The left is to blame for Devin Nunes too?

The left is to blame for Devin Nunes too?

by digby

You knew it had to happen. In this whole Trump Russia mess it was inevitable that some DOJ defender would eventually get around to blaming civil libertarians for Trump's henchmen's fatuous "civil liberties" argument. At some point someone always gets around to blaming "the left" when the right distorts its principled arguments and cynically uses them for their authoritarian/racist/warmongering agenda, smirking all the way:

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.

You are incorrect madame. "Progressives" and "the left" (also known as "civil libertarians" or "patriots") have criticisms of the government surveillance powers which were not been based upon the idea that everyone in the government using the FISA court is a liar acting in bad faith. It's that the government had been intent upon sweeping up communications of average Americans,using a variety of backdoors and other secretive measures, under a variety of programs, to have access to their communications without probable cause. It is not too much to ask that the government adhere to the constitution in both spirit and practice.

This is braindead fallacy which I'll let Steve M from NMMNB explain:

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 -- conservatives 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?

And I would add that the criticisms coming from "the left" have resulted in some better practices while the newfound libertarians on the right are just acting in their normal hypocritical fashion to protect one man --- Donald Trump. (No, they do not care about Carter Page's civil liberties, thanks for asking.)

Blaming those who actually engage the government in good faith for the bad faith of Devin Nunes is is not just insulting, it's intellectually lazy both-sideism that's always simple-minded but never more than it is now. The left has many faults but it is not responsible for Trump and his loyal henchmen.

Update: Here's civil libertarian Marcy Wheeler to explain in detail.