Some members of congress are incensed by a story in the Wall Street Journal that said that the USA had monitored the communications of the Israeli government and its prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and those members of the US Congress that Israeli officials were speaking to during the negotiations between the US and Iran, in order to find out what they knew about the discussions and what they were doing to derail the deal.
Glenn Greenwald says that this is yet another example, if we needed one, of how the very same people who mocked those who raised privacy concerns over the NSA’s actions are the ones who get most outraged when they discover that they and their friends have been targeted.
In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. As TechDirt noted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”
But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond. Now that he knows that it is his privacy and those of his comrades that has been invaded, he is no longer cavalier about it. In fact, he’s so furious that this long-time NSA cheerleader is actually calling for the criminal prosecution of the NSA and Obama officials for the crime of spying on him and his friends.
So now, with yesterday’s WSJ report, we witness the tawdry spectacle of large numbers of people who for years were fine with, responsible for, and even giddy about NSA mass surveillance suddenly objecting. Now they’ve learned that they themselves, or the officials of the foreign country they most love, have been caught up in this surveillance dragnet, and they can hardly contain their indignation. Overnight, privacy is of the highest value because now it’s their privacy, rather than just yours, that is invaded.
Whatever one’s views on that might be — i.e., even if you’re someone who is convinced that there’s nothing wrong with the NSA eavesdropping on the private communications even of American citizens, even members of Congress, without warrants — this sudden, self-interested embrace of the value of privacy should be revolting indeed. Warrantless eavesdropping on people who have done nothing wrong — the largest system of suspicionless mass surveillance ever created — is inherently abusive and unjustified, and one shouldn’t need a report that this was done to the Benjamin Netanyahus and Pete Hoekstras of the world to realize that.
As another example, Marco Rubio, one of the most stalwart defenders of NSA spying, is also suddenly outraged that Israeli leaders were spied upon. Rubio has been making a big play to be the main beneficiary of Sheldon Adelson’s largesse and win the favor of the Israel lobby and, given that those two entities’ pet cause is hardline right-wing Israeli politics, his reversal is easily understood. Rubio has already got the support of billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer, another oligarch whose main interest is promoting Israel’s interests.
Hypocrisy on government intrusions on our privacy and devotion to Israel’s interests are bipartisan affairs. Greenwald also recalls previous cases involving Democrats Jane Harman and Diane Feinstein who also did an abrupt about-face when they discovered that their own communications were being monitored. All these people are perfectly fine with, even cheer, when the communications of everyday people are swept up without warrants or cause but they are outraged when their own or that of Israel becomes part of the dragnet.
These people truly see themselves as an entitled class.