Defense lawyers in some of the country's biggest terrorism cases say they plan to bring legal challenges to determine whether the National Security Agency used illegal wiretaps against several dozen Muslim men tied to Al Qaeda.
The lawyers said in interviews that they wanted to learn whether the men were monitored by the agency and, if so, whether the government withheld critical information or misled judges and defense lawyers about how and why the men were singled out.
The expected legal challenges, in cases from Florida, Ohio, Oregon and Virginia, add another dimension to the growing controversy over the agency's domestic surveillance program and could jeopardize some of the Bush administration's most important courtroom victories in terror cases, legal analysts say.
The above is from Eric Lichtblau and James Risen's "Defense Lawyers in Terror Cases Plan Challenges Over Spy Efforts" in this morning's New York Times. Do you like news? Do you read the paper for news? Then this isn't the day for you. Lichtblau and Risen's piece is the only "hard news" worth noting. You've got Raymond Hernandez's Political Memo aspiring to challenge the "standards" set by Elisabeth Bumiller's White House Letter. There are two other things from the Times that we'll note (in the next entry) but there's not a great deal to this morning's paper.
Translation, prepare to supplement your readings today. We'll start with End Zone's highlight, Norman Solomon's "NSA Spied on UN Diplomats During Push for Invasion of Iraq" (CounterPunch) which addresses a point few in the mainstream want to touch (Amy Goodman has raised the point several times recently on Democracy Now! -- and of course, raised it in real time as well):
Despite all the news accounts and punditry since the New York Times published its Dec. 16 bombshell about the National Security Agency's domestic spying, the media coverage has made virtually no mention of the fact that the Bush administration used the NSA to spy on U.N. diplomats in New York before the invasion of Iraq.
That spying had nothing to do with protecting the United States from a terrorist attack. The entire purpose of the NSA surveillance was to help the White House gain leverage, by whatever means possible, for a resolution in the U.N. Security Council to green light an invasion. When that surveillance was exposed nearly three years ago, the mainstream U.S. media winked at Bush's illegal use of the NSA for his Iraq invasion agenda.
Back then, after news of the NSA's targeted spying at the United Nations broke in the British press, major U.S. media outlets gave it only perfunctory coverage -- or, in the case of the New York Times, no coverage at all. Now, while the NSA is in the news spotlight with plenty of retrospective facts, the NSA's spying at the U.N. goes unmentioned: buried in an Orwellian memory hole.
A rare exception was a paragraph in a Dec. 20 piece by Patrick Radden Keefe in the online magazine Slate -- which pointedly noted that "the eavesdropping took place in Manhattan and violated the General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, the Headquarters Agreement for the United Nations, and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, all of which the United States has signed."
But after dodging the story of the NSA's spying at the U.N. when it mattered most -- before the invasion of Iraq -- the New York Times and other major news organizations are hardly apt to examine it now. That's all the more reason for other media outlets to step into the breach.
Tori notes Helen Thomas who also addresses the topic in "President Goes Too Far When He Bypasses Wiretap Court" (Oakland Tribune via Common Dreams):
Past presidents have asserted that their presidential power gives them the authority to ignore Congress. In 1952, the Supreme Court put President Harry S Truman in his place when he ordered a federal takeover of the steel industry to prevent a disruption of the flow of U.S. weapons during the Korean War. Truman argued that his role as commander in chief gave him that authority.
Justice Robert Jackson wrote that a presidents power was at its lowest ebb when he takes measures incompatible with the expressed or implied will of Congress.
Jackson also said with all its defects, delays and inconveniences, men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the executive be under the law and that law be made by parliamentary deliberations
Bush is learning that there are limits to presidential power, especially when he oversteps his constitutional bounds.
Rod gives the heads up to today's Democracy Now!:
One year later: A look at the recovery efforts after the devastating tsunami.
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