What Fresh Hell Is This?

May 29, 2015

The Tribune-Review Editorial Board Can't Help Itself

Even when they're right, they get it wrong.

Take a look:
Privacy concerns trumped presumed national “security,” or, more accurately, a false sense thereof, when the Senate declined to extend or change a Patriot Act provision that enables the feds' phone snooping. And barring an unlikely 11th-hour compromise, the government no longer will have systematic access to Americans' phone calls after June 1.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which is set to expire, enabled the National Security Agency's phone-snooping program, which collected numbers, dates and durations of all phone calls made in the U.S. A senior Obama administration official says the “wind-down” already has begun on the surveillance program and the administration has not filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to continue collecting data, according to The New York Times.

The resulting knee jerk was predictable. “Let's be clear,” Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said in The Times report. “We tried to protect the country and (Senate) Republicans rejected it.”

Really?

In the two years since the data mining has been exposed, repeated reviews and even an audit by the Justice Department inspector general “couldn't point to a single plot that has been foiled thanks to bulk data collection,” The Washington Times reported.
 Let's get some real-life context to the braintrust's oh-so-subtle distortion.  Take a look at what Senator Boxer said.  Ask yourself, was she referring to an extension of that Patriot Act provision or a change of it?

Ahhhh.  They don't tell you, do they?  But in the context of the editorial it's easy to assume that they're pointing towards the former rather than then latter.  Their picture is clear; Section 215 is bad and the Democrats want to keep it and are lying about its usefulness.  And that's just plain wrong. 

In fact, it was right after the this vote on closing the debate regarding HR 2048 (or more specifically the Senate's version of the House Bill) that Senator Boxer made these remarks:
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that since a strong bipartisan majority of the Senate voted to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to the USA FREEDOM Act, that the motion to proceed be agreed to, that the bill then be read a third time, and the Senate vote on passage of the USA FREEDOM Act.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Is there objection?
Mr. BURR. Objection.
The ACTING PRESIDENT pro tempore. Objection is heard.
Mrs. BOXER. Mr. President, let's be clear what happened here. We tried with the majority----
Mr. McCONNELL. Regular order.
Mr. BURR. Regular order.
Mrs. BOXER. To protect this country, and the Republicans objected. Let's be clear.
You'll notice the bipartisan list of co-sponsors of the bill (14 Democrats and 4 Republicans, including Ted Cruz of Texas) and the bipartisan list of yea votes (all the Yea votes were the Senate Democrats plus 12 Senate Republicans) and the completely partisan list of Senate Republicans voting no (and effectively killing the bill).  The bill would stop the NSA from collecting the phone meta-data and then force the FBI to subpoena the telecoms (who'd still be holding that data for regular business purposes) for specific information.

Now go back and look at what Senator Boxer said.

Now go back and look at what the braintrust said she said.

See the difference?  They're lying to you.  Again.

For the record, I am against Section 215 of the Patriot Act.  I am, however, always in favor of telling the truth - especially in a newspaper editorial.

And what of that last point?  About how the Inspector General report, here's where the braintrust found that line:
In the two years since Mr. Snowden revealed the program, repeated reviews have found it to be ineffective. In the latest audit by the Justice Department Inspector General, FBI agents couldn’t point to a single plot that has been foiled thanks to bulk data collection.
Now let's take a peek in the report itself, OK?  This is from the conclusion of the report:
For example, agents and attorneys told us that Section 215 authority continues to be a valuable investigative tool.  Agents said they relied on Section 215 authority when companies would not voluntarily produce the material sought by the FBI and when the material was not available through other investigate authorities.  The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders, but told us the authority is valuable when it is the only means to obtain certain information.  Agents told us that the material produced pursuant to Section 215 orders was used to support other investigative requests, develop investigative leads, and corroborate other information.
So a creative "reinterpretation" by the conservative Washington Times leads to a further creative reinterpretations by the conservative Tribune-Review.

The outcome being, even when they're right about the overall picture (that Section 215 needs to be abandoned), they still get it wrong - and they still manage to blame at least some of it on the Democrats.

Surprising, huh?

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