At Techdirt, Mike Masnick risks life and limb by posting a c-span link to an “absolutely incredible exchange between Intel Committee Chair Rep. Mike Rogers and law professor Stephen Vladeck.” Rogers figured he could easily outmaneuver Vladeck (and two others on the panel before the committee) with some tricky rhetoric, as Kevin Underhill explains:
In what was intended as his wrap-up question, Rogers asked each of the three panelists for a “quick yes or no answer” as to whether they thought “the government should have the ability to try to find a nexus between a foreign connection and a business record in the United States that would indicate the identity of someone who may be working with a terrorist organization.” Well, I think you don’t have to be a lawyer to understand that this is not a “yes-or-no” question.
If you say “yes,” you have just said that you have no objections to giving the government the power to access business records whenever it likes, as long as it claims to be looking for terrorists. If you say “no,” you have just said that the government should have no access to business records for that purpose, no matter what the situation.
There are few things a congressman likes better than having a TV camera on him when he controls a hearing and gets to make a chump out of his witnesses by putting the screws to them. Oh, that Mike Rogers. Such a smart guy.
But Vladeck refused to play his game, and it made Rogers angry. How dare he blow his TV moment! Which led to an exchange that should haunt the government:
Rogers gets upset at this (bizarrely appearing to totally not comprehend the point Vladeck is making) and then finally Vladeck again points out that the process matters, and it’s ridiculous to answer a substantive question about whether the concept makes sense without discussing the process, leading to the following, in which Rogers suggests there are no process questions because no one has complained:
Rogers: I would argue the fact that we haven’t had any complaints come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right.
Vladeck: But who would be complaining?
Rogers: Somebody who’s privacy was violated. You can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated.
And Vladeck’s response nails it:
Vladeck: I disagree with that. If a tree falls in the forest, it makes a noise whether you’re there to see it or not.
Rogers failed to see what trees and forests had to do with much of anything, and instead suggested this was a good reason to drink wine (no, not making this up). But this is all a prelude to the real point of this post, which is that Ken White took the exchange and crafted a parody of it to drive the stupidity of Rogers’ argument home:
Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan) was defiant today in the face of accusations that he had installed a small digital camera in the women’s bathroom in his office at the Capitol.
“This is just politics,” said the ten-term Congressman. “I would argue the fact that we haven’t had any women come forward with any specificity arguing that their privacy has been violated, clearly indicates, in ten years, clearly indicates that something must be doing right. Somebody must be doing something exactly right.”
When reporters asked how women would know to complain — the spycam, funded by the government, was expertly hidden — Rogers asserted that was the point. “You can’t have your privacy violated if you don’t know your privacy is violated,” said Rogers.
When you know the backstory behind Ken’s parody, and you read it knowing it’s a parody of what Rogers did, it’s funny. Ken is an incredibly funny guy, and is pitch-perfect in making his point through biting humor.
We have reached the point in American politics where a parody is no longer distinguishable from reality when it comes to Congress and spying.