Beck's imaginary persecution

Blog ››› ››› KATE CONWAY

Glenn Beck took his audience into the realm of his imagination today in a segment on the Obama administration's efforts to alter a law in order to help the FBI more easily obtain internet records that might be pertinent to investigations on terrorism. Introducing the topic, Glenn Beck stated that the Obama administration is trying to change "four words" in the law that "stops people from going in and seizing internet records."

Beck's first sentence was technically true: The administration is seeking to add "electronic communication transactional records" to a list of the types of information the FBI may request without a judge's permission -- although it should be noted that this includes things like times, dates and addresses of emails but not the content of messages.

From that point on, however, Beck's commentary on the topic came directly from his imagination. He constructed the following ridiculous hypothetical scenario:

BECK: Let's say my company, Mercury, where we have internet records for all of our business. We also have all of our emails and everything else. Let's just say that the government decides that I'm a threat to the United States and that there's some sort of, you know, well, Glenn Beck has been communicating with a gentleman in Canada. And this gentleman in Canada has ties to a terrorist organization. Remember, they get to define a terrorist organization. Here, let me use a better one. An NRA member uses their gun to shoot something. The United States government decides that they're going to make the NRA a terrorist organization. Don't think they wouldn't do it. They make the NRA a terrorist organization. Now, anybody who has contributed to the NRA could be, in theory, scooped up and held indefinitely without a trial or a warrant. We already have that one going. They're already arguing for these things right now. It's how they define terrorist. So let's say I'm -- because I write a letter to Wayne LaPierre, he writes me back. They say, you know what, Glenn Beck has been in communication with this terrorist organization. With this four-word change, they can now not only go into the NRA without a warrant, no judge involved, on the president's word, they can go and take all internet records and seize them. Plus, this new change in the law would force the NRA or me, my company, to not be able -- we would be bound by law -- we would not be able to disclose the government has done that.

So Beck's fear of persecution hinges on his perfectly legal interactions becoming illegal or suspect through a completely artificial mechanism: The NRA being declared a terrorist organization just because one of its members shot "something." Despite Beck telling his listeners, "Don't think they wouldn't do it," it seems pretty unlikely that the government will rashly declare the NRA to be terrorists unless the NRA actually starts engaging in terrorism on an organizational level.

Glenn Beck
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