Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Asshole In Chief Strikes Again

It's bad enough that the Bush regime wants to turn America into a 21st century USSR. But to add insult to injury, he acts all pissed off when he finds out that people don't like living in his little Gulagistan.

To those warmongers who support this Stalinist bullshit, mark my words: they're not doing this to "combat terrorism". They're doing it TO SPY ON THEIR OWN POLITICAL ENEMIES. Don't believe me? Remember the hubub a little while ago when they said they were allowing people to bring stabbing weapons back onto airplanes? Do you think the Bushists care about your safety? Or how about this?

For crying out loud, they have worked to crush dissent for years. During the elections, they were locking up peaceful protesters and making people sign loyalty oaths to enter their campaign rallies. This sort of activity has the potential to wipe out political-dissidxent blogging. For everybody, not just "leftists".

Yeah, you just wait until we find out who they've been spying on. You'll see.

By the way, PLEASE consider signing this petition!


windspike said...

If W really believes that revealing secrets that are truly vital to the national securty is a bad thing, why has he not fired anyone in his administration for the Valarie Plame situation?

SheaNC said...

Only the simian researchers will ever know.

Kevin Mark Smith said...

Regarding Plame, there's nothing yet to fire someone over. However, I agree with your assessment of the spying situation. Ben Franklin would be ticked.

Mike of the North said...

Kevin, you're right about not firing anybody over the plame thing. Anybody that works for the cia, or co-operates with them deserve to be dragged through the streets of some god forsaken third world country by their heels. I'm glad someone in the bush admin had the guts to "out" a cia scumbag and in the process eliminate any foreign "assets" the filthy spook had managed to cultivate.

Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Jack Mercer said...

Interesting article from the WSJ:

Thank You for Wiretapping
Why the Founders made presidents dominant on national security. Tuesday, December 20, 2005 12:01 a.m. EST

Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be President, and that's fair enough. By all means go for it in 2008. The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who's always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, Senators, please stop stripping the Presidency of its Constitutional authority to defend America.

That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week's leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of Senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are "illegal," done "in total secret," and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. "I believe it does violate the law," averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.

The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.

The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.

The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."
On Sunday Mr. Graham opined that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" FISA--which suggests that next time he should do his homework before he implies on national TV that a President is acting like a dictator. (Mr. Graham made his admission of ignorance on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was representing the Republican point of view. Democrat Joe Biden was certain that laws had been broken, while the two journalists asking questions clearly had no idea what they were talking about. So much for enlightening television.)

The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.

Inside the executive branch, the process allowing the wiretaps was routinely reviewed by Justice Department lawyers, by the Attorney General personally, and with the President himself reauthorizing the process every 45 days. In short, the implication that this is some LBJ-J. Edgar Hoover operation designed to skirt the law to spy on domestic political enemies is nothing less than a political smear.

All the more so because there are sound and essential security reasons for allowing such wiretaps. The FISA process was designed for wiretaps on suspected foreign agents operating in this country during the Cold War. In that context, we had the luxury of time to go to the FISA court for a warrant to spy on, say, the economic counselor at the Soviet embassy.

In the war on terror, the communications between terrorists in Frankfurt and agents in Florida are harder to track, and when we gather a lead the response often has to be immediate. As we learned on 9/11, acting with dispatch can be a matter of life and death. The information gathered in these wiretaps is not for criminal prosecution but solely to detect and deter future attacks. This is precisely the kind of contingency for which Presidential power and responsibility is designed.

What the critics in Congress seem to be proposing--to the extent they've even thought much about it--is the establishment of a new intelligence "wall" that would allow the NSA only to tap phones overseas while the FBI would tap them here. Terrorists aren't about to honor such a distinction. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," before 9/11 "our intelligence agencies looked out; our law enforcement agencies looked in. And people could--terrorists could--exploit the seam between them." The wiretaps are designed to close the seam.

As for power without responsibility, nobody beats Congress. Mr. Bush has publicly acknowledged and defended his decisions. But the Members of Congress who were informed about this all along are now either silent or claim they didn't get the full story. This is why these columns have long opposed requiring the disclosure of classified operations to the Congressional Intelligence Committees. Congress wants to be aware of everything the executive branch does, but without being accountable for anything at all. If Democrats want to continue this game of intelligence and wiretap "gotcha," the White House should release the names of every Congressman who received such a briefing.

Which brings us to this national security leak, which Mr. Bush yesterday called "a shameful act." We won't second-guess the New York Times decision to publish. But everyone should note the irony that both the Times and Washington Post claimed to be outraged by, and demanded a special counsel to investigate, the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which did zero national security damage.

By contrast, the Times' NSA leak last week, and an earlier leak in the Washington Post on "secret" prisons for al Qaeda detainees in Europe, are likely to do genuine harm by alerting terrorists to our defenses. If more reporters from these newspapers now face the choice of revealing their sources or ending up in jail, those two papers will share the Plame blame.
The NSA wiretap uproar is one of those episodes, alas far too common, that make us wonder if Washington is still a serious place. Too many in the media and on Capitol Hill have forgotten that terrorism in the age of WMD poses an existential threat to our free society. We're glad Mr. Bush and his team are forcefully defending their entirely legal and necessary authority to wiretap enemies seeking to kill innocent Americans.

Jack Mercer said...

Here is another for those disposed to view another point-of-view:

All the President's Spies
By Jed Babbin
Published 12/19/2005 12:09:32 AM
There are politically motivated criminals in our government who should be unmasked and punished to the fullest extent of the law. These people have leaked some of our most sensitive secrets and damaged our national security for no reason other than to discredit President Bush. Forget the Plame nonsense. That -- according to a CIA assessment -- caused no damage at all. No, I'm talking about the leaks of the secret CIA detention facilities in Europe and elsewhere where terrorist detainees are kept. I'm talking about the leak of a top-secret satellite program, apparently by three U.S. senators. And I'm talking about last week's New York Times report about the NSA's domestic intelligence gathering effort that's paying off handsomely. Or was, until the leakers told the Times.

Friday, in a report that the White House asked not be published because it could jeopardize ongoing anti-terrorist operations, the Times revealed that in 2001 the president authorized the National Security Agency to collect intelligence from conversations routed through the United States and possibly including people within the United States. And the media feeding frenzy aimed at declaring George W. Bush a criminal started all over again.

It's pretty clear that NSA's domestic intelligence gathering was -- and is -- legal. But before we get to that, we have to set the context for this debate correctly, which is more than the Times, the Washington Post, or any of the other politico-media will do. We need only two data points to accomplish that.

First, the last time a war was fought on American soil, the president then didn't merely authorize intelligence gathering within our borders, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus for anyone held in military custody (even though we didn't yet have a base at Gitmo), and declared that anyone opposing the war would be tried and punished under martial law in military courts. Thank heaven that George Bush isn't as radical as Abraham Lincoln was when he signed that proclamation in September 1862. Or as radical as FDR was in interning Japanese citizens in World War II.

Second, the price of inaction in the war against terrorists is too high. We know, from Mansour Ijaz's accounts and from the admissions Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger has made in several interviews, that the Clinton administration turned down Sudan's repeated 1996 offers of bin Laden on a silver platter because its lawyers didn't believe we had enough evidence to indict him in a U.S. court. Instead of telling the lawyers to find a way to put OBL out of business, the Clintons took the easy way out their lawyers had provided and let bin Laden get away. Now, we have a president who apparently tells his lawyers what Andrew Carnegie once told his.

In what may be an apocryphal story, 19th century industrial baron Carnegie, in a long meeting with his planning staff, endured a few "you can't do that" objections from a new lawyer. Carnegie took the young man into the hall and fed him a dose of reality: "Young man, I don't pay you to tell me what I can't do. I pay you to tell me how I can do what I want to do." And that sums up President Bush's approach to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

FISA requires that intelligence gathering regarding conversations to which "U.S. persons" are a party can only be done pursuant to a search warrant issued (usually in secret) by the special FISA court, made up of sitting U.S. district court judges and located in the Department of Justice building in Washington.

Second, the FISA court issues warrants based on findings of probable cause, like other U.S. courts issuing criminal search warrants. There are too many situations -- like the one we were in before 9-11 -- in which too many possible terrorists are talking to each other and their helpers to sort them out one by one and get individual warrants. Which is why the law, and the regulations that implement it, allow the Attorney General to bypass the FISA court.

The regulations implementing FISA clarify the law's exceptions to the requirements for a FISA court warrant. U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive, dated July 27, 1993, is the primary regulation governing NSA's operations. It is a secret document. (We at TAS, unlike the NYT, never, ever, disclose government secrets that may damage national security. What follows is taken from a declassified version obtained from an open source.)

Under Section 4 of USSID 18, communications which are known to be to or from U.S. persons can't be intentionally intercepted without: (a) the approval of the FISA court is obtained; OR (b) the approval of the Attorney General of the United States with respect to "communications to or from U.S. PERSONS outside the United communications" and other categories of communications including for the purpose of collecting "significant foreign intelligence information."

USSID 18 goes on to allow NSA to gather intelligence about a U.S. person outside the United States even without Attorney General sanction in emergencies "when securing the approval of the Attorney General is not practical because...the time required to obtain such approval would result in the loss of significant foreign intelligence and would cause substantial harm to national security."

So FISA itself and USSID 18 provide a lot of swinging room for what the president ordered. If the people subjected to the intelligence gathering weren't "U.S. persons," if Attorney General Gonzales made certain findings (which he did, according to several accounts) and if the NSA went ahead because it reasonably believed it would lose significant foreign intelligence if it held its hand, the operation is legal. Period. Everyone who is ranting and raving about illegality has neither the facts (most of which we don't know) or the law and regulations (which weigh heavily in favor of legality) on their side.

In his Saturday radio address, the president said that the NSA program he authorized has been reviewed over and over, and reauthorized by him more than three dozen times:

The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.

Illegal? I don't think so. A good idea? No, a great idea. Many of the congressional Dems whining the loudest about the president breaking the law (such as Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Dem on the Armed Services Committee) were almost certainly among those who were briefed repeatedly on the program since it began in 2001. In short, the Dems' objections are as hollow as the people shouting them to the television cameras. Let Congress ask its questions, and answer some as well. (Such as why weren't they concerned about this when they were briefed on it four years ago?) But let the intelligence be gathered.

America has lived in the shadow of 9-11 for more than four years. Everyone expects more terrorist attacks on our shores, but none has yet occurred. One reason for that is probably the NSA domestic intelligence gathering program.

We can do a lot, and must do it all. Spying on aliens and some "U.S. persons" here in accordance with the law, asking our allies to spy on Americans overseas, sharing intelligence gathered abroad with law enforcement authorities here, and much more. Our Constitution and laws set broad bounds for intelligence gathering. We should do everything within those bounds. Everything.