannity broadcasting his invective into the public arena, I’m not optimistic. Besides the inflammatory rhetoric that pays him so handsomely, there’s his utter lack of concern for anything beyond promoting Republican politics. So anyone watching Hannity and his buddy Newt Gingrich whip themselves up into self-righteous lathers last night over the recent revelations about the Obama administration’s data mining of phone and internet records ought to take a look at how they were for such measures under the Bush admnistration – and quick to demonize those who were not – before they were against them in the age of Obama.
Last night, Hannity spoke in front a large banner graphic blaring “SPYING ON AMERICANS.” He asked Gingrich to view the matter “through the prism” of then-candidate Barack Obama saying he would review warrantless wiretaps and other, similar measures enacted by the Bush administration and overturn them “if they are unconstitutional” or “encroaching on civil liberties unnecessarily.” Predictably, rather than consider or even present to the viewers whether the measures Obama is now engaging in meet either of those criteria, they leapt straight to the demonization.
I think the gap between President Obama’s rhetoric and reality is so massive that I am never surprised that what he says has no relationship to reality. …Why would you trust this government with any private information? …But there’s a second problem, Sean. When you gather all this data, you don’t know what you’re looking for. With all this information, why couldn’t they figure out that there were two Chechens who had bombs in Boston? …The fact that they relentlessly refuse to profile and be accurate and focus on people likely to kill us and so instead they gather mounds of data about everybody actually, I think, weakens our ability to find out the people who are the most dangerous.
You may be surprised to know that I agree to some extent with what Gingrich said. We do need to question how effective this kind of data mining is. And how the government missed the Boston bombers is a legitimate matter to raise. But is profiling really the solution? Despite Gingrich’s smug, know-it-all demeanor, he probably has no idea. He has no expertise in foreign policy and when he was Speaker of the House, he abolished the Office of Technology Assessment whose mission was to provide “Congressional members and committees with objective and authoritative analysis of the complex scientific and technical issues” of the day.
Ginrich continued, “You have to ask yourself, what is it they’re missing when they have all this information on innocent people and they can’t figure out who the guilty are?”
Actually, the question is, how many guilty people have been found and what are they looking for? Just because a few nutcases got through the system doesn’t mean nobody was caught nor that more dangerous terrorists were not.
Not that Hannity was about to ask. He was too busy pointing out that President Obama was “against this, then I guess he’s for it.” Which is not at all what Obama said in the clip Hannity showed. Hannity went on to say he agreed with Al Gore’s tweet saying, “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” “He’s come back to his senses,” Hannity said.
In that case, both Hannity and Gingrich have lost theirs - because these two very much approved of the same measures when it was the Bush administration doing them (with even less oversight):
In 2005, I wrote about this exchange between Hannity and Democrat Andrew Fois when he and Republican Victoria Toensing were guests on Hannity & Colmes:
“Andrew, last question, yes or no. If Osama calls, do you think by law that we should have to hang up?”
Fois fell into the trap. “Not if it means trampling on the rights of Sean Hannity and Victoria Toensing.”
Sarcastically, Hannity said, “Wow, so you say hang up on Osama bin Laden.
In 2008, Hannity “asked” guest Juan Williams:
“Here’s my question. Democrats oppose the NSA surveillance program (because it involves warrantless wiretapping, an abrogation of the Constitution), the PATRIOT Act, (another diminution of Constitutional rights), tough interrogations (a/k/a/ torture). They’re gonna confer rights on enemy combatants, which we’ve never done before in history. What do they support?”
It’s worth pointing out here that Obama’s program has judicial oversight, although it doesn’t seem at all stringent. In statements today, Obama noted that there’s Congressional oversight as well. “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls,” Obama also said.
In 2006, Hannity attacked Congressman Bobby Scott for asking for an investigation into the Bush administration’s NSA surveillance – which, unlike Obama’s, was not shared with Congress:
I hear John Kerry and I hear Al Gore, you know, out there accusing the president of repeatedly and recklessly breaking the law… I’m just curious as to, you know, with America under the worst attack in our history if this is what you want your party to represent because I think Karl Rove is right. You guys have a pre-9/11 mentality on the left.
So will Hannity take back that attack on Gore now? Don't hold your breath.
Meanwhile, Gingrich can match Hannity, if not beat him, in the hypocrisy department. In a 2006 Hannity & Colmes discussion, Gingrich characterized the Fourth Amendment as little more than a pesky technicality:
Look, Abraham Lincoln fought a civil war in which at one point he suspended habeas corpus because it was the price of sustaining the union. In the Second World War, we did the things we had to do to win and a US Supreme Court Justice said the constitution is not a suicide pact.
…I suspect you can clearly define an ability to look which then leads to probable cause that gets you a warrant in real time if you think through how to do it. But there’s no requirement that says the United States has to lose a city to a nuclear attack or lose 5 million people to a biological attack because we can’t get the lawyers to talk to each other. And I think most Americans would agree that there’s a practical issue of national security that transcends the lawyers.
Or do they think that all the president needs to do is click his heels three times, say the words “Muslim,” “Islamic” and “jihad” when talking about terrorism – and we’ll all be kept safe?
If NSA wants to target jihad against the US, they can begin with that skyscraper in midManhattan, and that bog that runs it.
The Stop Hannity Express says Hugh’s cowardly little son is gearing up to use the IRS, Benghazi, and NSA against the Democrats in the next presidential election. Audio and video is stored for future use.
Or if we had McCain/Romney presidencies.
When I saw that, my first thought was how long it would be before Fox News started breaking out the lies trying to force it, anyways. Not long, apparently.