GOP Hollowly Threatens To 'Shut Down' Telecom Companies For Cooperating With Legal January 6 Inquiries

from the good-luck-with-that dept

If you've spent any real time digging into Trump GOP era tech policies, you've probably noticed they're a jumbled mess of contradictions and inconsistencies, cloaked in a lot of performative propaganda. The same party that thought net neutrality (the FCC holding telecom giants vaguely accountable) was a government hellscape, pivoted on a dime to try and force the FCC into regulating social media companies. The same GOP that whines incessantly about "big tech" via performative populism, routinely runs for the hills any time somebody actually tries to rein in corporate power or implement genuine antitrust reform.

Of course in the mainstream press (in this context usually The New York Times, Axios, The Washington Post, Politico, and friends), the inconsistency of the GOP's policy platforms is never really explained. It's part of the "view from nowhere" disease that has infected mainstream U.S. political coverage, where everything is portrayed in a "he said, she said" frame of perfect symmetry, leaving your readers completely uncertain where the truth actually lies. It's driven by a fear of upsetting sources and advertisers, and results in a media that simply refuses to call a duck a duck (or bullshit bullshit) when urgently required.

That bubbled up again this week as the GOP bristled at the fact the committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob has been asking telecom and tech companies to retain relevant communications between lawmakers and organizers. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Signal, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have all received requests. As Mike has noted there are concerns that the requests are worryingly broad, including troves of internal communications at the companies' themselves.

At the same time, many of the requests (especially those looking at the text message and call logs from telecom companies) are perfectly legitimate, and if investigators can find text messages showing coordination between the violent Capitol-assaulting mob, its organizers, and the GOP, that kind of seems arguably important in terms of a functioning democracy and avoiding even worse scenarios down the road. After all, guys like Jim Jordan are nervously babbling in interviews like this one for a reason:

Several GOP members seem particularly nervous about text messages and phone logs, and are now taking to television threatening to "shut down" telecom companies if they cooperate with the probe in any way whatsoever:

This is, of course, utterly nonsensical, zero calorie, idiot theater. Congress as a whole worships the ground companies like AT&T walk on, and the GOP in particular has never stood up to AT&T on any issue of substance. Ever. Why? Because AT&T's extremely politically powerful (thanks in large part to its cozy relationship with the NSA), and a major GOP campaign contributor. There's legitimately a 0.0% chance that AT&T or Verizon see any meaningful penalties for cooperating with legal requests, especially from a party with a thirty year track record of mindlessly kissing telecom's ass.

The GOP for years has opposed privacy protections and embraced expansive government surveillance. And its entire brand has been built on the worship of purportedly "free markets" without the imposition of government intervention. And the entire Trump GOP has been to take "political norms" in the alleyway and beat the ever loving piss out of them, repeatedly. Yet this morning we saw the Rupert Murdoch editorial pages pretending to care about both telecom privacy and (gasp!) "political norms":

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also took to Twitter to threaten to shut down private companies for complying with legal information requests (you know, "free markets!" and all that):

Nobody's violating federal law. It's a valid inquiry into an extremely dangerous, precedent setting event. And "federal law" on privacy is weak in the first place largely courtesy of forty years of DC policy choices. There's just layers of gibberish here, particularly the pretense that the GOP gives two flying shits about rampant government surveillance or "political norms." If Congress is doing something illegal that violates privacy, anyone can sue to stop them. Instead, the GOP is having yet another toddler moment, engaging in hollow bullying to shut down private businesses they know they'll never actually follow through on.

As Ken White notes, one could argue that this kind of behavior, while likely not prosecutable, qualifies as corruption and obstruction of justice:

Granted, this most likely ends (like the mythical GOP support for "antitrust reform") with zero penalties for telecom companies, because there's nothing to penalize. Still, letting a bunch of mindlessly ambitious authoritarians try to overthrow elections with zero meaningful penalty sets a clearly dangerous precedent. As does threatening companies for complying with perfectly valid legal requests.

Shutting down AT&T is a non-starter, so what is the GOP going to do to "punish" telecom companies? Re-establish the FCC's ability to hold telecom monopolies accountable? Stop blocking efforts to impose broadband privacy rules? Finally start holding them accountable for fraud? Rein in their overly enthusiastic participation in our domestic surveillance program? Force AT&T and Verizon to close up shop and go home? Give me a break.

It's just empty-headed bullying by GOP lawmakers clearly nervous about what these requests could reveal about one of the dumbest yet most dangerous days in recent U.S. history. And yet courtesy of DC beltway press' "he said, she said" framing of the situation, a reader walks away from most terrible coverage of this dispute with the impression that the GOP's position here could be perfectly reasonable. ("Bob the authoritarian says a valid investigation into him is illegal, but his colleague Jane says that's not true. Who's right? Who knows?" ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

U.S. press outlets need to dramatically improve their ability to call out bullshit or this stuff is all going to get significantly worse. Bad faith bullshit only works when you refuse to identify it as clearly bad faith bullshit. Corruption thrives when your press is too timid to clearly call it corruption when required. And by and large the nation's biggest media outlets continue to fail painfully at the task of highlighting the GOP's hard right authoritarian swerve, or the bullshit faux-populist propaganda they're using to make it happen.

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Filed Under: due process, empty threats, evidence, gop, investigation, january 6th, jawboning, kevin mccarthy, marjorie taylor greene, obstruction of justice, subpoena, telcos
Companies: at&t, verizon


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  • identicon
    David, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:09am

    Checks out.

    This is, of course, utterly nonsensical, zero calorie, idiot theater.

    Well, that's how we know that Greene has not been misquoted.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Jeroen Hellingman (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:12am

    Considering the anti-abortion law that was passed in Texas, and ignored by the Supreme Court, I wouldn't bet on what the American Taliban is willing to do to push through their agenda.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:27am

      Re:

      Agreed. The American right wing has attained their brass ring, so it's time for them to run wild.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:47am

      Re:

      The problem with the Supreme Court abdictating responsibility is not primarily that the law is anti-abortion (which is a policy-shift bypassing part of the political framework that would be required on the federal level). The problem is that the law in question is anti-law and anti-constitution and calling for lynch prosecution, allowing unrelated parties to privately sue anybody they suspect to be involved with "illegal" abortion for 5-digit statutory "damages" while prohibiting judges from fee-shifting for frivolous and/or vexatious lawsuits.

      It's not as much appalling for trying to overturn Roe vs Wade as it is for overturning Hamilton & Madison.

      That the "conservative" (in this case rather radical and destructive) majority declines to act is a clear indication that they put religious ideology above the law and are willing to abandon the duties of their job for ideological advantage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:27am

    So McCarthy is threatening revenge for helping an investigation

    What exactly was the difference between the Mafia and the Republican Party again?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Samuel Abram (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:33am

      Re: So McCarthy is threatening revenge for helping an investigat

      The Mafia doesn't have the command of an army, navy, or police force.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 1:24pm

      Re: So McCarthy is threatening revenge for helping an investigat

      One of them is a criminal organization that is willing to protect their interests using any means available, are big fans of suits and grandiose statements and sees the legal system as a tool to be corrupted and used at their leisure.

      The other is the mafia.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Sep 2021 @ 12:24am

      Re: So McCarthy is threatening revenge for helping an investigat

      The mafia doesn't have a public face of being run by barely literate insane people who provide comedy value for those watching them?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:36am

    Republicans behave like a mafia.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:47am

    But sure, Lostinlodos, keep telling us how the previous administration wasn't a practice run for a dictaorship. Just remind your good friends Chozen and restless94110 to come up for air every once in a while.

    ...Or actually, maybe don't.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 7:16am

    If Congress is doing something illegal that violates privacy, anyone can sue to stop them.

    We've seen this before, where folks within the government will leak the information, and then noone will be held accountable. The one time that a government official did leak information, the prosecutor railroaded the wrong guy in the Libby-Plame affair, while letting the actual leaker off the hook.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:18am

      Re:

      McCarthy is not suggesting criminal prosecution for government officials leaking private data. He is suggesting a republican majority could make laws harming companies like AT&T in retaliation for "violating privacy" if they comply with congressional subpoenas, something they legally have to do. McCarthy has taken issue with congress but is not looking to punish congress. The quote you cite is arguing that McCarthy is not targeting the supposedly criminal request. If he wants to stop a congressional information demand, he needs to sue the select committe (like Trump repeatedly did), not threaten AT&T (as McCarthy has)

      You have argued a strawman. Try again.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 1:49pm

      Re: that "ax" must be miniscule

      Goddamn boy, There was your one chance to prove the naysayers wrong. And talk about real, actual, censorship. To prove that you aren't just a two-bit hack with a tiny, tiny, "axe" to grind.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 7:28am

    Surveillance is great until we are the ones being surveilled....every politician.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Eldakka (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 7:29am

    Greene: These telecommunication companies, if they go along with this, they will be shut down.

    If Big Tech (which Big Telecom is a part of these days) really does have the influence over elections that the GOP (amongst others) has been touting, and especially because you are currently the minority party, is this really a wise thing to say to them?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 7:32am

    Hey guys, have a look at what you once were:

    http://tritorch.com/balancez/balance.txt

    What the heck happened?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tim R (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 7:50am

    I don't know what they're all worried about. It's "just" metadata.

    Yes, that was snark.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:19am

      Re:

      Well, we all know the "you have nothing to worry about if you have nothing to hide" mantra so popular with the law-enforcement-good-two-legs-bad faction. But when they shot down the bipartisan commission via McConnell asking for personal favors, it became pretty clear that "nothing to hide" is not what we are talking about.

      I hope the Select Committee gets to figure out what is being buried here and makes sure to tell the U.S. citizens and historians.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:36am

    I read elsewhere that after McCarthy said that federal law would be violated, Insider asked him "which law?" and he "did not immediately respond to Insider's request for information."

    Also, Third Party Doctrine isn't so nice when it's not working in your favor, is it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous, 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:38am

    Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

    Funny how the headline doesn't represent the truth. Judicial Watch can't even get the capital to cooperate in releasing thousands of hours of video footage of Jan 6th. Because they falsely claim the "peoples house" video footage is not of public record.

    The Jan 6th commission was a biased chosen body of anti-trumpers, chosen by Nanci Pelosi. That is a fact. Immediately they decided to put up a fake sobbing "testimony" of liars, falsely pitching the events of what happened on Jan 6th in order to label Trump supporters and many patriotic people, veterans, politicians, and families who absolutely did not want Joe Biden inaugurated in office, because there is to this day serious doubt that he won the election, with legitimate forensic evidence supporting this case.

    So, from the headline of this article, the opening statement, up to the end of this article misrepresents the facts and doesn't acknowledge that this is anything other than a witchhunt. Why? because it fits Techdirts narrative to pitch patriots, veterans, families, and especially Trump supporters as an enemy.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 5:48pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th tirade from moms basement

      "Why? because it fits Techdirts narrative to pitch patriots, veterans, families, and especially Trump supporters as an enemy."

      If the sedition charge fits...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:50pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

      doesn't acknowledge that this is anything other than a witchhunt

      Welp, elections have consequences. I heard that somewhere before.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:54pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

      with legitimate forensic evidence supporting this case

      Ahh yes, the evidence - if only you guys could hire a lawyer to present it to a court, everything would be different.

      Tell me, shit-for-brains, if all this 'evidence' exists, why don't the folks who say they have it just publish it for all to see? Why keep it secret? Have you seriously asked yourself that question?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:46pm

        Re: Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

        Tell me, shit-for-brains, if all this 'evidence' exists, why don't the folks who say they have it just publish it for all to see? Why keep it secret? Have you seriously asked yourself that question?

        Ah but they do... and then everyone laughs at them and points out how horrible and baseless their 'evidence' is, leaving the presenter humiliated and they and others watching with the lesson that they're much better off following their Dear Leader in simply claiming evidence without ever presenting it, because if you don't present evidence people can't debunk it and laugh it and you out of the room.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:59pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

      Because they falsely claim the "peoples house" video footage is not of public record.

      Can't you just pull it all up on social media? That's what the cops did.

      I mean, it's not every day that you get a group of people with such superior intelligence livestreaming their felonies and misdemeanors voluntarily.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 8:02pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

      [Hallucinates facts not in evidence]

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 11:29pm

      Re: Another trash Jan 6th article by Techdirt

      Funny how the headline doesn't represent the truth.

      What is incorrect in the headline? Be specifici.

      Judicial Watch can't even get the capital to cooperate in releasing thousands of hours of video footage of Jan 6th. Because they falsely claim the "peoples house" video footage is not of public record.

      This has nothing to do with the article.

      The Jan 6th commission was a biased chosen body of anti-trumpers, chosen by Nanci Pelosi. That is a fact.

      This has nothing to do with the article.

      So, from the headline of this article, the opening statement, up to the end of this article misrepresents the facts and doesn't acknowledge that this is anything other than a witchhunt.

      The article is not about that.

      Why? because it fits Techdirts narrative to pitch patriots, veterans, families, and especially Trump supporters as an enemy.

      Did you not even bother to read the fact that we've criticized the requests as overbroad?

      Are you so full of your own shit that you think no one recognizes what stinks?

      We aren't taking a partisan position. We have criticized the overbroad nature of the commission's requests. You know why? Because we have principles. Because we stand up for what we believe in, not like you who chooses what's right and what's wrong based on who is making the statements. That's not principled. That's sad and pathetic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 9:21am

    That the GOP makes an (unsurprising) 180 on the surveillance state as soon as its used against them doesn't mean we should do the same. Surveillance state is still bad even when used against people we don't like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 11:23am

      Re:

      Which would be why Techdirt has already highlighted that the retention requests are very broad, and we should watch closely to make sure any requests, or subpoenas, are more limited in scope. This article is not saying we should be unconcerned about records requests. It is that the threats being used are not legally sound, have no basis in the law, and threaten a group for following the law, rather than those supposedly breaking the law by checks notes issuing a demand that past records be maintained during an investigation which at this point means privacy laws can not have been violated because no records have been shared.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Sep 2021 @ 10:21am

    I have no idea what will turn up when they finally winnow through all the stuff they've requested.

    I do know this, those that are guilty hate being investigated. While at present I have no idea, it just seems to walk and talk like a duck.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 10:39am

    neither side

    has recently told anyone WHAT they want to do, let alone willing to listen To the people.

    Wonder what will happen, when all 666 laws are started This month.
    https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/31/new-texas-laws-september-2021/
    What are the people of Texas going to do? Hillbilly heaven?
    What are they going to protest? the Fed? because the State will point fingers Up the hill?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      WarioBarker (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 2:51pm

      Re: neither side

      all 666 laws

      Aside from being an insane number of laws to enact pretty much all at once, and the amount of bullcrappery within some of those laws, I love the hypocrisy on display.

      QAnon "Patriots" claim the Democrats are devil-worshippers (among other things), despite zero actual proof. Who wants to bet they won't bat an eye at the fact that number showed up in direct relation to the so-called "good guys"?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 4:19pm

        Re: Re: neither side

        Devil worshipers vs Capitalist Excuses?
        Puritan capitalist taking advantage of anyone/everyone?

        Waiting to see how many will have jobs after the people get threw with them. NPR has been running good articles.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 11:33am

    Do they need a quorum for impeaching congress people?

    I mean considering how many GQP members are dumb enough to have used unsecured methods to communicate about overthrowing the government, how can we impeach them all?

    They put party over country, its time for the country to put them in jail.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 11:41am

    This is just the Republican politicians covering their own asses, seeing as many of them participated in or facilitated the terror attack.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      David, 2 Sep 2021 @ 12:02pm

      Re:

      Well, but if you have just a single fig leaf, you have to wonder whether covering your ass is the best strategy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 1:35pm

        Re: Re:

        Not covering the front is their main form of protection.
        Its such a shocking view that most people are stunned allowing them time to escape.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anon E. Mouse, 2 Sep 2021 @ 6:06pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Except for David Niven, who will quip, the only laugh they will ever get in this life is by stripping off and showing their shortcomings?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 1:20pm

    Well someone's nervous...

    Funny how the party that hasn't seen a privacy regulation they won't try to kill and has spent the last number of years doing exactly that regarding the public's information is now screaming bloody murder about how this is a terrible intrusion into their privacy and puts the entire country at risk.

    Setting aside the blatant hypocrisy it's almost enough to make you think that those records might have some damning information regarding the politicians crying foul in them and this is them scrambling to keep those records hidden by any means necessary, up to and including witness tampering/intimidation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    WarioBarker (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 2:38pm

    Privacy for me, but not for thee

    It's almost like the GQP knows they'll never be anywhere near public office ever again if the tech and telecom companies comply with the Committee's request.

    Hopefully the Committee finishes its investigation before the 2022 midterms, as I fear the Dump Party will get a majority in Congress again and retaliate against everyone who helped the Committee do its job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 2 Sep 2021 @ 2:58pm

      Re: Privacy for me, but not for thee

      It's almost like the GQP knows they'll never be anywhere near public office ever again if the tech and telecom companies comply with the Committee's request.

      Sadly and disturbingly enough I suspect you give republican voters way more credit than they're due and that even if records surfaced that individual republican politicians were actively cheering on the insurrectionists and giving them directions it likely would only cost them a handful of voters at most.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 3 Sep 2021 @ 9:32am

        Re: Re: Privacy for me, but not for thee

        even if records surfaced that individual republican politicians were actively cheering on the insurrectionists and giving them directions it likely would only cost them a handful of voters at most.

        It would probably mobilise more rather than fewer voters. There are quite effective fundraisers for the "martyrs" and "political prisoners" in jail or before court because of participating in the insurrection, there are significant efforts to penalise anybody calling it an insurrection. The independent commission for investigating the insurrection has been shut down.

        Republicans participating in the Select Committee for investigating the insurrection are being demoted and threatened with exclusion from the Republican Party and McCarthy clearly states there is going to be a reckoning for anybody helping with getting behind the facts once the Republicans get power in House and or Senate to do so.

        Naturally, that's when they seriously are going to force media other than their standard cheerleaders to deny that any insurrection has happened. They are already flexing their muscles in several ways trying to force them to spread any misinformation they or their Russian masters want.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Sep 2021 @ 2:09am

          Re: Re: Re: Privacy for me, but not for thee

          2A is still federal law.

          I know everyone thinks the legal ways are still the best, but the Republicans don't wanna leave.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    catsmoke, 7 Sep 2021 @ 11:53am

    WASHINGTON, DC—At a press conference today, a group of Republican Senators announced that California had fallen into the Pacific Ocean.

    "The state of California has crumbled into the sea," said Sen Mike Lee (R-UT).

    Democratic members of Congress said that such a topographical event had not taken place.

    "California is still there," said Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

    Capitol analysts have said that they expect this clash of ideas to continue into the foreseeable future, with no clear resolution in sight.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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