The Washington Post

Hank Johnson: what if a ‘President Cheney’ wanted to waterboard those poking fun at his hunting skills?

Rep. Hank Johnson concocted a dystopian scenario about the former Veep. (Alex Wong/GETTY IMAGES)

It happened at a budget hearing for a subcommittee of the House Armed Services panel at which National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander was testifying. First, Johnson posited the bizarro situation: “If Dick Cheney were elected president and wanted to detain and incessantly waterboard every American who sent an email making fun of his well-known hunting mishaps...” Uh-oh, that would make the Loop a candidate for waterboarding and chaining, given our propensity for making jokes about the former Veep’s mishaps with a hunting rifle. (He did, after all, shoot his buddy. In the face.)

Then, Johnson wanted to know how President Cheney might root out those poking fun at him. “Does the NSA have the technological capacity to identify those Cheney bashers based upon the content of their emails?” he asked.

Alexander’s answer was a resounding “no.”

Johnson’s line of questioning apparently stemmed from a Wired magazine story claiming the NSA is building “the country’s biggest spy center” in Utah that will focus heavily on domestic spying. Alexander emphatically denied the spying program.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.


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