Third Party & Independents Archives

Leak Investigation, Redux

The Justice Department has launched an investigation into the source of the leak of the National Security Agency’s classified domestic surveillance program to a New York Times reporter. It is not surprising or troubling that the Government would try to discover the identity of a government agent who broke the law by disclosing classified information. Nevertheless, this investigation raises some important questions.

First, from a purely political perspective, it is interesting to see that the general outcry for an investigation into the CIA leak that led to the indictment of Scooter Libby has been largely absent in this case. The difference, it appears, its one of political preference. One could counter that the Valerie Plame leak was more sinister due to the motives of the leakers. On the other hand, the disclosure of an entire covert intelligence gathering approach is more dangerous to national security than the outing of one semi-secret (at best) CIA agent.

The more interesting question this investigation raises is whether all government officials who leak classified information should get the same treatment. One impulse is to allow the merits of the disclosed information to dictate the punishment/culpability of the leaker. From this perspective, one could argue that the Plame leaker should get punished, while this NSA leaker should get only praise (assuming that one thinks the surveillance program should have been exposed). This kind of approach, while tempting, would put every individual in possession of classified information in the position of being an independent judge about the constitutionality or even wisdom of any program or action they learn about. Such an approach is thus unworkable from a national security and practicality point of view. This is an uncomfortable conclusion- since it would punish a hypothetical noble government official who risked everything to expose a sinister plot. However, I cannot see any other reasonable approach for our government to take.

Whether the surveillance program is constitutional (or good policy) is an argument outside of the scope of this post. Whatever the merits of the program, I think the Justice Department should investigate this leak aggressively, and if the leaker is discovered, he should be fired and face serious criminal charges. If this covert source did disclose an unconstitutional program, we own him/her some degree of thanks. Nevertheless, the default assumption should always be that those who obtain security clearance in our government must honor their promise to keep the information they learn through that clearance classified. If they think that disclosing the information is worth it, they should be willing to pay the legal price.

Posted by Misha Tseytlin at December 31, 2005 5:20 AM
Comments
Comment #109387

Indeed. When the time comes that Bush decides to assasinate American Citizens to prevent a “Ticking Bomb Scenario”, we should all respect the secret and not tell anyone.

This is what all good Republicans should do.

Posted by: Aldous at December 31, 2005 5:40 AM
Comment #109429
From this perspective, one could argue that the Plame leaker should get punished, while this NSA leaker should get only praise (assuming that one thinks the surveillance program should have been exposed).

I whole heartedly agree here. The Plame affair was on the Bush’s behalf and they used it to get back at Plame’s husband (so we think). The NSA leak involved a breach of our privacy as citizens.

Indeed. When the time comes that Bush decides to assasinate American Citizens to prevent a “Ticking Bomb Scenario”, we should all respect the secret and not tell anyone.

I always find it strange that anyone could justify this, but I guess the Republicans do it.

Posted by: Ethan Poole at December 31, 2005 7:47 AM
Comment #109432

Misha-

There needs to be a clear distinction between whistle blowers and leakers. If your intentions are indeed noble then you need to go through the proper process and not over to the NYT.

Posted by: George in SC at December 31, 2005 8:53 AM
Comment #109434

Misha:

On the other hand, the disclosure of an entire covert intelligence gathering approach is more dangerous to national security than the outing of one semi-secret (at best) CIA agent.

This is really a red herring. Everyone already knows that the US uses wiretapping in law enforcement. That’s not news to anyone, it has been standard operating procedure and the subject of both popular movies and books for years. What was secret and later exposed was not the approach being used, but the fact that the government was not even bothering to get retroactive FISA warrants for the taps and was thus bypassing the judicial branch entirely.

George in SC:

There needs to be a clear distinction between whistle blowers and leakers. If your intentions are indeed noble then you need to go through the proper process and not over to the NYT.

When the government officials controlling the “proper process” are the ones you’re blowing the whistle on, it seems to me that going to the NYT or similar media and through them to the public that the government officials work for IS proper process.

Posted by: Jarandhel at December 31, 2005 9:29 AM
Comment #109437

Jarandhel-

There are several legally protected wistleblower channels that a federal employee has at their disposal. Once a whistleblower comes forward he is totally protected, and an investigation must insue.

The idea that a leaker is some kind of hero protecting us citizens from evil government is just wrong. Deep Throat is a perfect example.

Posted by: George in SC at December 31, 2005 10:15 AM
Comment #109438

George in SC:

That’s cute. Can you tell me a single instance where you’re system worked?

Posted by: Aldous at December 31, 2005 10:31 AM
Comment #109440

Congress wants its own DOJ and federal union jobs just like CIA reporting directly to them.

They want more money and power because Fitz passed on his investigation of Plame.

Posted by: Sean at December 31, 2005 11:00 AM
Comment #109443

Aldous-

It’s not my system, and although intelligence agencies are not covered by the Federal Act, there is a procedure for NSA/CIA/etc employees to follow in coming forward. There are non-profit groups (and yes lawyers) who are in business to help them.

Going to the NYT is a clear violation of the law. Whoever did this is not a hero but a criminal, and their intentions can not be thought of as anything but criminally or politically motivated.

Posted by: George in SC at December 31, 2005 11:41 AM
Comment #109448

Complete and absolute total bullshit. This leak investigation is politically motivated. Period. The NYT went to Bush a year ago with this story. The leak occurred then. If an investigation was necessary, it should have been instituted then, when the leak became known to the Bush administration.

The Justice Department started this investigation only after the NYT published the story. The investigation is punishment for a political embarrassment.

It’s indisputable. Every person with even the most casual knowledge of this story knows what I’m saying is true.

Posted by: phx8 at December 31, 2005 12:04 PM
Comment #109462

Jarandhel, good points, well said.
phx8, damn straight!

Posted by: Adrienne at December 31, 2005 12:59 PM
Comment #109464

Does anyone that reads this seriously belive that those who would be spied upon are so stupid as to think that they wouldn’t be subject to wire taps?

That our intellegence agencies seem inept is the worst kept secret on the planet.

Posted by: Rocky at December 31, 2005 1:09 PM
Comment #109467
There are several legally protected wistleblower channels that a federal employee has at their disposal. Once a whistleblower comes forward he is totally protected, and an investigation must insue.

An investigation by whom, exactly? The whistle was blown not just on the NSA for doing the taps, but on the entire executive branch up to the President of the United States himself for illegally authorizing those warrantless taps by executive order. Even leading members of *Congress* were gagged by executive order from speaking about their concerns and objections to this or informing others.

The idea that a leaker is some kind of hero protecting us citizens from evil government is just wrong. Deep Throat is a perfect example.

Are you kidding me? Deep Throat is an example of how the idea that a leaker is a hero protecting citizens from evil government is WRONG? Did you perhaps miss the watergate scandal, the fact that Nixon resigned in disgrace, and that some of his top staff went to JAIL as a result of their illegal activities?

Posted by: Jarandhel at December 31, 2005 1:24 PM
Comment #109484

To clarify just how despicable this Republican act of political revenge is, consider this: the Justice Department investigation of the NYT is funded by taxpayer dollars.

That’s right. Your tax dollars are paying it.

Posted by: phx8 at December 31, 2005 2:15 PM
Comment #109486
First, from a purely political perspective, it is interesting to see that the general outcry for an investigation into the CIA leak that led to the indictment of Scooter Libby has been largely absent in this case. The difference, it appears, its one of political preference.

Did anyone doubt for a moment that there would be an investigation of the leak?

There are several legally protected wistleblower channels that a federal employee has at their disposal. Once a whistleblower comes forward he is totally protected, and an investigation must insue.

Don’t all of those channels lead to POTUS?

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 31, 2005 2:24 PM
Comment #109502

George,

“There needs to be a clear distinction between whistle blowers and leakers. If your intentions are indeed noble then you need to go through the proper process and not over to the NYT.”

In general, I would agree. Most departments and offices have an Inpector General for people who are willing to stand up and point out illegal or unethical actions.

I am not sure who or what the proper process would be in this instance. Does someone know?

When even the congressmen who were “briefed” were sworn to secrecy to the point they could not even get help from their staff members? It was more of a telling these congressmen but not allowing them to do anything with the information.

I am not advocating the release of sensitive papers or information that endangers American’s lives.

I am just wondering, in our, system dependent on the role of each branch to check and balance the other branches… was there a means outside of the executive branch a person could have gone to?

Our 3 branches of government dealt with secrets throughout the cold war where intelligence and counter-intelligence was much more sophisticaed than the knowldge that the American government may be listening in on terrorist’s phone calls.

What I am saying here, is that possibly (not absolutely) the release was so damaging not because of the monitoring of the terrorist’s phones, but because of the possibility of what and who were being tapped were outside of the powers of the President… in any role and during and time.

The damage might noy be to our legitimate intelligence gathering methods, but embarassing and possibily illegal actions.

Posted by: Darren7160 at December 31, 2005 4:20 PM
Comment #109507

I was in the military, and held a secret clearance. If it had come to my attention that my superiors were knowingly breaking laws,you can bet your ass I would have let someone know about it.

Which is better? To have an individual reveal a secret program, knowing full well that laws were being broken, the constitution itself being violated? Or, to let the government keep the light of public scrutiny away from their doings?
In effect gaining carte blanche to do whatever they wish, with no oversight by anyone?

It’s a tough choice….except that there is only one real choice. The libeties in the constitution must prevail, and the laws that apply to us ALL must hold sway. Or we can kiss our country goodbye.

Posted by: steve miller at December 31, 2005 4:45 PM
Comment #109512

Whether this was an illegal leak, or a legal whistleblowing, vital and necessary to a democracy is the utmost question at hand, Misha.

Convenient of you to dismiss this point in your article.

Do you not recognize the difference between leaking information which is designed for political gain and leaking information which points to an extra-legal or illegal actions by a branch of government?

If, as it appears, this secret NSA surveillance on Americans is illegal, or in direct violation of Supreme Court and Congressional rulings on the power of the executive, then I hope the Justice Dep’t. is seeking out the whistle blower for the purpose of promoting them and giving them a medal. If government insiders can’t tell us when our government is violating our Constitution and laws, what hope is there of ever halting an illegal takeover of government by forces who disregard the laws designed to protect the people from the powerholders in government?

This is the heart of this issue.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2005 5:06 PM
Comment #109525

I agree with George - legitimate whistleblowers have many channels they can go through to report abuse without revealing top secret information to the public. Going through a newspaper is just plain wrong and reeks of political motivation. This leak has done more to harm our security and our country as a whole than the laughable “Plamegate” ever could come close to doing. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE FROM THE LEFT?

Posted by: THC at December 31, 2005 6:44 PM
Comment #109532

THC,
Did you read my earlier comment? Is there some part you did not understand? No investigation occurred when the NYT informed Bush last October, before the election. The leak occurred then, and if there was cause for an investigation, it should have occurred when the leak was discovered. If national security was compromised, that was the time to act, in October 2004. An investigation by the Justice Department today is simple revenge for the embarrassment this has caused Bush, to say nothing of the possibility of impeachment.

If you do not understand that, let me know & I’ll explain a third time.

Posted by: phx8 at December 31, 2005 7:46 PM
Comment #109544

Jarandhel-

Yes I was around for Watergate thank you. And knowing what you know now about Felt and his motives do you really consider him a hero? Here’s a man who had direct access the all of the Congressional oversight committees and instead chose to go to Bob Woodward.

I’m sorry the ends just don’t justify the means. Whoever leaked this to the NYT should have done the right thing if they believed the wire taps were wrong. Instead they took the easy way out or worse, played politics with sensitive and classified information.

Posted by: George in SC at December 31, 2005 8:50 PM
Comment #109545

Phx8 - Thanks for the attitude - you make participating in this forum so much fun. So you think this public “outing” of classified operations should just be let go and not investigated because they waited too long? No one should get in trouble for what basically could be considered treason because you consider it to be revenge? What’s your point?

Posted by: THC at December 31, 2005 9:04 PM
Comment #109546

THC,
I’m left leaning and outraged.Phx8 hit the nail right on the head with his last post. One factor he left out, I feel, is that the bushies are trying to steal the momentum the left has gained. By agressively taking the offense, they think they can create outrage from the public about the “leak” they have known about for over a year.

I wrote yesterday on the Democrats and Liberals blog that I am hoping that the leakers are swiftly apprehended. And then given the medal of freedom and a parade down Pennsylvania Ave. The people are not going to be fooled by this “outrage” over the leak.

I am however genuinely outraged that the man who has sworn to uphold our constitution is so brazenly flouting it. It is even more sickening when he constantly refers to “upholding the laws” in prefacing the reasons he feels he is above those laws.

Posted by: steve miller at December 31, 2005 9:13 PM
Comment #109548

THC,
What is my point? I’m not outraged. Nope. Not even a little. If national security were truly compromised by this leak, it could have been, would have been, and should have been investigated last year.

Not only am I not outraged, I am unwilling to grant the validity of your FAUX OUTRAGE over this matter. First, I don’t believe national security was compromised by the NYT article; hence, no investigation in October 2004, when Bush became aware this leak occurred. Second, purportedly classified material is often leaked to the press by both left and right. Unless national security is truly compromised, investigations do not occur. Politically motivated leaks usually say more about the obsessive & unnecesary secrecy with which our government operates than any compromise of critical information.

We the People would benefit from more transparency, not more secrecy, particularly when a sitting president rides roughshod over the 4th amendment.

Posted by: phx8 at December 31, 2005 9:36 PM
Comment #109553

How is our national security not truly comprimised when the terrorists now know how they are being listened to and will simply change their tactics?

Posted by: THC at December 31, 2005 10:05 PM
Comment #109556

THC,
Terrorists have known the US possesses powerful surveillance tools for some time. In Iraq, people on the street thought US soldiers had x-ray vision. The Israelis assassinated a terrorist in Tunisia using a cel phone bomb years ago.

Granted, on a generalized level it would better not to conduct a national, very public discussion of known surveillance techniques; such a discussion might make enemies more cautious, just because the discussion about surveillance is happening in the first place. But like I said, it’s hard to see how the NYT jeopardized national security with its article.

And on a separate note, wishing you & yours a Happy New Year!

Posted by: phx8 at December 31, 2005 10:18 PM
Comment #109557

Phx8,
I understand your point, I just don’t completely agree with you. I’m not saying it’s bad that they know we are listening, of course they already know that. I’m saying it’s bad that they know that they have this legal loophole of a time constrain on us getting a search warrant. They can now simply change their tactics by changing locations or phones often. Maybe they would have anyway, but I still think any details we share with them about the techniques we use is too much.

I also think while our government definetely should have transparency, there are some things that the general public shouldn’t know about, especially during a time of war. How we obtain information about terrorist ties here in the US is not something we all need to know about and share with the enemy. I think it is being a little paranoid to think somehow we have to worry about the government listening in on our conversations with grandma now. The people who were wiretapped had known ties to terrorist, and I have no problem with that at all.

Happy New Year to you to…

Posted by: THC at December 31, 2005 10:33 PM
Comment #109560

Then by all means, THC, we should become a lawless nation, which knows no bounds to actions or policies so that our enemies may never predict anything about what we may, or may not do.

The world has always been a dangerous place, but, humankind marched toward civilization and civilized behaviour and nations nonetheless. You seem to be arguing that we should return to the no-holds barred Neanderthal stage because another bogeyman has popped up to scare us.

Adolph Hitler and Nikita Kruschev and Joseph Stalin and ToJo were far greater enemies and posed far greater threats to America than these fundamentalist terrorists. There is nothing about this enemy that requires we dismantle our rule of law and Constitutional protections in order to defend against them. In any war there will be casualties, but, we do not have to give up our civilization in order fight them. If our fears drive us to, then they have already won.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 31, 2005 11:48 PM
Comment #109561

THC,
The time constraint theory just doesn’t hold water. As you no doubt know by now, the president can start his wiretap or other surveillance, and THEN get a warrant up to 72 hours after the fact. Where is the time problem?

It really then is a problem of legality. I find myself wondering if it isn’t just too darn inconvenient to comply with the law.

Because bush allowed no inconvenient warrants, and therefore no oversight or establishment of any kind of probable cause, (even retroactively, as the FISA court allows for) we only have the word of someone who is admittedly engaged in illegal snooping to go on. If this is allowed to continue unopposed, we change from a democratic republic into an empire or a fledgeling dictatorship. I urge you to consider how bad this would be for us all.

Maybe we don’t need to know the exact intel gathering details, but we damn sure need to know it is being done by the laws and constitution that are the president’s sworn duty to uphold.

Do you honestly have a problem with the intel gathering being done by the book? Is the president above the law? Can he change or subvert them as he likes, with no checks and/or balances?

Posted by: steve miller at December 31, 2005 11:54 PM
Comment #109571

I think it’s gone from wiretapping, to spying, to survailance, and maybe to rumor.
oh my!

Posted by: Weary Willie at January 1, 2006 2:21 AM
Comment #109594

As I stated in my posting before, I really cannot accept the premise that the leak was illegal…

The methods of wiretapping are well known. These people who want to do us harm may be insane, but they are not stupid.

The inescapable facts are:
*FISA was the law to use and it wasn’t.

*72 hours retroactive warrants allowed with FISA

*IF FISA did not meet the needs of the administration they had 4 years to request what they needed from congress.

*The President wrapped his actions of the wiretaps into secrecy to the point where even the congress (who is supposed to be one of the check-and-balance branches) could not disclose it even if they did know the extent. Some say they were simply sat down and told and not given the opportunity to as questions.

*There was no place that the “whistleblower”, that I know of, could have gone. Maybe someone else knows, but I don’t.

It would appear that with the leve of secrecy, where even congress was being hamstrung, there was very little choice.

The decision to perform these taps and not use the FISA law were down within the administration. The administration is predominantly intersted in supporting the goals of the President.

President Bush is well known for surrounging himself with “Yes” men that are uncomfortable with presenting differing views. This is not some left-wing propoganda, but well known and fairly evident. I know of no instance where he has ever reached out to the oppostition… it has always been a partisan relationship. (I am not talking about immediately after 9-11 when the Patriot Act was passed, but even that could be argued, but not here).

Sometimes the law is not black and white. Legal interpretation of words such as “reasonable”, “probable” and others depend on the perspective of the person reading the law.

I do not believe that this leak revealed ANY SECRET MEANS OR METHODS UNKNOWN TO THE TERRORISTS. What it did reveal was a dangerous skirting around the edges of the law.

My hope/prediction: The investigation of the “leak” will be used to deflect attention from the investigation of the actions of the administration…

This will fail because Americans will see though this.

WE ARE A NATION OF LAWS and this applies to the President, who by oath, is sworn to uphold the laws. We may aruge is it right to break a law in response to a law being broken… but look at it this way… if the first law wasn’t broken then there wouldn’t be a need to break the second law, right?

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 1, 2006 8:12 AM
Comment #109653

I think my point here was misunderstood. I am very conflicted about this issue. Obviously, if a person exposed a terrible plot inside the government, I would not want them punished. But this case illustrates the problem especially starkly:

we have actions by the Bush administration that are ARGUABLY either constitutional or unconstitutional, either legal or elligal. Whether, ultimately, what Bush did was legal will turn on a lot of hours by lawyers, difficult decisions by the nation’s federal courts. Clearly, whoever leaked this information does not have some super-legal powers to know what the outcome of this process will be.

Should whether he is put in jail or praised as a hero turn on how these (rather esoteric) issues of law are ultimately decided? I submit that such an outcome is outlandish. So far, despite the anger in these responses, I see no one providing an answer to this puzzle.

Posted by: Misha Tseytlin at January 1, 2006 11:47 AM
Comment #109657

Misha,
I submit that the outcome of the legal decisions don’t matter at all. Breaking the law is breaking the law - otherwise we are saying that the ends justify the means. Why do we assume that the legal channels provided to whistleblowers wouldn’t work? We are acting as though the whole government is part of Bush’s evil plan.

David & Steve,
“If this is allowed to continue unopposed, we change from a democratic republic into an empire or a fledgeling dictatorship.”

“Then by all means, THC, we should become a lawless nation, which knows no bounds to actions or policies so that our enemies may never predict anything about what we may, or may not do.”

Aren’t you guys taking it little too far? You sound very paranoid. Is everyone forgetting that these wiretaps were done on people with known terrorist ties? Why do you have such a problem with that?

“Do you honestly have a problem with the intel gathering being done by the book?”

That is an absurd statement. What I have a problem with the way this is being blown way out of proportion. I truly believe that Bush has broken no laws, but I will never convince you or anyone else of that. If he did break laws, then like anyone else he should be in trouble - and does anyone think for one second that the Dems won’t make it stick if they can?

Have a little faith in the checks and balances built into our bi-partisan government (it won’t make you a blind follower.)

Posted by: THC at January 1, 2006 12:48 PM
Comment #109666

THC,

“Have a little faith in the checks and balances built into our bi-partisan government (it won’t make you a blind follower.)”

I cannot speak for anyone else, but this is the very important part of this whole mess…

I do want the checks and balances of a 3 branch government to work. I am not a blind follower of anything but the principles that America stands for.

What I see is that the President, in this instance, did not use the intent of the 3 branches… if anything, he might have followed the letter of the law (but that may not hold true either).

Allegations and “concerns” as to the legality of the actions have been made. They must be investigated. I am not wanting to get into this administration versus another. Not because it cannot be defended, but in this topic, it would be distracting.

Judical Branch is supposed to issue warants based upon a request. In the FISA court that was specifically created by our government, this was not done.

Legislative Branch was notified as far as the leadership was given briefings. However, it is my understanding, at this moment, it was just briefings… not a request for approval of the actions, not an opportunity to question concerns with the actions. Even the congressment were sworn to secrecy, in so much as they could not discuss their concerns with their own staff.

Executive Brach says they had a deficiency in the FISA law but did no action to go to the law making branch of the government to request the powers they needed.

I believe there was enough concern about the legality of these actions to require the President’s office, the Attorney General office and the lawyers in the NSA, CIA and a few others to burn a lot of midnight oil to interpret the laws to justify the actions. Again, these were all opinions based upon those that were looking to justify the actions, not to oppose the actions… so I would say they might have been a bit blind to opposing views or interpretations.

Now, with all that said, should the Dems take advantage of this if it is found to be illegal? ABSOLUTELY.

We have been mischaracterized as un-Godly, immoral, lawless, unpatriotic, and many other unfair appelations….

I, for one, as a law abiding, moral, patriotic vet and Christian am tired of being told how terrible we are.

The Republican party set themselves up as the morally superior party. Integrety matters and all that.

IF it is proven that laws were broken then I do not see it as wrong for a political party to take advantage of the situations. If it were inneundos or unproven allegations, then I would object to that.

We will not know until hearings are held. Some don’t wish for hearings to even be held. I wonder why that is? These are the same people that love to say that they have nothing to fear and welcome the gov. to listen in if they want… as so often said, “An honest person has nothing to fear.”

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 1, 2006 3:24 PM
Comment #109667

THC said: “Is everyone forgetting that these wiretaps were done on people with known terrorist ties? Why do you have such a problem with that?”

After all that has been elucidated, this comment indicates a pointless dialogue. THC either chooses to ignore the arguments made or, he is an NSA agent and knows of which he speaks, which of course is top secret, so he shouldn’t be speaking at all, in the first place according to the laws he defends. Ergo, pointless dialogue.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 1, 2006 4:09 PM
Comment #109669

Misha, it seems pretty clear to me, that the wall erected in the 1970’s to prevent foreign intelligence agencies from spying on Americans for political purposes was pretty clear, and nothing in the Patriot granted such powers while circumventing judicial review and the warrant process under FISA rules.

It also appears, that the Bush administration surveilled Americans without going through the FISA court review, bypassing it altogether. If accurate, this means Bush went from rule of law, to rule of authority with nothing but his own administration’s permission, and then attempted to keep it secret.

It occurs to me the Justice Dep’t didn’t investigate the leak a year ago, because they hoped to keep the lid on this extra-legal activity. Investigating it would have made it front page news.

When an Administration discards the rule of law and replaces it with rule by their own authority granted to them by themselves, that administration just stepped into a peformance of Authoritarian Rule in these United States of America, which was founded upon principles and a Constitution to prevent authoritarian rule. If this is what happened, there never was a more impeachable offense against our government, its people, and our Constitution.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 1, 2006 4:22 PM
Comment #109685

As I stated earlier, most republicans get in a big lather when it comes to the prospect of our fearless leader being held accountable for his extralegal snooping.

Posted by: steve miller at January 1, 2006 5:46 PM
Comment #109686

David,
No need to act so smug - I am not ignoring the arguments. I am not one to automatically ignore something just because it is coming from an evil president I can’t stand. I’m actually listening to what the president is saying…

“The fact that somebody leaked this program causes great harm to the United States,” Bush said before returning to Washington from a holiday break at his Texas ranch. “There’s an enemy out there.”

Bush stressed that the surveillance involved telephone calls from “a few numbers” outside the United States by people associated with al-Qaida, the terrorist organization that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House later clarified Bush’s remarks, saying he meant to say calls going to and originating from the U.S. were being monitored.

“It seems logical to me that if we know there’s a phone number associated with al-Qaida or an al-Qaida affiliate and they’re making phone calls, it makes sense to find out why,” he said. “They attacked us before, they’ll attack us again.”

(from the AP today on Yahoo)

It makes perfect sense to me, but what do I know compared to someone like you, David.

Posted by: THC at January 1, 2006 5:58 PM
Comment #109688

THC,

“It seems logical to me that if we know there’s a phone number associated with al-Qaida or an al-Qaida affiliate and they’re making phone calls, it makes sense to find out why,” he said. “They attacked us before, they’ll attack us again.”

No one is going to argue against monitoring those calls. We all want to protect America.

Ask though, if there are known numbers associated with the terrorists then why not use the system of law we have to attain the search warrants.

I believe that the administration is intentionally mixing valid security concerns with possible illegal actions… We are not arguing that terrorist’s phones should not be tapped.

The argument by the administration of this in terms of national security clouds the issues so people are having trouble getting through to the issue of the legality of the actions to monitor American citizens without a warrant.

Again,
*IF the FISA courts do not allow the administration and our intelligence agencies to safeguard us while also safeguarding our civil rights, then the administration is obligated to go to Congress to get the law they need.
*IF a 72 hour retroactive warrant is not meeting the needs of the administration then again they must go to the Congress to get the legal authority they need.
*President Bush’s briefings of the Congressional leaders was done under sworn secrecy. It did not fall within the “checks and balances” role as envisioned by the founders. It as an attempt to meet the requirement of the law and to give the impression of Congressional oversight. But, without the congressmen being legally able to disclose what they learned, there really cannot be oversight.
*The terrorists know that their phones could be, and most likely are tapped. They use technology quite effectively… even encoded messages within graphic documents. Therefore, the knowledge that they might be listened too isn’t anything new to them or us. I don’t see if that is such a secret.
*That the administration was bypassing the intent as well as the letter of the law could be the real secret that they are upset about having released.
*4 years of justifying and rationalizing instead of going to congress and getting the specific authorization…

IF evidence used in a trial against a terrorist is tainted because of the legality of the wire tap… who will be blamed? The President who did not make sure to give the government the powers it needs from the Congress in this war against terrorism?

Or do we blame the judge who is under an oath to uphold the law?

The bottom line as I see it is that there was no reason why this had to happen. None. I believe that it is unexcuseable… because of the 72 hour retroactive warrant, because the only 5 of 15,000 warrant requests denied and because of the 4 years to have a specific law designed to meet the needs of the intelligence agencies to try to keep us safe within our laws.

Epediency does not last 4 years.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 1, 2006 7:10 PM
Comment #109691

Re Intelligence operations

Most of what is gathered seems very innocent. You are looking for patterns. As far as I know (please let me know) not ONE American citizen has been personally violated by this. The evidence can’t be used in court. It is meant to reveal patterns of behavior to anticipate and prevent terrorism.

CONVERSELY

People say that this leak doesn’t matter since those involved would know they were being watched. That may or may not be true. A suicide bomber is almost by defintion either stupid or deluded. But assuming he is smart. Telling him more about the means, times and places of the “spying” is very useful to him. I might know you are watching me, but if I know how or when I can counter you.

Re Plame - the Plame affair compromised almost nothing. We still can’t even be sure any law was broken. It was serious, but revealing a whole method of intelligence gathering is more dangerous.

A person with a security clearance does not have the right to reveal information. It just is not his call. The most expeditous way for a spy to pass information to his handlers can be through the media. Think about it. If you want to get the information to the bad guys, you have several options. You can meet a contact (very risky). You can arrange a dead drop (risky and uncertain). Or you can leak it to the press. IF you are caught, you wrap yourself in the flag and claim high motives.

Posted by: Jack at January 1, 2006 8:07 PM
Comment #109695

Please go to the NSA.gov website… I saw much there that related to the gathering and use of signals intelligence.

Again, I belive that the secret was that it was being done with questions to its being illegal… it appears that a top person in the AG’s office, James B. Comey was heistant to sign off on the wiretaps and they had to go to the hospital where Ashcroft was having surgery. We do not know if he signed it or not… but there was concern raised, even within the administration.

The question of whether or not the information can be used in court is excellent. There are at least 3 convicted terrorists that are filing an appeal with this hope.

If a case against a terrorist is thrown out because of tainted evidence caused by the failure of the administration to obide by the FISA act and get a warrant… who will be blamed? The defense lawyer working within the law? The judge for abiding by the law? The administraion for not observing the law and using tainted evidence when there was no need to do so because FISA would have given them the warrant they needed?

I still believe that it is a red herring to say that terrorists did not know they might be monitored. Come on… whether we like it or not, they have proven their ability to use modern electronics (and avionics effectively enough) that knowing the US might use some of its vast resources to listen to their phone calls is a pretty much given.

We don’t know the entire significance of the revelation of Plame being a covert agent. There is no way for us to know who she talked to, contacted or dealt with over her almost 20 year career that could now be considered “suspect.”

We presume that we know the damage was limited… but using the same argument of the need to consider the consequences… is it not possible that the government is trying to minimize the significance of her “outing” hoping it will blow over and real damage is limited?

It is not even the same argument and causes attention to be distracted from the issue…

The issue was the law FISA. The ability to get the warrants but not doing it. The failure to go to congress if a differnt law was required. The protection of the checks and balances, the proper roles of each branch of government.

No argument against this has really been impressive…

It is a new war and they need to act fast = 72 hours for a retroactive warrant.

The President was authorized to use “all necessary means.” = Congress, operating in a nation with almost 230 years of law should not have to mention “all legal and necessary means.” It is implied.

American’s were not harmed. = “No harm, no foul.” What about the principles we stand for? Do we know for sure none were harmed? Do we know what is now in the databases? No because they are secret… which is fine, they should be secret if the information placed within them are legally obtained. We do not know the significance on innocent Americans and we cannot say at this time.

FISA did not meet their needs. = Then go to congress and get the authorization they needed.

FISA was not applicable. = Then get an applicable law. Going to only administration officals for legal opinions is going to give limited opposing views. It was questioned by some within the Administration but they were ignored.

Congress was briefed. = Select Congressmen were briefed as to what was being done in general terms and sworn to secrecy which restricted their ability to do their sworn duty.

Should the leak be investigated? Sure. Was it political… I really really really don’t see where it matters.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 1, 2006 9:07 PM
Comment #109700

Jack, as far as I am concerned, the reporting of a crime is not a crime. The leaking of an activity that was outside the laws, and deliberately kept secret (avoiding FISA court) to hide the illegality, is not a crime, it is an act of patriotic responsibility.

If it was terrorists being spied upon, then the FISA courts would have had no problem. The circumventing of the FISA court, WHICH has a history of being secure, points to surveillance of Americans for which no terrorist cause could be shown to exist as justification at the FISA court.

If this is ever investigated thoroughly, it is very possible, I would say probable now, we will find surveillance was conducted on Americans with no links to terrorists, but, links perhaps to crime or drug lords, or links to Cuba, or links to family members or friends of Middle Eastern descent, or connections with international GreenPeace, or donations to the Red Crescent, or any number of other possible connections having nothing at all to do with terrorism or in some cases, even criminal activity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 1, 2006 10:14 PM
Comment #109702

THC, the point I was making in my smug comment, is that you don’t know who was surveilled nor why.

All that is known is that the legal safeguards for insuring an absence of abuse of such extraordinary power, was circumvented. The very act of circumventing the legal checks and balances installed by Congress and the Courts, is more than sufficient justification for skepticism and a full and thorough investigation.

One does not avoid legally required oversight unless one is engaging in something illegal and wishes it to be kept hidden. Unless of course, stupidity and ignorance caused the circumventing of the required oversight, which also requires investigation. Incompetence in the White House is the people’s business as well.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 1, 2006 10:24 PM
Comment #109741
I’m saying it’s bad that they know that they have this legal loophole of a time constrain on us getting a search warrant. They can now simply change their tactics by changing locations or phones often.

No, they can’t THC. The roving wire-taps provisions in the Patriot Act covers that — one of the provisions that both parties agree is an important tool.

phx8 is right. Exposing President Bush’s illegal bypassing of warrants doesn’t hurt our counter-terrorism operations. Also, under conditions that apply now, FISA allows the President to wait about two weeks (not just 72 hours) before seeking a warrant. There really is no reason not to do so.

And remember, the reason this is being debated publically is because the President refuses to quit illegally spying on American citizens without a warrant. If President Bush was acting within the law, this never would have come up.

As far as I know (please let me know) not ONE American citizen has been personally violated by this.

And, of course, the world will never know, Jack. Since the President didn’t get warrants, no records needed to be kept. But you can bet that some American citizens will have problems with the government and no explanation will be forthcoming.

Misha, I think you’re right that the leak should be investigated. I’d start in the NSA itself, where many high-ranking officers disapproved of — and distanced themselves from — unnecessarily breaking the law as the President ordered them to do.

If the guilty party truly is altruistic rather than trying to exact political revenge as is obvious in the Plame case, I’d hope the justice system would go easy on him — or that President Bush’s successor after his impeachment and incarceration would grant him a pardon.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 2, 2006 8:02 AM
Comment #109749

AP:

I’m curious about some of what you said.

First, you comment on “President Bush’s illegal bypassing of warrants”, while disregarding the overriding discussion of whether the wiretaps are in fact illegal. I’m not looking to discuss that legal issue with you here; rather, I’m suggesting that you look at the variety of people on both sides (who have far superior legal experience than you or I) who are discussing the legal issues.

There are those on both sides who claim that actions are legal, and those on both sides who claim the actions are illegal. The point is that there is significant question on this point—yet you’ve decided apparently to see only one side of the coin. Wouldn’t it be fairer to recognize that the legality of the wiretaps is in question, rather than dismissing that fact?

Secondly, I’d enjoy a better understanding of why you think Bush would circumvent the FISA standards as he apparently has. My theory is that politicians are generally creatures who will take the safest and easiest route, if its available.

You’ve said “There really is no reason not to do so”, meaning comply with FISA. In the political game of risk/reward, I see no reward, but a terribly high risk, based on how you claim there is nothing to have been gained by circumventing FISA. If that’s that case, why do you think Bush would take the riskier and more difficult route? What kind of motives would you ascribe?

Lastly, my biggest problem with the leaker is that he/she/they did not go through the proper channels, which would be internal first. Or at least so it seems. Going public with information does hurt our capabilities—-just remember back to how the media mentioned that Osama Bin Laden was being tracked by his satellite phone usage, which—golly gee-happened to stop right after that tidbit of news hit the papers.

We cannot leave it to those who have an agenda, be it altruistic or not, to make the judgement of what will or will not hurt the US. A few years ago, a political figure misled a judge because he thought the questions were unimportant to the case. Just as witnesses cannot determine what is acceptable to lie about in court, neither can intelligence officers decide what is and what isn’t for public disclosure.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 2, 2006 10:36 AM
Comment #109754

joe:

I hate to tell you this, but despite being repeated by the President himself, the Osama bin Laden cell phone thing is an urban legend.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/3546050.html

It’s also a question of what, exactly, was revieled by the leak: the fact that the US taps people? That’s WIDELY known already, and in fact is the subject of many popular books and movies available the world over, even in the middle east. The details of who, exactly, was tapped were not released. The only thing that was not already known that was released is that people were being tapped without even seeking FISA warrants due to an executive order.

And again, as has been mentioned before, what channels existed in this instance? Even leading members of congress were gagged from speaking to other members of congress (or anyone) about this program. What avenues remained in place that did not lead directly back to the AG and through him to POTUS?

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 2, 2006 11:30 AM
Comment #109757

Jarandhel:

I’ll look into the sat phone issue—thanks for the information, and my apologies if I wrongly used it as an example.

My point about using proper channels is that its not acceptable to leak information to the press, and then suggest that the proper channels would not have worked. You have to first use the proper channels, and IFFF they truly do not work, then you go on to the next alternative.

Imagine in sports if Player A assumed that Player B was going to foul him, but that the ref would miss the call. Would the retaliation be acceptable? Of course not.

Imagine in business if Company A sued Company B for a patent infringement that had yet to take place? Would any sane court accept the case because of the potential future illegality?
That’s the premise of a Tom Cruise movie, but it only exists on Hollywood celluloid, not in the real world.

If it comes to light that the leaker(s) went through the proper channels and were met with resistance, then I’d accept their method as a means of last resort. But if its shown to be their method of FIRST resort, then its just plain wrong.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 2, 2006 11:44 AM
Comment #109758

Joe:

It’s not a matter of assuming the channels would not have worked, it’s a matter of the channels leading to the people accused of the crime in the first place. Various individuals, from NSA employees to the congressmen who had been briefed, expressed their concerns over this program to the President and others involved using what you see as the proper channels. Nothing came of it. At this point, a whistle needed to be blown on the activity. Who does that whistle get blown to? Higher-level NSA officials that already know what’s going on? The AG who has actually been arguing that an authorization for use of “appropriate force” constitutes approval of wiretaps that would otherwise be extralegal at best, illegal at worst, without a warrant? The president who did the authorizing? The members of congress who are themselves gagged from speaking about it publicly, much less calling for an investigation? Seriously, who is left to blow the whistle to other than the public? Again, it’s not just a matter of assuming the avenues would not have worked, it’s a matter of there not being avenues at all that do not lead directly back to the very people accused.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 2, 2006 12:05 PM
Comment #109759

Jarandhel:

By your logic, then, nothing—-absolutely nothing—can be investigated if it is to be done by the people being investigated.

Clinton was investigated for many things, and Janet Reno ran the investigations, or at least approved the independent counsel. By your logic, this couldn’t have happened. The investigations should have been stopped in their tracks, but they weren’t. (I’m not approving or disapproving here of the investigations of Clinton—simply using them as an example)

If you cannot go through the system, then why even bother having the system in place? You seem to be saying that when a party controls congress and the white house, the system then does not work. But it has been shown to work in these instances as well.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 2, 2006 12:22 PM
Comment #109766

joe:

I think you take the wrong lesson from the Clinton analogy. As you note, an independent counsel was appointed in that case, but under US law an independent counsel is used specifically to prevent the conflict of interest that would arise from the executive branch investigating itself. The problem is that the law allowing for the creation of independent counsels such as Ken Star was allowed to expire in 1999, returning sole responsibility for appointing outside prosecutors to the attorney general for the first time since the Ethics in Government act was enacted in 1978.
http://www.encyclopedia.com/html/i1/indpndcou.asp

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 2, 2006 1:23 PM
Comment #109767

Correction, there was also a brief two year period between 1992 and 1994 in which the AG also had that power, due to the original law creating special prosecutors expiring and the new law creating independent counsels not being enacted for two more years. In historic terms, this may end up being such a gap before the reinstatement of a similar law, though it has certainly been a much longer gap than the last one.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 2, 2006 1:26 PM
Comment #109787

Jarandhel:

I’m not looking to segue into a discussion of the merits and flaws of the independent counsel laws. My point was simply to show that under your logic, since Clinton was being investigated, he could have simply had Reno shut down any independent counsel. By law, I believe the AG has to approve the law, which was why Starr went to her for approval in expanding the scope of his investigation.

Using your logic that the person being investigated would use his/her power to subvert the investigation, the investigation should never have happened. Yet it did.

The bottom line is that our system is flawed, like any system, but it still works better than most. If we lose faith in the system, then we ought to just pack it in and call it quits. But investigations do happen, presidents and other govt officials are held accountable for their actions (not all actions, to be sure, but this would be the case in ANY situation), and power in the United States is not absolute, as it is with many dictatorships.

When we go outside the proper channels, we should face accountability. President Bush needs to be held accountable for his actions, if they are found to be illegal. That is in question right now. The leakers should be held accountable if their actions are proven illegal.

But the idea of simply choosing to work outside the system, but only when you know you are in the right, simply leads to vigilantism. If I KNOW that someone killed my wife, am I free then to use whatever means I wish to instill justice? Of course not—I must work within the system.

As is the case with Bush and with the leakers—work withIN the system, not outside it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 2, 2006 3:49 PM
Comment #109814
I’m not looking to segue into a discussion of the merits and flaws of the independent counsel laws.

Nor was I, I was pointing out that the law under which Clinton was investigated no longer exists. Rather than an independent counsel appointed by a panel of federal judges, the AG now has direct authority to appoint a special prosecutor. That situation did not exist under Clinton.

My point was simply to show that under your logic, since Clinton was being investigated, he could have simply had Reno shut down any independent counsel. By law, I believe the AG has to approve the law, which was why Starr went to her for approval in expanding the scope of his investigation.

Actually, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Under the law, Reno would have to have shown just cause for removing him, so Clinton could not have just had her shut him down like Nixon did with his first special prosecutor. Incidentally, Nixon later was pressured into allowing the appointment of a second special prosecutor due to mounting public outrage since the information about his administration’s illegal activities WAS leaked to the press.

Using your logic that the person being investigated would use his/her power to subvert the investigation, the investigation should never have happened. Yet it did.

My logic is the same logic that was used in drafting the independent counsel law. There is an inherent conflict of interest that has been acknowledged twice by legislation in this country since Nixon’s presidency. It is also the same logic that prompts the creation of Internal Affairs departments to investigate allegations of illegal actions by police officers. It is rather simple and obvious logic.

The bottom line is that our system is flawed, like any system, but it still works better than most. If we lose faith in the system, then we ought to just pack it in and call it quits. But investigations do happen, presidents and other govt officials are held accountable for their actions (not all actions, to be sure, but this would be the case in ANY situation), and power in the United States is not absolute, as it is with many dictatorships.

No one is talking about working outside of the system. I think that you are forgetting that we live in a democracy. When the other avenues are not available to us, one goes to the public, which are in the end the people to whom government is accountable. We are Bush’s bosses, not the other way around. Yes, the leak has gone over Bush’s head on this matter, but in doing so he is working entirely within the system of democracy that we have available to us.

When we go outside the proper channels, we should face accountability. President Bush needs to be held accountable for his actions, if they are found to be illegal. That is in question right now. The leakers should be held accountable if their actions are proven illegal.

You assume that going to the press was not the proper channel in this instance. You keep trying to throw suspicion on the leak because it went outside the channels you would have preferred. But I note you still have not been able to point out even one thing that was published that was not already common knowledge, other than that the president had authorized them not to bother seeking warrants for the surveillance. Why was that even classified information in the first place?

But the idea of simply choosing to work outside the system, but only when you know you are in the right, simply leads to vigilantism. If I KNOW that someone killed my wife, am I free then to use whatever means I wish to instill justice? Of course not—I must work within the system.

As is the case with Bush and with the leakers—work withIN the system, not outside it.

I agree. But if you know the sheriff is the one who murdered her, are you obligated to go to him or his deputy rather than to the press when you want to find someone to investigate it?

Going to the public is ALWAYS part of the system in a democracy.

Posted by: Jarandhel at January 2, 2006 5:06 PM
Comment #109857

Impeach the Bush Crime Family now

Posted by: Lt. Bell at January 2, 2006 9:02 PM
Comment #109868
My point was simply to show that under your logic, since Clinton was being investigated, he could have simply had Reno shut down any independent counsel.

From Wikipedia: “At Clinton’s request, a special prosecutor was appointed in 1994 by the Department of Justice to investigate the legality of Whitewater transactions.”

JBOD, it doesn’t surprise me that it didn’t even occur to a Republican that President Clinton authorized his own investigation to prove his innocence — which is exactly what happened.

That’s something President Bush would never do.

Wouldn’t it be fairer to recognize that the legality of the wiretaps is in question, rather than dismissing that fact?

JBOD, I’m not aware of any impartial legal expert who believes not getting the warrants is legal. Maybe you can provide a source. By every interpretation of FISA, the president must get a warrant. He did not, and he is still not complying with the law.

Secondly, I’d enjoy a better understanding of why you think Bush would circumvent the FISA standards as he apparently has.

That one’s easy. Cheney spelled it out for us: “Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam both during the ’70s served, I think, to erode the authority I think the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area.”

Bush & Cheney are trying to regain executive powers that Nixon abused and Congress put limits on. It’s a valid argument, but they just can’t break the law and dare Congress to impeach them merely to get their message across. I blogged about this here a couple weeks ago. Maybe you missed it.

We cannot leave it to those who have an agenda, be it altruistic or not, to make the judgement of what will or will not hurt the US.

Of course not. We’re a nation of laws. I already said that. What I’d hope is that the motive is taken into account when it comes time for sentencing.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 2, 2006 11:56 PM
Comment #109874

JBOD said: “I’m suggesting that you look at the variety of people on both sides (who have far superior legal experience than you or I) who are discussing the legal issues.”

If Bush killed the unarmed doorman at the White House in a fit or rage declaring the man was running out the door to reveal top secret materials, I can assure you legal folks would be arguing the defensibility of the act from both sides, from the side that states homicide is against the law, and from the side of The President of my Party can do no Wrong, he is the President.

In the end, an unarmed person was killed, and the means to apprehend him alive was available with a full complement of secret service agents on the grounds. In the end, a homicide took place and a law was broken. That will not stop the President’s defenders from defending his action with every legal argument at their disposal.

But, the people will still make a political decision as to whether the President broke the law regardless of what the jury or House of Representatives finds in the adjudiation of the case. And in an unbiased adjudication, the laws regarding halting a person from a reprehensible act with less lethal means when those means were
clearly and readily available, would rule murder took place.

But the President does not face an unbiased adjudication. If adjudicated at all, his actions on the NSA spying will be in the hands of a very biased House of Representatives. So, the checks and balances keep breaking down, the further this case goes. This NSA spying is as big and as important to the nation and its future as WaterGate was in its day.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 3, 2006 1:03 AM
Comment #109875

Jarandhel:

Your original comments did not make it appear that you thought going public was part of the process. You claimed that the channels that were in place led to the people being investigated, and for that reason you felt that going public was acceptable. Now you say that going public is one of the original channels. That changes the entire argument. I’ve agreed that going public is a measure, but one of last resort. Apparently you think it is one of first resort, and on that, we disagree.

AP:

I pointed out Clinton’s investigation because I knew he called for it. That simply shows that Jarandhel’s claim is wrong, since the very person being investigated was the very same person who called for it. The system worked.

As far as legal experts who suggest that the wiretaps might be legal, you might try Cass Sunstein or Jamie Gorelick, among others. Sunstein has said he thinks these wiretaps are legal, while Gorelick argued for such legality during the Clinton presidency. There are many others as well that I’m sure you can find if you are willing to check. Note that I’m NOT saying the wiretaps are legal—-I’m simply saying that there are varying opinions from all over the political and legal landscape, which make it far far too early to proclaim the actions as ‘illegal’.

Lastly, I’d agree that motive should be taken into account, as it typically is with many crimes. A mother who steals food from a store to feed her child typically would be treated differently than someone who steals a case of beer just to get drunk. Motive should play a part, but not be the entire factor, since to do so would bring too much gray into the legal system.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 1:14 AM
Comment #109876

David:

Thanks for providing such a hyperbolic example. I really would have expected you to hold to the concept of innocent until proven guilty, but you seem to have passed on that concept in your rush to judgement.

Perhaps we ought to simply declare Bush guilty right now, with no charges having been brought and no trial, no jury and no judge. That is the approach you are taking by declaring him guilty at this point. THAT kind of breakdown in our legal system would be more injurious than anything, yet you seem fine with it. Doesn’t make any sense.

Let’s review: You want Bush declared guilty before the evidence is collected. I want the evidence collected and investigated, and then proceed from there with whatever the law says. If Bush is charged, then have a trial. If found guilty, then provide punishment.

Which would you prefer if it were a case involving you? Would your mindset change just because of the players involved?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 1:19 AM
Comment #109879

The very idea of “trying Bush” for taking measures which specifically target Al Qaida (according to Congressional resolutions which gave him power to do so) is nothing but left-wing fantasy. And propably right wing fantasy too.

Any full airing of such an issue would be an unmitigated PR triumph for the administration and PR disaster for its detractors. It’s just not going to happen.

And not because the Republicans control Congress, but because Democrats who want to stay in office would never want a highly public “trial” of administratation officials on the basis of the president potentialy exploiting a grey area of the law to do listen into phone calls to American citizens which originate from overseas Al Qaida operatives and associates.

The fact that these measures are not only completely legal but necessary is probably important too.

Posted by: sanger at January 3, 2006 1:40 AM
Comment #109883

Joe,

You’re commentary is hilarious. You plead for people to work within the system - while refusing to acknowledge that Bush intentionally went AROUND the system in the spying cases.

You plead with the left to provide any sort of motivation for Bush to want to go around the system - yet refuse to demand that Bush do the same. Why don’t you answer your own question? Give one plausible reason why Bush would need to go outside the FISA court?

Bush claims the reason is his need for speed - but the hitch there is that this argument isn’t plausible. Because we all know (outside of those are woefully ill-informed yet continue to comment like THC) that there is no time issue.

So what we do know is that Bush lied about the existence of the program (his speech to troops in 2004), he lied about his reasoning for the program (phoney speed argument), and he actively lobbied the press to keep from revealing the operation. Yet you don’t even see smoke here, let alone fire.

Let’s take a look at another hypocrisy, since the Plame leak investigation has been brought into this. The White House, including Mr. Bush, has been fond of saying that they can’t comment on the Plame leak because there is an ongoing investigation. Yet now that there is an investigation into the NSA leak, Mr. Bush is quite the Chatty Cathy. Hell, he can’t shut up about the spy case, even as he is continuing to mislead people about the scope of the program when he states that the spying is only done on calls that originate outside the U.S.

So, again to be clear, with Plame he can’t comment. But with the NSA case, he can not only comment, but he’s free to continue lying about it. I’m sure I’ll get a great explanation from the apologists, so bring em on.

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 2:04 AM
Comment #109885
Perhaps we ought to simply declare Bush guilty right now, with no charges having been brought and no trial, no jury and no judge.

Joe, it must be exausting for you to trot out this tired excuse for an argument for each and every of the mounting Republican scandals.

In your eyes, Hitler was guilty of nothing since he was never brought to trial.

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 2:10 AM
Comment #109887
The very idea of “trying Bush” for taking measures which specifically target Al Qaida (according to Congressional resolutions which gave him power to do so) is nothing but left-wing fantasy.

Sanger, please post your evidence that these measures specifically targeted Al Qaeda only.

Democrats who want to stay in office would never want a highly public “trial” of administratation officials on the basis of the president potentialy exploiting a grey area of the law to do listen into phone calls to American citizens which originate from overseas Al Qaida operatives and associates.

Why did you put “from overseas” in bold? Was it to highlight the fact that you were repeating a lie? Because that’s what it is - a lie. Just like your previous lies that the NSA program didn’t involve listening in on American citizens.

From the AP:

Bush stressed that the surveillance involved telephone calls from “a few numbers” outside the United States by people associated with al-Qaida, the terrorist organization that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks. The White House later clarified Bush’s remarks, saying he meant to say calls going to and originating from the U.S. were being monitored.

So either Bush doesn’t have a god damn clue about the extent of this program, or he is simply lying once again to the American people. Take your pick. I’ll believe either choice.

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 2:36 AM
Comment #109894

JBOD, reality is reality. I don’t know if there is a law on the books that permits the NSA spying to circumvent the FISA review process. If there is, then the Pres. is on safe legal ground.

In the hypothetical, I was making the point, if his actions were not legal, it is very unlikely impeachment will follow due to the one party majority government in place.

I also made the observation of reality that regardless of legal procedural outcomes, the American public will make a political decision as to whether he broke the law or not. Just as the American public decided for themselves whether OJ Simpson was guilty or not despite the court’s ruling. As we all know, some crimes go unpunished for lack of evidence. Doesn’t mean that the accused did NOT commit the crime.

This is especially a problem with the Pres. where he may invoke all sorts of privileges common folk don’t have to suppress and deny evidence to the legal proceedings.

I am not sure how you made those leaps of judgement as to my making declarations in my hypothetical.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 3, 2006 6:59 AM
Comment #109895

Sanger said: “Any full airing of such an issue would be an unmitigated PR triumph for the administration and PR disaster for its detractors.”

I for one truly hope we can test your prediction, Sanger with a full airing. Given the secrecy of the content, lack of FISA records, and exceptional powers of the President to suppress evidence legally, I have to wonder of a full airing is even possible.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 3, 2006 7:02 AM
Comment #109896

JBOD, I look forward to your reply to Burt’s inquiries and statements of fact as he sees them.

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 3, 2006 7:03 AM
Comment #109898

Burt:

You plead for people to work within the system - while refusing to acknowledge that Bush intentionally went AROUND the system in the spying cases.

You obviously haven’t been reading my posts, but rather skimming them and then deciding what you want me to have said. I’ve consistently said that Bush DID go around the system. You must have missed what I wrote to Jarandhel in your haste to condemn my opinions. I’ll repost it for you—please read it this time:

“I’d enjoy a better understanding of why you think Bush would circumvent the FISA standards as he apparently has…why do you think Bush would take the riskier and more difficult route? What kind of motives would you ascribe?”

Give one plausible reason why Bush would need to go outside the FISA court?

When investigators look at case evidence, one of the primary things they look for is ‘motive’. And I’ve been wondering what Bush’s motive might have been, since its obvious he took a harder and more difficult route to get the wiretap information. I’ve seen 3 possible reasons:

1) AP postulated that “Bush & Cheney are trying to regain executive powers” (he may be correct, and if so, this is not an acceptable reason for breaking a law)

2) That FISA was going to deny some of what he wanted, preventing him from conducting what he thought was necessary (while the motivation for this would be to do the ‘right’ thing, it would still be wrong to do it by circumventing existing law—-the proper course would be to get the law changed to allow for proper intelligence gathering)

3) That Bush felt he was authorized to do what he felt was necessary by the wording of the Congressional resolutions (this would be acceptable IFFF the NSA wiretaps are within his perview to do. This is what is being discussed and debated, and as I’ve shown in previous posts, there are widely divergent thoughts on whether the wiretaps were legal or illegal.)

Yet you don’t even see smoke here, let alone fire.

Burt, I don’t know how you can say you’ve read what I wrote, and then comment in the way you do. I’ll provide another of my statements that clearly shows how you’ve simply ignored what I say in my posts:

“President Bush needs to be held accountable for his actions, if they are found to be illegal. That is in question right now. The leakers should be held accountable if their actions are proven illegal.”

How you can look at a definitive statement like that, and then claim that I see ‘no smoke’ is beyond me. How can I say it any clearer?? You want to rush to judgement, which you and the left have repeatedly done. I want the matter investigated, and any proclamations of guilt or innocence delayed until the proof is in.

Lets recall how the “left” went on a rampage about “Fitzmas” and how Rove was guilty. As of yet, no indictments. Or how Abu Ghraib was Rumsfeld’s doing. Again, nothing. Or how Dan Rather found the smoking gun proving Bush was AWOL—-again zip, zilch, nada.

How long will it take for you to learn that accusations do not equate guilt. There MAY be guilt, but it must be shown to exist. You can’t simply accuse someone and then assume they are guilty. When you do that, you ignore the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ concept.

If you found an unknown dinner receipt at home, would you A) automatically accuse your wife of having an affair, or B) you check into it first. If you choose A, well, then there is little hope for you, my friend. But that is what the “left” is doing consistently and they have not brought the requisite evidence.

Know this: I recognize the realities of politics, which means there is much beneath the surface that is dark and ugly. I’ve not said that Bush is lily white and clean, nor would I suggest that ANY politician these days is. But….and here is the difference between my position and yours…I refuse to rush to judgement without evidence.

When the left has been wrong so many times, you’d think they would learn. I still have hope, but its waning.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 8:12 AM
Comment #109906
You obviously haven’t been reading my posts, but rather skimming them and then deciding what you want me to have said. I’ve consistently said that Bush DID go around the system

Then Joe, I am guilty of a poor choice of words. I should not have said that you don’t “acknowledge” that Bush went around the system. I was trying to point out the hypocrisy of your argument that whistleblowers must follow the system, but the President doesn’t necessarily have to.

And I’ve been wondering what Bush’s motive might have been, since its obvious he took a harder and more difficult route to get the wiretap information. I’ve seen 3 possible reasons:

Thank you for actually making an honest attempt at this. Something none of the other big thinkers on the right here even attempt to do.

I agree with you on #1 that it is not acceptable. I also agree with you that #2 is also not acceptable, although it is closer to the most plausible argument. It seems hard to argue that Bush was running into to much resistance from the FISA court considering their history of being a rubber stamp unless they were really engaging in egregious conduct. I think it is more likely that they knew damn well that they weren’t going to get approval from the FISA court for American citizens that they wanted to put under surveillance, so they just did it any way. We agree that this would not be acceptable.

Your #3 is interesting, because while it is the only acceptable motive for you, it is not a motive. Thinking you have the right to do something is not a motive. You still haven’t pinned down one acceptable reason for this administration to want to do what they did. I think that says enough.

Lets recall how the “left” went on a rampage about “Fitzmas” and how Rove was guilty.

Rove was guilty as hell of exactly what we accused him of and only a fool would say otherwise. When the Plame story broke years ago, everyone in Washington knew it had Rove’s pudgy, greasy fingerprints all over it. Yet, the White House came out and said boldly that he had nothing to do with it - same with Libby. Yet we are all aware now that he certainly did leak the name. We can debate whether that was against a poorly worded and obscure law. But it doesn’t change the fact that he was indeed guilty of leaking her name, just as we said he was from the very beginning. And he, and the White House - including W. - are guilty of covering it up. I don’t think those facts can be debated honestly. And if you think Rove is out of the woods in terms of an indictment, you haven’t been paying attention.

Or how Abu Ghraib was Rumsfeld’s doing. Again, nothing.

Nothing? Well again, you appear to not have paid attention. I don’t recall anyone on the left saying that Rummy was sitting in a room, drawing up pictures of human pyramids as an instruction manual to the troops. But we did say that he was ultimately responsible for these outrages. And guess what, Rumsfeld thought the same thing. He issued his resignation during the scandal, but Bush refused to accept it. I give Rumsfeld a lot of credit for that, but Bush is another story. His administration from day one has been a slap in the face to the concept of accountability. And this case was no exception.

Or how Dan Rather found the smoking gun proving Bush was AWOL—-again zip, zilch, nada.

Well again, although the Rather documents were unquestionably false, to say that there is “zip” tainting Bush’s military record is to whitewash an overwhelming amount of evidence - including the creation of the documents themselves.

To sum up, you appear to be the one rushing to judgement in declaring the innocence of the above, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary. Personally, I’m a little more of a critical thinker than that. I believe that OJ was guilty despite a jury declaring him innocent. You can believe otherwise, it is your right. But just because someone is able to skate by the law, stonewall, coverup, and obfuscate until the public no longer pay attention, does not make them innocent.

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 10:08 AM
Comment #109908

Burt:

Again, you are taking my words through the lens of your own thoughts. You’ve done it before and you continue to do so.

First, I’ve never said that “whistleblowers must follow the system, but the President doesn’t necessarily have to”, as you claim. I’ve said that IFF either of them go around the system illegally, they need to face the consequences. Surely you can see the difference between what YOU say I said, and what I really said.

It seems hard to argue that Bush was running into to much resistance from the FISA court

Yet Adrienne argued exactly that in another thread, using references to show that FISA had nearly unanimous approval UNTIL the Bush administration. Her dates were a bit off, but her information was generally accurate.

Thinking you have the right to do something is not a motive. You still haven’t pinned down one acceptable reason for this administration to want to do what they did.

My number three is a perfectly acceptable reason IFFF it is proven legal. Thinking you can do something legally does not make it legal, but if it IS in fact legal, then the actions would have been correct. For example, tax attorneys regularly push the envelope for deductions for their clients. Sometimes they go to far, and they get swatted down. In other cases, they go a long ways, but the courts rule them correct, and the deduction stands.

Read up on the varying viewpoints about the legality/illegality of the NSA wiretaps. There is honest discussion about it, and honest disagreement. The question of legality is paramount—you seem to simply want to assume that Bush performed an illegal act, despite the fact that there are highly experienced legal minds on BOTH sides of the aisle who are unsure of this. If highly educated and experienced legal minds are unsure of this, what in your experience and education makes you so much smarter than them?

You claim Rove is guilty, yet he’s been charged with nothing. How wonderful of you to proclaim a man guilty who hasn’t even been charged. Same story with Rummy. And with regard to Rather, his entire story was based on the forged memos. That was the ONLY new information he had for his story, and the left jumped on it like a fish after a fly. And all they got was the hook.

you appear to be the one rushing to judgement in declaring the innocence

I’m not declaring innocence, if you look at what I say, rather than what you want to see. I’m declaring a lack of guilt, and there is a big difference. OJ was found not guilty—-that doesn’t mean he was innocent, but it DOES mean that he was not proven guilty. The presumption of innocence has to take precedence.

Does Rove play dirty? I’m sure he does, just like most political operatives do. I’m not saying that’s good, simply that to castigate one side alone is wrong to do. Was Rummy aware of US policy at Abu Ghraib? Probably, but until you show proof of that, you simply can’t convict.
Was John Gotti a mobster? I think so, but you know what—-he wasn’t convicted of mob activity, but rather of tax evasion.

The point is that you must have evidence. With the NSA wiretaps, we know Bush approved them. The question at hand is whether he had a legal basis for doing so. Despite how badly you want to say its illegal, that simply has yet to be shown. And I’m on record as saying Bush should face consequences if its deemed to be illegal.

Now, what will YOU say if its proven legal? Allow me a prediction based on your past record: You’ll claim, as you just did with Rove and with Rather, that the true facts did not come to light enough, but that he is really guilty.

With that level of logic, anyone you want to be guilty will be guilty. If they are not proven guilty, its only because of some conspiracy or that others just arent as smart as you are to be able to figure it out.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 10:40 AM
Comment #109913

One plausable reason Bush might have gone around the FISA courts is because of the 5 or so warrants that were refused.

We cannot say for sure because we don’t know what those warrants were or when they were denied… but IT IS POSSIBLE that in frustration of these warrants being denied, this was enough to convince the administration that these extraordinary times call for extraordiany measures.

There, that is one possible excuse, and it might even be the right one. Who knows? I hope we can find out.

The point for many is that enough suspicion of the violation of civil rights has surfaced to finally determine what is being done in the name of protecting us. Why should we not know as much as possible without specifics? I am not saying we should peek into all messages intercepted or anything silly like that. Even if there are no violations, we still need a different branch of government to oversee the other.

However, Quakers, environmentalists and old women folk groups? That seems a bit too much.

*We really have no idea what is being done…
*We are not sure the protections of checks and balances are being used because we find out that when the Congressmen were briefed they were sworn to secrecy, thus could not provide oversight.

These seem to me to be American issues, not related to one particular party. May a party take advantage of what comes out? Sure… sadly it is often times not a matter of visions but of pointing fingers…

Speaking of taking advantage, I just saw where Abranoff is cutting a deal… Things might heat up in that area. And yes, there are bound to be many people jocekying for positions.

But… even if a party can take advantage, I do not believe that is a reason to argue against investigating. Some have. Yhey have tried to make it partisan, even at the expense of accusing the other side of being overly constitutional which implies that they (and their party?) are not?

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 12:03 PM
Comment #109918
First, I’ve never said that “whistleblowers must follow the system, but the President doesn’t necessarily have to”, as you claim. I’ve said that IFF either of them go around the system illegally, they need to face the consequences.

Fair enough.

“It seems hard to argue that Bush was running into to much resistance from the FISA court”

Yet Adrienne argued exactly that in another thread, using references to show that FISA had nearly unanimous approval UNTIL the Bush administration. Her dates were a bit off, but her information was generally accurate.

Well, I guess we have to determine how much is “too much”. Yes, the FISA court has shown more resistance to this administration than any previously. But it is still, but almost any definition, a rubber stamp. And to show that the FISA court has pushed back against this administration unlike any other is hardly an endorsement of the Bush administration’s tactics.

My number three is a perfectly acceptable reason IFFF it is proven legal. Thinking you can do something legally does not make it legal, but if it IS in fact legal, then the actions would have been correct.

You misunderstand the meaning of the word “motive”. Simply stating that the President had the authority under the law to do something is not a motive. I’m well within my rights to cut off my right hand with a rusty saw blade. But I have very little motive to do so. A motive is not “could” someone do something, but “why” do they want to do it?

As you’ve said yourself, even if they are within the law, a topic which I agree is debatable, they clearly chose a path of heavy resistance to achieve the same effect of going through established channels. So why do it? Establishing that it may or may not be legal doesn’t answer that question.

Read up on the varying viewpoints about the legality/illegality of the NSA wiretaps. There is honest discussion about it, and honest disagreement.

I agree with this. However, even if the administration’s legal team is able to convince the courts that this action was legal, I still am of the opinion that it is horrible policy and a horrible precedent to start.

You claim Rove is guilty, yet he’s been charged with nothing. How wonderful of you to proclaim a man guilty who hasn’t even been charged.

I claim that Rove is guilty of leaking Plame’s identity to the press. Again, this is basically established fact - not opinion. I’ll state again that anyone who questions this is a fool. Now, you can reasonably question whether his doing so was against the law, and you’d have a pretty good argument to make. But again, whether it is legal or not does not take away from the fact that Rove was indeed guilty of leaking her name - despite flat denials of such from the White House.

And with regard to Rather, his entire story was based on the forged memos. That was the ONLY new information he had for his story,

This is correct. The only NEW information. However, there had been a lot of older information that pointed the finger at Bush and there had been a lot of information that should have existed in the military’s records that had disappeared. It proves nothing, but it certainly doesn’t exonerate him.

and the left jumped on it like a fish after a fly. And all they got was the hook.

This isn’t quite true. I’m sure those of us on the left would have liked to jump on it, but we weren’t given the chance. Why? Because conservative bloggers were already discrediting the memos within mere minutes of the program being aired. This leaves a lot of people to believe that the memos were planted by the right in the first place, and Rather and CBS were dumb enough to take the bait.

Now, what will YOU say if its proven legal? Allow me a prediction based on your past record: You’ll claim, as you just did with Rove and with Rather, that the true facts did not come to light enough, but that he is really guilty.

Similar to Rove. Rove has been proven to have leaked Plame’s name - he’s admitted to it. OK? If that action or the subsequent coverup broke the law, he should be prosecuted. But even if it can’t be proven that he broke the law, I still feel he should have been fired, as his actions were morally wrong, even if not illegal.

As for Bush and the NSA, if it’s proven legal, I’ll say just as I do now that it is horrible policy and should still be stopped immediately. If it’s proven illegal, he should be impeached. End of story.

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 12:41 PM
Comment #109931

Burt:

even if the administration’s legal team is able to convince the courts that this action was legal, I still am of the opinion that it is horrible policy and a horrible precedent to start.

This is the point I was trying to make earlier. IFFF the same information in the same time frame was easily available through FISA, then why would Bush have taken the more dangerous NSA wiretap route? It wouldn’t make sense, would it?

I’ve been looking for motives, but mostly what I get in response is that “Bush is evil” or “Bush is trying to destroy the Constitution”, which add nothing to the conversation. My #3 assumes a motive: that Bush felt he needed to go through the NSA for some reason. I don’t know what that reason is, but there has to be some motive, as you say.

Aron Ralston sawed his own arm off with a pocketknife. What a crazy thing to do…unless you recall that his arm was trapped in a boulder and he was going to die unless he freed himself. The first piece of information tells what happened—the second tells the motive.

Regarding Bush’s scenario, we know the first piece of what happened. I’m still looking for hte second piece…the motive for Bush’s actions.

Perhaps the precedent of these wiretaps goes too far—-you’ve said that for you it does. For me, if we knew that this policy prevented even one terrorist attack, I’d be in favor of it. I recognize the slippery slope that people are afraid of, but I’m not that afraid of it. I think there are plenty of footholds on that slope, so I’m not concerned with America sliding down it.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 2:20 PM
Comment #109938

Burt said:
“Bush claims the reason is his need for speed - but the hitch there is that this argument isn’t plausible. Because we all know (outside of those are woefully ill-informed yet continue to comment like THC) that there is no time issue.”

Really, Burt, and how do you know that? (other than just claiming it to be true) Please help us ill-informed folk.

Great posts Joe - couldn’t agree more.

Posted by: THC at January 3, 2006 2:53 PM
Comment #109954

THC,

Read a newspaper, google “NSA 72 hours” or better yet, go to this site and read myth #1.

Maybe you haven’t heard, but Saddam didn’t plan 9/11 either, OK?

Joe…

This is the point I was trying to make earlier. IFFF the same information in the same time frame was easily available through FISA, then why would Bush have taken the more dangerous NSA wiretap route? It wouldn’t make sense, would it?

No, it doesn’t make sense. You know what also doesn’t make sense - the rationale that the Bush administration has put forward. It doesn’t wash with reality that they can’t act quickly enough under current FISA guidelines. The only alternate possibility that does seem to make sense is that the Bush administration wished to spy on U.S. citizens that they didn’t feel the FISA court would approve of.

Now, they may very well have been working with the best of intentions in doing so, but doesn’t it disturb you in the least that this administration feels that they need to push the envelope (if not outright break) the law every time they feel the need (torture, holding U.S. citizens without charges, domestic spying, etc.)? Doesn’t it bother you that the administration actually lies to the American people about the need for this program? Don’t you think if they had a reasonable explanation that they would have given it by now?

And how far are you willing to go in allowing the administration to “protect” the people? If this program saved a few lives from a small terrorist attack, but ruined a few lives by being used and abused against political enemies, would it still be worth it? Obviously, that’s just a hypothetical, but just how far would you be willing to go?

Posted by: Burt at January 3, 2006 4:31 PM
Comment #109956

Hi Joe,
I still believe my motive is a pretty good one.

The few warrant requests that were turned down since the program was started convinced the President that he needed to bypass the FISA courts.

President Bush honestly believes that he is on a mission to protect the American people no matter what.

It would be interesting to see the dates of the warrants that were turned down… were they early on and convinced the administration to go another route? Were they grouped together and caused frustration with the process?

Another interesting thing would be to know if the ones turned down caused harm.

There are just so many unknowns in life. We want to be intelligent and minimize the ones that we can and prepare for the ones we cannot.

Here I am making a personal statement, I do believe that the President thought what he was doing was in the best interest of Americans…

Presidents do have a lot of power and I would argue one very big ego to take on a job such as President. They do try to do what is best for Americans… but they are restricted by the Constitution that really does prevent us from paving the road with good intentions. Not perfect, but better than most.

Anyway, I believe this could have been a motive and I do not believe that it is partisan or attacking the President. I believe that it is possible some previous frustration with a FISA court judge might have motivated the administration to look for loopholes elsewhere to bypass this court.

Were the correct in their legal analysis? Only time will tell.

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 4:47 PM
Comment #109959

Burt:

I think I already answered your question. The slippery slope doesn’t concern me as much as it does you, but only because I see footholds in it. If I thought we were sliding as fast as you seem to think we are, I’d be concerned. But I don’t see it that way. We’ll agree to disagree?

As far as how far am I willing to go—-that’s a question that has no answer. (Its a bit like the “Have you stopped hitting your mother?” question). I could as easily ask you whether one person losing an hour of freedom in order to prevent a terrorist attack would be worth it. If you say yes, then I ask if 2 hours would be acceptable, and so on and so on. You’d soon find that there really isn’t a line that you can draw.

I’m not evading your question, though. I’d go further, I think, than you would. I already stated that if these wiretaps prevented a terrorist attack, then I’d be in favor of them. I’d prefer that the FISA laws be changed in that case to allow for them more easily, as opposed to going around the FISA law—I’ve said that before too.

Darren:

Did not mean to ignore your contribution. I think your thoughts on Bush’s motives are probably right—that he felt the wiretaps were necessary to prevent attacks (I’d add also that he thought they were within the envelope of legality, even if they stretched the envelope).

And you are also correct that we don’t really know yet how relevant these wiretaps have been. I think Bush ultimately wants to protect US citizens from attack. Personally, I’d rather have a President who pushes the envelope a little too far as opposed to one who didn’t push it far enough. But the exact line is impossible to describe, as I said to Burt above.

I think we generally agree on things. I’m willing to wait for any investigations to show the final analysis. Hopefully this can be done without disrupting any covert intelligence gathering processes, but can also be done to honestly show the necessity or lack thereof of the wiretaps.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 3, 2006 5:07 PM
Comment #109964

Amen

Posted by: Darren7160 at January 3, 2006 5:15 PM
Comment #109980
That simply shows that Jarandhel’s claim is wrong, since the very person being investigated was the very same person who called for it. The system worked.

The system worked then because President Clinton knew he was innocent and called for an independent investigation of himself.

President Bush hasn’t done that, and it’s a sure bet that he won’t.

I suspect the leaker went to the media with this after attempts to go through channels failed. The guy broke the law by leaking, but I hope he gets 6 months of community service and Tenet’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 3, 2006 6:59 PM
Comment #110076

AP:

The system worked then because President Clinton knew he was innocent and called for an independent investigation of himself.

Nicely partisan comment. But wrong, of course, as most partisan comments are.

The system worked because the system works. It doesn’t always work well, but I believe its still the best system in the world. Part of its greatness is also its weakness, which can be exploited.

For example, our freedoms are part of our greatness, but those very same freedoms allowed 19 suicidal terrorists to roam around our country. In a totalitarian state, that wouldn’t happen, but the totalitarian state would be worse nonetheless.

Not every guilty person gets convicted, but our concept of innocent until proven guilty is still a wonderful one.

Regarding your claim about Clinton, we know from his admissions that he did some of the things he claimed not to have done. While he was found ‘not guilty’, his admissions of his actions don’t make him innocent either.

But…the system worked.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 4, 2006 8:07 AM
Comment #110117

He was found ‘not guilty’ by a political body. I’m sorry but I still say that OJ was guilty based on the evidence I saw even though the court found him ‘not guilty’. I still say the police to beat Rodney King used excessive force, even though they were found ‘not guilty’ based on the evidence I saw.

It’s a red herring of an argument that AP tries to push every time the subject comes up. Don’t let him fool you. He’ll also say that Clinton didn’t lose his law license for his perjury, he gave it up voluntarily because he didn’t need it anymore.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 4, 2006 11:06 AM
Comment #110204

Jbod:
“Yet Adrienne argued exactly that in another thread, using references to show that FISA had nearly unanimous approval UNTIL the Bush administration. Her dates were a bit off, but her information was generally accurate.”

Ha! You’re so funny Joe! You actually misunderstood what I’d said in that post, so I came back and clarified what I’d meant, but now suddenly “my dates are a bit off” and I’m only “generally accurate”!

Burt:
“Well, I guess we have to determine how much is “too much”. Yes, the FISA court has shown more resistance to this administration than any previously. But it is still, but almost any definition, a rubber stamp. And to show that the FISA court has pushed back against this administration unlike any other is hardly an endorsement of the Bush administration’s tactics.”

I quite agree. Still it’s interesting, by all accounts Bush was circumventing the law before FISA actually began turning down their requests. Perhaps those few requests that they made to the FISA they simply assumed would be rubber-stamped, but then they weren’t. I think for the most part these Crazed Neocons have been spying on whoever the hell they wanted to — and that we’ll never know precisely who they were clandestinely targeting, because there were no records made.

Btw Burt, in my opinion you’ve been completely kicking butt in the above discussions! Nice work.

Posted by: Adrienne at January 4, 2006 4:07 PM
Comment #110226

Jbod, for what it’s worth, I was very impressed with your response to Burt. Well, done and withing WB’s policy guidelines. Very well done!!! :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 4, 2006 4:46 PM
Comment #110244

Adrienne:

I did not mean to impugn your post. The dates you provided didn’t mesh with my research—-after you explained what you meant, I could see how you came up with them. And I used ‘generally accurate’ simply because I didn’t wish to claim full accuracy for your post. No harm intended. The point was simply to show Burt that someone HAD in fact made the argument that he said was “hard to argue”.

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 4, 2006 5:30 PM
Comment #110248

Rhinehold–

It’s a red herring of an argument that AP tries to push every time the subject comes up. Don’t let him fool you. He’ll also say that Clinton didn’t lose his law license for his perjury, he gave it up voluntarily because he didn’t need it anymore.

You’re not entirely factually accurate, here–I believe Clinton relinquished his law license to avoid prosecution by Starr’s office. It doesn’t reason that Starr (or whomever was handling the case at the time) was simply attempting to give the President a break, here–Clinton avoided charges and Starr avoided having to secure a conviction by actually proving that Clinton lied under oath (a close question, legally).

In essence, he didn’t lose his law license “for his perjury” in the way you’ve implied … and he did, in fact, enter into the deal “voluntarily” (though obviously not for the sole reason that he no longer ‘needed’ his license).

Posted by: mattLaw at January 4, 2006 5:42 PM
Comment #110254

David:

Thank you for the compliment. Coming from you, whom I respect even in disagreement, it comes as high praise. I am trying (some would say VERY trying). :)

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 4, 2006 6:12 PM
Comment #110269
You’re not entirely factually accurate, here–I believe Clinton relinquished his law license to avoid prosecution by Starr’s office

Nope, you are wrong.

From Wikipedia:

The perjury allegations provoked the Arkansas Supreme Court to suspend Clinton’s law license in April 2000. Clinton agreed to the 5-year suspension and to pay a $25,000 fine on January 19, 2001. The following October, the U.S. Supreme Court once again suspended Clinton’s law license and gave him 40 days to convince them that he should not be disbarred permanently. Clinton surrendered his law license in response to these actions.
Posted by: Rhinehold at January 4, 2006 9:17 PM
Comment #110318

Thanks, JBOD. You are one of the few on WB who works diligently to insure that my arguments and facts stay at the top of their form, by questioning them and counterpointing them. In terms of my growth as a political analyst and writer, our often adversarial interaction is very valuable to me, and I thank you.

As for trying, that would include both of us, and many more here… :-0

As D.R.Remer once said on Jan. 5, 2006 at 3:20 AM before a sleeping internet audience, “Trying to get others to try to understand our point of view is a very trying exercise indeed. But to quit trying is to become a Republican or Democrat and that is going too far. :-)”

Posted by: David R. Remer at January 5, 2006 4:22 AM
Comment #110339
The system worked then because President Clinton knew he was innocent and called for an independent investigation of himself.
Nicely partisan comment. But wrong, of course, as most partisan comments are.

You say that’s wrong, but you don’t say why. My point is that had Clinton never agreed to investigate himself, we’d never know for sure that he was innocent (and he was) of any wrongdoing in the Whitewater affair.

Unless Bush decides to investigate himself over his illegal spying (don’t hold your breath) going outside the system was most likely the only way to get an investigation started — and with a GOP Congress, even that isn’t a sure thing.

Rhinehold, the topic was the Whitewater investigation, not the Lewinski hanky-panky. Try to keep up.

Posted by: American Pundit at January 5, 2006 8:57 AM
Comment #110372

AP, the topic turned to Clinton’s loss of his law license. I merely responded to MattLaw who was wrong about the circumstances regarding it.

Posted by: Rhinehold at January 5, 2006 11:20 AM
Comment #110392

AP:

I’m glad that Clinton consented to an investigation. I doubt he did it because “he knew he was innocent”, but rather because he was forced to. That’s simply human nature—no one, especially a politician, would want to be investigated unless they felt there was no other option. That’s as true for Bush as for Clinton.

I welcome an investigation into Bush’s actions. We know that he authorized the wiretaps so any investigation should focus on the legality of his actions. A separate investigation should look into who leaked the information, why they leaked it, whether they went through any appropriate channels before leaking it to the press, and what kind of damage, if any, the leak has caused to our intel services.

There have already been a number of investigations regarding Bush and his administration: Abu Ghraib, the 911 commissions, his TANG service, the Valerie Plame issue etc. I’m sure with the furor over the NSA wiretaps, there will be an investigation into them as well. Do you have any ideas on how such an investigation should be conducted or by whom? I’ve seen some on the left pooh-pooh the 911 Commission results as partisan, so how would you propose making an NSA wiretap investigation non- or bi-partisan?

Posted by: joebagodonuts at January 5, 2006 12:18 PM
Comment #110411

Rhinehold:

AP, the topic turned to Clinton’s loss of his law license. I merely responded to MattLaw who was wrong about the circumstances regarding it.

Friend, you might want to do a bit of reading beyond the unreliable wikipedia.

Clinton entered into a deal to avoid indictment, which involved surrendering his law license to practice in Arkansas for five years.

Because of that suspension, the U.S. Supreme Court went through the routine motions of disbarring Clinton from practicing before the Supreme Court of the United States.

Here’s a quote:

After Arkansas suspended Clinton’s license, it notified the high court of its action, as is the practice of all state courts. The justices routinely suspend any disciplined lawyers who happen also to be members of the high court bar. After a 40-day deadline for contesting the action, the justices disbar the individual, preventing him or her from practicing before the court.

Link.

Remember, there is no general “law license” that allows one to practice nationally.

He was disbarred from practice at the Supreme Court because he lost his license in Arkansas. He lost his license in Arkansas as part of a deal to avoid indictment.

Posted by: mattLaw at January 5, 2006 1:31 PM
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