What Bill Bennett Doesn’t Know

According to Editor and Publisher, in the course of calling for the jailing of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists Dana Priest, James Risen, and Eric Lichtblau, Bill Bennett (the "Bookie of Virtue") had this to say:

… the reporters "took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it — they put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us.

"How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are now aware of this, they're going to adjust their behavior … "

What most Americans and all would-be terrorists know, but Bill Bennett apparently does not, is that that federal agencies have long been able to listen in on domestic telephone conservatives conversations, as long as they have wiretapping warrants. The point of Bush's domestic spying program is not that for the first time the executive branch can snoop on callers within the United States, but that the president now simply ignores the requirement that his boys go before a judge to get permission. The basic power of the feds to wiretap is common knowledge — nobody is going to stop making phone calls because of the Risen/Lichtblau story.

(I see that Larry Johnson at TPMCafe debunked the same spurious argument back in February.)

Thomas Fleming relates an anecdote about Bennett that suggests that perhaps many things that are common knowledge to others come as a surprise to him:

Bennett was once asked on a radio interview about what great books he was going to promote. “The published works of Socrates,” he answered according to a scholar who was present.

Addendum: Kevin Michael Grace points to my Freudian slip (or perhaps just dyslexia) in typing "conservatives" instead of "conversations" above.