Monday, March 13, 2006

NYT: "Senator to Propose Censure of Bush Over Spy Program" (John Files)

So the New York Times put John Files on couch potato duty and he writes about it this morning in "Senator to Propose Censure of Bush Over Spy Program." But somewhere after the fifth juice pack, or the twelth doughnut, a sugar rush must have taxed him because he struggles with reality:

The surveillance program, authorized in secret by President Bush shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, has allowed the National Security Agency to eavesdrop without warrants on the international phone and e-mail communications of people within the United States when the authorities suspect that they might have links to terrorists.

What's the problem? No problen at all until he gets to "when the authorities suspect that they might have links to terrorists." Now the New York Times sat on the NSA warrantless spying story for over a year so who knows what more they do know and aren't saying; however, the facts do not support the last clause.

It is true that the administration says the illegal spying occurred due to possible "links to terrorists." But they've offered no proof of that. Files has no idea when the illegal spying occurred or for what reason. This is not a "quibble." Files is presenting the case/spin the administration has tried to make to the public (with no supporting evidence) as fact. That's a leap of faith that a reporter shouldn't make. ". . . within the United States when, according to the administration, the authorities suspect that they might have links to terrorists" is how it should be phrased: "accorind to the administration." That wording does matter. It matters factually, which is why Files should have gotten it correctly, and it matters in terms of the overall debate.

The people do not need to assume anything on faith when the administration has spied on them for over four years. We do not know who was spied upon or for what reasons. There is nothing in the public record that supports the claims of an administration that sought to ignore the laws, to break the laws, and to spy on the American people.

If lawyers were spied upon, if that what why the courts were bypassed, the spin of breaking the law only to spy on potential terrorists goes right out the window. And that's one of the very real possibilities of what may have happened.

From the Center for Constitutional Rights' "CCR Files Suit over NSA Domestic Spying Program:"

In New York, on January 17, 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against President George W. Bush, the head of the National Security Agency (NSA), and the heads of the other major security agencies, challenging the NSA’s surveillance of persons within the United States without judicial approval or statutory authorization. The suit seeks an injunction that would prohibit the government from conducting warrantless surveillance of communications in the U.S. CCR filed the suit in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York on its own behalf and on behalf of CCR attorneys and legal staff representing clients who fit the criteria described by the Attorney General for targeting under the NSA Surveillance Program.
As has been widely reported, for over four years the NSA, with the approval of the president, has engaged in a program of widespread warrantless electronic surveillance of telephone calls and emails in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The suit argues that the NSA Surveillance Program violates a clear criminal law, exceeds the president's authority under Article II of the Constitution, and violates the First and Fourth Amendments. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act explicitly authorizes foreign intelligence electronic surveillance only upon orders issued by federal judges on a special court. It expressly authorizes warrantless wiretapping only for the first fifteen days of a war, and makes it a crime to engage in wiretapping without specific statutory authority. Rather than seeking to amend this statute, the president simply violated it by authorizing warrantless wiretapping of Americans without statutory authority or court approval. As a result, the President violated his oath of office to take care that the laws of this nation are faithfully executed, and instead secretly violated a criminal prohibition duly enacted by Congress.
CCR has been one of the most active opponents of the illegal detention, torture and intelligence gathering practices this administration instituted in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. As part of its mission to fight violations of the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the Center for Constitutional Rights represents hundreds of men detained indefinitely without charge as "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay; Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen accused of al Qaeda ties and rendered from the United States to Syria for the purpose of being tortured; and Muslim immigrants unreasonably and wrongfully detained in the U.S. for months without probable cause or criminal charges in the wake of 9/11.
In the course of representing these clients, the Center's lawyers have engaged in innumerable telephone calls and e-mails with people outside the United States, including their clients, their clients' families and outside lawyers, potential witnesses, and others. Given that the government has accused many of CCR's overseas clients of being associated with Al Qaeda or of interest to the 9/11 investigation, there is little question that these attorneys have been subject to the NSA Surveillance Program. The Center filed today's lawsuit in order to protect CCR attorneys' right to represent their clients free of unlawful and unchecked surveillance.
CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman said, "On this, the day following Martin Luther King Day, we are saddened that the illegal electronic surveillance that once targeted that great American has again become characteristic of our present government. As was the case with Dr. King, this illegal activity is cloaked in the guise of national security. In reality, it reflects an attempt by the Bush Administration to exercise unchecked power without the inconvenient interference of the other co-equal branches of government."

According to CCR attorney Shayana Kadidal, "The mere existence of the program harms CCR and our attorneys because it serves to inhibit their ability to institute and effectively litigate these suits."
The Center for Constitutional Rights is represented in the suit by CCR attorneys Bill Goodman, Shayana Kadidal, and Michael Ratner, and CCR cooperating attorney David Cole. Also appearing as an attorney for CCR, is Professor Michael Avery, president of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), on behalf of the NLG.

Were attornies spied on? The administration won't say. They won't say much of anything. Gonzales will appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and make statements, not under oath, then send a letter further confusing the issue. We don't know who was spied on and we don't know why.

Maybe a sugar rush or a tummy ache from stuffing his face while he woke to watch ABC's This Week and kept serving on couch potato duty all the way through CNN's Late Edition impaired Files' judgement? Who knows? But what is presented as fact is not fact.

Here's Russ Feingold quoted in the article:

"Proper accountability is a censuring of the president, saying: 'Mr. President, acknowledge that you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government.' "

Bill Frist called Feingold's proposal "crazy." No word on whether this was another medical diagnosis via TV monitor such as when he diagnosed Terry Schiavo via a TV monitor. A feat that some might have dubbed "crazy" (and many did) and certainly a diagnosis that was, at best, faulty and incorrect. And possibly the haunted screams of the cats and kittens he killed silenced his common sense which is why he refers to Bully Boy as "our commander-in-chief"? Bully Boy is not "our" commander-in-chief. He's not commander-in-chief of the Senate and he's not commander-in-chief of the American people. We do not have a military junta in this country, we have a democracy. The Constitution makes him the commander-in-chief of the military only.

John Warner is quoted as calling Feingold's proposal "the worst type of political grandstanding." Big words from the man who rode Elizabeth Taylor to fame and his current seat in the Senate? Maybe those heady Halston days still effect Warner's perceptions?

Lewis e-mails to note John Nichols' "Feingold Moves to Censure Bush" (The Online Beat, The Nation):

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold will ask the Senate today to officially censure President Bush for breaking the law by authorizing an illegal wiretapping program, and for misleading Congress and the American people about the existence and legality of that program.
If the Wisconsin Democrat's move were to succeed, Bush would be the first president in 172 years to be so condemned by Congress.
Charging that the President's illegal wiretapping program is in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) – which makes it a crime to wiretap Americans in the United States without a warrant or a court order -- Feingold argues that Congress cannot avoid facing the fact that fundamental Constitutional issues are at stake.
"The President must be held accountable for authorizing a program that clearly violates the law and then misleading the country about its existence and its legality," says Feingold. "The President's actions, as well as his misleading statements to both Congress and the public about the program, demand a serious response. If Congress does not censure the President, we will be tacitly condoning his actions, and undermining both the separation of powers and the rule of law."

We'll also note the Center for Constitutional Rights' "U.S. Government Admits Illegal Domestic Spying According to Major Filing in Federal Court Today:"

In New York on March 9, 2006, attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a significant motion for summary judgment in the challenge to the legality of the NSA Domestic Spying Program (CCR v. Bush), asserting that the Bush Administration has already admitted enough incriminating facts to prove the NSA Program is illegal.
CCR requested an injunction to bar the government from continuing its illegal spying on Americans and to disclose whether the government eavesdropped on confidential attorney client communications. The motion is particularly significant because it is unusual for defendants to have admitted enough illegal behavior at an early stage in a case to justify summary judgment.
Shayana Kadidal, a CCR staff attorney on the case, explained why this motion is such a significant and aggressive step in the case:
"We can file this aggressive motion because we have proof that the spying program is illegal. The bottom line is the defendants have incriminated themselves - President Bush admitted that he authorized and oversaw an illegal and unconstitutional program. As we told the court, the only facts necessary to resolve the dispute have been admitted by the defendants."
The motion comes amidst reports that Republican Senators made a backroom deal with the White House to try to pass legislation allowing more warrantless domestic spying. CCR Legal Director Bill Goodman emphasized that no backroom G.O.P. deals could change the program's illegality:
"Spying on Americans without warrants violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution and federal law. We are confident in today's filing because the Bush Administration has already admitted to violating these laws. Now the courts have the opportunity to stop this illegal program and defend Americans' constitutional rights - before some apologists in Congress try more ploys to conceal President Bush's illegal spying."
The brief also provides the most detailed rebuttal to date of the Department of Justice's January 19 memo defending domestic wiretapping. The brief provides a comprehensive "statement of undisputed facts" about the spy program, the plaintiff's injuries from compromised confidential client communications, and a detailed "arguments" section that debunks the Administration's defenses point by point.

To read more and the detailed brief (brief in PDF format) click here. And remember that CCR has put out Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush (which The Third Estate Sunday Review reviews here.)

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