How Al Franken Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Big Brother


Here's Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), circa 2006, talking about national security scares and surveillance:

They're trying to justify these warrantless wiretaps by saying "Oh, it's al Qaida!" One guy is saying it's just al Qaida—the Hayden guy, and then on the other hand, you hear from the FBI that they were inundated with referrals on all kinds of stuff with these calls, so much so that they couldn't get to their real work, and that none of the referrals led anywhere.

I think it's a Rove-ian strategy: "We win on national security; we'll scare people, and then we'll just win."

That's from an Alternet interview, which IDs the former Saturday Night Live writer and performer as a "famous funnyman" and a "Purveyor of Truth."

Here's Al Franken now, according to National Journal in a story called, "The NSA Has at Least 1 Liberal Friend Left: Sen. Al Franken":

I can assure you, this is not about spying on the American people…

I have a high level of confidence that this is used to protect us, and I know that it has been successful in preventing terrorism.

There are certain things that are appropriate for me to know that is not appropriate for the bad guys to know.

It appears that not only is the American public among the "bad guys" who don't need to know that much about the NSA surveillance programs, but so is Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.).

Ellison—and let's underscore that he's a member of Congress from Franken's own state of Minnesota— told ABC News This Week program that he had no knowledge of the NSA's Prism program until, like President Obama and the IRS scandal, he read about it in the funny papers:

The fact is, no, I'm not aware of the program that was revealed [this week]…. I had no notice. It's a fiction that everybody in Congress knew.

Back to Franken: Absent his willingness to share specific cases involving Prism that are more convincing than the main one we've heard about so far—and absent his willingness to include even his fellow Gopher State legislator into the cognoscenti, let me suggest that his turnabout on the question of state surveillance is the result of nothing more complicated than partisanship.

Read more on that score in "Why We Get the Police State We Deserve—and What We Can Do to Fix That."