Having already turned in a book report this morning, Eric Lichtblau also grabs the Sunday Chat & Chew report. Book reports and TV reports. (Never a "review" because that would require something other than typing, "___ said . . .") The New York Times' article is headlined "Lawmakers Call for Limits on F.B.I. Power to Demand Records in Terrorism Investigations" and we'll quote the following from it:
[. . .] were responding to an article on Sunday in The Washington Post about the government's increasing use of what are known as national security letters to demand records from businesses and institutions, without a judge's approval, to aid in terrorism and intelligence investigations.
The F.B.I. has long acknowledged that, with new authority granted to it under the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, it has increasingly turned to national security letters as a way of collecting information on suspects. But it has refused demands from members of Congress to make data on the use of the letters publicly available and has provided figures only in limited form in classified settings.
The national security letters became particularly controversial in August after it was disclosed that the bureau had used one to demand internal records from a library association in Connecticut. The legal tool bars recipients from publicly disclosing that they have received such a demand, and the Connecticut recipient has gone to court in an effort to have the restriction removed. The New York Times first identified the recipient of the letter, based on court records, as the Library Connection, a consortium in Windsor, Conn.
In fariness to Lichtblau (who is the focus of both entries this morning), it should be noted, he has two pieces in the Monday paper so he was working. Judging by the skimpy news section (a given on Mondays), he was one of the few. I'll also note that the his articles fit perfectly into the paper's view of "news."
Molly e-mails to note David Cole's "Intolerable Cruelty" (The Nation):
Do we really need to be "cruel, inhuman or degrading" to win the war on terror? Apparently the Bush Administration thinks so. When John McCain proposed an amendment to a military appropriations bill that would comprehensively ban such tactics, the Administration threatened to veto it. Now that ninety senators, including forty-six Republicans, have voted for it, and Colin Powell and the Catholic bishops have all endorsed it, the Administration has shifted to a stealth strategy. It asks only for an exemption for the CIA, or deletion of the provision that the ban applies abroad. But those proposals would effectively gut the amendment, as its principal legal effect is precisely to bind the CIA in its actions overseas. And as Dana Priest's chilling November 2 Washington Post account of secret CIA detention and interrogation centers, known as "black sites," makes clear, this is no abstract debate.
In 1994 the United States ratified the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which prohibits such treatment under all circumstances, specifically including "a state of war." But after 9/11 the Administration argued that the ban does not apply to foreign nationals being held and interrogated abroad. It reasoned that when Congress ratified the treaty, it provided that these terms should be interpreted to prohibit conduct that would violate the Constitution--that is, conduct that "shocks the conscience." Since the Administration contends that the Constitution does not extend to foreign nationals outside our borders, it maintains that neither does the ban on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
This interpretation runs against the central purpose of the Torture Convention, which is to protect all human beings, regardless of location and nationality. And it transforms what Congress plainly intended as a substantive definition of prohibited treatment into a territorial exception that affords government officials carte blanche to engage in conduct that includes, according to reported US practices, sexual humiliation, use of dogs to terrorize prisoners, sleep deprivation, extended exposure to extreme temperatures, forced nudity, waterboarding and mock burials.
Zach e-mailed Saturday to note Robert Parry's "Libby & Nuclear Secrets to China" (Consortium News):
Indicted ex-White House aide Lewis Libby played a key role in an earlier case of slanting U.S. intelligence for political gain – four years before the Iraq War when he was legal adviser to a House investigation into how communist China got U.S. nuclear secrets.
In 1999, Libby, a China expert, served on a special Republican-controlled House committee that laid the blame for the compromise of U.S. secrets almost exclusively on Democrats, despite evidence that the worst rupture of nuclear secrets actually occurred during the Reagan-Bush administration in the mid-1980s.
The committee’s findings served as an important backdrop for Election 2000 when George W. Bush’s backers juxtaposed images of Democrat Al Gore attending a political event at a Buddhist temple with references to the so-called "Chinagate" scandal.
The American public was led to believe that $30,000 in illegal "soft-money" donations from Chinese operatives to Democrats in 1996 were somehow linked to China’s access to U.S. nuclear secrets. Millions of Americans may have been influenced to vote against Gore and for Bush because they wanted to rid the U.S. government of people who had failed to protect national security secrets.
But the reality was that the principal exposure of U.S. nuclear secrets to China appears to have occurred when Beijing obtained U.S. blueprints for the W-88 miniaturized hydrogen bomb, a Chinese intelligence coup in the mid-1980s on the watch of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
The intelligence loss came at a time when the Reagan-Bush administration was secretly collaborating with communist China on arms shipments to the Nicaraguan contra rebels, an operation so sensitive that Congress and the American people were kept in the dark, even as White House aide Oliver North colluded with Chinese agents.
The House report -- with Libby as a top adviser -- obscured this central fact by setting up a timeline that placed nearly all entries about compromised intelligence in the years of Jimmy Carter's or Bill Clinton's presidencies. Only a close reading of the report’s text would clue someone in on the actual timing of the W-88 leak to China.
Libby's role in this earlier manipulation of intelligence information for political gain is relevant after his Oct. 28 indictment for perjury, lying to FBI investigators and obstruction of justice.
Those charges were leveled in connection with a federal investigation into the outing of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame in July 2003 after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of "twisting" intelligence to justify invading Iraq.
According to the five-count indictment, Libby disclosed Plame’s identity to at least two reporters at a time when the White House was trying to discredit Wilson, who had challenged a dramatic claim of President George W. Bush's case for war with Iraq, that Saddam Hussein was seeking uranium for development of a nuclear bomb.
Libby insisted that he had only circulated rumors about Plame's CIA employment that he had picked up from a journalist, NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert. But the indictment said Libby learned Plame's identity not from Russert, but from a CIA official and from Vice President Dick Cheney. Libby pleaded innocent on Nov. 3.
Scaring the Public
Warnings about "mushroom clouds" and Iraq's alleged pursuit of uranium had been memorable parts of Bush's terrifying case for war in 2002-2003. As Cheney's chief of staff, Libby was an important architect for both the war and the P.R. campaign that sold it to the American people.
Several years earlier, in 1999, Libby had learned in the "Chinagate" case how politically useful national security accusations can be in scaring large segments of the U.S. population and swaying the Washington press corps.
Had there been more (or any!) time this weekend, I would have noted Parry's story then but I honestly didn't even have time to read Zach's e-mail until Sunday night. Zach's got another thing highlighted from Consortium that we note in this morning's other entry.
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