Friday, December 23, 2005

Vast Data Mining and Vast Presidential Powers

Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The point here us the " domestic surveillance without warrants". The far right has already erected a straw man argument, that contends that the center-left is against surveillance period, or against foreign surveillance. That is certainly a dishonest place to start the debate. The debate is about spying on Americans, and according to this article wholesale indescriminate domestic spying without due consideration of the law. Speaking of the law and legal precedent, Armando at Daily Kos writes this post with case law........Does War Make Presidents Kings?
Black's opinion casts serious doubt on the President's claim of inherent authority. Certainly the actions of President Bush can be considered a form of lawmaking that Black clearly states is beyond the province of the Presidency. But more importantly, it is patent that even if the President has such inherent authority under Article II, such authority can not impinge upon the Congress' lawmaking power granted by Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. If Youngstown remains good law, as it does, then the President's claims must fail.

Laura Rozen at War and Piece asks a very obvious question under the circumstances, Where Are the Arrests?
Perhaps I'm a little slow, but there's something else that doesn't make sense about spygate. Since October 2001, Bush has authorized 30 times - every 45 days - warrantless NSA domestic surveillance of what I have heard estimated of approximately 1,000 US persons a year. That would be 4,000 persons over the past four years, if I understand the shifting numbers offered correctly. But whatever it is. The Administration insisted again today that the only US persons being authorized to be spied on by Bush -- that he somehow didn't think he could get FISA warrants on -- are directly linked to Al Qaeda suspects or a related terrorist group.

And remember. These are cases the Bush administration insists required such time urgency, he couldn't risk going to the FISA court even three days after the wiretap had been ordered. So the administration is making a case for urgency here, not like these are casual conversations. So why haven't there been more arrests? Why not more cases?

Something is extremely fishy here.

Bold emphasis mine. Certainly if there are that many people associated with Al Qaeda in the USA that are up to something, indeed, where are those arrests. Heck, where are the acts of domestic terror.

-end of year apology for all my typos-

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Relationship: Wealth stands on debts shoulders

The Relationship between Debt and Wealth in the US 1983-2001
The issue is not whether the rich "caused" the debt, but what the effect on the US economy will be as a result of these changes. The effect will be the same as if they were deliberately responsible. The wealth benefits accrued to between one and five percent of the population and the burden to repay the debt will be shared by all. When this happens in developing countries the IMF intervenes and forces draconian increases in taxes and cuts in social services.

Its good to see some recovery in the economy, less unemployed, but just below the surface is a huge government and personal debt. No one wants to be a gloomy gus, but its even more wrong to ignore the reality of an economy based on massive spending and debt. The price will be paid eventually, how much it hurts isn't fun to think about. Its always the poor, elderly, and very middle midde class ( those people that own a modest home and live a very modest lifestyle).

Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.

First, it looks as though Bush's Justice Department has admitted that they did not follow the guirelines outlined by current laws governing surveillance of US citizens. The warrantless surveillance of US citizens is the issue, not the general concept of eavesdropping with a warrant or spying on other countries. I specify these particulars because the pundits across Rightswingville have created another straw man whereby the left is crazy because they're against spying on enemies of the USA. - Daschle: Congress Denied Bush War Powers in U.S.
The Justice Department acknowledged yesterday, in a letter to Congress, that the president's October 2001 eavesdropping order did not comply with "the 'procedures' of" the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, "except as authorized by statute."

So that leaves the adminstration with the claim that in time of war the presidents powers are extraordinary, if not unlimited.
Daschle reveals that the issue of war powers as regarding the US was discussed and Congressi explicitly excluded language that may have given Bush the powers that he claims he has. Even "war powers" may not be applicable in the traditional constitutional sense becuase there has been no official declaration of war, and only Congress can declare war.
As drafted, and as finally passed, the resolution authorized the president "to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons" who "planned, authorized, committed or aided" the Sept. 11 attacks.

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text," Daschle wrote. "This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas -- where we all understood he wanted authority to act -- but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused."

I'm sure there will be plenty of parsing over this issue over the weekend. Note that the administration sought that authority, so they did not think at the time that that right was implied wholesale with the resolution itself.

update: Power Lies, sometimes known as Power Line had a post up by Assrocket which attempted to justify Bush's actions with case law. Those that read the post may have wondered why Assrocket didn't post links torelevant case law. There is a reason he didn't post links because the body of case law didn't support his argument and my original post says, not even Bush's Justice Department can find justification under FISA or a way around the Fourth Amendment. It is surely dangerous to think that Bush'spresidential prerogatives supercede FISA and the Fourth Amendment in all cases. America is certainly on the wrong road in the 21sy century if it is willing to give that kind of unfettered authority to any president. - What Power Line Left Behind

The Score: The left is right and the right is wrong on domestic spying

This is a summary of the main points raised so far in Bush adminstration's surveillance scandal and the talking points that have failed in Bush's defense.

1. The right-wing blogs and pundits first tried to say that eavesdropping on American citizens complied with FISA.
They quite obviouly cherry picked the parts of section 1802 to justify their argument. I'm not sure that they should be aplauded for their adatious obfuscation of the issues involved since copies of FISA are on the internet for anyone that cares to check. Purposely misquoting FISA to defend the Bush Administration. As Glenn points out, not even the Bush administration tried to use FISA as a defense. Recently the Chicago Tribune's John Schmidt tried to argue that what Bush has done is legal. Yet here again we have an example of the righties ofuscating the truth, the bottom line is that he was wrong,
Truong dealt with a pre-FISA surveillance… it had no occasion to consider the application of the statute…” The Truong case dealt with the President’s power in the absence of a congressional statute.

2. So the FISA argument didn't work except for the hardcore righties that read a few lines of what they wanted to hear and are not the least bit interested in any evidence to the contrary. So the Rightopia asserted that members of congress were fully informed. It turns out that yes a small group from the House and Senate was informed, but that is far from being the whole truth. Nancy Pelosi and Senator Jay Rockefeller were forbidden by the Whitehouse from revealing anything they were told in the White briefing after the fact.
Rockefeller letter exposes concern about ‘checks and balances’
As a member of the so-called “gang of four” which includes the top Republican and Democrat of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Rockefeller was one of four members of Congress who received those briefings. The group can be summoned to the White House on short notice to be advised on the most sensitive intelligence information or plans for covert operations. It is safe to assume that if the United States is, in fact, operating secret prisons overseas, these four know plenty about them.

But membership also has its burdens. The "gang" — Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas and Rep. Peter Hoekstra of Michigan and Democrats Rockefeller and Rep. Jane Harman of California — is virtually gagged from discussing anything from meetings with anyone outside the group — not even other senators, staffers or lawyers with security clearance on the intelligence committees. “You can't discuss it with anybody as long as you live,” Rockefeller said Monday.

And for Rockefeller and Harmon, the senior Democrats on the Senate and House intelligence committees, respectively, membership can be even more problematic. If they want to object to anything the administration is doing, they're forbidden from doing so publicly.

In laying out his case for the NSA's domestic wire tapping on Saturday, Bush told the nation, "Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it." Questioned about whether executive power had run amok at Monday's presidential news conference, an irritated Bush replied, "We're talking to Congress all the time, and on this program, to suggest there's unchecked power is not listening to what I'm telling you. I'm telling you, we have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times."

Rockefeller was annoyed. "They're just saying we're all briefed and informed and they implied implicit consent and all the rest of that and it's totally untrue," he recounted outside the Senate chamber after Bush's news conference. He said the impression the administration was leaving was "totally phony."

This implied consent is now a large part of the right-wing noise makers argument. Its dishoest and misleading. If the Right wants to have an honest debate about the issues involved with domestic spying they've make it impossible when they make up and imply factual information that doesn't exist, but is made up out of thin air.

3. Another argument by the Right is that its OK if Bush has warrantless surveillance because President Carter and President Clinton did it. Fact Check: Clinton/Carter Executive Orders Did Not Authorize Warrantless Searches of Americans
The entire controversy about Bush’s program is that, for the first time ever, allows warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens and other people inside of the United States. Clinton’s 1995 executive order did not authorize that.

and Jamie Gorelick has another myth surrounding her name, York Clinging To Gorelick Myth
4. Even discussing roving wiretaps and e-mail monitoring that is part of Bush's surveillance program

endangers national sceurity. As is their usual modus operandi the falsehoods written on the blogs are followed by the sheep heards chorus of calls of treason. Yet Bush and others in the administration, not to mention certain conservative web sites have spoken or written in detail about our national security apparatus in as much detail, if not more then the initial NYT article.
Beyond the wall, Patriot essentially did two things. It empowered national-security agents to use the same tools that had been available for decades, without controversy, to criminal investigators; and it brought tools that had been antiquated in line with twenty-first-century technology. Among other things, it provided wiretap authority to investigate terrorism offenses, homogenized different standards for gathering evidence of voice and e-mail communications, and harmonized rules for investigative access to broadband and dial-up e-mail.

This is from the NRO piece and is just a another myth and fails to give the Clinton administration credit for being the first administration that saw the necessity of orcordinating same kind of information sharing between the CIA and FBI. The Patriot Act just made the process more official,
The Patriot Act's most urgently needed improvement was its dismantling of the infamous "wall" that prevented information-sharing between intelligence and law enforcement.

Then there are the speeches that Bush himself has given that pretty much tell anyone that cared to listen what the US was doing in regards to national security,
George Bush, telling terrorists how the Government monitors their computer communications and obtains their e-mails - Columbus, Ohio, June 9, 2005:

Third, we need to renew the critical provisions of the Patriot Act that updated the law to meet high-tech threats like computer espionage and cyberterrorism. Before the Patriot Act, Internet providers who notified federal authorities about threatening e-mails ran the risk of getting sued. The Patriot Act modernized the law to protect Internet companies who voluntarily disclose information to save lives.

It's common sense reform, and it's delivered results. In April 2004, a man sent an e-mail to an Islamic center in El Paso, and threatened to burn the mosque to the ground in three days. Before the Patriot Act, the FBI could have spent a week or more waiting for the information they needed. Thanks to the Patriot Act, an Internet provider was able to provide the information quickly and without fear of a lawsuit -- and the FBI arrested the man before he could fulfill his -- fulfill his threat.

Glenn Greenwald has other examples. Glenn in fact got his examples from the Whitehouse web site. There are plenty of resources on the web, not to mentiom books that go into quite a bit of detail about not just US intelligence surveillance techniques, but other governments as well. Global Security posts news about intelligence and has been tracking this new controversy. Certainly the news about the program has not stopped Bush from continuing. Maybe it shoudn't stop, that's not really the issue. What is at issue is why he found it necessary to circumvent the law. U.S.: Bush Defends Domestic Spying Program
U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, a member of the president's Republican Party and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the intelligence program was inappropriate and he would hold hearings on the matter.

Bush said that members of Congress had been informed about it. But U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, a Democrat, told CNN that he believes the once-secret program breaks the law. "It doesn't matter how many times he talks to members of Congress, how many times the Justice Department tells him it is OK, if it is not within the law, if we haven't passed a law allowing it, he can't do it," Feingold said. "What he's doing is illegal."

Its funny that a conservative like Specter is called a RINO on comment boards by the freepers and LGF crowd.

5. The newest argument is that the technology Bush and the NSA are using is so new and advanced that FISA doesn't cover it and FISA has become an incumberance to protecting America. For one a Judge of the FISA thinks that Bush may have acted outside the law and undermined the Fourth Amendment safeguards buildt into FISA. Judge Robertson Reported to Resign in Protest from FISA Court

The Washington Post is reporting that U.S. District Judge James Robertson has resigned from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court which oversees government surveillance, apparently in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program on people with suspected terrorist ties.

Judge Robertson, one of 11 members of the FISA Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation. But the Post is reporting that two sources have told it that that the judge privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work. Judge Robertson declined to comment when contacted by the Post.

The fact is that FISA as we all know by now, despite the disformation campaign is remarkably easy to work with. Its an emergency situation and Bush/NSa decide they need to start some kind of surveillance operation immediatley. They can do so, as long as within the next 72 hours they get a warrant for that domestic operation as covered under FISA. If they felt restricted under FISA as it now stands they can go to a very pliable Congress and get it changed. Why is that a problem ?
via hilzoy The FISA Court Is Upset

Several members of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in interviews that they want to know why the administration believed secretly listening in on telephone calls and reading e-mails of U.S. citizens without court authorization was legal. Some of the judges said they are particularly concerned that information gleaned from the president's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to gain authorized wiretaps from their court.
then the senate and hor should be informed and fisa adjusted accordingly

hilzoy posts:
As it happens, though, the article contains an explanation of the government's reasons for bypassing the FISA court (out of order; the following quote appears between the second and third excerpts above):

"One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up.""

Gosh: they needed to have an actual reason to place citizens under surveillance? Talk about onerous requirements!

So maybe we are talikng about massive data mining, where they hope they'll catch that golden needle in a haystack.
Ars Technica has more on the technical side of things, The new technology at the root of the NSA wiretap scandal.
Also quite telling is the follow up that Hannibal wrote to the technical article in which he describes what Bush's program might intell and why it's its probably too much of a scatter shot technique and one that government is sure to abuse.
NSA wiretap followup: Why computer-automated mass surveillance is a bad idea
So what are we as a nation to do? Proponents of mass surveillance tactics will argue that innocent people should have nothing to hide, and that if eavesdropping on millions of innocent peoples' phone calls prevents another 9/11 (or worse, a nuclear attack) then the intrusions were well worth it. When asked just how far they're willing to go to catch the next Mohammed Atta, they'll answer "all the way." When asked how many innocent people they're willing to see flagged by the system in order to catch that one bad guy, they'll answer "as many as it takes." And thus the debate devolves into some nightmarish either-or scenario, where America has a choice between either the end of privacy or the loss of a major city to a catastrophic terrorist attack. But it doesn't have to be that way.

Targeted human intelligence has always been and will always be the best way to sort the sharks from the guppies (to change fish metaphors). Government money invested in much less intrusive and much less defense contractor-friendly programs like training more Arabists and developing more "human assets" in the field will be orders of magnitude more effective than mass surveillance could ever be. Blunt instruments like airport facial recognition software and random subway bag searches produce much more noise than they do signal, and any engineer or computer scientist worth his or her salt will tell you that an intelligent, targeted, low-tech approach beats a brute-force high-tech approach every time.

6. The argument that I ve heard as recently as today on C-span is that the President has nearly unlimited powers in time of war. One gentleman even said he read it in the constitution. Congress Explicitly Said War Resolution Did Not Expand Executive Power
Even the loon from Alaska doesn't think Bush is King yet,
Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK):

Some people say that is a broad change in authorization to the Commander in Chief of this country. It is not. It is a very limited concept of giving him the authority to pursue those who have brought this terrible destruction to our country and to pursue those who have harbored them or assisted them and conspired with them in any way. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

7. The final argument for now is one that we heard during the Presidential elections in 2004, that if we don't side with Bush we're all gonna die. While many people may laugh at that, many Americans seem to take the assertion quite seriously. Bush, shockingly has been less then truthful in his assertion that his surveillance program is all that stands between us and certain death. The tools available to him are quite enough to wage an effective intelligence war and if they aren't, since we are a nation of laws to which each and everyone of us is subject, he can set about changing the law.
via Ezra Klein Officials Fault Case Bush Cited
WASHINGTON — In confirming the existence of a top-secret domestic spying program, President Bush offered one case as proof that authorities desperately needed the eavesdropping ability in order to plug a hole in the counter-terrorism firewall that had allowed the Sept. 11 plot to go undetected.

In his radio address Saturday, Bush said two of the hijackers who helped fly a jet into the Pentagon — Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar — had communicated with suspected Al Qaeda members overseas while they were living in the U.S.

"But we didn't know they were here until it was too late," Bush said. "The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after Sept. 11 helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities."

But some current and former high-ranking U.S. counter-terrorism officials say that the still-classified details of the case undermine the president's rationale for the recently disclosed domestic spying program.

Indeed, a 2002 inquiry into the case by the House and Senate intelligence committees blamed interagency communication breakdowns — not shortcomings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act or any other intelligence-gathering guidelines.

The incident Bush referred to involved at least six communications between the hijackers in San Diego and suspected terrorists overseas.

The current and former counter-terrorism officials, who requested anonymity, said there were repeated phone communications between a safe house in Yemen and the San Diego apartment rented by Alhazmi and Almihdhar. The Yemen site already had been linked directly to the Al Qaeda bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998 and to the 2000 bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen, several current and former U.S. counter-terrorism officials familiar with the case said.

Those links made the safe house one of the "hottest" targets being monitored by the NSA before the Sept. 11 attacks, and had been so for several years, the officials said.

Authorities also had traced the phone number at the safe house to Almihdhar's father-in-law, and believed then that two of his other sons-in-law already had killed themselves in suicide terrorist attacks. Such information, the officials said, should have set off alarm bells at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Under authority granted in federal law, the NSA already was listening in on that number in Yemen and could have tracked calls made into the U.S. by getting a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Then the NSA could have — and should have — alerted the FBI, which then could have used the information to locate the future hijackers in San Diego and monitored their phone calls, e-mail and other activities, the current and former officials said.

Instead, the NSA didn't disclose the existence of the calls until after Sept. 11, according to these officials and U.S. documents produced in two independent inquiries.

Note the workaday foul up involved, not the lack of warrants
The Whitehouse merchant of doom and gloom even tried his hand, Cheney: If You Don’t Support Everything I Do, You Aren’t Serious About Terrorism.
Here’s the problem. No one in the Bush administration can explain how this program helped America fight terrorists. Under existing law, surveillance can begin immediately. (The government just has to obtain a warrant from the FISA court with 72 hours). The secret program didn’t save time — it just avoided checks on abuse. Cheney’s cartoonish characterization of his critics arguments doesn’t change that.

Our laws gave the Bush administration the power to instantly start surveillance on people suspected of communicating with terrorists. If something in the law prevents us from addressing the threat we should change the law. But everyone, including the President and the Vice President, should follow the law.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Matt Drudge ts too lazy to do his homework or didn't want to bother because that would mean he wouldn't have any chum to throw to the Bush apologists who are showing signs of strain. It is hard work trying to defend each and every boneheaded, illegal, and scandalous escapade that emanates from this administration......Fact Check: Clinton/Carter Executive Orders Did Not Authorize Warrantless Searches of Americans
What Drudge says:

Clinton, February 9, 1995: “The Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order”

What Clinton actually signed:

Section 1. Pursuant to section 302(a)(1) [50 U.S.C. 1822(a)] of the [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance] Act, the Attorney General is authorized to approve physical searches, without a court order, to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year, if the Attorney General makes the certifications required by that section.

and via Atrios, Spy Court Judge Quits In Protest, Jurist Concerned Bush Order Tainted Work of Secret Panel
A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.

U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.

Two associates familiar with his decision said yesterday that Robertson privately expressed deep concern that the warrantless surveillance program authorized by the president in 2001 was legally questionable and may have tainted the FISA court's work.

Is the Pentagon spying on Americans?
WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

Bert Tussing, director of Homeland Defense and Security Issues at the U.S. Army War College and a former Marine, says “there is very little that could justify the collection of domestic intelligence by the Unites States military. If we start going down this slippery slope it would be too easy to go back to a place we never want to see again,” he says.

It looks like we're at the bottom of the slope and up to our necks in a constitutional crisis. Nobody thinks that known terrorists groups like Al-Quada shouldn't be monitored, we've reached the point that Quakers meeting in each others homes are being spyed on for no other then political reasons. Why are we as a nation opposed to violent fundamentalists Muslems, because they are opposed to the kind of religious and civil liberties ehat we supposedly adhere to. Its a pretty common component of right-wing comment boards to paint liberals as siding with Islamic terrorists, yet liberals are not the ones trying to turn America into a semi-police state. American right-wingers and radical Muslims share a common contempt for the freedoms and checks and balances against totalitarian forms of government; the greatest threat to any type of authoritarian government is in fact liberalism. If you start at the center of liberal deomcratic thought and head to the far right or the far left, you don't end up with a straight lines heading in opposite directions, you end up with left and right curves that meet at the bottom, totalitarian government. Maybe its the balancing act that Wingtopia doesn't get. Most liberals understand the necessity of electronic surveillance. Its clear to anyone that has read the explosion of information on FISA that Bush could spy on anyone he wanted to in an emergency and just get a warrant within 72 hours. Warrants are rarelt turned turn. The system actually plays fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment in order not to bind the hands of law enforcement to act in an emergency. So we're left wondering if, since the system is in fact rigged to the benefit of the powers that be, why they couldn't be bothered to get that little rubber stamp for the FISA court. When Bush and company decided to do something that was so blatantly illegal and unnecessary, is it any wonder that people jump to the worse possible motives being behind their actions.

Shiites Lead Iraq's Parliamentary Election

Nothing like replacing Saddam with a theocratic government with ties to Iran, but not to worry because Bush has it under cintrol. Elections were held, victory is at hand. Shiites Lead Iraq's Parliamentary Election
BAGHDAD, Iraq - Preliminary election returns Monday showed Iraqi voters divided along ethnic and religious lines with a commanding lead held by the religious Shiite coalition that dominates the current government.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi lawyer said at least 24 top former officials in
Saddam Hussein's regime were freed from jail without charges. They included biological and chemical weapons experts known as "Dr. Germ" and "Mrs. Anthrax."

Violent demonstrations also broke out across
Iraq and the oil minister threatened to resign after the government raised the prices of gasoline and cooking fuel by up to nine times. And a militant group released a video of the purported killing of an American hostage.

This is obviously the fault of John Murtha, John Kerry and the liberal press or maybe its the fault of the party that controls all three branches of government and a president that doesn't seem to have a problem appointing himself King. Kind of ironic, we started with a King George and ended with one.

Monday, December 19, 2005

100 Mistakes for the President to Choose From

100 Mistakes for the President to Choose From
5. Ignoring plans drawn up by the Army War College and other war-planning agencies, which predicted most of the worst security and infrastructure problems America faced in the early days of the Iraq occupation.

6. Making a case for war which ignored intelligence that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq.

28. Opposing the creation of the September 11th commission, which the President now expects "to contain important recommendations for preventing future attacks."

Reid Calls for Probe of Domestic Spying by Bush administration

Two things stood out from this story that included comments made by our favorite Bush spinmiester, Condolezza Rice and some important 8th grade civics she conveniently forgot.
First Senator Harry Reid,
Reid acknowledged that he was briefed by the administration about the surveillance program "a couple of months ago." But he said the program apparently has been going on for four years and "there's no way the president can pass the buck."

then Rice
Rice could not cite the constitutional and other authority she contended allowed Bush to authorize the domestic spying. However, she said the program had been reviewed by administration lawyers and that congressional leaders had been briefed.

The NSA spying had been going on since Oct. 2001, yet Rice says that Congress had been informed, leaving out the inconvenient fact that Congress or the Senate in Reid's case had not been informed until after the program had been going on for 4 years. Then Rice, our current Seretary of State, an office first held by Thomas Jefferson, can't site the part of the constitution that might conflict with the president issuing executive orders to spy on US citizens without advising Congress or the Senate and without a warrant. note to Condi, start with the Fouth Amendment. more here

Does W envision himself as some perverse action figure

The action-hero presidency
I mean, what good is the Constitution if all it does is enable evil terrorists to endanger the lives of us all? Right? We should be able to pick and choose whose rights we protect, because you never know when someone is gonna set off a nuke in your kids' playground.

It's too easy to say that George W. Bush and his cult of defenders on the right have watched too many of these action films. Rather, what is more noteworthy is that this public response taps directly into those well-established sentiments about heroic action. It's actually rather a brilliant stroke: Republicans are appealing to an American public already profoundly propagandized by a steady diet of Hollywood-produced action flicks and revenge melodramas. Movies in which such niceties as civil rights are readily discarded in the pursuit of justice.

I admit I was actually looking for a kind of iconoclast take on the events of the last few days and Orinus delivered. These events are so serious as regards the future of this country I had to sort of mentally step back and try to summon up some humor about it, even if that humor is ultimately a little ironic and dark. These movies that David refers to are appealing for the very reason that they are simplistic, justice triumphs, good is vindicated, unlike in real life where things get complicated. I'm sure Bush's speech boiled down to sound bites for many across the country. Daddy George is protecting us, all is well.
If he tears apart the fabric of American democracy to do it only a minority will stop ponder.

Did I mention that like the fib about Congress having the same Intelligence the Whitehouse had, they lied when they said Congress was kept fully informed about domestic by the NSA. via Atrios a letter from Nancy Pelosi
December 18, 2005

Dear Democratic Colleague:

In his December 17 radio address, President Bush disclosed that, after September 11, 2001, he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake certain activities that he said were designed to prevent additional terrorist attacks. The President argued that his action was “fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities.”

An article in the December 16 issue of the New York Times, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts,” has led to the inevitable conclusion that the President was referring to an authorization to allow the NSA to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of U.S. persons.

When I was advised of President Bush’s decision to authorize these activities, I expressed my strong concerns verbally and in a classified letter to the Administration. The Bush Administration, however, made clear that it did not believe that Congressional notification was required and it also did not believe that Congressional approval was required to conduct these activities. I have attached a copy of my statement on the President’s disclosure.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Glenn Greenwald catches the righties noise machine echoing a cherry picked version of FISA (Foreign Intelligence Security Act) to defend Bush. Purposely misquoting FISA to defend the Bush Administration
As Glenn says,
But FISA, at least in this regard, is not complicated and, as demonstrated here, it is crystal clear that the Administration's warrantless eavesdropping violated its mandates.

and while its takes some slogging to get through the lega jargon. Glenn's comment at proteinwisdom is worth a read also.
(1) How can you find the distinction between agents for foreign governments, on the one hand, and terrorists, on the other, to be “at best an open question” when the statute itself draws that distinction as clearly as it can be drawn? The statute precludes that distinction from being an “open question.”
(2) It is worth remembering that the entire thrust of the Bush Administration’s claim as to why terrorists are “enemy combatants” rather than conventional soldiers entitled to Geneva Convention protections is because terrorists are state-less agents who are not fighting for any one particular country (my guess is that you’ve made that argument, too). It would be a little hard, therefore, for the same Administration (and its same supporters on that question) to now argue that FISA allows warantless surveillance of terrorists because terrorists are agents of a foreign government and therefore within the scope of 1802.

Read through the comments at Unclaimed Territory also. Its seems like Glenn is down and out, but after wading through the incredible amount of deflection and slightof hand Glenn emerges quite well. One commenter points out what is a recurring theme of this administration. A contempt for the rule of law. Holding prisoners and observing the Geneva Convention and the current internel spying fiasco could have been avoided.
Barry Champlain
Jake The Second writes:

"If it is not an impediment, why circumvent it?

Doesn't it seem wholly crazy to circumvent a law that provides no impediment, only requires supervision by the Judicial branch? Why go around it? Even if you believe you have the authority, why exercise the authority if following the law presents no difficulties?"

As Josh Marshall addresses this issue of skirting the law when it is completely unnecessary
According to this table compiled from DOJ statistics at the EPIC website, the FISA Court did not reject a single warrant application from its beginning in 1979 through 2002. In 2003 it rejected four applications. In 2004, the number was again zero.

Again as many have alreay observed, since few of these warrants are ever rejected and their approval immediate, why circumvent the law. Some are beginning to suspect that while the unlawful spying is still an issue, its the rationale behind it that is a little scary to many. That Bush and Company are trying to establish president in the John C. Yoo view that the legal president especially in war time ( we're noi officially at war) that the executive branch has unlimited powers.

Neil J. Kinkopf is Associate Professor of Law at Georgia State University College of Law arguing against Yoo in a debate.
Kinkopf: 11/18/05, 11:50 PM
On your theory, the only check on the president's power is his own underdeveloped sense of self-restraint. The president need only incant the phrase "national security" and all legal constraints fall. You appear to allow Congress only gross, impractical powers. Congress may refuse to provide nuclear weapons, but once they exist Congress cannot constrain the ways in which they are used.

A sort version of Wingnuttery posts at Captain Ed and Strata-Sphere.
There have been no attacks on American soil in four years so the illegal acts committed by the guy in charge that ignored 55 warnings about the 9-11 terror attacks is right to break the law and this is all part of a campaign by the new york times liberal conspiacy squad to get democrats elected. this is no big deal because clinton tryed to monitor some internet traffic and if clinton did that then bush is justified in sitting fire to the constitution and roasting ball park franks with it if it prevents another terrorists attack. i provided a link to drudge because drudge is an expert on spying and civil liberties and how dare newspapers and congressman say anything about bush breaking the law because he has been crowned grand emperor of all things holy in north american amen. Strata warns us that the terrorists had no idea in the world they were being watched until yesterday and now the sky will fall and hurt all our little heads. able danger is the real story if everyone would just adjust their tin foil hat you'd see the truth the way we do and the roque operation within the cia to get bush i just know it in my heart because bush said so in his holiday card he sent especially to me and we're the only ones that know and can see the real truth.

or you could click over to Fixing The Patriot Act -- Fighting Terrorism While Protecting Our Freedoms with Senator Russ Feingold
Often proponents of the Patriot Act respond to critics by pointing to non-controversial provisions that I support, like those that helped to facilitate information sharing between law enforcement and intelligence agents as proof of why the Patriot Act is so valuable. I agree that the Patriot Act contains important provisions, and no one is arguing that they should be allowed to expire or even that they should be subject to a new sunset provision.

Sounds like a reasonable guy and who knows maybe our next president.