Saturday, February 03, 2018

THE NEW YORK TIMES FINDS SOMEONE TO BLAME #MEMOGATE ON LIBERALS, BECAUSE OF COURSE IT DOES

Except in the epistemically closed bunker of the Fox News right -- which now clearly includes the entire House Republican caucus -- the release of the Devin Nunes memo is considered to be a massive dud. The decison to write, promote, and declassify the memo should subject Republicans to a massive shaming, and to some extent that's happening.

But trust The New York Times to find someone who'll conclude that the entire affair is the fault of ... yes, liberals. And, alas, it's someone worthy of respect -- Asha Rangappa, a former FBI special agent who worked in counterintelligence and who recently published an excellent post at Just Security explaining, among other things, just how difficult it would be to obtain and sustain a FISA warrant with flimsy or ideologically distorted documentation. But today in the Times, Rangappa gives us this:
Thank Progressives for the Nunes Memo
Her reasons?
The memo is a shame. But those on the left denouncing its release should realize that it was progressive and privacy advocates over the past several decades who laid the groundwork for the Nunes memo — not Republicans. That’s because the progressive narrative has focused on an assumption of bad faith on the part of the people who participate in the FISA process, not the process itself.

... the prevailing narrative of FISA hasn’t been just that it’s an imperfect system, but that those acting within it routinely lie to the court and that judges can’t be trusted to do their job.

The right has seized on the claim, made in the Nunes memo, that F.B.I. and Justice Department officials hoodwinked the FISA court with false evidence and that the federal judge approving it didn’t bother to dig deeper. In doing so, it has simply co-opted the left’s position on FISA: Don’t bother to have faith in the process, because the rule of law has no meaning even to those who are sworn to uphold it.
Rangappa respects the system, so it's understable if she disagrees with people on both the left and the right who think the system is corrupt.

But that doesn't mean that the left is responsible for the right's framing of this issue. The right will grasp at any straw and use any slim pretext to attack its enemies generally, and Trump's enemies in particular. A year ago, Devin Nunes and the rest of the Fox News right were pursuing a phony "unmasking" scandal, in which it was argued that Obama administration officials improperly learned the identities of Americans who'd appeared in surveillance reports on foreigners. The right didn't pick that up from left-wing critics of the intelligence community -- conservativexs thought that one up all by themselves. Nor did the "Uranium One" pseudo-scandal originate on the left -- that came from an anti-Clinton book written by a Breitbartnik who'd been financed by Robert and Rebekah Mercer. It's safe to assume that if there'd never been a left-wing critique of the FISA approval process, right-wingers would have figured out how to concoct one all by themselves.

And even if you believe that the left gave Nunes and his defenders dangerous ideas, should liberals walk on tiptoe to avoid riling up the right? Is it the fault of Blacks Lives Matter and other defenders of black civil rights that conservatives created repurposed their rhetoric as "Blue Lives Matter" or "All Lives Matter" -- or, worse, as white nationalism? Should the LGBT community stop pursuing rights because homophobes then use a rights framework to defend anti-gay cake bakers or anti-LGBT conscience clauses for medical professionals? Is every bit of right-wing rhetoric that boils down to "I'm rubber, you're glue" the left's fault?

If Rangappa thinks that left-wing critics of the FISA process are as wrongheaded as right-wing critics, I understand. But let's not blame the left for what the right does. The right will do dangerous, malicious things with or without a template from the other side.

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