Ok, I'm really gonna get on a Dennis Miller-style rant here, about Bush and secret NSA eavesdropping. Because this is so wrong, and so illegal, and because Bush and his cronies are so disconnected from reaility other than collecting power that it's time for every single person who objects to stand up and say so -- starting with Congress.
Bush, this morning in his press conference, said the most amazing, outlandish thing one can possibly imagine: he said that he would continue to authorize the spying on American citizens in order to protect our freedom.
Here's the real irony: Bush didn't need to authorize this, because it's almost trivially easy for the executive branch to get a wiretap. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, passed in 1978, there is a special court, cloaked in secrecy, that is set up for the sole purpose of approving this sort of surveillance. And the court isn't exactly a model of introspection and careful deliberation; here's their track record for approvals and denials (summary: 15260 approved, 4 rejected, in 26 years of operation). As this NYT editorial discusses, this court moves very quickly, and there are even provisions for dealing with retroactive approval in emergency situations.
This morning, Attorney General Gonzales and General Hayden of the NSA held a press conference. A very scary press conference. Hayden claimed that FISA was insufficient because even a few hours' turnaround could be too long. (although they also admit that they have an emergency procedure which allows them to go ahead on their own and seek confirmation from the court after the fact). When subsequently asked why the administation didn't go back to Congress to ask for modifications to FISA, Gonzales says another amazing thing:
Q If FISA didn't work, why didn't you seek a new statute that allowed something like this legally?
ATTORNEY GENERAL GONZALES: That question was asked earlier. We've had discussions with members of Congress, certain members of Congress, about whether or not we could get an amendment to FISA, and we were advised that that was not likely to be -- that was not something we could likely get, certainly not without jeopardizing the existence of the program, and therefore, killing the program. And that -- and so a decision was made that because we felt that the authorities were there, that we should continue moving forward with this program.
Yes, you read that right. The Bush administration made the determination that the Republican-controlled Congress would not give them the amendment that they wanted, so they didn't ask -- they just plowed ahead with a blatant disregard for the law. Gonzales says "we felt the authorities were there" -- where? Well, here is one person's attempt to trace it back, as well as his account of Gonzales in his own words arguing for essentially unlimited power of the Executive Branch. Gonzales also said that they believed the authorization for use of military force after 9/11 gave the president the power.
Read the authorization yourself; it says nothing of the sort. When reading it, keep in mind:
Ignore everything that starts with "Whereas" since by the tenets of statutory construction they are not binding.
The actual resolution is limited in scope to the people involved in 9/11, and those that aided and abetted them. That would include al Qaeda, but this morning Bush claimed that he had authorized this for other unnamed "related terrorist organizations."
The resolution resolution authorizes "force."
The resolution constrains that to "all necessary and appropriate" which for most of us would assume means "legal" and "constitutional" -- in exactly the same way that this resolution cannot be construed to authorize torture.
But let's get back to Bush. He said this morning that Congress was briefed. One of the very few senators briefed, Senator Jay Rockefeller, released today a handwritten letter that he wrote to Vice President Cheney raising his concerns about the program. He also released a statement explaining that he was in no way consulted; that it was a fait accompli and the administration was in no way looking for input, nor was he allowed to discuss this with anyone so there was no way for him to do anything about his objections.
The Bush Administration is completely, utterly, out of control, and considers themselves answerable to no one. If Clinton were still in office, they'd be talking impeachment. These guys have now proven themselves to be fiscally irresponsible, operationally irresponsible, and now constitutionally irresponsible. It's the height of arrogance to think that they can justify this kind of domestic invasion of freedom and privacy through the magic of doublespeak by claiming that they are doing it to protect our freedoms. They broke the law, and the Attorney General is complicit. Congress needs to take action -- now. And any member of Congress who does not step up to this deserves to be voted out of office next year.
(thanks to The Daily Kos for many links, and bits and pieces)