“I’m a Verizon customer. I don’t mind Verizon turning over records to the government if the government is going to make sure that they try to match up a known terrorist phone with somebody in the United States. I don’t think you’re talking to the terrorists. I know you’re not. I know I’m not. So we don’t have anything to worry about.”
That’s the eternal rationale for the surveillance state: If you’re not doing anything wrong, you should have no objection. What happens when the definition of “wrong” changes after your information’s been collected? Why would any Republican make this argument right now, when Congress is busy investigating the government’s tax-collection agency for deciding something was “wrong” with the idea of tea partiers applying for nonprofit status?
If you’re going to defend Obama’s phone dragnet — which, incredibly, is even broader than Bush’s — do it at least with due reluctance. Pretend that you care about the privacy interests here, even if you don’t. “With a heavy heart, I must endorse this necessary evil in an age of terror” etc etc. Graham won’t even give the viewer that; he’s perfectly okay with this in the name of jihadi-hunting even though he’s one of the loudest voices in the Senate in accusing the White House of covering up what happened in Benghazi. He doesn’t trust Obama on national security — except when it comes to rounding up millions of innocent people’s phone records, in which case he trusts him absolutely. Between this, his doubts about First Amendment protection for bloggers in publishing leaks, and his militaristic view of whether Koran-burning should be legal, there’s no one worse on civil liberties in either party in Congress. He and McCain are inadvertently doing more to promote Rand Paul than Paul himself is.
The NSA bit starts here at the beginning and runs for around three minutes, at which point they segue with exquisite irony into Graham’s distrust of new National Security Advisor Susan Rice. By the way, am I misunderstanding or does Graham suggest that maybe the phone-records collection isn’t as broad as the FISA warrant revealed last night would suggest? I don’t think he’s saying that; what he’s saying, as a quasi-defense of what the NSA is doing, is that they’re “only” collecting phone records, not tapping people’s phones. Only jihadi suspects identified by the data-mining get the wiretap treatment. Which is great, but it doesn’t answer any of the objections to broad record-collecting in the first place. The Fox hosts seem confused about that at around 2:40, though, apparently thinking that Graham’s saying the NSA’s data net isn’t as wide as people believe. Or maybe I’m confused. Watch and decide.
Update: On second though, was Obama’s dragnet broader than Bush’s? Or was it a continuation of the same order Bush used?