Top Democrat Channels Cheney, Blasts Patriot Act Foes as Osama PalsBy
(Wired) -- by Spencer Ackerman --
It used to be that Sen. Harry Reid had a problem with smearing surveillance skeptics as terrorist allies. But now that some Republicans oppose the Patriot Act, Reid is calling the objectors Osama’s BFFs. Dick Cheney would be proud.
All the libertarian senator Rand Paul wanted was to add amendments to the government’s cherished surveillance law that would protect Americans’ privacy. For this, Reid, the Senate Democratic leader, charged that Paul’s efforts would “increase the risk of a retaliatory terrorist strike against the homeland and hamper our ability to deal a truly fatal blow to al-Qaida.”
It’s not just that Reid is demagoguing Rand Paul. It’s that Reid’s objections betray the depths of his hypocrisy on both surveillance and its politics, as revealed by the sophisticated consistency-generating algorithm known as Google.
Remember back when a Republican was in the White House and demanded broad surveillance authority? Here’s Reid back then. ”Whether out of convenience, incompetence, or outright disdain for the rule of law, the administration chose to ignore Congress and ignore the Constitution,” Reid said about Bush’s warrantless surveillance program. When Bush insisted Congress entrench that surveillance with legislation in 2008, Reid turned around and demanded Bush “stop fear-mongering and start being honest with the American people about national security.” Any claim about the detrimental impact about a lapse in widespread surveillance were “scare tactics” to Reid that ”irresponsibly distort reality.” (Then Reid rolled over for Bush.)
That’s nowhere near the end of Reid’s hypocrisy here. When the Senate debated renewing the Patriot Act in 2006, Reid, a supporter of the bill’s surveillance procedures, himself slowed up the bill’s passage to allow amendments to it — the better to allow “sensible checks on the arbitrary exercise of executive power.” Sounding a whole lot like Rand Paul, the 2006-vintage Reid registered his “objection to the procedural maneuver under which Senators have been blocked from offering any amendments to this bill” and reminded his colleagues, ”the hallmark of the Senate is free speech and open debate.”
Reid could hardly be more of an opportunist here. He favors broad surveillance authorities — just as long as those scary Republicans stop being mean to liberals. When Attorney General John Ashcroft warned civil libertarians that their “phantoms of lost liberty… only aid terrorists,” Reid told CNN on December 8, 2001 that “people should just cool their jets” — but not that Ashcroft was actually, you know, wrong. By contrast, the ultra-conservative pundit Bob Novak said Ashcroft made “one of the most disreputable statements I have heard from an attorney general.”...MORE...LINK