Let me repeat what I said last week after he clapped the NSA on the back for collecting Americans’ phone records: It’s not just the fact that he endorses ideas like this, it’s the ease with which he does it. There appears to be none of the usual angst you see from other pols about security/liberty trade-offs when he talks counterterrorism. He’s almost entirely on one side of that topic in much the same way Ron Paul is, but even if you think Paul’s naive about security risks, at least he’s on the side of personal freedom. You get the sense with Graham that if Obama convinced him that Al Qaeda could be defeated only through martial law, he’d head straight to the Senate floor to make the case.
Libertarianism has no greater asset than this guy.
“In World War II, the mentality of the public was that our whole way of life was at risk, we’re all in. We censored the mail. When you wrote a letter overseas, it got censored. When a letter was written back from the battlefield to home, they looked at what was in the letter to make sure they were not tipping off the enemy,” Graham, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters on Capitol Hill. “If I thought censoring the mail was necessary, I would suggest it, but I don’t think it is.”…
“The First Amendment right to speak is sacrosanct, but it has limits,” Graham added. “In World War II, our population understood that what we say in letters could be used against [us by] our enemies. It was designed to protect us and ensure that we would have First Amendment rights because under the Japanese and Nazi regime, they weren’t that big into the First Amendment. We don’t need to censor the mail, but we do need to find out what the enemy’s up to.”
If he really does believe the First Amendment is sacrosanct, he does so very grudgingly.
Here’s the thing: It’s not just the fact that he’s proposing World War II security protocols for something like the war on terror that’ll last decades, with periods of greater and lesser danger to the mainland. It’s that we all know there’ll never come a point where Graham sees fit to declare the war “over.” On the contrary, he’d almost certainly be indignant at the suggestion. Even if the U.S. military spent the next decade whittling AQ and its affiliates down to nothing, Graham would point to outfits like Hezbollah and Lashkar e-Taiba and nukes in Iran or Pakistan as reasons to keep mail-censoring going or even to expand it. Look at the way he frames the calculus on mail-censoring: It’s not a matter of privacy rights versus security interests, it’s a matter simply of whether censorship is necessary — yet — to protect those security interests. It isn’t, so congrats. The government doesn’t get to read your mail. Yet.
What he’s really proposing is a permanent, gradually but perpetually expanding surveillance state. I think maybe that’s why he seems so unconflicted about this — he’s already accepted the end state, so why sweat the individual incremental steps?