President Bush and two of his most senior aides argued Monday that the highly classified program to spy on suspected members of terrorist groups in the United States grew out of the president's constitutional authority and a 2001 Congressional resolution that authorized him to use all necessary force against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
[. . .]
Soon after Mr. Bush spoke, three senior Democrats influential on national security matters - Senators Carl Levin of Michigan, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin - assailed the president for bypassing the court that Congress set up a quarter-century ago to make sure intelligence agencies do not infringe on the privacy of Americans.
"He can go to the court retroactively," Mr. Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, told reporters, referring to the 72-hour rule.
Mr. Bush - who initially resisted a public investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks and the intelligence failures in Iraq - used his news conference Monday to discourage Congress from publicly delving into the program, saying that [. . .]
Saying more of his usual scare-America nonsense. The above is from Eric Lichtblau and David E. Sanger's "Administration Cites War Vote in Spying Case" in this morning's New York Times.
Bully Boy's getting a lot of credit for "taking responsibility" in the last few days (that's not a quote from Sanger & Lichtblau, we're done with their article for this entry unless otherwise noted). Taking responsibility requires more than saying you take responsibility. (For more on this see Robert Scheer's "The Big Lie Technique.")
But empty words might pump up support for the Bully Boy. (As his new handler advised.) It's just a new marketing program and yet pundits rush forward to in a sort of "New Morning in America" manner. Bully Boy takes responsibility for bad intelligence? (Insert joke here about Poppy and Big Babs deserving some responsibility for Bully Boy's bad intelligence.)
No, he doesn't. Taking responsibility would include (among other things) an investigation into the intelligence. He's not going for that. He's not supporting it. He can't and he won't. (Unless it's a whitewash committee investigating.) This wasn't "bad intel." Powell loves to parrot that (and has apparently stopped fretting over his "blot" judging by his BBC interview last weekend).
But that's not what happened. The administration shaped the intelligence. They actively worked to silence dissent from within. It didn't just happen here. Anyone with half an eye on England is very aware that it happened there as well. This was a cooridinated effort to launch a war of choice. This was an effort to build a case for war with half-truths and outright lies.
The sixteen word statement in the State of the Union address doesn't wash even though some "public record" critics of the left and "left" try to insist it does. Bully Boy pinned it on British intel. Yes and George Tenet warned the administration about it months prior. Tenet also warned Tony Blair personally. It pops up in the State of the Union address after this. It was known to be (at best) dubious.
They shaped the intel, they wanted the war. And silly little prisses who want to scream "public record!" better try moving beyond domestic (United States) reports. At this late date to be unaware of the similarities between what went on in the United States and what went on in England is probably more embarrassing than having kept your mouth shut about Judith Miller until she was serving her jail sentence for contempt.
A priss, who contributes to the Times regularly, comes out bemoaning the "tone." (No doubt it was the "tone" that took him years and years and years to finish that forever "forthcoming" book -- the one, that upon release, underwhelmed the nation.) That the gatekeepers are on the march is of little surprise. That someone who's already embarrassed his own name wants to line up with the gatekeepers and pull apart his own work is very sad.
There are serious issues here and possibly (as Mike noted yesterday) someone who railed at a critic in 2004 that he wasn't going to just sit around and bake cupcakes might need to find a voice?
Let's note Democracy Now! which never loses the strong voice, from "An Impeachable Offense? Bush Admits Authorizing NSA to Eavesdrop on Americans Without Court Approval:"
The Washington Post notes the revelation marks the third time in as many months the Bush administration has been forced to defend a departure from previous restraints on domestic surveillance. Most recently, NBC News reported last week, the Pentagon has been conducting domestic intelligence on peaceful anti-war protesters and others.
[. . .]
AMY GOODMAN: Stop for a moment, for kids who are listening who don't even know what the Pentagon Papers are.
MARTIN GARBUS: The Pentagon Papers were documents that ultimately Daniel Ellsberg released. They were secret documents which indicated and gave information about our involvement in Korea and North Vietnam, in both those wars. And those documents released, the government then tried to stop the publication of those papers. The New York Times and the Washington Post both went ahead and published those stories. The government, at that time, made the claim that our foreign policy would be affected, and that particular individuals or many individuals would be killed because of the release of secret information. And the Times and the Washington Post ignored that.
What we've recently seen is both the New York Times and the Washington Post have taken a totally different tack. The Washington Post, when it wrote about the secret prisons, was asked by the government not to give the locations of those secret prisons, and the Washington Post acceded to that. The New York Times, for one -- at least one year, held up the publication of this story, and had this story come out in 2002, 2003, 2004, probably the politics in the country would be very, very different. And the New York Times had meetings with the government, and according to the New York Times, they made an investigation, and they concluded what there were legal safeguards in effect that permitted the government's policy.
Now, the New York Times has a lot of very sophisticated lawyers, and those lawyers know better than that. There is a case, and I'd like to refer to something James Bamford said, with respect to how long this has gone on before. There had been a case in 1972, when Nixon tried to do the same thing. Lenny Wineglass, a very fine lawyer, argued the case in District Court. Nixon claimed that you could, for domestic surveillance, that you had a right to use executive warrants, as he claimed, the permission of the President and the Attorney General. And he said that that was sufficient. This was at a time of civil unrest, according to him, 1971, 1972. There were some bombings within the United States. And he went out, and he tried to survey, surveillance people, eavesdropping, wiretapping without judicial warrants, without probable cause.
And the United States Supreme Court said no. The United States Supreme Court said you can't do this. The United States Supreme Court said that the President does not have that kind of power within the Constitution. He has the power to protect the nation, but this goes beyond that. He can't violate the Constitution. That's exactly what's happening now. And what’s going to happen is: You now have a different Supreme Court. You’re going to have Roberts, probably Alito, and my judgment is they're going to uphold what Bush is doing, and in effect, they're going to reverse, though not directly, the Nixon case. It's a strategy to get past that Nixon case and to give the President the broadest powers that any President has ever had.
Lichtblau and Sanger note that Arlen Specter says hearings on the spying will take place after the Roberts confirmation hearing. Back to Democracy Now!:
AMY GOODMAN: So, your response when you heard about what the National Security Agency has been authorized to do by the President?
CHRISTOPHER PYLE: Not terribly surprised, but the one piece of it that amazes me is that the President admitted that he personally ordered the National Security Agency to violate a federal statute. Now, he has no Constitutional authority to do that. The Constitution says he must take care that all laws be faithfully executed, not just the ones he likes. The statute says it's, as you said at the beginning of the program, that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is the exclusive law governing these international intercepts, and he violated it anyway. And the law also says that any person who violates that law is guilty of a felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. By the plain meaning of the law, the President is a criminal.
AMY GOODMAN: Martin Garbus, you say this is an impeachable offense.
MARTIN GARBUS: Yes, I agree that it is a crime, that it is an impeachable offense. The question is: What will happen? The mere fact that it’s impeachable doesn't necessarily mean that the Supreme Court will find that, and it doesn't mean that he will necessarily be impeached. He should be impeached, but he is claiming, for the first time, that he has the authority to do this, even though FISA is there, because he has relied on counsel. He has relied on John Yoo. He has relied previously on Ashcroft, and he’s now relying on Gonzales. And all of these people are telling him that it's legal. All these people are telling him that the President's powers can be expanded, even though FISA is there. And the President has come up with an excuse, which I don’t see how anybody can buy. In FISA, you can get a warrant in five minutes. You just go before the FISA court and you get your warrant, and that's all there is to it. There’s no argument --
Cindy notes David Sirota's "The Most Important Question of All in Bush's Domestic Spying Scandal" (The Huffington Post via Common Dreams):
So the question reporters should be asking the White House isn't why the president thinks there should be domestic efforts to track and stop terrorists. The vast majority of Americans think that. The question reporters should be asking is "Why did the President order domestic surveillance operations without obtaining constitutionally-required warrants?" That is behavior that most Americans who believe in the Constitution likely do not support at all.
Make no mistake about it - this is an especially poignant question considering that, under the Patriot Act's weakened standards, the government can now circumvent the traditional (and more rigorous) judicial system and obtain a warrant directly from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Remember, this is a court almost completely skewed in favor of the government. As Slate Magazine correctly noted, getting a warrant from that judge requires "no need for evidence or probable cause" and the judge has almost no authority to reject the government's request for a warrant, unless the government's request are extraordinarily outlandish. It is why, as Josh Marshall reports, the government's own data shows that "in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants." It is also why Members of Congress of both parties have tried to repeal the Patriot Act sections that allow the administration to use FISA warrants for domestic surveillance.
In his defense, the President has tried to deflect attention by repeatedly saying he needed to order these operations to protect Americans. Fine – but it still doesn't answer the real question. If the surveillance operations he ordered were so crucial and so important to protecting our country, how come he didn't get a warrant? Surely something so critical to our security would have easily elicited a warrant from a FISA court already inclined to issue warrants in the first place, right?
And that gets us right back to the most important question: why would the President deliberately circumvent a court that was already wholly inclined to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? The answer is obvious, though as yet largely unstated in the mainstream media: because the President was likely ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror, and, to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would not have granted them.
From Robert Byrd's floor speech ("No President Is Above the Law," Common Dreams):
Now comes the stomach-churning revelation through an executive order, that President Bush has circumvented both the Congress and the courts. He has usurped the Third Branch of government – the branch charged with protecting the civil liberties of our people – by directing the National Security Agency to intercept and eavesdrop on the phone conversations and e-mails of American citizens without a warrant, which is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. He has stiff-armed the People’s Branch of government. He has rationalized the use of domestic, civilian surveillance with a flimsy claim that he has such authority because we are at war. The executive order, which has been acknowledged by the President, is an end-run around the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which makes it unlawful for any official to monitor the communications of an individual on American soil without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What is the President thinking? Congress has provided for the very situations which the President is blatantly exploiting. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, housed in the Department of Justice, reviews requests for warrants for domestic surveillance. The Court can review these requests expeditiously and in times of great emergency. In extreme cases, where time is of the essence and national security is at stake, surveillance can be conducted before the warrant is even applied for.
This secret court was established so that sensitive surveillance could be conducted, and information could be gathered without compromising the security of the investigation. The purpose of the FISA Court is to balance the government’s role in fighting the war on terror with the Fourth Amendment rights afforded to each and every American.
The American public is given vague and empty assurances by the President that amount to little more than “trust me.” But, we are a nation of laws and not of men. Where is the source of that authority he claims? I defy the Administration to show me where in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or the U.S. Constitution, they are allowed to steal into the lives of innocent America citizens and spy.
I have a problem with a John Roberts' report on CBS. (I believe it aired on CBS Evening News Monday. A friend brought up over a video of it last night.) He said Democrats were blocking the Patriot Act when you also have Republicans. (Lichtblau and Sanger noted that this morning:
"He also lashed out again, as he did Saturday, at Democrats and Republicans in the Senate who have blocked the reauthorization of the broad antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act, [. . .]") But otherwise what stood out about the report was the press conference clip. When Bully Boy erupts at a reporter. Suddenly Bully Boy's got the big words? (Such as ascribing?) Where is he looking before he answers? Is he being fed answers through a device? It looks like someone being prompted. Especially the confused look that follows his "which I strongly reject" statement and preceds the "Uh . . ." Why mention this today? Or wonder if there's was something running down the left side of Bully Boy's lower back? We're dealing, the NSA issue, a story the New York Times sat on for a year. There's another story (that could have been run by the paper before the election), "New York Times Killed 'Bush Bulge' Story."
Trina was the first to note Matthew Rothschild's "Bush Takes the Crown" (This Just In, The Progressive):
Add this to the long list of impeachable offenses that George W. Bush has committed, and put it at the top.
The President swears an oath of office that he will uphold the Constitution and faithfully execute the laws of the land.
The law against domestic spying without a warrant he has executed, all right. He shot it in the head.
When The New York Times revealed on December 16 (after sitting on the story for a year and omitting details at the request of Administration officials!) that Bush ordered the National Security Agency to monitor "the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years," I expected Bush to deny it or to say he was going to review the policy.
Instead, he is vehemently defending that policy, citing his authority under the Constitution as commander in chief and Congress's authorization to go after Al Qaeda. He did so in his radio address on Saturday and in his press conference on Monday.
But these were the very same rationales that the Bush Administration put forward last year at the Supreme Court in the case of Yaser Hamdi, one of the U.S. citizens Bush detained without charge or trial.
The Supreme Court, in an opinion by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, did not buy those arguments at all. "A state of war is not a blank check for the President when it comes to the rights of the nation’s citizens," O'Connor wrote.
(Lloyd, Keesha and Brad also noted it.)
Rod e-mails to note "Amy Goodman Honored in When Women Pursue Justice Mural:"
On October 15, 2005, Artmakers dedicated When Women Pursue Justice: a 3,300 square foot mural that celebrates 90 women who, often risking life and liberty, have led or participated in movements for social change in the United States. In vivid color, the 45' x 75' mural portrays twentieth-century movement leaders and 67 activists as well as nineteenth-century ancestors who inspired twentieth-century activism. Amy Goodman was among the women depicted in the mural.
If you missed Democracy Now! yesterday, you missed a lot. You missed something alluded to by Lichtblau and Sanger in their article but stated outright on Democracy Now! -- that Bully Boy's changed the argument. So, please, listen, watch or read Democracy Now! today.
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