Rhetoric Overshadows Facts

The well titled post, The World Is Not Going To End This Weekend, illustrates how easily an issue can be skewed simply by blurring the facts. Quoting from a post at the Politico which contains the rhetoric surrounding the debate about extending the Protect America Act Timothy Lee goes on to show the truth:

. . .” a measure to extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as the deadline approaches. The measure, which failed 191 to 229, would have extended the bill an additional three weeks”. . .

FISA is not expiring this weekend. FISA was passed in 1978 and isn’t slated to expire ever. What’s going to expire this weekend is the Protect America Act, which gave the president some additional spying powers beyond those he enjoyed under FISA. And in fact, even that is misleading, because all that’s really going to expire is the ability to authorize new surveillance activities. The PAA allowed the government to authorize surveillance programs for a year, which means that any surveillance programs that have already been approved will continue to be authorized until August at the earliest.

What this means is that the only real effect of the PAA’s expiration is that if a new terrorist suspect comes to the government’s attention, and he makes a phone call or sends an email that passes through the United States, then the government would need to fill out the extra paperwork required to get a FISA warrant in order to surveil that call. This paperwork can be filled out after the interception begins, so we’re not talking about the NSA missing any important phone calls, we’re just talking about [a bit more paperwork].

This same kind of fudging happens from activists on both sides of most issues. It’s no wonder that the average voter who only knows what they see in the media has such a hard time seeing any debate completely clearly. Their views are almost always being skewed based on the news they receive.

In the midst of all our government social engineering maybe we could make a law to outlaw such abstraction in our news – but I guess that would be counterproductive every time a politician wants to make an emotional appeal to the country.

5 comments for “Rhetoric Overshadows Facts

  1. February 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    The scare tactics used by Republicans to try to pass the “Protect America Act” through the House bordered on the surreal. Fear as an implement of creating laws should always be viewed with suspicion in my opinion.

    Glenn Greenwald over at Salon has been following “The Protect America Act” and the House’s better version “The Restore Act.” Republicans are voting en block for TPAA and are counting on the blue dogs going along to get enough votes. I’ll be very disappointed if it passes.

  2. Jason Black
    February 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s one Republican that agrees with David and Obi Wan on this issue. I’m not a big fan of red tape and paperwork, but for some things (like searches and seizures), I’m all in favor.

  3. February 15, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    It’s funny, I have not heard on articulate argument in favor of PAA – only the fear arguments. The closest I have heard always include the official distortion that if this doesn’t pass we will lose the ability to spy on terrorists.

    I wouldn’t want to take that ability away from our government, but as shown above and in many other places that is simply not a real issue in this particular debate.

  4. February 17, 2008 at 9:38 pm

    My philosophy is this, when fear is your argument, we should fear that argument. However, I was wrong once before.

    Best regards.

  5. February 17, 2008 at 9:45 pm

    Well said. Fear is not known as an accurate means of achieving a goal, only at avoiding one specific undesirable outcome.

Comments are closed.