Saturday, January 28, 2006

NYT: Eric Lichtblau, Adam Liptak and Scott Shane

We're going to attempt to redo the lost portion of the previous entry here.

You're back out on the road again for a million reasons
Yeah, you're back out on the road again
-- "Juliet" words & music by Stevie Nicks (from the Nicks' album The Other Side of the Mirror)

Yes, Stevie, it's back out on the road again.

For the New York Times today, the focus is on two articles, both appear on the front page, both continue on A-9.

We'll start with Eric Lichtblau and Adam Liptak's "Bush Presses on In Legal Defense For Wiretapping" which teams Lichtblau with the best co-writer he's had all week. We're moving very quickly because I used forty minutes of a planned hour of free time, my only real free time until this evening, to dictate the lost portion of the last entry. So keep up or not.

The article's an improvement over the chart on page A-9 which conveys the impression that only the Bully Boy's argument is worth presenting. Since the article contains the assertion, by some, that the Bully Boy's spin has been successful (we'll get back to that in a bit), I'm having a hard time grasping why his spin needs to be furthered via a chart?

So here's the kernal of the article, buried deep on page A-9, Bully Boy's acting as though FISA never was created. The bulk of his spin rests on cases and laws prior to the creation of FISA. FISA was created following Watergate as Congressional committees began investigation the abuses of administrations (the focus went beyond on Nixon).

For more recent support, the administration relies on selective readings as with Hamdi v. Rumsfeld which did not go the administration's way. (And is why they released Hamdi.)

They're arguing that the power exists as part of the War Powers which demands accepting that the so-called war on terror is indeed a war (Bully Boy's got his own jihad, in the minds of many) and that it will ever reach an end. Students of history will be aware of terrorism (state sponsored and otherwise) and its long roots. But Bully Boy's a can-do-blustering-can't-actually-do kind of guy so he stumbles across the world's stage making promises he can't keep.

And leaving the article for a moment, that's really at the heart of the debate. How much are we willing to give up and for how long? "How long" meaning that this is a so-called war without end. Terrorism didn't begin on 9/11 and it won't be addressed with a war. (Has Iraq taught the country nothing about how the oppression of a people results in a response?) Also on "how long," what the government takes, it doesn't easily or willingly return.

War isn't an elastic term though politicans would have you believe otherwise. Buying into the Bully Boy's spin would have resulted, in previous times, in LBJ having an unchecked power to conduct his "war" on poverty and, in future times, allow any president to declare "war" on any topic (bad hair?) and institute a power grab that can't be checked.

FISA was created as massive abuses were uncovered. Bully Boy wants to bypass FISA and rule unchecked.

Back to the article, there are many people presenting many sides. Then there's "liberal" Cass Sunstein (The New Republic's ideal of "liberal") presenting all sides. He's the perfect spokesperson for the "on the one hand" argument if you're Durga the eight-handed goddess.
Sunstein's "arguments" are used by people all over the spectrum because they're so scattershot that you can pull quote any section to justify any position. Some call that "reasoned." They've obviously never lunched with a person who can't complete the simple task of ordering from a menu. "The chicken sounds fine but on the other hand there is the beef . . . and we shouldn't overlook the shrimp which is not to take anything away from the baked fish . . ."

This isn't an "opinion," it's a laundry list. This isn't an "argument" in any way, shape or form. It's a plethora of points without any cohesion or depth. There are people in favor of the Bully Boy's power grab who can argue their point in the article and there are people opposed who can do that same. The article also notes those concerned. Sunstein fits into none of those groups. He's unable to make an argument because he's too busy ticking off every possibility under the sun. That doesn't make him "reasoned." Not every point has the same weight. He's indecisive and unable to make a case for any point he tosses out.

(For more on that, look at his Alito checklists and note how a pull quote here allowed this group to argue that and other groups to argue other points.)

The kernal of the article comes from Curtis A. Bradley who tells the paper:

Before FISA, it may have been the case that the president had the authority to do this kind of surveillance. What the Department of Justice is trying to do is use the prior practice to support the present program when the present program is a violation of a duly enacted statue.

Let's address the problem of the article. It offers an apparent consensus view. Whose? You're not provided with names. But the consensus of 'some' is that the Bully Boy was effective in spinning this past week. That's tossed out in a kind of "On spin, we score the Bully Boy an 8 out of a possible 10." It's nice of the press to offer evaluations like that, isn't it? Especially when they conceal their own role in the spin.

The Times, for example, was happy to jot down every talking point this past week. They didn't examine them. They didn't report news. They printed press releases.

You wouldn't know it to read the paper this past week but the spin shouldn't have gone over. Time and again, the administration embarrassed itself. But the mainstream press failed to report that. Let's focus on one event from Monday. To appreciate the petulance of the spokesperon, you need to listen or watch Democracy Now!'s "Former NSA Head Gen. Hayden Grilled by Journalists on NSA Eavesdropping on U.S. Citizens" -- the transcript does cover this (contrary to an earlier version of this entry posted -- this entry is being posted in parts to make sure it's not lost). Travis Morales is the World Can't Wait representative that Hayden gets snippish with when questioned. You need to listen to or watch the segment to hear the tone. Along with being petulant, Hayden also paraded, nee flaunted, his ignorance.

GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: I'm trying to communicate to you that the people who are doing this, okay, go shopping in Glen Bernie, and their kids play soccer in Laurel, and they know the law. They know American privacy better than the average American, and they're dedicated to it. So I -- I guess the message that I'd ask you to take back to your communities is the same one I take back to mine: This is focused. It's targeted. It's very carefully done. You shouldn't worry.

The first talking point is, "We're just like you!" (We shop, our kids play soccer. . .) The second talking point is, "But we're better!" "They know American privacy better than the average American . . ." Do they?

Hayden doesn't even know the Bill of Rights. From the same spin session:

JONATHAN LANDAY: Jonathan Landay with Knight Ridder. I'd like to stay on the same issue. And that has to do with the standard by which you use to target your wiretaps. I'm no lawyer, but my understanding is that the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution specifies that you must have probable cause to be able to do a search that does not violate an American's right against unlawful searches and seizures.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: Actually, the Fourth Amendment actually protects all of us against unreasonable search and seizure. That's what it says.
JONATHAN LANDAY: But the measure is probable cause, I believe.
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN: The amendment says unreasonable search and seizure.
JONATHAN LANDAY: But does it not say probable --

Hayden stood up at a conference and stated the Fourth Amendment didn't say probable cause.

He knows better than the avereage American? As any high school student in civics can tell you, the Fourth Amendment states:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Italics have been used to emphasize "probable cause" which Hayden is unaware of.

As Amy Goodman noted, but the mainstream press took a pass on:

AMY GOODMAN: The Deputy Director of National Intelligence, former head of the National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, being questioned yesterday at the National Press Club. That last reporter, after Jim Bamford asked his question, was Jonathan Landay of Knight Ridder, editor and publisher pointing out, well, this is the Fourth Amendment: the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated and no warrants shall issue but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.

Hayden, former NSA head, now holds the position of the Deputy Director of National Intelligence, a post which apparently has no intelligence prerequisite or requirement. How else to explain his glaring ignorance regarding the Fourth Amendment?

And that someone in his position would publicly flaunt his ignorance regarding something that presumably is at the heart of his work is much more pertinent than whether or not a vice-president can spell potato. However, the mainstream press took a pass on this. So next time, before the Times wants to tell us how 'successful' the administration was, they might also want to examine how 'unsuccessful' the press was in reporting basic facts.

We're turning to Scott Shane's article now, "Outfitting Spies With New Moral Compass." From article:

Is there such a thing as an ethical spy?
A group of current and former intelligence officers and academic experts think there is, and they are meeting this weekend to dissect what some others in the field consider a flat-out contradiction in terms.

There are a variety of opinions expressed here and, it should be noted, when former CIA agent Duane R. Clarridge dismisses the need for ethics in the spy community (he likens it to an "oxymoron"), Shane reminds readers that:

Mr. Clarridge's view may be colored by his own history; he was indicted on perjury charges in 1991, accused of lying to Congress about the Iran-contra affair. He was pardoned in 1992 by President George H. W. Bush.

This is the article worth reading in the paper if you're only going to read one. It's the sort of article the Times used to pull off. Gatherings were covered. Now if they involved women, people of color or students, they were minimized or overlooked, but these type of gatherings, if all white and all male, did make it into the paper. (At certain periods in the paper's history, they could even cover the gatherings of, and addressing, working class people.) Those concerned that the public debate may have fallen to the pressing issues of what an American Idol contestant wore in her disqualifying round this week and nothing on a higher level than that, might want to note how much the paper of record has aided the dumbing down of America.

It goes beyond the front paging of Oprah's Book Club yesterday. (That's not a slam at the book club or Oprah, it's just noting that the "news" story didn't belong on the front page.) The Times has given up reporting the moods of the country. (They're more fond of allowing Nagourney to manipulate polling data and speak of 'the mood' of the country.) It's now a daily version of People magazine and we should all soon expect the Sunday pull out on the "50 Most Interesting Officials" as well as the summer edition: "Sexiest Official Alive."

Far from the official speak, at any period in time, serious issues are being addressed. The paper took a pass last weekend on the Bush Commission. This week, they do cover the gathering of intelligence officers to debate and explore what purpose ethics has in the trade. These debates are worth covering. Whether you and I agree with them or not, we're better off knowing they exist. They present readers with another dimension of an issue.

Both commentaries were longer in original form (they were a part of the first post) but were lost when the friend I'm dictating this to attempted to save to draft and all was lost but the first section. I'm speaking this weekend. Whether you are speaking at gatherings or to your own circle of friends and family, I hope you're speaking. Bill Frist wants the Senate to vote on Alito Monday afternoon. It's very important that we contact senators and demand a filibuster. It's also important to get the word out on this. So do your part.

Ruth's delayed her Morning Edition Report at my request [until Sunday morning]. I requested the delay because a) of my speaking schedule this weekend which is crazy and b) Isaiah's not sure he has a new The World Today Just Nuts in him for Sunday. (He did daily ones for Gina and Krista's special round-robins.) Gina and Krista have a round-robin going out Monday morning (news of Frist's desire for a Monday vote came out after they'd put the regular round-robin "to bed").

Betty substituted for Rebecca at Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude last night. And her entry "Betty here, weighing in on Alito and the Democratic Party" is more than worth reading so make a point to read that today. Kat will be doing the entry on what's in store this weekend for RadioNation with Laura Flanders (and thank you to Kat for that). And that's it for me. I have to speak now.

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Note that this is the completed version of this entry which posted in several versions as it was dictated.