Shorter Glenn Greenwald: The civil liberties debate in America isn’t what it used to be.
Back then, the premise that unchecked presidential spying would lead to massive abuses — as it did for decades — was just a given, something beyond the realm of what could be reasonably debated. Now, only far Left partisans worry about such silly things.
Back then — with a relentless, ideologically extreme Evil Empire threatening our very existence and our freedoms — GOP fear-mongering was brushed aside. The political establishment overwhelmingly concluded that warrantless eavesdropping presented intolerable dangers, and many believed that FISA’s “safeguards” were actually woefully inadequate. Telecoms lobbied on behalf of their customers’ privacy rights and against being drawn into government surveillance. Editorial boards were almost unanimously on the side of greater oversight on presidential spying.
That all seems so quaint. The mindset which back then defined the radical, pro-surveillance right-wing fringe has now become the sweet spot of our political establishment. The GOP fear-mongering that back then was laughed away today dominates our discourse and shapes our laws. The secret FISA court which back then was viewed even by some conservatives as an extreme threat to civil liberties is now the outermost liberal viewpoint, one that is about to be ejected altogether by the Democratic Congress from the mainstream spectrum. The political establishment today knows only one viewpoint: literally no limits are tolerable on the power of the loving, protective Surveillance State.
Greenwald points out that the FISC, as a secret court which only government officials have access to, has long been thought to be a threat to civil liberties. Now, returning to a time where FISA regulates all electronic surveillance and we rely on the FISC to grant warrants for the surveillance represents a very “liberal” stance on civil liberties.
It truly is remarkable to consider how far the Bush administration has brought this country from a time where the civil liberties of citizenry were respected and protected.