The Washington Post buried the most explosive aspect of its revelation that thousands of times, the FBI lied about the existence of a terrorist plot in order to collect Americans’ phone call records without the warrant required by the supreme law of the land, the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. All that is explosive enough, but it isn’t until the penultimate paragraph of the last page of the article that we find out the real kicker:
Among those whose phone records were searched improperly were journalists for The Washington Post and the New York Times, according to interviews with government officials.
You know, every time there’s another new revelation about the extent to which federal government officials violated the constitution, violated the law, violated the civil rights of Americans, some government official with a reassuring voice, someone like FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, is trotted out in front of the microphones to reassure us that the government’s defecation upon the text of the Constitution is a really “good-hearted” act, that we shouldn’t think of warrantless domestic spying operations on innocent Americans as just that:
I don’t like to think of us as a spy agency because that makes me really nervous. We don’t want to live in an environment where people in the United States think the government is spying on them.
When the government trots out the reassurance “good-hearted,” it’s time to look for evidence of bad motivations. When a government spokesperson declares she doesn’t want “people in the United States [to] think the government is spying on them,” she’s telegraphing the existence of a government program to spy on them.
And when it’s disclosed that the FBI has engaged in a program of sweeping up the phone records of American journalists by lying about their relationship to supposed terrorist plots that do not actually exist, there is no amount of soothing rhetoric, no perfect set of words, no euphemism big enough and bold enough to cover over the truth, that the United States has returned to the habits of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who told Americans he was pursuing a war against the enemy but instead used his powers of search, seizure and surveillance to squash free journalism, extort the compliance of Congressmen and destroy his political enemies.
Extortion of Congressmen? It’s a woman this time around, but check.
Political interference? AIPAC – Check.
Squashing of journalism? Check Page 4.
The House and Senate are scheduled to consider reauthorization of Patriot Act warrantless surveillance, search and seizure powers for the FBI early this year. Check on it. By all means, check.
J. Edgar Hoover is back.