Yesterday morning, prior to the Senate debate that has resulted in the (brief) expiration of a few provisions in the PATRIOT Act, CIA director John Brennan went on one of those Sunday morning talk shows and made a complete fool of himself, pretending that merely debating things like the 4th Amendment was helping the terrorists. It started off with a claim that various bad people are “watching carefully” what happens, as if anyone honestly believes that terrorists are looking at last night’s vote and thinking, “Oh boy, now we can plan a new bombing campaign by calling America again!”
“I think terrorist elements have watched very carefully what has happened here in the United States,” Director John Brennan said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
And, from there, he argues that any debate about this is bad for America, saying that we “can’t afford to deal with” such a debate right now.
Whether or not it’s disclosures of classified information, or whether it’s changes in the law and policies, they’re looking for the seams to operate within,” he added. “This is something that we can’t afford to deal with right now, because if you look at the horrific terrorist attacks and violence that’s being perpetrated around the globe, we need to keep our country safe.”
So, when can we deal with these things? Because, sorry, but I thought a core principle of our democratic nation was supposed to be that we could have these kinds of debates openly, and that we didn’t have secret law, with the intelligence community purposely reinterpreting laws to mean things that their plain language clearly do not allow. And, yes, the PATRIOT Act was passed in the wake of 9/11, but we put sunset provisions in there on purpose so that the eventual debate could happen.
But it never seems to happen. Each time the previous sunsets have come up, Congress has avoided debate and waited until the last minute before just extending it. And, so this time, after two years of very public debate — thanks to Ed Snowden — Brennan now wants to claim that we can’t afford “to deal with this right now”?
The whole “we need to keep our country safe” line is a bunch of hogwash as well. Remember, that the key program that expired last night, the one (very likely illegally) based on Section 215, has not been shown to have been critical in stopping a single domestic terrorist attack. In nearly 15 years. I think it’s not unreasonable to say that we can have some debate on whether or not it’s necessary. And also whether or not it violates the Constitution.
Why would a sitting CIA director be so worried about having such a debate? Why would a sitting CIA director not be willing to discuss what he and his colleagues are doing? Yes, obviously, operational details can and should be classified. But that’s not what’s being debated. The question is whether or not the intelligence community should have access to everyone’s phone records without a warrant.
“The tools that the government has used over the last dozen year to keep this country safe are integral to making sure were able to stop terrorist attacks,” Brennan said.
Except we know that’s a lie, because everyone has confirmed that the program has not been useful.
Lying about it just raises more questions. Why does Brennan want this program so badly? What is he and the CIA doing with it?