The Boundary of Privacy

Vice President Dick Cheney explained on PBS how our surveillance program enhances security and compared it to similar programs under past presidents. You can read the transcript or watch the video. I am sure I will be repeating his arguments later in this thread, but what follows now is mostly mine, so not as eloquent.

We are getting hung up on privacy. I don't equate privacy with liberty. We give up privacy in various ways every day. That is what it means to go out in public. It doesn't affect my liberty to show an ID to get into a building or have a camera record me running past the Lincoln Memorial. We live in a world where we trade privacy for security. Privacy is a good thing. So is security. There is a balance. Liberals set the balance too much on the side of privacy even for people who don't deserve to be left alone and even in situations were privacy is not warranted (pun intended).

As the President says, if someone in the U.S. is talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know. If they are innocently talking to Al Qaeda, we are protecting them from the bad guys. If they are talking to Al Qaeda knowingly they are the bad guys. I support programs that check on these things and I don't want to tell everyone about them, for the same reasons the VP gives. I fear that many liberals think it is a noble thing when journalists or "leakers" reveal government secrets like these.

Many blithely contend that revealing secrets in the press makes no difference because we are not telling the terrorists things they don't already know. I do not believe that.

We should not underestimate the intelligence of our enemies, but neither should we overestimate it. If you open a high tech operation in the Arab world, you will have trouble staffing it with local talent and of those you find, there is a good chance that none of them will be graduates of religious schools. Most madrases don't have strong programs in math and science. The terrorists, in other words, are recruiting from a farily uneducated population in a fairly uneducated part of the world. It would be very surprising if Al Qaeda was able to recruit and retain enough skilled people to keep up with a technological surveillance program. We need to exploit this weakness to the extent possible and not unilaterally give up our advantage.

We should also keep in mind the nature of intelligence gathering. Most - not some MOST - intelligence gathered by spy agencies worldwide is drawn from OPEN SOURCES. In other words, most of what people know they read in the papers or see on television. This is true for us and it is true for them. The New York Times told the bad guys about our surveillance. The Washington Post told them about the possibility of secret prisons. There is a good chance the bad guys didn't know or at least didn't know details. Now they do.

Those who discount the value of our press to our opponents should consider the opposite case. Imagine if Aljazeera, based on interviews with inside leaked sources, published articles about Al Qaeda’s management structure and operations. And then other Arab sources followed up with potential times and places of meetings. Would that be useful to us? Let's not do anything that would be useful to them. We need not make a level playing field.

Posted by Jack at February 8, 2006 12:12 AM
Comments
Comment #122154

Jack,

You seem well meaning but the problem IS NOT that there is espionage that for the 5000th time is legal. The problem (sigh) is that it is done with out a very reasonable, lenient and quite actionable WARRANT that they are able to (sigh) file afterwards. This keep the political party that has power out of spying for their own political gain. By that I mean on the opposing political party or their networks.

Now (sigh again) if the Democrats were to be spying on republican canvassers at election time you would be livid about and blog on it for a month.

PLUS the people that they are spying on, as proven, are people who are nothing more than hippies, herbalists, vegetarians, people who look like Jesus for no apparent reason. People who are involved in protests about god-damn whales and stuff. Jack, would you not like to see their searches for terrorists a little more CENTRAL TO TERRORISTS???

I don’t care what Cheney said, if Cheney said that he’s a moron too because (sigh) that is not the issue here—ESPIONAGE IS ALREADY LEGAL!!!

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 12:50 AM
Comment #122157
Liberals set the balance too much on the side of privacy even for people who don’t deserve to be left alone and even in situations were privacy is not warranted (pun intended).

Jack, are we supposed to apologise for wanting to enforce judicial oversight of President Bush’s illegal domestic spying operation?

It’s against the law to bypass the FISA court. President Bush didn’t have to engage in criminal activity. He could have worked with Congress to change the law. He chose not to.

Even now — after stinging rebukes from Republican AND Democratic lawmakers, President Bush would rather break the law.

Senator Obama: “I think that I can make certain that we have the tools that are necessary to monitor calls from al-Qaida to U.S. citizens without going overboard and creating a situation in which, randomly, we are rifling through the e-mails and cell calls of ordinary American citizens.”

Why wouldn’t President Bush want that?

As the President says, if someone in the U.S. is talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know.

Jack, you’re well-informed enough to know very well that President Bush’s NSA program does not specifically target calls to al Qaeda. It sifts thousands of American citizen’s emails and phone calls — many of them purely domestic.

Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.

Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as “terrorist surveillance” and summed it up by declaring that “if you’re talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.” But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.

Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.

If the program only targeted al-Qaeda suspects, I doubt anyone would object. But instead, Bush’s illegal spy program goes fishing randomly through American citizen’s email and phone calls without any oversight.

Posted by: American Pundit at February 8, 2006 1:06 AM
Comment #122160

Jack,

While Ahkmad is correct in that this is merely an issue of legality. bush could easily have gone to congress and told them everything and, especially considering republican control of congress, gotten the law changed to suit him. but he didn’t which should immediately give you pause in the first place. What about the program would lead the administration to believe it could not get congress to comply?

Secondly, please go read a bit of history starting with Germany in the 1930s and be sure to hit America during the time of the Constitution as well. Liberty and privacy go hand in hand. And quite frankly this administration has repeatedly shown itself capable of breaking the law, ignoring the Constitution and doing the once unthinkable from a moral perspective. Give them any more unchecked lattitude and gays and muslims will be required to wear armbands.

and FYI, quoting dick cheney to make a point is not all that effective a technique. is there anyone on the planet less truthful? even saddam and osama, who are terrible people, don’t lie like dick. even james frey, who eventually told some truth, has more credibility than the vp.

Posted by: voltairean at February 8, 2006 1:13 AM
Comment #122163

For me, the comparison would be the following:

In order to rout out drugs, say in the city of Chicago, a secret force with no warrants goes out and searches every house while no one is home, leaving no trace that they were ever there. We have a war on drugs, how legal do you think this would be? Would they sometimes find drugs? Probably. Are they all that trustworthy to ONLY target drugs? Is it possible that they might find something else? Would that be actionable? Or used to start some other kind of investigation?

It may not be a perfect scenario, but it’s what comes to mind. And like this Bush program, I don’t like it.

Cheney claims many lives have been saved. Wouldn’t the congressmen who have been “briefed” about the program sing that to the skies if it were true?

Sorry, I don’t buy it, especially with my limited income.

Posted by: womanmarine at February 8, 2006 1:23 AM
Comment #122167

“quoting dick cheney to make a point is not all that effective a technique”

A very good techique to me. A big reason I voted for Bush, in both of the elections that he won, was because of Dick Cheney. I wish he would run in ‘08, love the guy and love the fact liberals hate him, let’s me know I’m on the right track with these feelings.

Posted by: andy at February 8, 2006 1:35 AM
Comment #122170

Voltairean,

Granted i didn’t think of that right off the bat, don’t give Dubya and Cheney any ideas. But the thing is too that it would set up big red flags if it were to hit the congress floor. Whether the dems would charge on that I dobn’t know, I’d have to say they are pretty p-whipped these days.

What would they (bush & co.) be asking for though: Um we want the rights to spy on everybody and anybody with no records even for intelligence agencies to keep the searches A) central to terror and B) not looping off on a partisan tangeant following hippies around?

I guess they would have the votes but they would also have the stink.

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 1:45 AM
Comment #122178

Another Question: Why are people so trusting of George W. Bush knowing what we know now? Is anybody trusting of him with the economy or him reallistically being able to pay down the debt?

Why would we trust him with powers of any kind—Republican or Democrat? I wasn’t even this trusting of Clinton 9when I was a liberal to the tenth degree) and he never racked up such a humungous debt. With all you know about Bush do you feel you are now making any mistakes trusting him? Are you going to be the butt of a sucker bet again?

Blue skies initiative
No Child left behind
Iraq war lead-up
“I don’t believe in Nation Building” Come on guys haven’t you had enough huxterism? This guy is a three dollar bill trying to be a five. Really look at the history unpartisanly for a second.

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 2:07 AM
Comment #122184

Jack, let me give you a bigger picture. Cheney has been threatening Republicans in the Congress with blacklisting their campaigns in November if they vote against the Presidents end run around the FISA court. Literally, threatening the careers of their own party members if the White House does not have its way.

Now, if the White House is willfully capable of ruining the careers of their own party members, what do you think they would be capable of with the power of the entire intelligence community and secret ops capacity unchecked and not overseen by anyone other than themselves?

Think about it. Without FISA review, the only way anyone outside the Executive Branch would know if abuse of power was taking place is if an intelligence worker risked their own career and imprisonment in whistleblowing the abuse. Do you really want to rely on whistleblowers to check and balance the power to kill people’s careers or ruin their lives as Cheney has already demonstrated a willingness to do, by this administration or future administrations?

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #122183

Personally, I am waiting for the assasinations to start myself. You know the Ticking Bomb Scenario? “We must kill US Citizens pre-emptively to protect America!!! What?!?! Judicial Process? Just Cause? We don’t have time for that!!! Congress already gave me authority to use force to fight Terrorists!!! Why waste time and lives letting outside Agencies the White House doesn’t control have access? WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA???? WHY DO YOU LOVE TERRORISTS???”

Posted by: Aldous at February 8, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #122185

And now he’s advocating alternate sources of energy? How many think that will come to any fruition? Sad to say the press or what passes for press is just as gullible. And to take what Andy said above—he’d be willing to erode our constitution to piss off liberals. Ruin the nation just to get some sense of retribution—WTF is the matter with you? That’s your country too.

Oh I know, cult of personality right? Go to the pump and look at the prices maybe that was just magic huh?

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #122188

Don’t feel bad, Republicans. Maybe the political appointees who wrote the Justice Department Memo is like this guy:

“George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters’ access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word “theory” at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch’s resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.”

So you see, it could be the Justice Department’s fault!!! They gave Bush bad intelligence on the fundamental laws of the Land!!!

Posted by: Aldous at February 8, 2006 2:30 AM
Comment #122198

andy, must be tough living in a country where you live in opposition to half its citizens. I am no Republican, but, am quite comfortable living next to, around, working with, and laughing with the Republicans in my area who outnumber others by 2 to 1. These are good folks, who by and large like their fellow Americans, even me, with my long hair, beard and many non-conservative views.

Must be tough, you have my empathy. Oh, you might be interested to know that about 20% of Republicans in my area that I know and talk with, don’t like Cheney’s influence on this administration and view Cheney as what has gone wrong with the Bush administration. Two of them have also said they won’t be voting at all in November since they can’t abide what the Republican Congress has done in increasing the taxes of their children’s future work lives by increasing the national debt by over 2.5 trillion dollars.

I actually like the Republicans in my area, though we disagree on some important issues. Many of them are capable of rational assessment of what is in their and their children’s best interest, resulting in their ability to be critical of those in their party, while remaining true supporters of their party. Curious if you have that same capacity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2006 4:16 AM
Comment #122231

If a person is talking to an al-Qaeda member, I think getting a Warrant under FISA shouldn’t be too difficult, if you know why you’re getting that Warrant.

Consider: if you don’t know something of what you’re looking for, you could end up with false negative, or a whole bunch of false positives. You might overlook information that’s not meaningful to you yet, or come up empty many times. Apparently, this is what happened time and again with this method of searching. 5000 results a year, of which ten lead to anything useful. Some might be willing to accept that ratio of information to dross (less than 500 to 1), but the question arises about whether we could find more leads by more legal means.

As for the intelligence of those in al-Qaeda, it should not be underestimated. We should prepare for an enemy smarter than them, because that means we will cover bases they haven’t thought of yet.

As I understand it, most of these people are pretty well-educated, middle class, and quite capable of doing things like hiding explosives seamlessly in the hull of the boat they rammed the Cole with, or hijacking four jetliners near simultaneously. Not every al-Qaeda member is intelligent. Just the ones we have to worry about!

In the end, this is about an administration that has mad Anakin’s Choice, and has decided that only they can save America, and only with all the power they can get their hands on. But what they think and what’s actually the case are two different things.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 8:17 AM
Comment #122253

I’m not a Dem or a Repub,but,I support the President at this time and almost all he is doing.I was a Dem until the 80’s when I saw and heard for myself just how self-serving the Dems were and how quickly they accused others of illegal and immoral activities they themselves were doing and had been hiding the facts that proved it,but,they were exposed by newspaper people who then were interested in truth and facts based on truth.History shows both Dems and Repubs to be less honest than they should,but,proof not gossip would serve us better.Saying something does not make it true and denying doesn’t make you innocent.Some are quick to remind us the accused are innocent until proof is beyond a reasonable doubt,but,without proof,just accusations,the Dems and there party members have decided all Repubs are guilty.That is was they did in the past and that is self-serving.They know guilt will be in the minds of some who are also quick to judge without proof.They are counting on misplaced trust to gain votes from those who don’t realize how many times they have been duped.I have been watching how closely what a politican says is to what he is actually doing and what his or her record shows not what someone says it shows.You can be told how good a cook someone is and believe the teller,but,the wise man taste for himself!

Posted by: RDAVIDC at February 8, 2006 9:14 AM
Comment #122255

Akmad

You are confusing two separate cases that came out about the same time. There were accusations that the Pentagon was keeping track of war protestors (your hippies etc). This was not the same case.

None of us knows the details of the case Cheney was talking about and no individual Americans or groups have been named as subjects. From press reports, it seems more like data mining than tapping and it was never the case that it was used for political purposes or used on calls that both originated and ending in the U.S. The legality is in question. It may need to be settled by the Supreme Court. Members of Congress from both parties were briefed on the program. You may not agree with what the Vice President says, but he does address that concern in the link.

AP & Voltaire

I think there is always a trade off in everything we do. The right of privacy as we apply it today is a relatively recent concept, largely the product of court cases and culture of the early 1970s. It is subject to interpretation and it changes with conditions. I quoted Henry Stimson in an earlier post when he closed down the State Department’s analysis department back in the 1920s, saying that gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail. Later we did. Roosevelt intercepted all messages coming into the U.S. At some point on the continuum it becomes too much, but this program is not.

What counts to me is not privacy but liberty. They overlap, but they are not the same thing. If someone scans my email for language patterns and takes no action as a result, I don’t really care. I want the safeguard that I am presumed innocent IF I am taken to court and there is no indication we don’t have that. I don’t think we want to protect the guilty.

Woman

The more people that know about something the more likely it is to leak. In fact this did leak anyway, although not all the details. Congress is a public institution. The Administration briefed people of both parties, as is the custom in these cases. Making it completely public would have been a mistake.

Stephen and David

I don’t know the details of this program. Nobody does. But it sounds to me a lot like data mining. Most of the data you find is not interesting or is interesting only in a pattern. You aren’t really spying on anyone in particular in most cases. You would have to get thousands of warrants to see check information to see if you wanted to check the information. In most of the cases, you could not support probably cause AND you would not be using the data in any way except as a negative (i.e. you let it go).

It is like my looking out the window at the hundreds of cars that pass. I am looking for a red car, but I have to look at thousands of other colors with four passengers as they pass. I have no reason to look at these cars AFTER I have looked at them, but I don’t know that BEFORE.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2006 9:17 AM
Comment #122264

First, I think it’s great how thoughtful & respectful this thread has been so far (hope I didn’t jinx it).

I’m concerned that the Administration’s side of this issue is very carefully calculated. NOBODY has argued that the President can’t tap overseas communications, to my knowledge.

Where there is real concern on the left AND right is on the issue of purely domestic communications. Let’s all say that again: purely domestic communications.

The problem is that we the people have no idea whatsoever whether or not domestic communications have been intercepted. This is not a liberal issue, either. The NYT reported this morning that the chair of the committee with oversight for the NSA has called for a formal investigation of the program. Specter and Graham seem to have deep-seated concerns about this program.

Now, I understand well that there is no proof that domestic communications have been intercepted, and I’m well aware that a negative can’t be proven. But I think this issue shows a consequence of this administration’s general penchant for secrecy and unwillingness to be forthcoming - people on the left and right are less and less willing to give the administration the benefit of the doubt.

I think we on the left and right should be talking about monitoring domestic communications. Jack (I think) stated that he is willing to give up some freedom for more security. Certainly, I disagree, but that is both of our prerogative. I think security is a red herring. I would like to see defenders of this program engage a hypothetical, instead of reiterating an issue where there is no disagreement.

If the administration is monitoring purely domestic communications of its political opponents, is that illegal?

Posted by: Arr-squared at February 8, 2006 9:47 AM
Comment #122266

The anti-Bush crowd lost their minds and they definitely lost this arguement. The President kept us safe and the American people know it. The ones complaining about it are going to lose big time with this issue. Ha!


But, keep complaining though, it’s very entertaining…

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 9:48 AM
Comment #122267

The issue here is not if there will be domestic spying or not, but rather what safeguards will be in place to oversee it. The Executive Branch has a history of abusing its ability to spy on domestic “enemies.” Congress responded with FISA. Love it or hate it FISA is the law. If FISA does not provide enough flexibility to protect us against terrorists, change it. But this executive, or any other, is not above the law and does not possess the authority to simply ignore it. Framing this as a Republican vs. Democrat or conservative vs. liberal issue is disengenuous. Plenty of Republicans and conservatives have spoken out against this practice.

Posted by: RMD at February 8, 2006 9:50 AM
Comment #122269

Jack,

To me, this whole thing boils down to one question:

What safeguards do we have to ensure that these wiretaps aren’t abused?

The Bush administration has addressed the need for these wiretaps, and I’m not disputing that. They’ve addressed the legality of them, and I’m not disputing that. What they haven’t addressed is how the American people are protected from abuse of the system.

Bush may not be using this system to attack our liberties — but he, or someone else using it, COULD do so. I’m less worried about the actions of this President, and more concerned with the long-term precedent that he’s setting.

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at February 8, 2006 9:58 AM
Comment #122272

Jack, that is the best case scenario. But, without FISA, we would have no way of knowing when the worst case scenario was occuring. That is the point. And there is no getting around it. Folks like Rahdigly can champion the demise of American liberty all they want, it is there right to speak their mind. But, neither Rahdigly nor President Bush under our Constitution has the right to deprive others of their liberty without due process and the law says, the FISA court IS the due process.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2006 10:00 AM
Comment #122274

Arr

I didn’t say I would sacrifice freedom (liberty). I said I would sacrifice privacy, which I believe overlaps liberty, but is not the same thing and I tried to explain how privacy “rights” wax and wane depending on circumstances.

Rob

We always trade off. We have the potential danger of abuse and the danger of terrorism. We know terrorism is a real problem. So far we have no cases of abuse. IF it a case goes to court, we can judge and take action.

We should not preemtively disarm ourselves to give the terrorists an even break.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2006 10:10 AM
Comment #122283

Jack,

We always trade off.

If this were a temporary war-time power, then I would buy that argument. The power of the President naturally increases during wartime. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re not in a war, with clear objectives and exit strategies. We’re essentially in a police effort against political criminals, which has been the case for most of our country’s history, and will continue to be for as long as our country exists. Terrorism isn’t new, and no President can completely stop it.

So far we have no cases of abuse. IF it a case goes to court, we can judge and take action.

So far we have no known cases of abuse. And, for a case to go to court, someone would first have to illegally “leak” it to the public, which means that the only safeguard we have on this system requires people to break the law.

Would you agree with a system that, in the name of fighting terror, let the government search your home, seize your property, and even take your life, all without warrant or probable cause, with the assurance that we’d handle any abuses of the system through the courts? What if the government’s actions in such were classified, so that someone would have to break the law to even bring it to court?

Or, put differently, why does the 4th Amendment not count as “preemptively disarming ourselves”, to use your words?

Posted by: Rob Cottrell at February 8, 2006 10:29 AM
Comment #122286
I want the safeguard that I am presumed innocent IF I am taken to court and there is no indication we don’t have that.

You don’t need to be taken to court, Jack. Remember that the next time the airlines won’t let you board a plane, or your security clearance (if you have one) is revoked, or you can’t get a federal loan, or you can’t renew your drivers license — and no one will explain why. This is happening to American citizens right now.

it sounds to me a lot like data mining

Exactly. It’s like setting up random police checkpoints throughout the US and having your car searched without probable cause. It’s the biggest God damned fishing expedition in the history of the world.

If it only targeted phone numbers found on some terrorists call list, that would be one thing. But President Bush’s illegal program spys on thousands of innocent American citizens with no probable cause to do so.

Posted by: American Pundit at February 8, 2006 10:32 AM
Comment #122287

Jack,

“As the President says, if someone in the U.S. is talking to Al Qaeda, we want to know.”

We do not believe this president. We can not assume that this is the case. You choose to trust this administration. We do not.

“We should not underestimate the intelligence of our enemies”

But you think they’re so damn stupid and would not assume we would monitor their comunications?

It would be foolish to give any president the power to indefinitely monitor international calls, let alone this power-mad, corrupt, lying, greedy administration.
Remember that Bush and Co. are calling this “War” generational. That means all rights you’re willing to relinquish are generational.
No thank you.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at February 8, 2006 10:33 AM
Comment #122294

And when, in a few years, conservatives return to their roots of smaller government with less impact on our lives and more of the focus on individual rights granted by the constitution, we will all sit back and sigh. Because we’ll all remember when they drove that car towards the cliff and we went red warning them against such a bad idea.

By all means. Keep driving. I’m sure you’ll be fine.

Posted by: Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout at February 8, 2006 10:45 AM
Comment #122295

The best response to this post is a speech that was just given by Russ Feingold on the Senate floor. It’s long, but I hope you’ll all take a few minutes to read it — because it refutes almost anything that anyone could say if they are trying to defend the indefensible actions of this administration.

Mr. President, last week the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address, where he spoke of America’s leadership in the world, and called on all of us to “lead this world toward freedom.” Again and again, he invoked the principle of freedom, and how it can transform nations, and empower people around the world.

But, almost in the same breath, the President openly acknowledged that he has ordered the government to spy on Americans, on American soil, without the warrants required by law.

The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment — to be free from unjustified government intrusion.

The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA’s domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.
How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed.

Congress has lost its way if we don’t hold this President accountable for his actions.

The President suggests that anyone who criticizes his illegal wiretapping program doesn’t understand the threat we face. But we do. Every single one of us is committed to stopping the terrorists who threaten us and our families.

Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority, and we all agree that we need to wiretap them to do it. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap terrorists. But we have yet to see any reason why we have to trample the laws of the United States to do it. The President’s decision that he can break the law says far more about his attitude toward the rule of law than it does about the laws themselves.

This goes way beyond party, and way beyond politics. What the President has done here is to break faith with the American people. In the State of the Union, he also said that ‘we must always be clear in our principles” to get support from friends and allies that we need to fight terrorism. So let’s be clear about a basic American principle: When someone breaks the law, when someone misleads the public in an attempt to justify his actions, he needs to be held accountable. The President of the United States has broken the law. The President of the United States is trying to mislead the American people. And he needs to be held accountable.

Unfortunately, the President refuses to provide any details about this domestic spying program. Not even the full Intelligence committees know the details, and they were specifically set up to review classified information and oversee the intelligence activities of our government. Instead, the President says - “Trust me.”

This is not the first time we’ve heard that. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration went on an offensive to get the American public, the Congress, and the international community to believe its theory that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and even that he had ties to Al Qaeda. The President painted a dire – and inaccurate – picture of Saddam Hussein’s capability and intent, and we invaded Iraq on that basis. To make matters worse, the Administration misled the country about what it would take to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq after the conflict. We were led to believe that this was going to be a short endeavor, and that our troops would be home soon.

We all recall the President’s “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003. In fact, the mission was not even close to being complete. More than 2100 total deaths have occurred after the President declared an end to major combat operations in May of 2003, and over 16,600 American troops have been wounded in Iraq. The President misled the American people and grossly miscalculated the true challenge of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

In December, we found out that the President has authorized wiretaps of Americans without the court orders required by law. He says he is only wiretapping people with links to terrorists, but how do we know? We don’t. The President is unwilling to let a neutral judge make sure that is the case. He will not submit this program to an independent branch of government to make sure he’s not violating the rights of law-abiding Americans.

So I don’t want to hear again that this Administration has shown it can be trusted. It hasn’t. And that is exactly why the law requires a judge to review these wiretaps.

It is up to Congress to hold the President to account. We held a hearing on the domestic spying program in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, where Attorney General Gonzales was a witness. We expect there will be other hearings. That is a start, but it will take more than just hearings to get the job done.

We know that in part because the President’s Attorney General has already shown a willingness to mislead the Congress.
At the hearing yesterday, I reminded the Attorney General about his testimony during his confirmation hearings in January 2005, when I asked him whether the President had the power to authorize warrantless wiretaps in violation of the criminal law.

We didn’t know it then, but the President had authorized the NSA program three years before, when the Attorney General was White House Counsel. At his confirmation hearing, the Attorney General first tried to dismiss my question as ‘hypothetical.” He then testified that ‘it’s not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in contravention of our criminal statutes.”

Well, Mr. President, wiretapping American citizens on American soil without the required warrant is in direct contravention of our criminal statutes. The Attorney General knew that, and he knew about the NSA program when he sought the Senate’s approval for his nomination to be Attorney General. He wanted the Senate and the American people to think that the President had not acted on the extreme legal theory that the President has the power as Commander in Chief to disobey the criminal laws of this country. But he had.

The Attorney General had some explaining to do, and he didn’t do it yesterday. Instead he parsed words, arguing that what he said was truthful because he didn’t believe that the President’s actions violated the law.

But he knew what I was asking, and he knew he was misleading the Committee in his response. If he had been straightforward, he would have told the committee that in his opinion, the President has the authority to authorize warrantless wiretaps. My question wasn’t about whether such illegal wiretapping was going on - like almost everyone in Congress, I didn’t know about the program then. It was a question about how the nominee to be Attorney General viewed the law. This nominee wanted to be confirmed, and so he let a misleading statement about one of the central issues of his confirmation - his view of executive power - stay on the record until the New York Times revealed the program.

The rest of the Attorney General’s performance at yesterday’s hearing certainly did not give me any comfort, either. He continued to push the Administration’s weak legal arguments, continued to insinuate that anyone who questions this program doesn’t want to fight terrorism, and refused to answer basic questions about what powers this Administration is claiming. We still need a lot of answers from this Administration.

But let’s put aside the Attorney General for now. The burden is not just on him to come clean — the President has some explaining to do. The President’s defense of his actions is deeply cynical, deeply misleading, and deeply troubling.

To find out that the President of the United States has violated the basic rights of the American people is chilling. And then to see him publicly embrace his actions - and to see so many Members of Congress cheer him on - is appalling.

The President has broken the law, and he has made it clear that he will continue to do so. But the President is not a king. And the Congress is not a king’s court. Our job is not to stand up and cheer when the President breaks the law. Our job is to stand up and demand accountability, to stand up and check the power of an out-of-control executive branch.

That is one of the reasons that the framers put us here - to ensure balance between the branches of government, not to act as a professional cheering section. We need answers. Because no one, not the President, not the Attorney General, and not any of their defenders in this body, has been able to explain why it is necessary to break the law to defend against terrorism. And I think that’s because they can’t explain it.

Instead, this administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms have a pre-9/11 view of the world.

In fact, the President has a pre-1776 view of the world.

Our Founders lived in dangerous times, and they risked everything for freedom. Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” The President’s pre-1776 mentality is hurting America. It is fracturing the foundation on which our country has stood for 230 years. The President can’t just bypass two branches of government, and obey only those laws he wants to obey. Deciding unilaterally which of our freedoms still apply in the fight against terrorism is unacceptable and needs to be stopped immediately.

Let’s examine for a moment some of the President’s attempts to defend his actions. His arguments have changed over time, of course. They have to - none of them hold up under even casual scrutiny, so he can’t rely on one single explanation. As each argument crumbles beneath him, he moves on to a new one, until that, too, is debunked, and on and on he goes.

In the State of the Union, the President referred to Presidents in American history who cited executive authority to order warrantless surveillance. But of course those past presidents - like Wilson and Roosevelt - were acting before the Supreme Court decided in 1967 that our communications are protected by the Fourth Amendment, and before Congress decided in 1978 that the executive branch can no longer unilaterally decide which Americans to wiretap. The Attorney General yesterday was unable to give me one example of a President who, since 1978 when FISA was passed, has authorized warrantless wiretaps outside of FISA.

So that argument is baseless, and it’s deeply troubling that the President of the United States would so obviously mislead the Congress and American public. That hardly honors the founders’ idea that the President should address the Congress on the state of our union.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was passed in 1978 to create a secret court, made up of judges who develop national security expertise, to issue warrants for surveillance of terrorists and spies. These are the judges from whom the Bush Administration has obtained thousands of warrants since 9/11. The Administration has almost never had a warrant request rejected by those judges. They have used the FISA Court thousands of times, but at the same time they assert that FISA is an “old law” or “out of date” and they can’t comply with it. Clearly they can and do comply with it - except when they don’t. Then they just arbitrarily decide to go around these judges, and around the law.

The Administration has said that it ignored FISA because it takes too long to get a warrant under that law. But we know that in an emergency, where the Attorney General believes that surveillance must begin before a court order can be obtained, FISA permits the wiretap to be executed immediately as long as the government goes to the court within 72 hours. The Attorney General has complained that the emergency provision does not give him enough flexibility, he has complained that getting a FISA application together or getting the necessary approvals takes too long. But the problems he has cited are bureaucratic barriers that the executive branch put in place, and could easily remove if it wanted.

FISA also permits the Attorney General to authorize unlimited warrantless electronic surveillance in the United States during the 15 days following a declaration of war, to allow time to consider any amendments to FISA required by a wartime emergency. That is the time period that Congress specified. Yet the President thinks that he can do this indefinitely.

In the State of the Union, the President also argued that federal courts had approved the use of presidential authority that he was invoking. But that turned out to be misleading as well. When I asked the Attorney General about this, he could point me to no court - not the Supreme Court or any other court - that has considered whether, after FISA was enacted, the President nonetheless had the authority to bypass it and authorize warrantless wiretaps. Not one court. The Administration’s effort to find support for what it has done in snippets of other court decisions would be laughable if this issue were not so serious.

The President knows that FISA makes it a crime to wiretap Americans in the United States without a warrant or a court order. Why else would he have assured the public, over and over again, that he was getting warrants before engaging in domestic surveillance?

Here’s what the President said on April 20, 2004: “Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires - a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so.”

And again, on July 14, 2004: “The government can’t move on wiretaps or roving wiretaps without getting a court order.”

The President was understandably eager in these speeches to make it clear that under his administration, law enforcement was using the FISA Court to obtain warrants before wiretapping. That is understandable, since wiretapping Americans on American soil without a warrant is against the law.

And listen to what the President said on June 9, 2005: “Law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, a federal judge’s permission to track his calls, or a federal judge’s permission to search his property. Officers must meet strict standards to use any of these tools. And these standards are fully consistent with the Constitution of the U.S.”

Now that the public knows about the domestic spying program, he has had to change course. He has looked around for arguments to cloak his actions. And all of them are completely threadbare.

The President has argued that Congress gave him authority to wiretap Americans on U.S. soil without a warrant when it passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force after September 11, 2001. Mr. President, that is ridiculous. Members of Congress did not think this resolution gave the President blanket authority to order these warrantless wiretaps. We all know that. Anyone in this body who would tell you otherwise either wasn’t here at the time or isn’t telling the truth. We authorized the President to use military force in Afghanistan, a necessary and justified response to September 11. We did not authorize him to wiretap American citizens on American soil without going through the process that was set up nearly three decades ago precisely to facilitate the domestic surveillance of terrorists - with the approval of a judge. That is why both Republicans and Democrats have questioned this theory.

This particular claim is further undermined by congressional approval of the Patriot Act just a few weeks after we passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. The Patriot Act made it easier for law enforcement to conduct surveillance on suspected terrorists and spies, while maintaining FISA’s baseline requirement of judicial approval for wiretaps of Americans in the U.S. It is ridiculous to think that Congress would have negotiated and enacted all the changes to FISA in the Patriot Act if it thought it had just authorized the President to ignore FISA in the AUMF.

In addition, in the intelligence authorization bill passed in December 2001, we extended the emergency authority in FISA, at the Administration’s request, from 24 to 72 hours. Why do that if the President has the power to ignore FISA? That makes no sense at all.

The President has also said that his inherent executive power gives him the power to approve this program. But here the President is acting in direct violation of a criminal statute. That means his power is, as Justice Jackson said in the steel seizure cases half a century ago, “at its lowest ebb.” A recent letter from a group of law professors and former executive branch officials points out that “every time the Supreme Court has confronted a statute limiting the Commander-in-Chief’s authority, it has upheld the statute.” The Senate reports issued when FISA was enacted confirm the understanding that FISA overrode any pre-existing inherent authority of the President. As the 1978 Senate Judiciary Committee report stated, FISA “recognizes no inherent power of the president in this area.” And “Congress has declared that this statute, not any claimed presidential power, controls.” Contrary to what the President told the country in the State of the Union, no court has ever approved warrantless surveillance in violation of FISA.

The President’s claims of inherent executive authority, and his assertions that the courts have approved this type of activity, are baseless.

The President has argued that periodic internal executive branch review provides an adequate check on the program. He has even characterized this periodic review as a safeguard for civil liberties. But we don’t know what this check involves. And we do know that Congress explicitly rejected this idea of unilateral executive decision-making in this area when it passed FISA.

Finally, the president has tried to claim that informing a handful of congressional leaders, the so-called Gang of Eight, somehow excuses breaking the law. Of course, several of these members said they weren’t given the full story. And all of them were prohibited from discussing what they were told. So the fact that they were informed under these extraordinary circumstances does not constitute congressional oversight, and it most certainly does not constitute congressional approval of the program. Indeed, it doesn’t even comply with the National Security Act, which requires the entire memberships of the House and Senate Intelligence Committee to be “fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States.”

In addition, we now know that some of these members expressed concern about the program. The Administration ignored their protests. Just last week, one of the eight members of Congress who has been briefed about the program, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she sees no reason why the Administration cannot accomplish its goals within the law as currently written.

None of the President’s arguments explains or excuses his conduct, or the NSA’s domestic spying program. Not one. It is hard to believe that the President has the audacity to claim that they do. It is a strategy that really hinges on the credibility of the office of the Presidency itself. If you just insist that you didn’t break the law, you haven’t broken the law. It reminds me of what Richard Nixon said after he had left office: “Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.” But that is not how our constitutional democracy works. Making those kinds of arguments is damaging the credibility of the Presidency.

And what’s particularly disturbing is how many members of Congress have responded. They stood up and cheered. They stood up and cheered.

Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote: “Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

The President’s actions are indefensible. Freedom is an enduring principle. It is not something to celebrate in one breath, and ignore the next. Freedom is at the heart of who we are as a nation, and as a people. We cannot be a beacon of freedom for the world unless we protect our own freedoms here at home.

The President was right about one thing. In his address, he said “We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.”

Yes, Mr. President. We do love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it. We will fight to defeat the terrorists who threaten the safety and security of our families and loved ones. And we will fight to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans against intrusive government power.

As the President said, we must always be clear in our principles. So let us be clear: We cherish the great and noble principle of freedom, we will fight to keep it, and we will hold this President - and anyone who violates those freedoms - accountable for their actions. In a nation built on freedom, the President is not a king, and no one is above the law.

I yield the floor.

Great speech by a good man.
This president broke the law and violated the Constitutional rights of American citizens. He must be impeached.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 10:53 AM
Comment #122298

Jack and Rob Cottrell,
We do have known cases of abuse. Both J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon authorized and conducted politically motivated domestic spying. That’s why FISA was enacted. We need not wait for each new executive to abuse the ability to conduct domestic spying before regulating it. As my mother used to say, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

It seems to me that those who defend the president’s actions are essentially appealing to fear.

Posted by: RMD at February 8, 2006 10:59 AM
Comment #122300
A big reason I voted for Bush, in both of the elections that he won, was because of Dick Cheney. I wish he would run in ‘08, love the guy and love the fact liberals hate him, let’s me know I’m on the right track with these feelings.

Andy:

You would let “feelings” determine how you vote? And “feelings” that are derived from others, not even your own? If there are more voters behaving like this (and I have no doubt that there are!), no wonder our country is in trouble!

You deny your own intellect when you support someone only because others don’t support them. That’s pure and simple oppositional & childish behavior and a real example of what’s wrong with politics in both major parties in the U.S. today.

We need thinking adults who look at their Constitution, their Bill of Rights, the needs of the common citizen and the country as a whole and then vote what we think is best for the country and the citizens…not just vote the opposite of someone else!

We need voters who can actually determine which issues are important, how we would like those issues resolved, and THEN vote for someone who will help resolve those issues in the way we have determined will be best for citizens/country. Any other determination of how to vote is immature.

Lastly, how has Cheney “resolved” or helped to resolve any of the major problems of the U.S. … not just terrorism, but increasing numbers of people (especially children, our future voting citizens)falling into poverty in the U.S., the growing deficit due to the “war” in Iraq (and the “war” is not even a budget item!), the ongoing trade deficit???

Posted by: Lynne at February 8, 2006 11:01 AM
Comment #122314

RMD,
“The issue here is not if there will be domestic spying or not, but rather what safeguards will be in place to oversee it. The Executive Branch has a history of abusing its ability to spy on domestic “enemies.” Congress responded with FISA.”

And how has Congress’s history been with secrets and National Security?! Look up what the Founders said about Congress knowing information on Foreign Intelligence.


“Love it or hate it FISA is the law. If FISA does not provide enough flexibility to protect us against terrorists, change it.”


FISA is set up for “criminal” means; not for “Military” wartime means. That’s the difference. The anti-Bush crowd better understand this b/c the American people certainly do. Yet, if you really want to blame Bush instead of worrying about National Security, then keep it up and you’ll see where that gets you.

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 11:36 AM
Comment #122316

I read through these comments and it is just absurd what some of you have said…Bush is not eavesdropping on hippies or vegetarians…just suspected Al-Queda communications coming out of and into America. What will it take for you libs to wake up and pull your head out of your asses? I guess you just won’t be happy until we’re wiped off the map completely…reading korans and praising allah and mohammed…and that’s another thing..I detest the overblowing of those damn cartoons in the Danish paper that sparked all this so-called “controversy” amongst the Arab nations. For god’s sake…do you have any idea how many times I’ve heard a joke or seen a caricature of Jesus Christ in some kind of inflammatory manner? Everyone needs to take a deep breath and stop being so easily offended…it’s like my father told me..”the world is full of assholes-deal with it”.

Posted by: Charlie at February 8, 2006 11:40 AM
Comment #122319

Lynne,

“Lastly, how has Cheney “resolved” or helped to resolve any of the major problems of the U.S.?”

He has worked tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for many in the U.S.
The CEO’s of Haliburton KBR. The Military Industrial Complex. CEO’s at Exxon. His stockbrokers. Guys named “Scooter” and “Brownie” and “Turd Blossom” who else would hire guys with these names.
His foreign policies have also helped those outside of the U.S.
Chilabi, Terrorist recruiters.
He is a great man who deserves credit for his effort.

Posted by: Andre M. Hernandez at February 8, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #122322

Should we change the 4th Amendment first to allow wire-tapping ?

If not, then what good is the Constitution ?

Posted by: d.a.n at February 8, 2006 11:57 AM
Comment #122323

Adrienne:

There are two issues here: 1) the wiretapping itself, and 2) the approval mechanism through which the wiretapping is done. Feingold is a well spoken man, and says that “Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority, and we all agree that we need to wiretap them to do it. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap terrorists.”

As I understand him, Feingold is saying that the wiretapping itself is not his primary issue of concern. His primary issue is that Bush circumvented FISA, which Feingold says is illegal (the legality of Bush’s actions is in question by legal scholars, and will ultimately be decided in a court of law, so lets not discuss that here).

Adrienne, I’m not trying to nitpick here, but I’m honestly wondering how you would feel if Bush had gone through FISA, and FISA had approved the current level of wiretapping. Or if FISA were revisited and rewritten to accommodate the level of wiretapping. Would you then accept it, or would you feel the level of wiretapping itself is the problem?

I get the impression that Feingold has more of a problem with the circumvention than with the actual wiretapping. And his problem with the circumvention seems to be the precedent that it sets on the level of presidential powers.

By the way, a link to Feingold’s speech would have made your post shorter, but in truth, I don’t know if it would have been as well read. I was daunted at first by the length, but muddled my way through it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 8, 2006 11:58 AM
Comment #122325

rahdigly,

“FISA is set up for “criminal” means; not for “Military” wartime means. That’s the difference. The anti-Bush crowd better understand this b/c the American people certainly do. Yet, if you really want to blame Bush instead of worrying about National Security, then keep it up and you’ll see where that gets you.”

So, what you’re saying is that those guys we are holding down at Gitmo aren’t criminals?
And if they aren’t Pows, then what are they?

The expansion of the Presidents powers is supposed to be reserved for war.
Just who have we declared war against?

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 12:03 PM
Comment #122326

rahdigly,
I not sure what your point is except that if you frame my original comments as “ant-Bush” rhetoric, you are more easily able to rationalize his actions. What are your objections to safeguards? Why do you think the president is above the law? How does criminal wiretapping differ from military wiretapping? I don’t get it. Don’t just try to put my thoughts into some little box that allows you to avoid the issues that they raise.

Posted by: RMD at February 8, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #122328

Wiretapping in itself is not the problem.
Yes, the problem is doing it without a warrant.
Especially when the warrant is easy to obtain, and it begs the question:

Why not first, concentrate on the simple, common-sense, no-brainer things first? Such as:
______________________________
(1) implement 911 Commission recommendations
(2) secure the borders
(3) just enforce existing laws would be a good start
(4) get some unity in congress and the executive branch without trying to grab more power (and abuse it)
(5) get some unity in FBI, CIA, Coast Guard, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection, and information sharing
(6) get some translators and better language programs
(7) prepare for more attacks
information
(8) learn how to connect the dots (and quit saying “never imagined”; we know that is a lie; the problem is not lack of imagination, it is negligence;
______________________________

Perhaps there would less outrage to this wire-tapping if government wasn’t so blatanly hypocritical and negligent.

So, defending wire-tapping without a warrant, and ignoring the lack of effort to the many basic, common-sense things first, seems hypocrital, and naturally leads people to believe it is just another abuse of power, grab for more power.

Posted by: d.a.n at February 8, 2006 12:11 PM
Comment #122338
If you open a high tech operation in the Arab world, you will have trouble staffing it with local talent and of those you find, there is a good chance that none of them will be graduates of religious schools. Most madrases don’t have strong programs in math and science. The terrorists, in other words, are recruiting from a farily uneducated population in a fairly uneducated part of the world. It would be very surprising if Al Qaeda was able to recruit and retain enough skilled people to keep up with a technological surveillance program.

You’re right Jack, they have little skill, little hope, and are brainwashed. I think democrats draw the line on how afraid we should be.

If you figure they pulled off 9/11 for about 10 grand in tickets and box cutters and our response is around 500 billion; thats quite a ratio. We better get a little smarter than this.

Posted by: Schwamp at February 8, 2006 12:53 PM
Comment #122339

Charlie:
“I read through these comments and it is just absurd what some of you have said…Bush is not eavesdropping on hippies or vegetarians…just suspected Al-Queda communications coming out of and into America.”

You couldn’t be more wrong.

Copy of article which appeared in the Baltimore Sun: NSA Used City Police to Track Peace Activists

Washington Post article: FBI Papers Show Terror Inquiries Into PETA; Other Groups Tracked

Something I considered very dramatic — yet something that was almost completely overlooked by the media, was the disclosure during John Bolton’s confirmation hearings to the UN was that the NSA was giving policy makers and intelligence agencies information about U.S. citizens. It seems that ever since 1978, the NSA has been insisting that when they intercept a communication between an actual target and a nontargeted American they’d always redacted the name of the American from their final intelligence report. (This was done to satisfy the Constitution’s prohibition of warrantless searches.) But during Bolton’s hearings, he admitted that on several occasions while he was the undersecretary of state he’d asked the NSA to reveal the names of Americans in agency intercepts and that the NSA had done so without any process of review. After reading about this, I read a subsequent Newsweek investigation that claimed that during an 18-month period between 2004 and 2005, the NSA had supplied the names of 10,000 U.S. citizens to govt. bureaucrats and spies.

The truth of the matter is, the NSA working in conjunction with the FBI during this administration’s tenure and with their support, if not at their direct request, has been breaking the law and violating the Constitutional rights of Americans all over the place.

Another case in point: before the invasion of Iraq, the NSA launched an eavesdropping campaign on delegates to the U.N. Security Council in New York. This was in direct violation of 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 onto. And again, this story was ignored by the press or the media, even though it was front page news in Europe:

Revealed: US dirty tricks to win vote on Iraq war
Secret document details American plan to bug phones and emails of key Security Council members

I don’t know about other lefties in this blog, but I’m personally getting pretty damn sick and tired of reading totally unintelligent and extremely uninformed rightwing diatribes whose only purpose is to defend the Criminal Element that is currently controlling our American government.
They spout off and make fools of themselves because they don’t even try to find out what is really going on. It’s so bloody pathetic.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 12:53 PM
Comment #122340

It is truely amazing what some people will take on just faith alone.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 1:02 PM
Comment #122342

Rock,
“So, what you’re saying is that those guys we are holding down at Gitmo aren’t criminals?
And if they aren’t Pows, then what are they?”


Ok, they were caught on the battle field and Geneva Conventions don’t apply. The are (indeed) Prisoners of War.


“The expansion of the Presidents powers is supposed to be reserved for war. Just who have we declared war against?”


Al Qaeda and other terrorists networks.

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/military/terroristattack/joint-resolution_9-14.html


“Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States”

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 1:04 PM
Comment #122343

RMD

Abuse is possible and there was abuse in the past. This is not the same sort of case. It is not a domestic spying case. It is a case where foreigners are calling the U.S. or in many cases (based on media reports) it is just a case where foreigners ALL outside the U.S. have their traffic routed through the U.S.

Rocky

The terrorists are criminals. They are also representatives of an international criminal organization. But at least with criminals and criminal organizations they have a goal of making money and their criminal activity is a means to the end Most criminal prefer to avoid the risk of violence and use it only when it will achieve their other goals. In the case of terrorists, sometimes the violence and terror IS the end. Most organized crime rings are broken by following the money. In the terror case, it is often not about money. It is harder.

Adrienne

Three things. Spying on foreigners is no crime. We all spy on each other. I would expect no less if I was working on an important SC resolution. Spying takes many forms. Bugging is only one and in this kind of case maybe a less effective one. A simple lunch meeting is often better. There is no bright line to cross.

The hippie thing you mention is a different program. As I understand most people agreed that was an abuse and they have backed away.

Finally, as Joe asked, if the President went to Congress or to a FISA court and got approval for everything (supposedly it is easy to do) would you then accept the program?

Posted by: jack at February 8, 2006 1:11 PM
Comment #122346

Joe,
I was going to put Feingold’ speech up as a link, but I thought it was too good to have people ignore. It addressed so much of what we’ve been talking about that I decided that I didn’t care if some people found it annoying.

“I get the impression that Feingold has more of a problem with the circumvention than with the actual wiretapping. And his problem with the circumvention seems to be the precedent that it sets on the level of presidential powers.”

I get the impression he’s got a problem with almost all of the way this administration has been governing — and as you may already realize, so do I. We need a hell of a lot more openess and oversight rather than all this secrecy that we’ve been getting, because it is more than clear that the lot of them have been doing whatever the hell they feel like doing and breaking the law at will.

You might want to read this:
Inside NSA’s World

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 1:15 PM
Comment #122348

rahdigly,

“Whereas, the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States”

But does not have the authority under the Constitution to delcare war. Nor does he have the authority to ingnore the Constitution.

Look, we have entered a police action (and that is what the “War on Terror” truely is), that will go on forever, do you really want to have whoever is President, Bush or otherwise, to have the power to put aside the Constitution forever?

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 1:18 PM
Comment #122352

d.a.n.

I’ve questioned the rationale of circumventing FISA before. One theory is that its a power grab—many who dislike Bush already are jumping on this bandwagon. Another theory is that its a viable and legal method of keeping Americans safe—many who like Bush are jumping on this bandwagon.

I think the fact that there has not been an attack on US soil since 9-11 shows that we have been more vigilant. There is also a level of luck involved, and perhaps timing, as Israel shows us that attacks happen even when the utmost vigilance is given. The lack of any attack does not mean we are safe, but it is certainly an indication that something is being done to prevent attacks.

Of course, intelligence and security agencies are only truly discussed when they fail. Their successes are typically kept much more secret and out of the public eye. Can we do better—certainly. But since one part of the scorecard is the number of attacks, we certainly are doing something right.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 8, 2006 1:32 PM
Comment #122354

RMD,
“I not sure what your point is except that if you frame my original comments as “anti-Bush” rhetoric, you are more easily able to rationalize his actions. What are your objections to safeguards? Why do you think the president is above the law? How does criminal wiretapping differ from military wiretapping?”


The “anti-Bush” comment was in general and not directed specifically towards you; it’s a case of the shoe fits. The anti-Bushies need to know the difference between dissidence and hatred, especially in a time of National Security.


Now, as far as your questions, my objections to FISA is that it is set up for criminal charges rather than military charges. With criminal intent, you’d have to wait until the crime happens and then prosecute them after the fact, military it’s used to prevent the attack. Big difference!!! Prior to 9/11, our gov’t wiretapped and used them in court to criminally prosecute. Since then, we’ve been using Miltiary means to get the information and use it against the terrorists in order to prevent them from attacks; like they did with the Brooklyn Bridge. They eavesdropped on the terrorists and, one, found out there was a plot against the bridge, and two, they were able to use that information to prevent the attack.


Also, I don’t believe the President is above the law; I think what he did was “legal” and “Constitutional”. Period.

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 1:34 PM
Comment #122357

Jack-
In order for warrants to become an issue, somebody’s private space must be invaded in some way. That means going into confidential records, breaking into people’s computers, tapping their communications, etc, etc.

Given there is no expectation of privacy on our roadways, your example of having to look at hundreds of other cars going by in order to find a red one is inapplicable. This is more like breaking into the garages of a whole neighborhood looking for one. If this program were only going through open source information, your comparison would be just, but that’s not what they were doing.

Rahdigly-
The Debate is not over, and you win this, if you do, at the price of solidifying Bush’s image as a president with excessive power.

You and others constantly fight to rationalize behavior inappropriate to the CINC, and at the same time rationalize the exclusion of other Branches from oversight and the operation of checks and balances. But rather than protect him, this has shot the administration through with weakness that the excuses all allowed to persist. Many of Bush’s biggest scandals don’t concern his behavior at any particular instant, but instead patterns of behavior that occur over time. Bush has gone, over that period, from being regarded as earnest and honest, to being viewed as untrustworthy and secretive.

Gradually, the weakness pile on one another and contribute to each other. Bad things happen in all administrations, but Disasters take a series of failures typically. Some disasters are unpredictable. Others, sadly, are. The Bush administration, time and time again, has fallen into disastrous patterns of behavior that folks told them were wrong in foresight, warnings they disregarded and even punished people for giving.

Perhaps if you folks had been not so quick to jump to your president’s defense, he would be quicker and better able to respond to this nations needs.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 1:48 PM
Comment #122360

Rock,
“But does not have the authority under the Constitution to delcare war. Nor does he have the authority to ingnore the Constitution…do you really want to have whoever is President, Bush or otherwise, to have the power to put aside the Constitution forever?”


He didn’t declare war; according to the constitution, that’s congresses job. And, Congress gave him Authority to fight Terrorism. Noboby “ignored” the Constitution, here. And, I’m fine with any President making those decisions to protect our country; that’s why elections matter!

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 1:57 PM
Comment #122361
joebagofdonuts wrote: d.a.n. I’ve questioned the rationale of circumventing FISA before. One theory is that its a power grab—many who dislike Bush already are jumping on this bandwagon. Another theory is that its a viable and legal method of keeping Americans safe—many who like Bush are jumping on this bandwagon.
joebagofdonuts, It wouldn’t look like a power grab if the government first did the basic, common-sense things, such as the 911 Commission recommendations, secure the borders, and enforce existing laws better (first, such as deporting illegal aliens).
I think the fact that there has not been an attack on US soil since 9-11 shows that we have been more vigilant. There is also a level of luck involved, and perhaps timing, as Israel shows us that attacks happen even when the utmost vigilance is given. The lack of any attack does not mean we are safe, but it is certainly an indication that something is being done to prevent attacks.
I’m sure there have been some improvements, but wide-open borders is inviting disaster, not to mention the lives and misery it is already causing daily.
Of course, intelligence and security agencies are only truly discussed when they fail. Their successes are typically kept much more secret and out of the public eye. Can we do better—certainly. But since one part of the scorecard is the number of attacks, we certainly are doing something right.
There have been some improvements maybe, but there are things that are still ignored and the reasons reveal the hypocrisy of the government, and refusal to enforce existing laws.


Also, I don’t see what good the 4th Amendment is if it can be broken. It seems to me that the 4th Amendment must be changed first. Otherwise, the law has been broken. I don’t understand any argument that gets around that. There is an order of precedence, and I haven’t seen anything yet that trumps the 4th Amendment.

Posted by: d.a.n at February 8, 2006 2:01 PM
Comment #122362

jack,

“Abuse is possible and there was abuse in the past. This is not the same sort of case. It is not a domestic spying case. It is a case where foreigners are calling the U.S. or in many cases (based on media reports) it is just a case where foreigners ALL outside the U.S. have their traffic routed through the U.S.”

Then explain to me what are your objections to safeguards? Do you feel that either Congress and/or the FISA court is less committed to protecting America than is the president?

rahdigly wasn’t able to explain this to me in a way I could understand.

Posted by: RMD at February 8, 2006 2:07 PM
Comment #122366

rahdigly,

“He didn’t declare war; according to the constitution, that’s congresses job. And, Congress gave him Authority to fight Terrorism.”

Yet you, and the other Bush apologists, continue to grant him the right to do the things that are generally reserved for a time of declared war, and you seem to be ok with that.

You have allowed those that attacked us to so change the your mindset that you will allow them to declare victory without a shot being fired.

Bush has said that, “they hate us for our freedoms”.
The attitude of people like you would allow those same freedoms to be taken away without even a whimper.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 2:12 PM
Comment #122368

I think you misunderstand the purpose of the FISA law….it’s to protect american citizen’s rights.

My question is why should we blindly trust anyone, particularly anyone with this much power and no checks?

We have freely admitted that we went into Iraq based on false or misleading intelligence. Now we are soley relying on the same type of intelligence and a word of honor that “misleading intelligence” won’t result in labeling an innocent US citizens as associated with terrorists. If bad intelligence led us into war, why do we now trust it to spy on our own citizens without a warrant?

I think we should spy…even on our own. However, if this is done without a paper trail what means does someone wrongly accused have to get their good name back?

Many say there isn’t a problem. Why? Because our government never makes mistakes? Because our intelligence is ALWAYS sound? Because you, personally never make or receive international telephone calls?

Spy! Keep us safe! Follow the law! Protect our lives,liberty and privacy!

It can all be done in a timely and efficient manner under the laws while protecting our rights. Protecting our rights is a core principle in the foundation of this country.

Ben Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Well put Ben.

Posted by: Tom L at February 8, 2006 2:17 PM
Comment #122370

Adrienne:

I’m not sure if you saw my question to you, but your last post didn’t provide me with insight as to your answer. You provided that which I already know (and that which anyone reading any of your posts already knows): that you dislike Bush intensely and disagree vehemently with many if not all of his policies.

I’ll repost my question to you: I’m honestly wondering how you would feel if Bush had gone through FISA, and FISA had approved the current level of wiretapping. Or if FISA were revisited and rewritten to accommodate the level of wiretapping. Would you then accept it, or would you feel the level of wiretapping itself is the problem?

Thanks for helping me better understand your position.

Stephen:

You wrote about how Bush is viewed, but I think the viewpoint that you used is how SOME see him. Others see him as being trustworthy, and willing to take political risks to do what he thinks is right. (For instance, simply addressing the Social Security issue was politically risky, since there’s a reason SS is termed the “third rail” of politics. But Bush took it on anyway. Those who favor him saw this as a positive, those who dislike him saw it otherwise).

Some of this debate, as you call it, will rest on legal issues, Constitutional issues etc, and will reside in courts of law. There are detailed arguments for the wiretaps being legal or illegal, and those on the right and left disagree about it. But a major part of the debate will be over Bush’s intent. Has his intent been to grab power or to protect the people? If the court of public opinion decides the former, Bush is in trouble regardless of the legal questions. If the latter, then Bush will be treated with kid gloves regardless of the legal decisions.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 8, 2006 2:19 PM
Comment #122371
Amendment IV 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.

(sigh) I know. Too bad the only electrical device that existed 216 years ago wasa the Leyden jar …

Posted by: bobo at February 8, 2006 2:24 PM
Comment #122372

Rock,
“Yet you, and the other Bush apologists, continue to grant him the right to do the things that are generally reserved for a time of declared war, and you seem to be ok with that.”


What are you talking about?! I’m not apologizing for anyone, I (truly) believe that what he did, and other Presidents in the past have done, was legal and Constitutional. Period.


“You have allowed those that attacked us to so change the your mindset that you will allow them to declare victory without a shot being fired.”

The only thing that was “allowed” was for the enemy (that’s Al Qaeda) to know what our strategy is in combating them. That’s all that has been done, here! Our National Security has been outed and the people (or peoples) responsible ought to pay the ultimate price. Bigtime!


If you believe it is unconstitutional, then prove it. Period (again)

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 2:25 PM
Comment #122379

Rahdigly,
“If you believe it is unconstitutional, then prove it. Period (again)”

Umm……
“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. “

Does this no longer apply?

Also since when is privacy not liberty? Sure they may not be the same word but you cannot have liberty without privacy, and anyone who tells you otherwise has never had their boss looking over their shoulder at work everyday, all day.

What’s next for a republican tagline, “Ignorance is strength”, “War is peace”, “Freedom is slavery”?

Posted by: chantico at February 8, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #122381

rahdigly,

“The only thing that was “allowed” was for the enemy (that’s Al Qaeda) to know what our strategy is in combating them. That’s all that has been done, here! Our National Security has been outed and the people (or peoples) responsible ought to pay the ultimate price. Bigtime!”

Do you truely belive that these folks (Al Qaeda), are that stupid?
Do you truely belive that knowledge of tapped phone calls will deter them from their jihad?
These guys may not think like you or I, but their not stupid.
If our national security hangs on tapped phone calls we’re in much worse shape than I thought.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 2:54 PM
Comment #122386

Would someone please enlighten me: Are we now fighting the War on Terrorism, or the War in Iraq, or both

If I remember correctly, it appears to me that the President technically declared at least one of the above Wars completed. (President’s “Mission Accomplished” banner on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003.)

Or were we ever legally in a War against Iraq? Was it the War agianst terrorism? I find myself totally confused now.

If he declared the War in Iraq over, why are we still there, losing American lives?

And if it was the War against Terrorists he declared over, doesn’t that mean that he no longer can claim the use of Presidental War Powers in order to ask for wire-taps, money, etc. At least I think that would be true.

In fact can he claim the use of War Powers if either one is the case?
Or is it only when Congress declares a War, and have they….?

Posted by: Linda H at February 8, 2006 3:26 PM
Comment #122389

“…and anyone who tells you otherwise has never had their boss looking over their shoulder at work everyday, all day.”

I think in this case it’s more like having the employee look over the shoulder of the boss all day, but through a peep hole in a painting. We the People are in charge in the end, after all.

Posted by: ant at February 8, 2006 3:46 PM
Comment #122391

Rock,
“Do you truely belive that these folks (Al Qaeda), are that stupid?
Do you truely belive that knowledge of tapped phone calls will deter them from their jihad?”

No, I don’t believe they are stupid, I believe they are relying on public opinion to turn on their enemy (that’s us) and it is clearly coming to fruition; thanks to the good, american anti-Bushies. I also believe that giving away our strategy to the enemy sets us back in our fight; it certainly doesn’t help us, that’s for sure. Wouldn’t you rather see our media and fellow citizens out there helping us rather than hurting us?

“If our national security hangs on tapped phone calls we’re in much worse shape than I thought.”


Eavesdropping on them has kept us from being attacked, so we are not that worse off as you may think.

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 4:05 PM
Comment #122400

Stephen

Tapping their communications. Communications have changed a lot since the 1970s when FISA was designed with domestic surveillance and ordinary crime in mind.

We don’t know all the details and I don’t want all the details to be revealed to help the bad guys. But think about the probable scenarios.

Email
Should your email be subject to scrutiny? What if someone sends a message to ten people overseas and one in the U.S.?

Blogs
Should a blog be secure?

Mobile phones. Should we get warrants for each one?

Statistical analysis. Is it okay to do content analysis on communications if some Americans are included? How about computer searchers for key words or phrases?

With some of these techniques, the researcher might not even know if he had investigated Americans.

RMD

Objections to the controls comes in two big piles.

First, the executive branch is defending its prerogatives. You might be sure that the President doesn’t have the right to engage in such behavior, but this is a constitutional question that will eventually end up in the courts if the Congress and the Executive don’t compromise. I think this is what is keeping Bush from just getting warrants ex-post-facto. If it really is so easy, he could just do it.

Second, it is operationally difficult. From media reports, it seems like most of activities are a type of data mining. As I mentioned to Stephen above, it might be difficult or impossible to even know if Americans were involved.

Consider the hypothetical of monitoring a Taliban camp that included Johnny Walker Lind. There are a fair number of nominal American citizens among radicals and it only takes one.

We also have the switching problem. America runs the Internet and most Internet communications route through the U.S. If bad guys in Iran are talking to bad guys in Iran over the Internet, there is a good chance that this communication has at some point passed through a server in the U.S.

Third, security. Leaks. The President has briefed the chairmen and the ranking Democrats on the relevant committees, as is the practice of presidents past. That IS a safeguard, BTW. If you reveal enough details to sufficient numbers of people, everyone finds out.

Tom

You must be the 100th person to quote Franklin out of context on this blog. I have read several of his biographies. Based on his actual behavior, I doubt if he would have been upset by this sort of surveillance.

Bobo & others re the 4th Amendment.

Forms of paper communications were invented back then and throughout U.S. history we have intercepted and read those communications. Do you recall how Washington found out about Benedict Arnold’s plot?

I doubt if Hamilton or Madison would have wanted their document to protect the rights of people conspiring with foreigners to attack the U.S.

Which brings us around again. The constitutionality and legality of this will probably be decided in the courts. I believe the President’s position will substantially prevail.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #122401

rahdigly,

“Eavesdropping on them has kept us from being attacked, so we are not that worse off as you may think.”

I don’t know which is more sad.
That you actually accept this tripe, or that you can feel comfortable saying it out loud.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 4:50 PM
Comment #122402

Jbod:
“I’�m honestly wondering how you would feel if Bush had gone through FISA,”

Well, we know that the Bush administration went through FISA for some things. And when it didn’t suit them to do so, they didn’t. The times they didn’t go through FISA we have no record of whatsoever, and only their word to take for why they were doing the wiretapping and investigating in various ways, and exactly who they had decided to do this to. So the answer is, yes, I would have felt much better if they had not broken the law by going through the FISA courts like every other presidential administration has since 1978.

“and FISA had approved the current level of wiretapping.”

I don’t think the court would have. Which is probably why they decided to circumvent those judges and conduct everything they’ve been doing in secret. So, as I see it, there is no real answer to this question — because we don’t know what they did, they aren’t being forthcoming with that information, and instead are claiming it needs to remain their secret for “security reasons”.

“Or if FISA were revisited and rewritten to accommodate the level of wiretapping. Would you then accept it, or would you feel the level of wiretapping itself is the problem?”

The Fourth Amendment guarantees us of our right “against unreasonable searches and seizures.” So the level of wiretapping and intelligence gathering may have become too broad since we now know they’ve been doing unlimited data mining and wiretapping, mail opening, spying, searching, etc, etc.
In addition to the Fourth Amendment, we have at least two hundred years of case law, as well as the Omnibus Crime Control Act of 1968 which provided that if the government wanted to eavesdrop on our conversations or search our homes for the purpose of bringing criminal charges, they had to first provide to a judge evidence of “probable cause” that a crime has been committed. If there is no probable cause, there will be no warrant, no wiretap, and no search for any reason, and certainly not just because somebody in the govt. thinks they can do so.

The exception to that Crime Control Act arose with respect to presidential authority and national security. After Nixon’s unconstitutional and illegal snooping and wiretapping, they enacted FISA for the sole purpose of allowing the executive branch to still conduct surveillance and searches for foreign security purposes that would only be subject to the oversight of that secret court.
To be honest, I don’t like the idea of secret courts — because I feel that openness and transparency is vitally necessary to our form of government. Secret courts by their very nature seem to undermine what is best about the judiciary: legitimacy, published opinions, openess, and adversarial proceedings.
But at least with FISA we know that a record is being kept. What Bush did is render even that small amount of oversight obsolete. I have a major problem with that.

The FISA permits warrantless government surveillance so long as the primary purpose is to obtain foreign intelligence information. The govt. doesn’t even need to show probable cause that a crime has occurred, and the target of their surveillance doesn’t need to be advised of that surveillance. During the filing of that application and any supporting affidavits, the information is under seal so that neither the target nor their attorney can ever see any of the allegations against them.
I see no reason why the law should be changed nor do I see any reason why that court should have been circumvented at all.

Moreover, The Patriot Act amended FISA so that foreign intelligence gathering need no longer be the “primary purpose” of surveillance, instead it only had to be a “significant purpose” with very little scrutiny over the legal necessity or constitutionality of their requests.
But interestingly enough, when Ashcroft asked the FISA court to give him what Congress had already given them with the Patriot Act (the right to use FISA searches to circumvent the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement in every criminal prosecution that could be considered related to national security) the FISA court refused. They were attempting to reconfigure FISA as a prosecutorial tool, rather than as an oversight on their surveillance, but the judges knew that and denied them that level of authority.
I find that very interesting. That the secret court that has never released an opinion, and that had granted over 10,000 FISA surveillance applications, and had rejected none up until that point, refused to allow Ashcroft to destroy the separation between foreign investigation and criminal prosecution because they did not want to allow the DOJ to direct or control what they do. During that same ruling, the court stated that warrantless searches may be used only for national security purposes.
This tells us that those judges knew what our founders knew: that the whole point of a warrant requirement is to keep the state from inventing or planting evidence without allowing someone to contest it. It also puts probable cause on the record — even if it is done after the fact — and does so before a neutral judge.

But we mustn’t feel too sorry for Bushco over that denial, because the Patriot Act also authorized unconstitutional “sneak and peak” warrants, and an expansion of FISA searches from “foreign powers or agents” to U.S. citizens, and indefinite detentions of suspected terrorists, and eavesdropping on attorney-client conversations, and holding closed military tribunals.
Like I said earlier, they’ve pretty much been violating the constitution and breaking the law at will, and I for one, consider it criminal.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 4:51 PM
Comment #122403

Jack,

From CNN;

http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/02/08/eavesdropping.congress.ap/index.html

“GOP chairwoman calls for ‘complete review’ of NSA eavesdropping”

“WASHINGTON (AP) — Breaking with the White House, Rep. Heather Wilson, R-New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, says the time has come for a “complete review” of President Bush’s eavesdropping program, her spokesman said Wednesday.”

Finally the Republicans are stepping up to the plate on this issue.


Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 4:55 PM
Comment #122407

Rahdigly-
1)All acts of congress are subordinate to the constitution.

2)All parts of the constitution are applied in parallel; the Fourth Amendment and the Commander In Chief power coexist as parts of the constitution.

3)The application of the Fourth Amendment and CINC power is therefore simultaneous, and one cannot be disregarded in the application of another.

4)The War Powers act and it’s subordinate authorizations for war against the terrorists and against Iraq are subordinate to the constitution. So is FISA.

5)Nothing in either authorization overrides, amends, or replaces FISA.

6)Therefore, even if the president has the power to call for wiretaps under his war authority, he must apply for warrants when those wiretaps involve American Citizens.

Where am I wrong?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 5:05 PM
Comment #122408

Adrienne,
Awesome post! Great comments about the FISA court and its secrecy. It’s bad enough we have secret courts. That’s highly questionable in and of itself. But when the executive branch decides even a secretive, rubber stamp FISA court is too much oversight, we’re in serious trouble.

Linda,
Technically, we’re not at war- not against terrorism, not against Afghanistan, not against Iraq. However, Congress authorized a use of force against Afghanistan (and against terrorists, more or less) and Iraq.

We all throw around the word ‘war’ quite frequently, but strictly speaking, it’s inaccurate.

Posted by: phx8 at February 8, 2006 5:06 PM
Comment #122412

Rocky,


“I don’t know which is more sad.
That you actually accept this tripe, or that you can feel comfortable saying it out loud.”


Back at you, I don’t know why it’s ok for the US to go to war and kill, blow up, and attack the enemy, but it’s not ok to eavesdrop on their conversations from overseas. It makes no sense! None whatsoever.

Stephen,
“Therefore, even if the president has the power to call for wiretaps under his war authority, he must apply for warrants when those wiretaps involve American Citizens.”

The warrants for wiretaps is for American citizens and it applies to criminal cases; our fourth admendment protects us from that. This situation is for Al Qaeda making calls from overseas to the US; no matter how people want to spin it, it still comes down to that right there. Period. You can’t change the situation to fit your arguement; like the Dems did in the 2000 Presidential Election. It won’t work.


Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 5:21 PM
Comment #122413
The warrants for wiretaps is for American citizens and it applies to criminal cases; our fourth admendment protects us from that. This situation is for Al Qaeda making calls from overseas to the US; no matter how people want to spin it, it still comes down to that right there. Period.

Except that’s not what the Bush Administration is doing. It’s intercepting FAR MORE than “Al Qaeda making calls from overseas.” PERIOD.

Posted by: bobo at February 8, 2006 5:25 PM
Comment #122414

Bobo,

Prove it!

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 5:26 PM
Comment #122415

“You can’t change the situation to fit your arguement;”

“The warrants for wiretaps is for American citizens and it applies to criminal cases; our fourth admendment protects us from that. This situation is for Al Qaeda making calls from overseas to the US;”

Umm…did you just do that? Look again, I have no problem with wiretapping americans, not one. I do have problems with wiretapping americans without warrants when there are viable options to do so and keep it legal. I do not see why the administration is so bent on doing this without legal oversight.

We are protected from warrantless searches to ensure checks and balances. “No matter how people want to spin it, it still comes down to that right there. Period. “

Posted by: chantico at February 8, 2006 5:31 PM
Comment #122418

rahdigly,

From Internetnews;

http://www.internetnews.com/ent-news/article.php/3582226

“February 1, 2006
EFF Sues AT&T Over NSA Wiretaps
By Ed Sutherland


The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T Tuesday, charging the carrier violated the law by assisting in the National Security Agency’s controversial wiretap program. AT&T provided federal eavesdroppers access to a database of caller information, according to the lawsuit.

“The NSA program is apparently the biggest fishing expedition ever devised,” according to Kevin Bankston, EFF staff attorney.”

From ABC News;

http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1491889

NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying
“Jan 10, 2006 — Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet.

“Tracking Calls

Tice says the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call as they are switched through centers, such as one in New York, and to search for key words or phrases that a terrorist might use.

“If you picked the word ‘jihad’ out of a conversation,” Tice said, “the technology exists that you focus in on that conversation, and you pull it out of the system for processing.”

According to Tice, intelligence analysts use the information to develop graphs that resemble spiderwebs linking one suspect’s phone number to hundreds or even thousands more.”

From wikipedia;

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NSA_warrantless_surveillance_controversy

“In 2002 the President of the United States, George W. Bush, issued an executive order which authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct warrantless phone-taps of persons who were believed to be linked to al-Qaeda or its affiliates. (The complete details of this authorization are still not fully known). The NSA maintained wiretaps on international communications, including those that included U.S. citizens on American soil.”

There are 1.43 million results on google.

How much proof do you need?

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 5:37 PM
Comment #122421

RahDiggly,

How can what bush is doing be Legal and Constitutiona; When CONSTITUTIONAL ALWYERS will tell you it is ILLEGAL (because technically it is illegal) and UNCONSTITUTIONAL (because technically it IS unconstitutional). What you are talking about has absolutely no basis in American law on any legal books at any time. If you say it has basis as constitutionality or legality you are wrong on those two counts period.

Joebagodonuts,

You seem a little brighter than the herd. I think this all barrels down to checks and balances for the sake of the NSA themselves (& all other intel agencies) having a means to centralize and maintain a coherant approach to fighting terror and intercepting potential terror transcommunications which I am for as well. But if things are being done by a greatly partisan administration with no means of checks who are actively seeking political gains be they right wing or left. It poses a problem and myriad red flags.

There really has to be a means of checks and balances, you are aware our constitution provides the clause of “illegal searches and seizures”. WE can’t throw away our constitution or our country’s heritage of liberty over terrorism or guess what Joe???—-THEY WON and WE ALLOWED IT.

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #122423

Jack,

Glad you knew Franklin persnally. other quotes from him include:

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”

“sell not virtue to purchase wealth, nor liberty to purchase power.”

then, of course, there’s my favorite:

“God made beer because he loves us and wants us to be happy.”

this is FYI…maybe you can enlighten us on the “actual” meaning of those statements as well since you personally knew him and his behavior…

Don’t take offense, Jack…I’m being intentionally sarcastic (in a light-hearted way). But please do elaborate on what you think Franklin meant…

Posted by: Tom L at February 8, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #122424

Adrienne:

Still don’t think you answered the question. The law MIGHT be rewritten as some have suggested. Just today, Jane Wilson of New Mexico suggested that “the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs to be updated to “take into account new technology.” If it is rewritten, then in the future, the NSA type of data mining might fit in under FISA guidlines. Which would make it undeniably legal with no question on that subject whatsoever. So….in that case, would you have a problem with it. A simple yes or no is all thats required for an answer.

You don’t think the FISA court would have approved the NSA wiretapping. Okay—the next question then is whether the wiretapping is necessary. If it truly prevents terrorist attacks, then I’d say its necessary. Personally, I’m for those things that prevent attacks. Of course, if a terrorist attack happens, there will be those who complain that enough hasn’t been done, even if they are among those not wanting more to be done. Its a conundrum that I just don’t understand.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 8, 2006 5:47 PM
Comment #122425

Rock,
“(The complete details of this authorization are still not fully known).”

Exactly. If the “details of this authorization are still not fully known” then you don’t have a case. You just proved your arguement is false. Thanks.


“The NSA maintained wiretaps on international communications, including those that included U.S. citizens on American soil.”

Correct. Al Qaeda (outside the US), making calls to their terror cells in the US is exactly what that quote is talking about. The American people already know this fact, so changing it to make a point is just not working.

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 5:48 PM
Comment #122427

rahdigly,


“Correct. Al Qaeda (outside the US), making calls to their terror cells in the US is exactly what that quote is talking about. The American people already know this fact, so changing it to make a point is just not working.”

What part of “US citizens on American soil” don’t you understand?

My fear is that these cases, if they ever come to trial in an “American” court, and if they are against “American” citizens they will be thrown out on a technicality. That being that the taps were obtained against “American” citizens illegally.
These are criminal cases, not military cases as you mistakenly identified them. They should be prosecuted in an “American” court, not a tribunal.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 5:57 PM
Comment #122431

rahdigly,

Your previous post is an example of the right’s attitude toward this whole affair.
You pick anything out of a post that you think makes your point and ignore any evidence to the contrary.
Did you actually read any of the links I provided?

I doubt it.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 6:05 PM
Comment #122440

Rocky, perhaps, Rahdigly is on to something. Perhaps Bush is waging war on the American people as well. There appears to be growing evidence of that, doesn’t there?

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 8, 2006 6:33 PM
Comment #122441

David,

I couldn’t agree with you more.

There seems to be an acute lack of accountability in the government and it seems to start at the top.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 6:37 PM
Comment #122442

rahdigly,

You state that incoming calls from terrorist are what is monitored. What about out-going calls to terrorist? I assume (and hope) they are also monitored even thought they originate in the U.S.

Now, do have have faith that our intelligence is accurate 100% of the time? Given our intelligence on Iraq before the war I kinda doubt it. So, if the NSA has it’s intelligence wrong and happens to label you (a U.S. citizen) as a terrorist becasue you are calling your family or business associate (that happens to live in the Middle East) what is your recourse to contest this claim? I mean, without a warrant of probable cause and no paper trail…how do you clear your name?

I think the President is right in monitoring calls. I think the left and right agree on that issue. However, according to the constitution, a U.S. citizen sould not have their privacy intruded or be searched without a warrant. Would you trust President Hilliary Clinton with this kind of un-checked power? Think about that before you answer…..

There are folks on both sides of the isle that have problems with how this president is doing what he is doing.

Posted by: Tom L at February 8, 2006 6:38 PM
Comment #122447

JOE,

Wiretaps are essential and legal the question is of the means by which they are attained. The rubberstamping provides a means by which covert elements of our US government can go over the data. These are secret courts, no hinderance and and lots of leniency built into them. The question is why would Bush not go by these courts (or what can also be more accurately described as near star-chambers). So the question is why, correct? Why would Bush need to color so far outside the lines? That is the real question. You say it keeps us safe or are atleast proposing something in that direction, what makes you say that Bush isn’t doing things like Corporate spying or spying on opposing political groups or a hundred other things that have little to do with fighting terror networks here and abroad.

Now with them circumventing the courts it says dead on that he is using this data mining for things of borderline irrelevancy to counter terrorism, does it not. the courts are secret, No public exposure, rubber stamp with a ninety nine percent approval of searches—why would he need more it is just paperwork. SO THE QUESTION IS: Why is this administration afraid of the necessary paperwork if they aren’t doing anything wrong??? Something about this smells of the whacky stuff when SECRETIVE paperwork becomes a threat to this White House, does it not? What are they hiding that would cause them not to even secretly file?

Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 6:48 PM
Comment #122448

David,

I have always wondered why we have never heard of a Buddhist connected with terrorism. It would seem to me that they have better answers than the other religions, or at very least, better values about human life.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 6:50 PM
Comment #122457

“Still don’t think you answered the question.”

Uh, yes I did. Maybe you just didn’t like my answers.

“The law MIGHT be rewritten as some have suggested. Just today, Jane Wilson of New Mexico suggested that “the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act needs to be updated to “take into account new technology.” If it is rewritten, then in the future, the NSA type of data mining might fit in under FISA guidlines. Which would make it undeniably legal with no question on that subject whatsoever.”

That’s nothing but spin. There is nothing all that new they are dealing with here. David Remer actually addressed this point in his center column ‘Childish Blame’ thread yesterday — and did a brilliant job of it, too. Go look at his post in reply to Craig… Here, I just went and looked it up for you, search for this post:
David R. Remer at February 6, 2006 04:06 AM
Just read what he wrote, because I couldn’t agree with him more.

“So….in that case, would you have a problem with it. A simple yes or no is all thats required for an answer.”

Yes, because that’s bunk. And because David spelled out exactly why that is so, I won’t bother to elaborate further here.

“If it truly prevents terrorist attacks, then I’d say its necessary. Personally, I’m for those things that prevent attacks. Of course, if a terrorist attack happens, there will be those who complain that enough hasn’t been done, even if they are among those not wanting more to be done. Its a conundrum that I just don’t understand.”

Did you read that article I put up for you earlier? The NSA doesn’t have their sh*t together at all when it comes to info gathering. What they are actually doing by spying on so many law abiding American citizens is waste their time and swamp themselves with so much useless info that it’s making it HARDER for them to focus on what they need to regarding terrorist threat assessment.
As for all this fear: those who are willing to discard our Constitution for a little bit of highly debateable security are complete wimps — and are in fact, allowing the terrorists to win.

The way I see it, those of us on the Left sound like true patriots trying to convince a bunch of timid Nancy’s to show a little courage. Why can’t you see that we cannot allow these assholes to make us turn our backs on, or permanently subvert the intrepid spirit that has made America the great nation it is?

Which do you prefer?

“Give me Liberty, or give me Death!”

Or

“I’m scared to die! Take my rights! Take my privacy! Do whatever it takes, just don’t let them kill me!”

Me, I’ll take the first one, thanks.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 7:14 PM
Comment #122462

phx8:
“Awesome post!”

Thanks! Coming from you that means a lot.

“Great comments about the FISA court and its secrecy. It’s bad enough we have secret courts. That’s highly questionable in and of itself. But when the executive branch decides even a secretive, rubber stamp FISA court is too much oversight, we’re in serious trouble.”

You’re damn right we are. There is no excuse for what they’ve done, and everything reason they’ve been giving is total BS.

Rocky, great info packed reply to Rah.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 8, 2006 7:28 PM
Comment #122466

Adrienne,
The rotating rationales and excuses sure raise suspicion. It would be pretty easy for the White House to work this out with the Republican Congress. Instead, Bush administration officials keep changing stories. Makes you wonder… Open the door to a little torture, and a whole lot of torture comes in. Open the door to a little surveillance, and a whole lot of surveillance is the result.

Checks and balances are there for a reason. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And when the people walking the road are blinded by power and their own arrogance, it’s a quick trip.

Rocky,
Non-violence, ahimsa, is fundamental to Buddhism. A violent Buddhist would like a born again Evangelical Christian who doesn’t believe in Jesus. Buddhism doesn’t involve worship, God, Jesus, or the lack thereof. In fact, a person could be a Christian as well as a Buddhist.
Buddhists seek to quell that which causes violence within themselves.

Posted by: phx8 at February 8, 2006 7:37 PM
Comment #122468

phx8,

“Buddhism doesn’t involve worship, God, Jesus, or the lack thereof. In fact, a person could be a Christian as well as a Buddhist.”

My statement was retorical.

I forgot the sarcasm alert.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 7:49 PM
Comment #122469

Jack,

“the executive branch is defending its prerogatives”

“security. Leaks. The President has briefed the chairmen and the ranking Democrats on the relevant committees, as is the practice of presidents past. That IS a safeguard”

LOL, those excuses are so weak I’m surprised you even have the nerve to offer them up.

So you think the president is above the law and more interested in protecting America than either Congress or the FISA Courts! It never ceases to amaze me how far some will go to justify the actions of this president no matter how egregious.

Posted by: RMD at February 8, 2006 7:53 PM
Comment #122471

Rahdigly-

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.

The only thing I see there is the guarantee that Americans will “be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures” There is no provision necessitating that this be a criminal matter.

Calls to the US from al-Qaeda members can be monitored without warrants if one can be fairly certain that the people communicating will be non-citizens. But once American citizens are involved, the Fourth Amendment applies.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 8:02 PM
Comment #122480

Spying on our enemies is necessary, including the ones in our midst who are American citizens. The structures are in place to do it within the law. Our elected officials should be held to a high standard of obedience to the law. If we allow them to ignore the law with impunity we will soon find that we are no longer under the rule of law, but are under the arbitrary rule of an emperor.
To paraphrase(Franklin, I think)-“For my own protection, I would demand a warrant to spy on the devil himself”.

Posted by: steve at February 8, 2006 8:37 PM
Comment #122498

Adrienne:

I read all of David’s posts. While I don’t often agree in total with his ideas, I find his posts extremely well written. It’s salient to note that he did answer my question: “I absolutely agree with the administration having the power to surveil American contacts with our enemies. Only a damn fool would object.” He went on to explain his concern about a government being too authoritarian, which is his greater concern. I guess what you call “bunk”, others are able to respond to.

As far as your two alternatives, I’d have to suggest that they are so polarized as to offer no option other than the one you chose. I’d choose it too, if those were the only alternatives. That you see those as the alternatives, when I see that there are vastly more complex alternatives, gives me a better viewpoint into your thought process. Thanks.

Ahkmad the troll:

I’ve discussed in other post the rationale for circumventing FISA. I’ve discussed simply the possibilities, which as I see them are: A) a power grab B) a desire to protect the people within legal grounds C) an honest attempt to protect people that goes beyond Bush’s authority.

If he could get the information he needed by going through FISA, he would have. It would be politically safer and easier. So I’m left to think he couldn’t get the information, or at least believes he couldnt get it.

Some are saying all he had to do was go to FISA. Some are saying FISA would not authorize the NSA type of searches. If the searches are truly effective in stopping terrorism, then I’m for them, and would hope FISA would be rewritten to allow them. If on the other hand it can be shown that they are simply ineffective and thus an empty invasion of privacy, then I’d be against them. I doubt we’ll ever really know the answer to that.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 8, 2006 9:37 PM
Comment #122501

Adrienne; another good post. I’m glad you printed out the entire speech. Feingold comes through once again!
jbd; I think you missed Feingold’s point about oversight by the senate and house to prevent the president from making his own laws as we saw in Nixon’s attempt. The laws were set up to prevent a dictatorship.
p.s. By now you have probably seen the news that Bush has agreed to change his mind once more, under pressure, and allow his “program” to be inspected.
Sometimes it just takes public pressure to remind this president that he is not in total control.

Posted by: jcp at February 8, 2006 9:42 PM
Comment #122505

Tom

Franklin was a diplomat in France and an agent for the various states in London before the war. While in France, he engaged in various types on influence peddling and activities we would call spying. While he never personally told me so, he would have read letters from the British that came into his possession or he could get into his possession.

The indication of that is throughout our history, we intercepted communications between Americans and foreign agents routinely. Franklin Roosevelt intercepted all communications into the U.S. Benedict Arnold’s plot was revealed through his letters. This hypersensitivity about privacy is largely the product of the 1960s and 1970s. It is an interpretation of the Constitution; it is not the Constitution. Interpretations change.

All of us have a problem that none of us really know what he is talking about. The details of this program are unknown. But these things seem clear.

-FISA was not designed for this situation. It applies only if the surveillance is conducted within the U.S., or if the target is an American. The law does not specifically address the interception of wartime enemy communications.

-There is a Constitutional disagreement about the President’s powers that has not been settled. We don’t know how the Supreme Court would rule or even if it should decide this kind of political case.

-Even the program’s biggest (informed) critics don’t claim that the President was using it politically. Career intelligence officials, most of whom also held their jobs during the Clinton Administration, were in charge of the program. People who say otherwise know even less than you and I do.

-The program seems to be mostly a matter of data mining.

I would add a political warning. I support this program because I think it help keep us safer. I prefer it doesn’t expand or be used politically. But I fear that both parties might try,especially if there is another attack. If this becomes a political issue, it is much more dangerous for the Dems. I can figure out a hundred ways to smear the Dems on this issue, and I am not even very good at these things. Security it too important to be politicized, so I would appeal to both parties not to do it.

Posted by: Jack at February 8, 2006 9:47 PM
Comment #122514

“Would you trust President Hilliary Clinton with this kind of un-checked power? Think about that before you answer”


As I’ve said before, yes I would trust any President with this kind of unchecked power; that’s why “ELECTIONS MATTER”. In fact, we’ve trusted past Presidents and there wasn’t as much clamoring as there is now; and this is after a 9/11, not before. Amazing.

“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.”

The key word there is “unreasonable searches and seizures”. Will someone stand up and confess that they (actually) believe that eavesdropping on Al Qaeda, making calls to their terror networks in the US, is “Unreasonable”? Someone show some stones and admit that, please. Explain how eavesdropping on the enemy isn’t reasonable. And, to all you good (libertarian) Americans fighting for all of our rights, explain how letting the enemy know that all they have to do is hide behind our laws to do their dirty work is best for America. Explain that you good Americans, come on. Do it!!

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 10:18 PM
Comment #122518

Joe-
If Bush had only done this, I’d buy your argument. It’s a pattern of Behavior, of doing things the average person would find objectionable, then going full force on the rhetoric to rationalize it to the American Public. I can site twelve:

1)To give a huge no-bid contract to the Vice President’s former company. Whatever happened to avoiding even the appearance of impropriety?

2)Recess-appointing John Bolton.

3)Populating agencies, including FEMA, with cronies.

4)Not firing the Leakers of Plame’s identity, especially not before one ended up indicted for lying about it.

5)The collapse of the Case for War.

6)The torture memoes,a nd the general attitude towards the use of such methods

7)Excluding a post-war occupation from the plans we went to war on.

8)Failing to find Osama Bin Laden after having made a promise to the American people to find him and bring him to justice.

9)The failure to halt the collapse of law and order in Iraq and the emergence of the Insurgency.

10)The failure to secure the situation in the Aftermath of Katrina promptly and effectively.

11)The failure to fix the problems that the official, Bipartisan commission investigating 9/11 highlighted as the causes of that disaster.

12)The failure to maintain a balanced budget.

These are real failures, real mistakes, and the fact is Bush has put more effort into doing damage control in the aftermath of these screw-ups and outrages than he has into actually fixing these problems.

You ever wonder why the criticism is so constant? It’s because nobody ever sees him actually solve the problem. If he ever admits there’s a problem, its long after something can be done about it. Even then, all we get back is choreographed displays of defiance and disdain for our point of view. We’re told we’re hating on him, we’re told we’re just being irrationally angry, and that all this outrage and concern are just making us less electable.

In short, all we get is Bullshit, and the response on the whole NSA thing is just that. But worst of all, it’s scary bullshit.

We’re being told that our constitutional freedom, our security against unwarranted search and seizure depends on the president’s rather expansive interpretation of his powers as Commander in Chief in wartime. And this Wartime he’s talking about is particularly indefinite.

When is it finally too much? When do words fail you, and you stand with the rest of us, most of America in wondering how we got so far away from good government, trustworthy government, effective government even?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 10:39 PM
Comment #122520

rahdigly,

“Explain how eavesdropping on the enemy isn’t reasonable. And, to all you good (libertarian) Americans fighting for all of our rights, explain how letting the enemy know that all they have to do is hide behind our laws to do their dirty work is best for America. Explain that you good Americans, come on. Do it!!”

Evesdropping isn’t what this is about.
Nobody debates the need for intellegence.
This is about spying on American citizens with out a warrant.
Get your fingers out of your ears and listen for once in your life.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 10:43 PM
Comment #122521

Jack-
There is a section in the law that specifically addresses wartime communications of the enemy.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 8, 2006 10:44 PM
Comment #122525

Rocky,
“Evesdropping isn’t what this is about.
Nobody debates the need for intellegence.
This is about spying on American citizens with out a warrant.”

Eavesdropping is (exactly) what it’s about and you’re never (ever!) going to convince me otherwise on that. So, do us both a favor and find someone else that you can try and convince with that one. It was eavesdropping on Al Qaeda and the left has twisted that to say he was spying on Americans. Bull!! He was spying on Al Qaeda and the only Americans who’s rights were violated were ones that Al Qaeda was talking to.


Doesn’t it dawn on the left, even a little bit, that they would actually spin this in Al Qaeda’s favor just to get at the President. Newsflash, Bush isn’t running for reelection anymore, he already won. They might want to try to work on their National Security strategy b/c this is a perfect example of why Americans don’t trust the dems with National Security. Al Qaeda is the enemy and they don’t get the same rights as American Citizens. And if Al Qaeda’s talking to someone in the US, our gov’t better be there listening to prevent another attack. Just like they did with the Brooklyn Bridge; I don’t hear the brave americans talk about that, nothing about the good this program did. Nothing!

Posted by: rahdigly at February 8, 2006 11:11 PM
Comment #122529

rahdigly,

“Just like they did with the Brooklyn Bridge; I don’t hear the brave americans talk about that, nothing about the good this program did. Nothing!”

If you belive the story about the Brooklyn Bridge, I hear it is for sale.

Posted by: Rocky at February 8, 2006 11:22 PM
Comment #122538

Is the “spying” on Americans done by joining into the organizations which suspect persons are involved in and reporting such activity to the proper authorities and doing so without a search warrant a violation of any law or unconstitutional? Why or Why not?

Posted by: tomh at February 9, 2006 12:05 AM
Comment #122568

Dear Mr. President,

Regarding NSA wiretaps. You are wrong. There must be oversight. No one is above the law, not even my president. I am usually willing to give you the benefit of the doubt when it comes to having our best interests at heart, but that does not give you a free pass to subvert the law. The court and the congress are there for a reason, to protect our rights, and for crying out loud I’m tired of being fed the line that conducting your business lawfully is too much of a burden on national security- it is national security! Straighten up, man, or move aside. I demand a class act, and no less, from all of those who represent my country.

-Amani

Posted by: Amani at February 9, 2006 3:57 AM
Comment #122602

jcp:


jbd; I think you missed Feingold’s point about oversight by the senate and house to prevent the president from making his own laws

I didn’t miss Feingold’s point at all. I clarified that there are two issues that are distinct in Feingold’s thinking. My comment was as follows: “As I understand him, Feingold is saying that the wiretapping itself is not his primary issue of concern. His primary issue is that Bush circumvented FISA…”

My point was that Feingold says he agrees we need to wiretap, but that we need to do it with proper oversight. He feels Bush overstepped his legal authority. So its not the wiretapping that Feingold is upset over—its the overstepping.

There is no question that Bush approved the NSA wiretaps…the only question is whether it was legal for him to do so. Legal experts on both sides of the political spectrum are weighing in on the legality of Bush’s actions. It will eventually end up in the courts.

My question has been this: If the courts find that Bush’s actions were legal, then will “the left” accept it, or will they consider it still illegal? And if they consider it illegal, then by what means? If the “left” will not accept the rulings of our judicial system, then what are we left with?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 7:02 AM
Comment #122686

“My question has been this: If the courts find that Bush’s actions were legal, then will “the left” accept it, or will they consider it still illegal?”

Of course, like any of us, I can only speak for myself, but:

I would accept it. I would have to, like I accepted and supported the President’s nominations of Roberts, Alito, and even Miers. I believe in the rule of law.

I would also believe that those decisions were wrongly decided. That is my right. I would hope that the president chooses wisely in deciding when to wiretap American citizens without going through FISA. The only good thing that came from opening Pandora’s box, after all, was that it admitted hope into the world.

I would also work even harder to ensure a Democratic president in 2008. Fortunately or not, the federal judiciary is unavoidably tied to politics, and I would want to redouble my efforts to see a government which shared my views of civil liberties.

But I would accept the decision, yes, just like I accepted Bush v. Gore in 2000.

Posted by: Arr-squared at February 9, 2006 12:28 PM
Comment #122688

Stephen:

You are certainly entitled to your viewpoint. But don’t mistake your viewpoint for the only one out there. If that were the case, Bush would not have been re-elected.

You have some valid points in your list. I agree that the budget is a problem. I have no problem with the budget having gone up, due to expenses from Homeland Security, the war, and from 9-11. But the budget has gone up in far many other ways as well. I’d like to have seen the veto pen come out on something like the Transportation Bill, which was loaded with goodies. I’d agree also that the federal response to Katrina was flawed, as were the local and state responses.

You include “The failure to halt the collapse of law and order in Iraq and the emergence of the Insurgency.” You might as well claim that Bush has failed to eliminate world hunger and has not created world peace. Its very easy to blithely toss blame at Bush, but it must be done in an even handed manner. I’ll admit, you do it much more even handedly than some others in here (y’all know who you are, so I’ll refrain from antagonizing you individually).

Stephen, if we go by your standards, we have no choice to conclude that Bush is failing. But if you hold other Presidents to the same level of accountability that you hold Bush to, you’d find that no President ever has, or ever could, live up to your standards. I believe your standards to be unfairly high. I’ve posted before about D-Day and all the mistakes and intelligence failures that existed. Yet it is considered one of America’s finest hours in combat. Were it viewed through the microscope with which Bush is viewed, D-Day would certainly be deemed a disaster.

Thanks for your comments—I truly appreciate them. And I think we both want a strong, prosperous and secure nation. I think that’s what any President wants too. There are just differing ideas of how to accomplish those goals.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 12:35 PM
Comment #122690

jbod:
“As far as your two alternatives, I’d have to suggest that they are so polarized as to offer no option other than the one you chose. I’d choose it too, if those were the only alternatives. That you see those as the alternatives, when I see that there are vastly more complex alternatives, gives me a better viewpoint into your thought process. Thanks.”

I know you’re trying hard to insult me by using the word “polarized” here, but the truth is, this is an issue that must be viewed as completely polarizing. Either this the president broke the law and violated the rights of law abiding Americans, or didn’t. And when it comes to the Fourth Amendment, either the Constitution will be respected and upheld, or it won’t from here on out.

What I find almost funny about this, is the fact that what we are really talking about in regards to the Fourth Amendment is whether the word “unreasonable” may now apply to whatever this president and his administration wishes to do — or wishes to claim they are secretly doing — in the name of “security”. And, whatever any president in the future may do in the never-ending “War on Terror”.
Reasonable and Unreasonable are very polarizing words, are they not?

“If the courts find that Bush’s actions were legal, then will “the left” accept it, or will they consider it still illegal? And if they consider it illegal, then by what means?”

If they retroactively decide that it was fine for the president to circumvent the FISA law, to generally ignore laws wherever it is inconvienient for him, they are in effect saying the president has the power to decide what is and is not the law as he goes along. Which will be in direct opposition to what the Constituiton tells us about our laws, who can make them, and who must abide by them. That rather than a president, we are now ruled over by a King, whose dictates will become law.

“If the “left” will not accept the rulings of our judicial system, then what are we left with?”

If our judicial system is reduced to a sham because it will now be shaped and formed to suit the will of a King, we are going to be left with only one thing — the need for another American Revolution.

He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from opposition; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach himself.

—Thomas Paine

Posted by: Adrienne at February 9, 2006 12:37 PM
Comment #122695

Adrienne et al

You can quote the words of freedom all you want. We all agree with them. What we have is a major disagreement about the meaning of liberty and freedom.

As I understand the TSP it is neither illegal nor a threat to liberty. In fact, I see it as an enhancement of liberty in that to the extent we can make ourselves safe, we will not need to restrict our liberties as much. You (and others) disagree and quote founding fathers.

Until the 1960s and 1970s it was an accepted idea that the government would intercept any communications it could get its hands on that came from an enemy in time of war. Can you imagine if we broke the Japanese code, but would not listen to transmits because some American radio operators used the same frequencies? So all these guys everyone quotes would have been surprised that there was any controversy about it.

My guess is that Thomas Paine would have indeed been against this program, but Franklin, Madison, and Washington would have thought it was a good idea. Adams and Hamilton would have thought it didn’t go far enough. Jefferson would have sat on the fence and opposed it in theory while welcoming it in practices.

I just listened to a good talk by Clinton’s CIA director James Wolsey. Listen to it yourselves. He give a very reasoned argument, 75% in favor of the Bush policy.

Posted by: Jack at February 9, 2006 12:56 PM
Comment #122712

Rocky,

So, couldn’t answer those questions in my 2/8/06 11:11pm post. Guess you’re not the debater we thought you were.


Amani,
“Dear Mr. President,
Regarding NSA wiretaps. You are wrong. There must be oversight. No one is above the law, not even my president.”


Dear Amani, Your wrong. The president has the power to execute these policies to keep America safe; it’s been done in the past and will continue in the future. Allowing the enemy to know that we are spying on them will cause them to change tactics or do something else; that’s not good for America when we have to explain to committee after committee what we’re doing with covert operations like the NSA program did. Besides, Congress already gave the President Authority to conduct this war and the President already briefed members of Congress about this program. So, go write a letter to Congress about being “above the law”.


Think! And, not with a partisan mind; think! This is keeping Americans safer and making it harder and more dangerous for the enemy. Are you opposed to that?!

Posted by: rahdigly at February 9, 2006 1:21 PM
Comment #122726

Adrienne:

I know you’re trying hard to insult me by using the word “polarized” here, but the truth is, this is an issue that must be viewed as completely polarizing.

I was not at all trying to insult you. I was showing that your two options were such setups that no one would make a choice different from the option you chose. My point was that your two options were not the only options to see—-just the only ones that you chose to see, or perhaps could see.

This isn’t intended to insult either. From reading your posts, I see someone who has completely bought into the notion that Bush is a terrible President—-that’s your right. But I see it coloring your viewpoint so that it obscures anything that might give a different viewpoint. I might be guilty of the same from the opposite perspective— I don’t think that’s the case, but I’m sure you might think it is precisely the case.

Your two options were similar to the question of “Have you stopped spitting on your mother yet?” Just by the way the question is posed, there is no sufficient answer other than to go outside the bounds of the question. Same with your two options.

There is currently talk of FISA being rewritten to address newer technology, since FISA was written years ago. FISA already allows wiretapping to some degree, so we know that wiretapping in and of itself is not illegal. Its even something that most people want the government to do, as evidenced by even someone like Feingold saying wiretapping is acceptable.

If FISA is rewritten, what will it allow? Its possible that it will allow the current type of wiretapping that the NSA is doing—-it also might not. But…if it does, then have we devolved to the kind of society you can’t accept, or have we simply moved in a fully transparent and legal fashion to a new standard of acceptance?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 1:40 PM
Comment #122769

Joe-
The question is whether something substantive is driving Bush’s problems.

People like you believe it is only about viewpoints, but eventually reality catches up to all viewpoints and puts them to the test. Those who believed Clinton innocent in the late nineties found their viewpoint put to a fatal test when he admitted the affair with Monica Lewinsky. Being one of those who believed him innocent, I learned a lesson about the difference between what one can believe, and what is actually the case.

Bush is suffering his problems on these issues for the same reason Clinton couldn’t shake Lewinsky: the substance of the truth endures, and causes the same questions to be raised again and again, until they are satisfied. The Iraq war, interminable as it is at the moment, will not fail to haunt the president. Bush’s decisions on who he appoints, once made, are inescapable. He can’t say that he didn’t appoint Michael Brown, that he didn’t try to give Harriet Miers a seat on the Supreme Court, that his administrations response wasn’t seriously delayed, etc, etc.

Bush and the GOP have continued to run away from the substance of the things they have done, and what they are doing now, and what they fail to realize is that substance creates image much easier than image does substance. Image can be manipulated endlessly, but substance can only be changed on its own terms.

Until we redeem the substance of our actions, the Republicans and everybody else will find themselves overwhelmed again and again by the negative images and consequences that result from the failures in substance that have transpired.

There is no easy way out of this, no way that you folks can simply talk your way out of these problems. This isn’t an image problem, this is a substance problem, and if you’re not willing to confront that, all your viewpoints will simply be an exercise in self-deception.

Look at the latest polls. Most Americans do not see the president as trustworthy anymore. Nor do they find Republican Leadership superior to Democrat any longer. Both the failures to act substantively in good faith, and the inability to acknowledget that failure have corroded the support for the Republicans.

Jack-
The name FISA stands for The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I’m sorry your pundits think so little of their audience’s intelligence that they would inflict such an obvious lie on you people.

It will be a sad day when we let the Fourth Amendment become obsolete because we’re too lazy or short-sighted to update the system to accomodate advances in technology. My answer to you on the issues of new surveillance is two fold: either we’ve already figured out how to make the accommodation, or we’ll figure it out.

On E-mail, I think it’s already established that e-mail is not a secure form of communication, though it should take a warrant to inspect the server of the company. As far as cellphones go, a reasonable warrant on a suspect might be extended to another cellphone if it was discovered one existed. After all, you have probable cause on the suspect in the first place.

Published blogs do not fall under the fourth Amendment, as they are public domain. You can’t walk out naked in your front yard and then sue the people who see you for invasion of privacy.

As far as knowing who is investigated and who is not, I highly doubt your point carries. Cellphone numbers, internet access, and other communications nowadays can be very precise in establishing location, and identity. Think about how the managing editors lock out people from commenting. The Internet isn’t quite the wild wild west people imagine. It’s much more like a city built in hypertext.

Rahdigly-
Reasonable means that if an American citizen is on the line, you get a warrant. That’s how our courts interpret that clause.

With FISA, there’s no real barrier for getting a warrant if there is probable cause, which there would be with American members, if they were involved. You guys act as if they are clever enough to circumvent all suspicion, but they can’t operate above suspicion if they’re al-Qaeda, being that we consider them a Terrorist group.

You have too little faith in our laws. You act as if we’re utterly defenseless. Remember, paranoia is a waste of good suspicion. you end up distracting yourselves from good, legitimate means of catching and watching these people because you assume that the only means of getting in their way are the dark, ruthless means. You make the mistake of believing that because they operate outside our laws to win, we must do so, too. That is not necessarily the case. Creativity and surprise are more important than zealousness when it comes to confronting these people. Even the law can be reinterpreted by our lawyers, allowing us to take legal strategies against them their lawyers have not thought of. You’re so use to thinking of us as cowards, that you really fail to consider that ours is a difference of technique and not intent or the courage to carry it out.

The difference here is that Democrats like myself feel an equal if not greater obligation to protect our freedoms to that of protecting our lives. If we give up the first out of fear to gain the second, all we have done is imprison ourselves in a system we no longer properly control.

I think it’s worth my life to live free, even if that gives the terrorists enough freedom to kill me. To live under chains on their account would just be too much of a humiliation for me to bear. Don’t get me wrong: if I can be secure and free, I have a healthy enough sense of self-preservation to want that to be the case. If my government has to do something extreme in an emergency to protect us, well then so be it then, too. But otherwise, I want us to be both the land of the free and the home of the brave.

People with courage are willing to face dangers in order to live life like it should be lived. To me, that means being willing to give up security for freedom, when the choice is given.

So are you so afraid of the terrorists that you would allow your fear to trap you in an authoritarian state for fear of your life?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 9, 2006 2:50 PM
Comment #122777

jbod: It is apparent, at this time, that there will be a rewriting of the FISA law. I’m sure the rewrite will allow some form of wiretapping. Whatever form the rewrite takes, we will all have to live with it, no matter our political persuasion.
My point is, and I know Bush supporters disagree, the president had the obligation to either inform congress of his intentions or to abide by the law as it was written. You can parse it any way you like, but, unless we have suddenly begun living in an empire, we should be able to expect our leaders to be open and above board about their actions.
If Bush had done this initially, we wouldn’t be having this discussion now.
I think this administration, save C. Rice, has never heard or understood the word, transparency.
I understand, since I have friends and relatives who are hard line right wingers, how you guys feel about your leader. I just want you all to know, I will be very happy when this entire administration is gone from our government.
jcp

Posted by: jcp at February 9, 2006 3:05 PM
Comment #122783

Stephen Daugherty,

Well stated. I couldn’t agree more.

Posted by: Tom L at February 9, 2006 3:18 PM
Comment #122798

jcp:

I think we’ve reached a point where we understand each other. That doesn’t equate to agreement, but a solid understanding is nonetheless important.

President Bush says he informed Congress. And of course he did, but in a very limited way. President Bush says that he abided by the laws of our country, and many people agree with this. Many others disagree with this. Its a matter for the courts and for people with a better and deeper understanding of the laws and the Constitution than I have.

As long as there are legal experts from varying political viewpoints who have honest questions about the legality or illegality of the wiretaps, I’m not willing to say they are illegal. They may end up being determined to be illegal, but as of yet, that is very much in question.

There are those who feel that its too much of an intrusion even if the wiretaps are deemed legal. That is their right to feel that way, and they are free to work within the system to create the laws to unequivocally make the wiretaps illegal.

An interesting sidenote is that I have yet to hear anyone who disagrees with the wiretaps saying they should stop. Russ Feingold says, “Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority, and we all agree that we need to wiretap them to do it. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap terrorists.”

So there are those who want the checks and balances to be firmly in place, but also want the wiretapping to continue. Yknow, I’m truly in that same place—I too want checks and balances. I don’t want a completely unfettered Presidency capable of doing what it wants. Not because I dont trust THIS president, as some don’t, but because I don’t know which President down the road will take those powers further.

My belief is that Bush has acted within the law. Lots of legal scholars agree with that position. Some believe that he has pushed the envelope, but that he’s still within the law. Others believe he’s outside the law. It all remains to be determined, by those with more expertise than us Watchblog denizens.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 3:42 PM
Comment #122799

“Just by the way the question is posed, there is no sufficient answer other than to go outside the bounds of the question. Same with your two options.”

Do you know what I see, Joe? Someone who is trying to avoid responding honestly to the points I’ve been trying to make. So let me ask you a few direct questions since I’ve answered so many of yours.
1. Do you think, after reading what I laid out about the complete secrecy of the FISA court and the way that court has always handled these issues, that it was acceptable for the president to ignore that court and the law as it was written?
2. Do you think that broad and sweeping datamining, wiretapping, mail opening, e-mail snooping, and the searching of homes of law abiding American citizens by a secret government intelligence agency should not be considered “unreasonable searches and seisures” that are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment?
3. Do you think Congress or the Judiciary has a right to either ignore or retroactively sanction the president when he breaks the law and/or violates the Constitution?

“FISA already allows wiretapping to some degree, so we know that wiretapping in and of itself is not illegal. Its even something that most people want the government to do, as evidenced by even someone like Feingold saying wiretapping is acceptable.”

Indeed. Where reasonable and with probable cause.

“If FISA is rewritten, what will it allow? Its possible that it will allow the current type of wiretapping that the NSA is doing—-it also might not. But…if it does, then have we devolved to the kind of society you can’t accept, or have we simply moved in a fully transparent and legal fashion to a new standard of acceptance?”

In my opinion, if the word “unreasonable” is rendered meaningless by rewriting the FISA laws, in effect gutting the entire intent and the purpose of the Fourth Amendment, than America is well on the way to becoming a totalitarian nation.

And NO, I cannot and will not accept that in America.
In fact, I would be willing, just like many others before me, to put my life on the line to protect our liberty and freedom as outlined in our Constitution, rather than live under despotic tyranny in exchange for a measure of safety.

“New standards of acceptance”?! “Transparent and Legal”?!

Perhaps you cannot see the heavy irony, but I find it truly laughable that you would talk about transparency and legitimacy when we are talking about secret courts, and secretly-made presidential decisions to circumvent the law, and secret intelligence agencies having no oversight and no limits placed upon them to monitor and spy on our citizens.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 9, 2006 3:42 PM
Comment #122804

Stephen, you rock. Great post!

Posted by: Adrienne at February 9, 2006 3:47 PM
Comment #122831
Dear Amani, Your wrong. The president has the power to execute these policies to keep America safe; it’s been done in the past and will continue in the future. Allowing the enemy to know that we are spying on them will cause them to change tactics or do something else; that’s not good for America when we have to explain to committee after committee what we’re doing with covert operations like the NSA program did. Besides, Congress already gave the President Authority to conduct this war and the President already briefed members of Congress about this program. So, go write a letter to Congress about being “above the law”.

As I understand it, the NSA searches are not confined to terrorists. They are more or less randomly intercepting people’s overseas calls, and that would seem to fall under the category of an unreasonable search of American citizens. As we have often heard, this is a very different case than if we were at war with another nation, and perhaps you are correct that there is no other way to get the job done. But it makes me wonder: since this is a “new kind of war” will there be any limits on these “war powers”? What will you say when this program is extended to purely domestic calls? The war with Al-Qaeda can be won, certainly, but the war against terror is perpetual, as all wars against ideas are.

Think! And, not with a partisan mind; think! This is keeping Americans safer and making it harder and more dangerous for the enemy. Are you opposed to that?!

I have no partisan loyalty. I am interested in both security and freedom, and like many, I don’t think it’s always necessary to sacrifice one for the other.

Posted by: Amani at February 9, 2006 4:39 PM
Comment #122846

Phx8
You kindly responded to my question - but now I am more confused than ever.

You wrote:

Technically, we’re not at war- not against terrorism, not against Afghanistan, not against Iraq. However, Congress authorized a use of force against Afghanistan (and against terrorists, more or less) and Iraq.
We all throw around the word ‘war’ quite frequently, but strictly speaking, it’s inaccurate.

Then under who’se authorization does the use of Presidential Wartime Powers fall under? What, why or how does Bush claim his use of War Powers? In particular, the use of Wire-taps, sanctioned by the courts or not.

Posted by: Linda H. at February 9, 2006 5:05 PM
Comment #122863

Linda,
I’m not a lawyer. As I understand it, the Congress has the power to declare war. The President is the Commander-in-Chief.

Bush claims the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) in Afghanistan includes the ability to collect intelligence on the enemy, which therefore must include covert surveillance of the enemy.

The problem is that covert surveillance of the enemy can involve surveillance of a US citizen in this country. That requires probable cause for a search, and a warrant. Laws covering this situation are set up to be addressed by a FISA court. Warrants can be issued by the FISA court retroactively, after the surveillance of a US citizen takes place.

Opponents of the White House claim it is conducting surveillance of US citizens without probable cause, and without a warrant; and the White House claims it can conduct surveillance without probable cause & without a warrant, since the surveillance involves an enemy communicating with a US citizen, and that falls under the category of collecting intelligence, which is allowable according to the AUMF.

If the White House is surveilling US citizens without probable cause and warrants, it’s a violation of the 4th amendment, and an impeachable offense. It’s almost inconceivable this would result in impeachment- which is why I keep wondering why Bush doesn’t sort this out with his fellow Republicans in Congress. It should easy. What the heck is going on?

Posted by: phx8 at February 9, 2006 5:36 PM
Comment #122869

Adrienne:

1. Do you think, after reading what I laid out about the complete secrecy of the FISA court and the way that court has always handled these issues, that it was acceptable for the president to ignore that court and the law as it was written?

I’ve stated my position on this numerous times, in part by questioning why Bush would have gone around FISA, if FISA provided the kind of information necessary to fully protect our citizens.

Circumventing FISA in order to keep citizens safe is acceptable to me. It certainly pushes the envelope of Presidential powers, but stays within the law, according to many legal experts. Others disagree, which is why the legality of this is a matter for the courts. By most accounts, FISA does not provide the kind of information that the NSA wiretaps provide; therefore the option is to A) not have that information or B) circumvent FISA. With those choices, I vote for B.

2. Do you think that broad and sweeping datamining, wiretapping, mail opening, e-mail snooping, and the searching of homes of law abiding American citizens by a secret government intelligence agency should not be considered “unreasonable searches and seisures” that are a direct violation of the Fourth Amendment?

We already have wiretapping etc that is considered legal by all legal experts. It sounds like you are suggesting that we can have none. Your question is certainly slanted, but I’ll answer anyway. Under the circumstances, I don’t see that the NSA wiretaps violate the 4th amendment.

3. Do you think Congress or the Judiciary has a right to either ignore or retroactively sanction the president when he breaks the law and/or violates the Constitution?

I don’t think Congress or the Judiciary should ignore violations of the Constitution. They do have to agree that a violation has occurred, and there are legal and Constitutional processes for that. But once they determine that a violation has occurred, they should not ignore it.

I’m not at all clear on what you mean by “retroactively sanction”. Seems to me any sanction would be after the fact, and I agree that Congress or the Judiciary should take action against a President who violates the Constitution. The degree of the penalty is up to them as well, so they can maximize it or minimize it as they see fit. Kind of like a judge who can make his/her own comment on a case by giving a very harsh or very light sentence.

Your comments at the end of your post are simply overwrought. The NSA policy was not conducted without oversight—it was reviewed by lawyers and discussed with some members of Congress on a regular basis. I know you disagree with the level of oversight, but your claims of no oversight are simply incorrect.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 5:43 PM
Comment #122871

“You see, the bars I’m putting up around your house are to enhance your security. Believe me, no terrorist will be able to strike at you as long as I hold the key. And I have only your interests at heart. When you need to go out to the store, I will send an armed guard to accompany you. When you want visitors, I will thoroughly search their persons before letting them in and will search your house afterward. That way, no harm can come of you from the terrorists. Your freedom will be intact and you will be alive. No, no need to thank me. All in a day’s job for Bush’n’Cheney, Inc.”

Posted by: mental wimp at February 9, 2006 5:50 PM
Comment #122875

I say to all again, listen to the Wolsey comments I referenced above. This guy was CIA director under CLINTON. He explains WHY it might be impractical to get a warrant and WHY FISA may not be applicable. He presumably knows these sorts of things and he is not a Bush partisan.

Posted by: Jack at February 9, 2006 6:06 PM
Comment #122878

I see that one of BushCo’s talking points is that “many legal scholars think his warrantless wiretapping is OK.” It is analogous to saying “Many scientists believe that intelligent design is a viable scientific theory.” Sure, you can find a few nuts with credentials to sign on to anything, but outside of a few lawyers with strong ties to the administration, there are no legitimate legal scholars who believe it’s fine for the President to violate the fourth amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure with impunity. You guys are just repeating a canard that the administration would like you to believe. Do a little research on your own (outside of the usual RWEC sources) and see how divided the opinion on this is among legal scholars.

Posted by: mental wimp at February 9, 2006 6:07 PM
Comment #122881

Look, Jack, Woolsey wasn’t expressing a legal opinion, he was addressing the logistical impossibility of using a warrant system to oversee essentially rummaging through everyone’s communications to identify those that are relevant to fighting terrorists. But doing so is clearly in violation of the fourth amendment. What’s so frustrating is that each such outrage from your hero brings a blank-faced response that mimics whatever weak justifications the Bush administration can muster. And these weak justifications uniformly go unchallenged by supposedly intelligent, independent-minded people. Not a hint of any concern from you that such a power could be abused. Not a hint of any “small government” impulse offended by a federal executive that can essentially tap into any communications without oversight from any but his closest associates. What the hell gives, Jack? Are you so scared of terrorists that anything Bush decides to do in defense is fine by you? Where do you draw the line? I’ve asked this before and gotten no parsable response from any supporter of this insanity. Can you help me out here? What can’t he do?

Posted by: mental wimp at February 9, 2006 6:20 PM
Comment #122890

Okay, show of hands here. How many of you arguing that the President is within his rights to do warrantless searches are “strict constructionists” (or whatever the current fashionable word among the Federalist society is for it these days)? And if you are how do you defend your construction of Presidential powers not explicitly in the constitution?

Posted by: mental wimp at February 9, 2006 6:45 PM
Comment #122907

mental wimp,

It seems that those that are for these constructionists are only interested in their own interpretation of the Constitution.

This goes with the right’s rules of debate;

1)Never admit you’re wrong,
2)If you’re proved wrong, change the subject,
3)When in doubt about #2 see #1.

It just gets better and better.

Posted by: Rocky at February 9, 2006 7:19 PM
Comment #122935

Mental

If you listened to Woolsey, you may have continued to the second guy who talked about the legal points. I know you are sure that you are right about this, but others are equally sure they are and some (like me) believe there are constitutional ambiguities. Ambiguities should be cleared up, but it is not a crime.

I believe this has to be resolved. I hold (like Woolsey) that the TSP is needed to fight terrorism. I believe that if we let this go, and the terrorists can hit U.S. targets, we will lose many more of our freedoms.

This kind of surveillance program, while new in its permutation, is very much like what we did every time our security was seriously threatened. Washington, Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt felt it was not only their right, but their duty to intercept communications between the enemy and between the enemy and U.S. citizens. American citizens cooperating with the enemy are traitors. I know that word seems old fashioned, but it certainly applies to anyone who would cooperate with these radicals we face.

I don’t consider it an invasion of my liberty if someone listens to my communications. It depends on the next step. If Americans are talking to terrorists, I want the government to know. If they are being duped, this will protect them. It is possible for innocent people to be used by the bad guys. If they are knowingly speaking to terrorists, I hope they are caught and I would consider few penalties too great.

I wrote these things when the story broke. I believe it today. There are things the President could do that would be beyond what I consider legitimate. This is not one of those cases.

This issue may be decided in the courts or it may be decided politically. I will accept that decision. But everyone admits that such surveillance is necessary. Even Feingold does not want to stop it. We will have to find a way for the President to do what he is doing now because it is his duty as Commander in Chief.

Posted by: Jack at February 9, 2006 8:21 PM
Comment #122948

I would never trust ANY politician that says “trust me”, particularly Bush with his history.

Posted by: shelly at February 9, 2006 9:05 PM
Comment #122968

Jack, Joe-
I believe FISA contains language laying out what the punishments are for circumventing it. This is supposed to be the definitive law on electronic surveillance. Unless you’re following the law, you’re committing a criminal act. And the president admitted doing just that.

And it isn’t like he stumbled into it. He signed 20 orders, knowing the laws on the matter. He knew what he was doing.

Now the defense is that this was part of his powers as Commander in Chief. Now, the president has some powers to use such force in times of invasion or insurrection, but we have neither here, only an authorization of force against al-Qaeda.

Nowhere in that authorization is there any statutory authority for warrantless surveillance of al-Qaeda members. FISA is applicable even in times of war, having several sections specifically devoted to it. it’s not merely usable in criminal cases, a fact that should be made obvious when you recall that FISA is The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This was a law outlining how we spy on enemy agents and domestic assets of foreign intelligence services.

What we have here is layer upon layer of spin, and legal reasoning that few Republicans have really thought out the implications of. They are doing their best not to face what should be an obvious conclusion: Bush knowingly took an illegal intelligence shortcut when he had more than enough resources at his disposal to do things by legitimate means. Is the rule of law just an inconvenience to today’s political elite?

It seems like a lilly-livered way to approach our freedoms, waiting for our president to dispense to us the daily ration of liberties that we’re allowed to have.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 9, 2006 9:51 PM
Comment #122999

Joe,
I am so disgusted with your responses to my questions. There is really nothing left for me to say to you, since it seems clear that you and I completely disagree. You want to wait for a court to tell you whether what the president did was right or wrong, but I know he broke the law, and that he would only admit to doing so when the NYT blew the whistle on him.
Also to be perfectly honest, it sickens me to realize that there are Americans who are so willing give away their own liberty and freedoms because of terrorist fears. That some might even be willing do so simply because this president tells them they should is something I don’t even want to think about — it’s just too nauseating for words.

Btw, I sometimes I get the impression that you claim confusion over what I write in order to not answer my questions directly — and I suspect that it’s just another way deflect criticism away from the inexcusable actions of your Dear Leader.

Mental Wimp, Stephen, very good replies.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 9, 2006 11:16 PM
Comment #123120

Adrienne:

Thanks for the laugh. A couple of your comments are extremely on point—-MY point, at least.

You (JBOD) want to wait for a court to tell you whether what the president did was right or wrong, but I know he broke the law…

You might as well have said, “I don’t need no steenkin’ trial”. How does your proclamation of guilt (with no trial, no evidence, and no consideration of the multiple legal scholars in disagreement over the interpretation of the law) allow for civil liberties? Quite simply, it doesn’t. But since in the past you’ve “convicted” Ken Lay, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Tom DeLay based only on your opinion, why should this be any different. I guess civil liberties are only important when you decide they are.

There is a lot of ambiguity as to whether Bush has broken any laws. This comes not just from Bush supporters, but from legal experts on all sides of the political spectrum. While they have honest disagreements over how to interpret FISA, 4th Amendment and AUMF in the context of the NSA wiretaps, you simply cast that aside in your rush to proclaim guilt. Anything at odds with your worldview must be incorrect. Reminds me of the McGovern voter who said, ” I can’t believe McGovern lost. Everyone I know voted for him.”

sometimes I get the impression that you claim confusion over what I write in order to not answer my questions directly

Your first comment made me chuckle. This one made me to laugh out loud. You seem genuinely surprised that someone might actually disagree with you, and that your comments might not be all that clear. But its consistent with how you simply ignore the legal opinions that disagree with yours.

While I did raise a question about one of your comments, I did answer all your questions honestly and forthrightly. That you didn’t like my answers doesn’t mean I didn’t answer them directly.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 9:15 AM
Comment #123133
This guy is a three dollar bill trying to be a five. Posted by: Ahkmad the troll at February 8, 2006 02:07 AM
I prefer: He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.
The NSA policy was not conducted without oversight—it was reviewed by lawyers and discussed with some members of Congress on a regular basis. I know you disagree with the level of oversight, but your claims of no oversight are simply incorrect. Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 9, 2006 05:43 PM

Joe,
Adrienne’s reply was “spot on” (said with my “best” British accent) However, I think you are missing two overriding problems with your post:
1 - The lawyers you refer to are people like Gonzales. Their job is not to prevent Bush from doing illegal or immoral actions. Their job is to provide the legal smokescreen that Bush can hide behind as he does these immoral and illegal actions. There is no real “ambiguity,” the actions are unconstitutional.
2 - The Congressional oversight you refer to is at the “top secret” level. No matter how against the actions a senator might be, they are under felony charges if they say even the slightest thing about what they see or hear at the meetings. Any protests they have would be to the members of those meetings and would never see the light of day. What’s the point of oversight, if there is no power behind it. It’s like watching a car crash unfold and not a thing you can do about it.
I’d laugh at your final post, if I wasn’t as disgusted as Adrienne was with you peoples pure love of Big Brother Bush. Have another shot of Freedom gin, you’ve earned it.
P.S. I really like your ad hominem “lawyer” references, No surprise why there are so many lawyer jokes, eh?
Q:Why did the post office recall the new lawyerBush stamps?
A:Because people could not tell which side to spit on.

Posted by: Dave at February 10, 2006 9:56 AM
Comment #123138

Adrienne

You and others are way off base on this one. You made a statement that shows the arrogance of ignorance. You said in your last post that a court trial isn’t needed, that you know Bush is guilty.

This kind of thinking is so opposite of our legal system that it deserves to be Napoleonic. Under the Napoleonic Code, the accused is guilty until proven innocent. Under our system of law, it’s just the opposite.

O.J is guilty, Robert Blake is guilty, no matter what the jury said. I am judging them guilty and I know I am right. Nixon was guilty, Clinton was guilty, had to be because I think so.

When I was first getting my feet wet as a journalist, covering the police beat and courthouse, one of the first things I was taught was respect for the system. I never referred to a person who had killed as a murderer, he or she was the accused murderer. After the trial they were the convicted murderer.

I think you need to develop a sense of respect for the civil liberties that you so eloquently defend for yourself and grant others the same respect. Unless, or until, Bush is brought before a proper tribunal and convicted of the crimes he has been accused of, he is innocent.

Posted by: John Back at February 10, 2006 10:06 AM
Comment #123141

Joe-
Most legal scholars I’ve heard of strongly disagreed with the president’s argument. It’s really not that difficult to understand why, unless admitting the president broke the law, or did much of anything wrong is a problem for you.

I have some questions for you:

1)How does the CINC power of the president obviate the need for compliance with the Fourth Amendment?

2)How can one possibly claim that FISA is merely meant for criminal matters, when the title itself implies its use in intelligence matters?

3)How Does the authorization to use force Against al-Qaeda override the legal requirements of FISA as the definitive electronic surveillance law regarding thes issues, much less constitutional law?

4)How are Americans to be sure they are not targeted if all targeting is kept classified?

5)How is it informing congress, when the existence and the status of the reports are not even given to the whole of the intelligence committees in question?

You keep on insisting that this is an honest difference of opinion, but you fail to tell us all how you reconcile these contradictions and shadings of the truth, if you even bother to talk of them at all.

I guess my final question is this: in this whole chain of command, from president to information analyst, who there can tell the president no, and who can truly intervene to stop him if he’s gone beyond his granted authority under the constitution? Don’t just head me off by telling me again how you think this is all legal, tell me how we can be sure that this president isn’t exceeding his authority?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 10, 2006 10:11 AM
Comment #123149

Dave:

If you want to educate yourself on some of the ambiguities that I refer to, here’s a good place to start. It’s pretty detailed, long and boring, but has a lot of information that corroborates what I’ve written. I was referred to this site in an article by Cass Sunstein, a pretty liberal legal professor at U of Chicago:

http://volokh.com/posts/1135029722.shtml

As I’ve said, I have no problem with investigation and adjudicating the legality of Bush’s actions. Let’s have a go at it. But to blindly assume guilt isn’t right. You wouldn’t be making that suggestion, would you?

I think an analogy to a tax preparer might fit this situation. You get your taxes done, the tax guy tells you to deduct so-and-so as business expenses etc, and you do it. Later the IRS says the guy was wrong. Eventually, if enough money is involved, you go to court to decide who is correct. I personally want a tax guy who pushes the envelope to save me money, rather than a guy so cautious that he ends up not taking deductions that would be perfectly legal. I DONT want a tax guy who does illegal things though.

Bush’s “tax advisors” ( ie his attorneys) say he’s on the right track. Others say he isn’t. Dave, once and for all, how do we as a nation adjudicate this? Do we accept the opinion that you and Adrienne share and convict immediately? Or do we investigate the facts, put them in front of wise and informed people, and then reach a decision in compliance with our legal system?

Perhaps you have other alternatives than my options? If so, lets hear em, Dave.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 10:27 AM
Comment #123156

Dave, thanks. Joe, what Dave said.

John Back:
“You and others are way off base on this one. You made a statement that shows the arrogance of ignorance.”

Bullsh*t. Ashcroft tried to get them the latitude to do whatever they wanted, but the FISA court turned them down, so Bush made an end-run around FISA by ignoring the law, in doing so, broke the law.
Which is why for the first time, a FISA judge, (Judge James Robertson) quit in protest — knowing that their actions had turned the court into a sham, because any information that had been gained from their illegal intercepts had then been brought to the court to obtain warrants. He saw that what they were doing was trying to cleanse their information, which in the process, had tainted the courts work. When he quit, it was reported that other judges on the court felt that what they had done was turn them into a Potemkin Court.
On top of this, Bush broke the law by allowing the NSA to do broad and sweeping data mining, wiretapping and spying on American citizens, in defiance of the Fourth Amendment.
He broke the law twice.

You said in your last post that a court trial isn’t needed, that you know Bush is guilty.”

He broke the law by ignoring FISA so that their would be no oversight on their violations of the Fourth Amendment. Judge Robertson knows it. Sen Feingold knows it. And many, many other people know it, including me.
The only people who can’t and won’t admit this are the same people who have tried to excuse this president for everything else he’s done wrong - of which there is plenty. They now wait for courts sympathetic to the president to retroactively sanction his law breaking, so that once again there will be no accountabilty.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 10, 2006 10:46 AM
Comment #123165

Adrienne

I do not excuse anything that Bush has done wrong. I only want to make sure that the justice system has a chance to work. You, and others, want to circumvent the system because you want a predetermined outcome. Rather than exonerate or condemn a person without a trial, I prefer to wait and see all the evidence and then make up my mind.

By the way, your last comment about a “sympathetic court betrays your lack of faith in the system.

Posted by: John Back at February 10, 2006 10:57 AM
Comment #123170

Joe-
Have you ever considered that outside a trial setting, that one might be able to reach a tentative conclusion on the right or wrong of something based on the facts known? The presumption of innocence is a constitutional condition put upon our courts. There is no such obligation upon the average American to weigh their opinion on such a strict legal basis, and in fact there shouldn’t be.

Forming an opinion about our government’s actions is different from the government proving it’s case and convicting an individual of a crime. The latter process is formal, and can’t be easily reversed or amended. The former is informal, and can be quickly changed when new facts are brought to light.

We don’t live our lives according to process alone. Process is something we bind our government with for our own protection.

You still haven’t answered my questions about the discrepancies I see in the president’s position. What are your responses?

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 10, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #123171
Adrienne’s reply was “spot on” (said with my “best” British accent)

Dave, thanks. Joe, what Dave said.

Stephen, you rock. Great post!
Posted by: Adrienne at February 9, 2006 03:47 PM

Are there any other members of the “Mutual Admiration and Devotion” Society? :)

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 11:03 AM
Comment #123189

John Back:
“your last comment about a “sympathetic court betrays your lack of faith in the system.”

It’s true. I no longer have much faith in all three branches of govt. when it comes to this president — because it seems the system has been rigged to ensure that there will be no accountability for his actions.

Interesting sidenote: The Associated Press recently reported (Feb. 3) on about 200 pages of documents from the White House during the presidency of Gerald Ford. The papers highlighted many objections raised by Ford’s secretary of defense — Donald Rumsfeld — and his chief of staff — Dick Cheney — about getting court warrants for domestic surveillance. It was partially to thwart that kind of unaccountable executive power that Congress enacted FISA in 1978.

Posted by: Adrienne at February 10, 2006 11:35 AM
Comment #123199

Stephen:

I understand full well the concept of opinion versus legal decision. I also recognize that people like Adrienne are saying “Bush is guilty and should be impeached” and are asking for action to be taken on their opinion alone. They appear incapable of looking at the facts through a clear lens, rather than their “I hate Bush” lens.

Now…to your earlier post. First, if you’ve read previous posts of mine, you’d know I have no problem saying when I think Bush has done something wrong. You posted a snide little riposte questioning my ability to do so, which was a bit out of character for you.

…unless admitting the president broke the law, or did much of anything wrong is a problem for you.

I’ve commented many times on Bush’s lack of the use of the veto pen, for the govt’s poor Katrina response, for what I see as a poor Medicare bill etc. I have no problem saying when I think he’s been wrong. Instead of lumping me in with others, read MY posts before casting disparaging remarks my way. Castigate those who can find nothing positive about Bush (of course there are positives) or nothing negative about Bush (of course there are negatives). By reading MY posts, you shouldn’t have any doubt that I don’t fit into either of those camps.

Don’t just head me off by telling me again how you think this is all legal

Stephen, I’ve not claimed that “this is all legal”. I’ve stated repeatedly that there are ambiguities that legal experts have brought up. I’ve stated emphatically that we don’t know if its legal or not. We can all have our own opinions on that, but if we consider our opinions to be FACT, then we are wrong already.

Read Cass Sunstein’s comments, which will answer a lot of the questions you posed:
http://uchicagolaw.typepad.com/faculty/2005/12/presidential_wi_1.html

Seeing as he is a legal expert, I’d find his opinions more educated and salient than mine. I’ve used his analysis to help me develop mine. Some of Sunstein’s comments are as follow:

“What about the Fourth Amendment? It turns out that the President has a plausible claim here as well (again see Orin Kerr’s post for helpful discussion) — not necessarily decisive, but plausible.”

“Does the Constitution give the President inherent authority to do what he did?… It is not clear that the President is right on [this], but it isn’t clear that he is wrong.”

Sunstein isn’t taking sides, nor making definitive interpretations. What he IS saying is that there are ambiguities. And that is precisely what I have been saying as well.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 11:45 AM
Comment #123237
I think an analogy to a tax preparer might fit this situation. You get your taxes done, the tax guy tells you to deduct so-and-so as business expenses etc, and you do it. Later the IRS says the guy was wrong. Perhaps you have other alternatives than my options? If so, lets hear em, Dave. Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 10:27 AM

First; The analogy is closer to telling your tax guy you want to take a deduction for your mistress’ condo. He then comes up with a rationale and a strategy to make it seem legitimate. For example, adds a fax machine to the phone, viola, a business office. Doesn’t make it moral, doesn’t necessarily make it legal.

Second; As you said, the disagreement is worked out in tax court. I agree, let’s put the son-of-a-bitch on trial.

Impeachment
de’fn: To charge (a public official) with improper conduct in office before a proper tribunal.

Article 2 - The Executive Branch
Section 4 - Disqualification
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

Do you agree that intentional violation of the Constitution in a “high crime”? Or does that only apply to consentual sex?

“Bush is guilty and should be impeached” and are asking for action to be taken on their opinion alone… Some of Sunstein’s comments are as follow: “Does the Constitution give the President inherent authority to do what he did?… It is not clear that the President is right on [this], but it isn’t clear that he is wrong.” Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 11:45 AM


Yes, I agree. Let’s have a trial and see who’s right on this one. And when he’s found guilty, I want you to donate $1000 to the ACLU. If he’s found innocent, I will move to Canada (if the globe over heats) or Belize (if the ice age comes when the gulf stream shuts down)

Posted by: Dave at February 10, 2006 12:34 PM
Comment #123280

Dave:

We finally agree on the principle that we should investigate this kind of thing, review all the evidence, and THEN reach our conclusions.

I’ve offered the opinion before that any punishment in this kind of case depends to a degree on public opinion. Intent is an important aspect, from both a legal and a public opinion perspective. You brought up Clinton—-the public opinion that he lied but about trivial things had a great impact on the outcome of the events.

In this situation, if Bush’s actions are found to be Constitutionally unsound or illegal because of FISA, a determining factor will be the public opinion of why he did it. If the opinion is that it was a power grab, any actions would be more severe. If the opinion is that he honestly was trying to safeguard the country, the actions would be minimal.

By the way, I don’t engage in “chat” bets but thanks for the offer.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 10, 2006 1:53 PM
Comment #123302

Jack

There have always been people who believe that individual rights are inconvenient for the protection of society. Clearly, J. Edgar Hoover believed that he needed to violate them in order to protect the country against people like Martin Luther King. However, this is a minority opinion and contrary to the beliefs of the founding fathers, who felt that these rights needed to be protected. There are ways to ensure “reasonability” of searches. If one insists that the only way to protect the country is to violate these rights, then there is no liberty to protect anymore. In the meme of the Bush administration, the “terrorists” have won. You are free to argue that TSP is “necessary” (in the face of zero data to support that assertion, I might add) to protect us physically, but you cannot argue that it is necessary to protect our freedom. The latter I feel has always been the more precious commodity, especially in the eyes of conservatives, who fear the over-reaching of governmental power.

I am still perplexed about what limits you believe there are on this President’s power. Can you discuss it?

Posted by: mental wimp at February 10, 2006 2:39 PM
Comment #123306

Mental

We are going in circles. The TSP, as described in media reports, does not seem to me to be an unreasonable search. I also do not believe that any of the founding fathers would have been upset about this sort of thing BECAUSE they all engaged in the equivelent for their times. In fact any time up to the 1970s this would not have been questioned at all. Little good came from the 1970s, BTW.

I believe it TSP useful in the war on terror. I believe it is legal. But even if I didn’t believe those two things, I still don’t think it is unreasonable to look for patterns among calls or listen in on calls between Americans and foreigners.

So we see TSP in very different lights. For me TSP is in the same category as passing through a border check. I expect that the customs agent may search my luggage (although none ever has).

Posted by: Jack at February 10, 2006 2:57 PM
Comment #123320

Jack

Apparently you’ve been briefed more comprehensively on TSP than the rest of us. Not even all the members of the Intelligence committees in Congress have been thoroughly briefed. I’d hate to think you were just assuming it’s all ok because it’s your boys in power. But, oh, well, if you are ok with the apparent rummaging through your communications (are they all international? I haven’t seen any such assurances in any administration officials statements.), I guess I understand your view of the protection of liberties.

And yes, the seventies sucked. First we had RMN (Christ, did ya listen to those tapes?) then the oil crisis. It blew big chunks. ;>

Posted by: mental wimp at February 10, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #123407

Mental

I expect we are about done. None of us knows the exact details of the program, but there is absolutely no reason to believe it is more than an data mining and international operation. Members of both parties have been briefed on it. Congress has the right and duty to investigate and they will.

Much of my information today comes from the Woosley talk. I think he is about as informed as a layman can be.

No point in extrapolating.

Posted by: Jack at February 10, 2006 8:01 PM
Comment #123415

Jack,

What this comes down to for me is if the spying is only on those with suspected al-qaeda ties or if it is more in the vein of intercepting calls randomly to find those with al-qaeda ties. I have heard both explanations by now. If the first explanation is correct, I am not worried, but if the second is true then it is very disturbing.

Posted by: Amani at February 10, 2006 8:21 PM
Comment #123440

Joebag
Regarding your Sunstein comment that what the Prez did was at least plausible if not entirely legal. “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” Plausible. I don’t call that what they did, sex. Also count me in on the Mutual Admiration Society. Just want to make the world know I’m NOT on your side. You can also have Jack and Rah too, for that matter.

Posted by: Ray S at February 10, 2006 10:32 PM
Comment #123450

Joe-
It’s pretty pointless to get into this love/hate Bush thing. I don’t like him much, but it’s the right and wrong of his actions that concern me.

Maybe my opinions about the legal aspects of this are wrong, but having a point of view of any kind guarantees that you will be somewhat wrong from time to time.

I’m sorry, but there comes a point where simply stating something is ambiguous is not a sufficient answer. I ask questions like I do to get meaningful, if not always cut and dried answers. I work towards a collection of logic from which emerges what I think is the best compromise: surveillance of our enemies, but with safeguards to ensure that American citizens don’t show up on that list without just cause.

As a lawyer’s brother, I have a respect for the complexities of the law, and the way that unexpected consequences can emerge from a difference in certain points.

I’d like to get something more than a declaration that things are ambiguous, because I want to get a sense of how your thinking runs about this, and a whole bunch of ambiguities just presents me with blanks slate of no choices made or required.

I want some indication of the thinking that goes into a position.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 10, 2006 11:20 PM
Comment #123545

Stephen:

I’ve tried to give you rationale answers, and to provide rationale answers to Adrienne when she asked me questions. Some people are stating unequivocally that Bush is guilty of breaking the law—I don’t think that is clear at this point. We know what his actions are, but we don’t know the legality of his actions at this point. I’ve discussed in this thread both the legal and moral viewpoint of Bush’s actions, by asking Adrienne whether she’s support the wiretapping if its determined to be legal. I believe there are occasions where legal actions can still be wrong, such as Clinton’s sexual dalliances, to go to Ray’s comment.

I showed you where my thinking originates, in order to show you why I’m not willing to say Bush broke the law. But I’ve been very UNambiguous where Bush’s intent is concerned. I do not see his actions as a power grab (all Presidents want their power), but rather as an honest attempt to safeguard our people from terrorist attacks. In that regard, I favor his actions. I’d have preferred he go through the FISA court if possible…but if that did not provide for the same level of information gathering, then I’d support him circumventing the FISA court. Some in here have said that if Bush had gone to FISA and been turned down, they’d NOT want the NSA information—I’d disagree with that position.

I’ve said unequivocally that I am for preventing terrorist attacks. During WWII, I’d have accepted giving up some rights in order to protect our country—I’m willing to do that at this point in our history as well. I see the potential slippery slope that we stand on, yet I have faith in our country that we will not slide down that slope to a point where we lose too many liberties.

David Remer feels we are on the slope, and fears we will lose too many liberties if we allow some liberties to be lost or set aside. I do not fear that. Having this difference of opinion does not make either one of us right or wrong—we simply see different sides of a two-sided coin.

Stephen, I hope I’ve given you as clear an insight into my position as possible. The legality issue is still ambiguous, and minds far wiser and more experienced in legal matters than mine will continue to debate it. My opinion is that Bush’s actions will end up being determined to be technically legal. Time will tell if I’m correct on that.

If you have any questions that you feel I’ve left unanswered for you, let me know. I’ve restated the opinions here for you in one post that I’ve maintained through this entire thread.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at February 11, 2006 6:59 AM
Comment #123771

Joe-
I have a particular interest in complex phenomena, and our system of laws is one of those systems where looking at the laws just at face value is misleading.

It may seem that Bush simplifies things by bypassing the laws, but that’s not really the case. The law and its compliance might be difficult, but the process should make a certain kind of conclusion easier. One could say there should be an economic balance between the value sought and the labor required to attain it.

The issue here is whether the following purposes are served:
1)That power over people’s lives is limited as promised by the constitution

2)That Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies can form a solid enough picture to take justifiable action upon

and

3)That there is a system in place where the facts that signify these outcomes can be ascertained with some reliability.

The powers of the intelligence community and law enforcement can have great effect on people’s lives, especially when the State is being organized for the benefit of increasing those powers. In times where it becomes more important to have such far reaching powers in play, it also becomes important that this system’s power not be wasted or misapplied too greatly. When it comes down to it, our system’s laws are meant to do both: To prevent illegitimate use of the powers concerned, and to prevent their waste on issues of little importance to the basic missions of the Law Enforcement or Intelligence agencies.

The President’s bypassing of the process creates problems for this, whatever his intentions are. he tells congress that he gets to decide what authority he has, regardless of what the law has written down. Who can tell him no? The Congress, supposedly, they and the courts. But if he ignores them, whatever the reason, he (maybe deliberately) leaves open both a black hole of awareness, and one of authority, for two branches that are supposed to be strong enough to oppose the Executive branch.

It’s useless to talk about having freedoms, if there’s no accountability for taking such extreme actions where Americans are concerned. It’s also useless to talk about security being a sure things when accountability is lacking, because the President can tell us whatever he wants to, without another branch of government being able to investigate what’s going on, or make inquiries he’s bound to answer.

In the end, Obligation is the key word, and the obligation to defend this country and to keep our freedoms real and substantive are mutually necessary, and mutually dependent on the president on his obligation to answer to someone else for what he does. Power should never head in only an upwards direction in this country.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 11, 2006 11:00 PM
Comment #123999

The American Bar Association weighs in.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 12, 2006 7:51 PM
Comment #124054

Let me sum up the Dem position from the mornning talk shows.

The President did the right thing, but he missed on a technicality. Everybody wants to make it possible to spy on the bad guys.

Stephen and other on the blogs, your party is cutting the ground out from under you all. They see that opposing the surviellence is a political loser and they are giving up.

They are doing it for the wrong reasons, but they are doing the right thing.

Posted by: Jack at February 12, 2006 10:58 PM
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