Columnist Jumps The Shark
I've never been that impressed by Bush-hating columnist Molly Ivins, but also never felt strongly enough about her silliness to mock and belittle it... until now.
I think it's a good thing to have people question the government -- keeps people on their toes. But, if one does, they should at least be writing about something that bears some relationship to "The Truth" other than "doesn't reflect it at all". Check out Ivin's latest column; after wrongly trying to equate the Total Information Awareness data-mining program with the NSA comms sorting, she talks about the probable use of the warrantless wiretap authority:
"Then we always get that dreadful goody-two-shoes response, "Well, if you aren't doing anything wrong, you don't have anything to worry about, do you?"
"Folks, we KNOW this program is being and will be misused. We know it from the past record and current reporting. The program has already targeted vegans and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals -- and, boy, if those aren't outposts of al-Qaida, what is? Could this be more pathetic?
"This could scarcely be clearer. Either the president of the United States is going to have to understand and admit he has done something very wrong, or he will have to be impeached. The first time this happened, the institutional response was magnificent. The courts, the press, the Congress all functioned superbly. Anyone think we're up to that again? Then whom do we blame when we lose the republic?"
Where has anyone said that the program (NSA wiretaps) targeted vegans and PETA? As The Moderate Voice points out, the FBI has apparently been conducting surveillance of some groups, and people can legitimately be concerned about that. But, there's no indication that the NSA has been involved. This is Ivin's problem; she's trying to "connect the dots", but ends up coming across as someone who doesn't understand the difference between COMINT, FBI surveillance, and data-mining. And the Dems wonder, with public spokespeople like this, why people don't trust them on national security? Also, you might note that the FBI tracking of PETA goes back to at least July 2000 -- anyone remember who was in the White House then? (Hint: Bush didn't take office until Jan. 2001).
So, Ivins apparently can't tell the difference between the FBI and NSA. That's OK, though, because she says "we know" this program is being misused. I guess she "knows" it's being misused because she "knew", in a previous column from last week, that the DoD thought Quakers were trying to "overthrow the government", and two "feds" interviewed a Dartmouth student for trying to check out a book:
"Here is a curious fact about the government of this country spying on its citizens: It always goes wrong immediately. For some reason, it's not as though we start with people anyone would regard as suspicious and then somehow slip gradually into spying on the Girl Scouts. We get it wrong from the beginning every time. Never seem to be able to distinguish between a terrorist and a vegetarian.
"The Department of Defense has just proved this yet again with its latest folly of mistaking a flock of Florida Quakers for a threat to overthrow the government. A few months ago, a student at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth tried to check out a copy of Mao's "Little Red Book" and wound up being interviewed by two feds. Cointelpro and all those misbegotten Nixon-era spy programs were always making ludicrous mistakes."
I've discussed before the aim of the DoD database, and it looks like her other piece of information was just a little bit made up. One can do a threat assessment on a group that one doesn't think is trying to "overthrow the government"; in fact, the DoD would have been derelict had they not done so.
If the Democrats hope to remain a viable political force in this country, they and their public voices, like Ivins, really need to start coming up with some actual facts and plans, and avoid this kind of "Bush will take away our freedoms" reflexive nay-saying that frankly makes them look silly. And easy to mock and belittle.
Update 2355 05 Jan: To her credit, Ivins does admit she did confuse the NSA and FBI at the bottom of her latest column; she still doesn't mention buying into the "Homeland Security officers question student" hoax.