Podcast / The Time of Monsters / May 19, 2024

The New Threat to Civil Liberties After Gaza

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, Tom Durkin and Joe Ferguson on FISA renewal.

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The New Threat to Civil Liberties After Gaza | The Time of Monsters
byThe Nation Magazine

On this episode of The Time of Monsters, Tom Durkin and Joe Ferguson join Jeet Heer to discuss the FISA renewal.

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US Representative Bob Good attends a press conference on the government funding bill at the US Capitol on March 22, 2024, in Washington, D.C. The Freedom Caucus chastised House Speaker Mike Johnson for working with Democrats and urged their Republican colleagues not to support the funding bill while calling for a government spending reduction, increased border security and scaling back of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

US Representative Bob Good attends a press conference on the government funding bill at the US Capitol on March 22, 2024, in Washington, D.C. The Freedom Caucus chastised House Speaker Mike Johnson for working with Democrats and urged their Republican colleagues not to support the funding bill while calling for a government spending reduction, increased border security and scaling back of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

(Kevin Dietsch / Getty Images)

In April, Congress voted to renew one of the most controversial pillars of the national security law, section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). 702, as it is popularly known, allows for warrantless wiretaps in the name of fighting terrorism. Although the measure passed and was signed by President Biden, the vote was exceptionally close, indicating an emerging bipartisan movement to regain the civil liberties lost in the fight against terrorism.

With Israel’s war in Gaza now sparking protests all over the world, the danger of anti-terrorism’s being used to surpress civil liberties grows.

To discuss the politics of 702 renewal on this episode of The Time of Monsters, I was joined by the journalists Doug Bell, a frequent guest of the podcast, and two distinguished lawyers with decades of experience in civil liberties and terrorism cases, Tom Durkin and Joe Ferguson.

Tom Durkin, managing partner at Durkin Roberts in Chicago, has 40-plus years experience in court fighting for and against the government of the United States and, particularly since 9/11, on behalf of its putative enemies. He’s been described in the pages of The Wall Street Journal as one of the busiest national security lawyers in the United States. Notably, he was among a handful of American lawyers selected by the ACLU to be a civilian lawyer helping with the military commissions in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he represented an alleged plotter of the 9/11 attacks.

Joe Ferguson, currently the president of the Civic Federation in Chicago, spent 15 years in the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois; 10 of those years were spent in that office’s Criminal Division, prosecuting cases involving public corruption, mail/wire fraud, tax fraud, terrorist financing, narcotics trafficking, and labor racketeering. He served as the chief of the Money Laundering and Forfeiture Section, having been its deputy chief. He also held positions as deputy chief of financial crimes and special prosecutions and USAO terrorist financing coordinator.

The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer
The Time of Monsters with Jeet Heer

The Time of Monsters podcast features Nation national-affairs correspondent Jeet Heer’s signature blend of political culture and cultural politics. Each week, he’ll host in-depth conversations with urgent voices on the most pressing issues of our time.

Joe Biden’s Muddled Middle East Policy
byThe Nation Company LLC

Joe Biden has often been described as among the most pro-Israel politicians in America, a characterization which has a large element of truth but misses some important nuances. As David Klion argues in a deeply researched essayfor The Nation, Biden’s support for Israel has long been accompanied by rhetorical gestures indicating opposition to aspects of Israel’s policies, particularly the building of settlements. How do we make sense of this disjunction between action and rhetoric? Is Biden simply trying to placate his liberal base with cheap words? Or is his fundamental thinking on the topic incoherence to his worldview. 

David joins the podcast to talk about Biden’s Israel policy, which leads into a wide-ranging discussion of the internal contradictions of Cold War liberalism and Biden’s larger policy thinking.

In addition to David’s piece, we talk about topics that address this by Jonathan Guyer in The American Prospect and Noah Landar in Mother Jones.

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Jeet Heer

Jeet Heer is a national affairs correspondent for The Nation and host of the weekly Nation podcast, The Time of Monsters. He also pens the monthly column “Morbid Symptoms.” The author of In Love with Art: Francoise Mouly’s Adventures in Comics with Art Spiegelman (2013) and Sweet Lechery: Reviews, Essays and Profiles (2014), Heer has written for numerous publications, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, The American Prospect, The GuardianThe New Republic, and The Boston Globe.

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