The Wall Street Journal–owned by the same guy whose company and son are in trouble in the UK for criminally wiretapping those they wanted to collect information on–has found something to love in the Obama Administration.
Well, not everything President Obama and the 112th Congress managed to achieve is so terrible. With scarcely any notice, much less controversy, they did at least preserve one of the country’s most important post-9/11 antiterror tools.
That would be wiretapping, which you may recall liberals portrayed during the George W. Bush era as an illegal and unconstitutional license for co-President Dick Cheney and his spymasters to bug the bedrooms of all U.S. citizens. But now Washington has renewed the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that were due to expire at the end of 2012, with no substantive changes and none of the pseudo-apoplexy that prevailed during the Bush Presidency.
In addition to applauding Obama’s “fairly ruthless antiterror prosecut[ions] and unapologetic assert[ions] of Presidential powers,” the WSJ revels in this opportunity to mock those who thought illegal wiretapping was wrong.
This is a turnabout from 2007 and 2008, when letting U.S. spooks read al Qaeda emails or listen in on phone calls that passed through domestic switching networks supposedly spelled doom for the American Republic. Democrats spent years pretending that Mr. Bush’s eavesdropping program was “wrong” and “destructive,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it at the time, lamenting that “I never thought I would see a President act in direct defiance of federal law.”
Maybe this mutual love of abusive wiretapping is why–as Elliot Spitzer has pointed out–DOJ has thus far failed to pursue News Corp under Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
And finally, where is the inept U.S. Department of Justice in all this?
The DOJ has brought many irrelevant and tiny cases against companies for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it illegal to bribe either individuals or government officials, even in a company’s overseas operations. The DOJ loves to use the statute to show just how tough it is.
Yet now they have the most important case sitting right there in front of them. It’s easy. Even a rookie could field this one.
But what are they doing? It’s not clear.
If they fail to make this case against News Corp., Eric Holder is a failure as attorney general.
After all, Eric Holder’s DOJ successfully fought to give legal sanction to Cheney’s illegal wiretapping. It would look rather silly, after having extended warrantless wiretapping past the end of the Obama Administration, for them to prosecute Rupert Murdoch for doing the same thing Cheney did.
Episode one of Who Rules Your World?, pitting Barack Obama against Rupert Murdoch, passed mostly under the radar. The “privatize education” event ended in an early draw when the darling of both contestants, Michelle Rhee, resigned in disgrace for a cheating scandal. Though in truth, Murdoch’s loss of a big NY state contract (the contract opportunity arose out of Obama’s Race to the Top program) and Obama’s determination to continue his reforms using executive orders tips the balance to the President.
Episode two of Who Rules the World?, the illegal wiretap cover-up, has thus far been a clear Obama win. Within weeks after taking office, Obama reaffirmed the state secrets invocations of his predecessor. And while al-Haramain still fights to impose penalties in its successful case against the government, Obama has otherwise succeeded in shielding the government for any accountability for illegal wiretapping. Crucially, John Brennan, who had a role in the illegal wiretap program, has suffered no consequences for his role in the scandal.
Rupert’s son James has not enjoyed the same luck Brennan has. He had to resign from BSkyB to prevent News Corp’s hacking scandal from endangering the rest of the corporation’s business plans. Add in the substantial fines News Corp has already paid and the likelihood that a number of people involved in its illegal wiretap program will do jail time, and it’s clear that Obama has won the illegal wiretap coverup hands down.
Episode Three of Who Rules Your World?, leak retribution, might be more interesting. Sure, the retribution against Jeff Sterling for his employment dispute with John Brennan and John Kiriakou for revealing members of the torture squads (a program Brennan also had ties to) are ongoing. But the case against Thomas Drake for exposing the graft involved in NSA’s illegal wiretap contracts blew up in spectacular fashion; plus, the failure of the retribution against Drake has led to more revelations about the illegal wiretap program.
Meanwhile, we’re just beginning to see how News Corp will respond to the efforts of Fox Mole, now exposed as Joe Muto, for passing embarrassing videos to Gawker. It will be particularly interesting to see how Fox balances retribution with a desire to prevent any more embarrassing revelations. Though of course, Fox is hampered because unlike Obama, he can’t make Fox Mole unemployable by withdrawing his security clearance. Unlike national security whistleblowers, Muto’s employment prospects probably just got a lot rosier, as other news outlets scramble to add to News Corp’s discomfort.
It’s probably just as well that Obama is winning Who Rules Your World? by such margins at this point. I wouldn’t want Rupert to get smart ideas about trying to compete in the assassinations category.