"Selective Surveillance Outrage" and "Situational Libertarianism" Isn't Good Enough, Congress!

The Nunes memo deserved to be released, and so does the forthcoming Schiff one. But come on, D.C., get serious about abuse of FISA and other powers!



Over at The Washington Examiner, Jim Antle has a sharp column up about the disturbing "situational libertarianism" and "selective surveillance outrage" that grips Congress every so often like Pazuzu took over Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist.

When it comes to "the memo" released by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that accuses the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) of relying on partisan research to get a warrant to surveil a Trump campaign adviser, there's plenty of head-twisting, bed-bumping, and vomit-spewing, that's for sure.

Somehow, Republicans who typically worship at the cult of the surveillance state are now accusing the FBI of being nothing more than an arm of Hillary Clinton's election effort. And Democrats who screamed bloody murder about Bush-era overreaching are now shocked as hell that anyone anywhere would ever question the sagacity of the national surveillance state. As Antle writes:

Situational libertarianism has been the norm in Washington for years. Politicians are most likely to complain about prosecutors and federal agents run amuck when a member of their own party, especially the president, is the target.

Law and order versus civil liberties debates often play out similarly. Some politicians who protest police brutality, especially when racially motivated, are among the least likely to worry about whether a low-level Trump adviser was surveilled based on information sourced to a rival campaign.

Others who argue such concerns are tantamount to calling the police racist have no problem believing law enforcement would abuse its power when the alleged victim is President Trump or someone in his orbit.

That's exactly right, completely appalling, and totally transparent. The partisan hackery of most members of Congress helps to explain why just one-third of Americans have confidence in the FBI and CIA—and why even fewer of us have any faith in Congress.


Antle points to libertarian-leaning folks such as Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), who pointed out that many of his own party colleagues seem to only worry about warrantless searches when it might hurt other Republicans. In fact, Nunes once said that Amash was "al Qaeda's best friend in Congress" because he insisted on securing warrants before spying on suspected terrorists. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted, "My question: who made the decision to withhold evidence of FISA abuse until after Congress voted to renew FISA program?"

And then there's Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose consistency is as uplifting as it is rare.

"If you look at my positions, I had the same position under President Obama that I have under President Trump, and that is that the power to listen to people's conservation — your private conversation — are private and nobody else's business, and the government should not reveal that," Paul told "The View" Friday.

Paul added that the victims of surveillance abuse were less likely to be powerful people in a presidential campaign but "minorities of opinion" and "minorities of color."

Sadly, folks such as Paul, Massie, and Amash are basically a minority of three. We need more of them, and quickly, if we want to have a government that we can believe in.

Read full Antle column here.

NEXT: No Freedom From the Church of America

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  1. We are ow a police/surveillance state. There is no such thing as privacy. Our police departments are now paramilitary organizations more suited for cleaning out neighborhoods in Fallujah than protecting citizens. That is only going to get worse.

    1. Neither major parties want to reverse direction, nor for that matter do most civilians despite what they may say in the polls. All the hand wringing amongst both sides of the aisles is nothing more than typical political pandering. It has nothing to do with protecting rights and everything to do with demo nuzzling enemies.

      1. Demonizing. Would be easier to spell check if the submit button didn’t cover up my comment once it reaches a certain length on my android.

        1. Demo nuzzling seemed okay.

  2. “”Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose consistency is as uplifting as it is rare.””

    if only Reason itself were as consistent in its own support

    1. LOL welsh is a cuck

  3. Democrats didn’t call out Bush for having intelligence services, they called him out for abusing them and torturing people and stuff. Like, they used judgment to assess a specific situation?

    What would be contrasting behavior would be making mouth noises about undermining the entire justice department solely because it’s investigating the president.

    If this flimsy effort by Republicans to invent bullshit conspiracy theories is all they got, then maybe they are actually full of shit and the FBI isn’t made up of Democratic party operatives.

    1. Republicans are rejecting the very existence of the FBI!


      1. Is the FBI in the employ of the Clinton family? Did things go too far under Bush? Are Democrats sometimes hypocrites? Was J. Edgar Hoover not a bad person? Did Comey swing the election to Trump while simultaneously working on behalf of Clinton’s election campaign? What is the nature of dark energy? Do dogs go to heaven? Can I interest you in that shiny object over there?

        1. Could republicans be pure evil?

          Is Trump possibly a Russian agent?

          Is Hillary Clinton perhaps our real President?

          1. Hey you got a question in there that’s actually relevant to our current situation.

            1. If you’re not taking about how much Drumpf sucks, then you’re not talking about anything relevant!

              1. Every President in my lifetime sucked, excepting maybe Ike, of whom I have no childhood memories.

                1. My parents said that Ike was a do-nothing. If only the others could have followed in his footsteps.

          2. “Could republicans be pure evil?

            Is Trump possibly a Russian agent?

            Is Hillary Clinton perhaps our real President?”

            Find out next on CNN!

          3. Republicans are pure evil, Democrats are only 98% evil by weight.

    2. Progs seemed quite upset that we had spies watching foreign leaders.

      Which, for all of its faults, is kinda the job of the intel community.

  4. “If you look at my positions, I had the same position under President Obama that I have under President Trump, and that is that the power to listen to people’s conservation ? your private conversation ? are private and nobody else’s business, and the government should not reveal that,” Paul told “The View” Friday.

    Did they cluck approval or disapproval? Could go either way these days.

    1. They probably made concerned-faces to the camera that suggested, “I don’t know what to think about this guy, can we just go, “Yeah but you’re a racist?”

  5. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) tweeted, “My question: who made the decision to withhold evidence of FISA abuse until after Congress voted to renew FISA program?”

    Everyone, Congressman. Everyone.

    1. “”withhold evidence of FISA abuse “”

      its sort of a disingenuous accusation. it was withholding *publication* of the evidence of FISA abuse. the abuse itself was well known in DC circles for many months before the renewal. It was written about in National Review and in other sources. It was pretty much common knowledge as early as Jan 2018 that there had been a variety of abuses of national security ‘protections’ under the Obama admin (e.g. the ‘unmasking’ scandal which Nunes also made a stink about).

      I get his point, but its the wrong message = what he should be doing is asking why the FISA applications aren’t being disclosed simultaneous with the memo. Because the memo are merely footnotes to that “Evidence”, and without the raw evidence, it allows the media to just screech that its all nothing but partisan spin.

      1. I don’t know that it was known and discussed outside the beltway, which is what I think he was referencing. The Nunes memo seems to have brought it into mainstream focus.

        1. I don’t know that it was known and discussed outside the beltway

          Im not saying it was. I’m saying his implication that ‘if only people had known about the abuse, they might have voted differently’ seems to me wishful thinking. Everyone in congress knew that sort of abuse was taking place, and they voted for it anyway.

          if pols were concerned what their own voters might think about voting against it, they could have made efforts to push their concerns and get ahead of public opinion.

          he’s attempting to create the impression of some major contradiction, when in fact there’s very little real one.
          many hawkish people in congress are 100% kosher with govt having surveillance powers – its just that they object to those powers being *abused*. Its no different than objecting to IRS abuse while still thinking the IRS ‘should nevertheless exist’. Few people outside of libertarian circles really see any apparent contradiction between voting for FISA, and being outraged at FISA abuses.

          1. Whoda thunk a secret court would be an organization ripe for potential abuse?

            1. Yeah, really. Maybe if the court would just be more secret then we wouldn’t find out about the abuse. After all, not getting caught is the same thing as not having done it.

            2. you’re preaching to the converted. my point is that (massie’s) is a bad argument if its intended to convince people of anything.

              most people are fine with the iron-fisted security-state, and are only ever outraged when they are reminded that power is always used for political purposes. and even then, they only see ‘who is it being used against’ (Our Team!? OUTRAGEOUS) Its always “who are the bad apples”, not, “why is this even possible?”

              the way you convince people is to shine more light on the process. Instead of kicking his peers in the nuts and trying to shame them (with arguments that make little sense to anyone except libertarians)… he should be rallying people (like Amash is) to disclose the actual FISA applications themselves. the more evidence people see, the less able they are to pretend the problem is just a partisan one, and that the system itself is prone to abuse.

            3. Secret court does seem pretty ridiculous in premise doesn’t it?

  6. Democrats never doubted our intelligence agencies during the Bush years!

    You are giving me enormous diarrhea!

  7. So, is that top image supposed to be an animated GIF? Because I’m not seeing it in any browser.

  8. Sadly, folks such as Paul, Massie, and Amash are basically a minority of three. We need more of them, and quickly, if we want to have a government that we can believe in.

    You get the government that the people choose. You aren’t going to get libertarian politicians until the general population demands libertarian politicians. Until you can convince a large majority of the population that liberty is in everyone’s best interest, expect more of the same.

    1. Just waiting for Atlas to shrug.

      1. Just waiting for Atlas to shrug.

        Get off your ass and … do something.
        This is life. not fiction.

  9. Just because other people are inconsistent and unprincipled doesn’t mean I have to be, and politicians generally are unprincipled. Nevertheless, the memo was great news for libertarians–it shows clear violations of the fourth amendment.

    In the memo that Democrats cannot dispute the following facts.
    1) Carter Page is an American citizen
    2) FISA is used for spying on foreigners (the F in FISA stands for foreign)
    3) To justify spying on Carter Page, the FBI would have to prove he was secretly a spy being paid by a foreign government.
    4) Carter Page is a free man: he was not indicted for anything.

    The ludicrous thing is that the Trump dossier was used in the FISA application to spy on Carter Page. What does Carter Page have to do with the Trump dossier? Are they saying Carter Page paid some of the prostitutes to urinate in beds slept in by the Obamas? And what does that have to do with anything? The dossier must have written by a real clown. Couldn’t Hillary and the DNC paid a little more money for something better, or did they want to save money by settling for the end of the month special?

    1. FISA can be used for surveillance of American citizens.

      Also, the Steele dossier did not discuss only Trump exclusively. It also discussed Cohen, Page and Manafort.

      1. I already stated that FISA can be used against an American citizen only if he is a spy being paid by a foreign government. But Carter Page was not being paid by the Russian government (the dossier only mentioned Page being paid by a Russian commericial business); and he is a free man because no charges have been filed against him. Carter Page should sue the FBI for infringing his fourth amendment rights.

    2. Most warrants are based on the word of a witness involved in the activity themselves being compensated to say whatever agents want. Political research opposition by a professional company with the author unaware of the source of the contract is a gigantic step up. That’s what makes the criticism ring so hollow… I bet not a one of people like Mark P complaining about it actually care about reforming the burden of getting a warrant in general, they’re just mad Trump is being investigated.

      1. I mad that the FBI is run by liars and cheaters and care nothing about our fourth amendment rights. I agreed with Ron Paul PRIOR to this incident that the FBI should be eliminated. It is very selfish of you to say that because your fourth amendment rights weren’t violated, you were not personally harmed and screw Carter Page.

  10. They won’t. That’s not the point of any of this, and you know it, Nick.

  11. One could say the same thing about Reason….

    Coming out for forcing people to buy health insurance…

    Endorsing government funded museums

    Wanting government funded abortions…

    None of those are even slightly defendable libertarian positions, yet are things Reason has endorsed.

    1. Wedding cake coercion, “special” prosecutorial fishing expeditions into the lives of private citizens, …

  12. Sadly, folks such as Paul, Massie, and Amash are basically a minority of three. We need more of them, and quickly, if we want to have a government that we can believe in.

    I give it two days before Reason is back to bashing them for being pro-life and anti-open borders.

  13. Rand Paul did say a true thing when he observed that this isn’t your grandfather’s wire-tapping concerns. Modern communications intercepts are far more pervasive, intrusive, and unavoidable. The use of them by our government for blatantly political ends is not something that can be minimized, apologized for, or denied.

  14. I still wonder how such a ‘great’ pres as obama could do all these illegal things and still remain revered by so many dumb folks?

  15. “Situational libertarianism” is pretty much what Reason editors are all about.

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  17. I’ve never heard of the word “sagacity.” So, in order to help those who never heard of the word either:
    Sagacity – “acuteness of mental discernment and soundness of judgment.”
    By the way, I wish we had more Constitutionally astute Patriots as in Congressmen Justin Amash and Thomas Massie, as well as Senator Rand Paul, and far less of the kind who instead Serve Us Up!

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