"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." Theodore Roosevelt
Family's in town, and Washington's slowing down...
I'll be taking a short break from posting, and fortunately we can part on a high note:
The Republican-controlled Congress is staggering home for the holidays. Democrats, demoralized after last year's election losses, have a spring in their step after outmaneuvering President Bush and GOP congressional leaders in a series of session-ending clashes.
I'll be back late Monday or early Tuesday, until then the floor is yours. Take it away.
The Rude Pundit gets the point across quite well with his graphic, somewhat over-the-top, but expertly crafted allegory that highlights David Brooks' shilling for the Bush administration and subsequent indifference towards the American public's civil liberties.
Rated R for rude language, violent images, and strong sexual content.
Last night, when the Senate voted to strike down the drilling provision in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) didn't take it well. "This has been the saddest day of my life," he said. "It's a day I don't want to remember. I say goodbye to the Senate tonight. Thank you very much" (video).
It certainly is a pathetic sight when the oil industry's cronies don't get their way...
Remember that, in the impeachment of Richard Nixon, Article 2 of the three Articles of Impeachment dealt with illegal wiretapping of Americans. It said that Nixon committed a crime "by directing or authorizing [intelligence] agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office."
Well, when you say the administration is delighted, you know, Chalabi has surfaced again. They had him at the White House, they had him with the vice president, they had him with the secretary of State, and he got less than five-tenths of one percent -- he got less than half a percent of the vote. And Allawi, who was their shining star, he turns up getting 8 percent of the vote. Forty-four percent of the vote -- now, these are early returns, but 44 percent went to the clerics. We're going to have a cleric government.
I cannot believe that these folks at the White House didn't understand, if they support somebody, the Iraqis aren't going to support them. The Iraqis don't like us, they're proud people, they don't want to be dictated by the United States, and yet our folks don't understand that.
Remember, I told you a year ago that two years ago I went to Iraq and I asked Ambassador Bremer, "Who's Sistani?" -- actually, one of my guys asked him that, and he turned to his aide and they said it's a minor cleric. Two weeks later the guy had 100,000 people on the street. They don't understand what is going on over there. It's frustrating to realize how bad our intelligence are, or how they're mishandling this situation.
A surveillance program approved by President Bush to eavesdrop without court warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.
The officials say the National Security Agency's interception of a few communications between people within the United States was apparently accidental, and was caused by technical glitches at the National Security Agency in determining whether a communication was in fact international.
Just how many occurrences of this "technical glitch" were there?
"The whole key here is agility," he said at a White House briefing before Bush's news conference. According to Hayden, most warrantless surveillance conducted under Bush's authorization lasts just days or weeks, and requires only the approval of a shift supervisor. Hayden said getting retroactive court approval is inefficient because it "involves marshaling arguments" and "looping paperwork around."
Well there you have it, they broke the law because they were too lazy to uphold the Constitution.
Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.
Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."
Rumsfeld, who arrived Wednesday morning local time for an unannounced visit to Pakistan, said he found it interesting that bin Laden has not been heard from publicly in nearly a year.
"I don't know what it means," Rumsfeld told a group of reporters traveling with him. "I suspect that in any event, if he's alive and functioning that he's probably spending a major fraction of his time trying to avoid getting caught. I have trouble believing that he's able to operate sufficiently to be in a position of major command over a worldwide al-Qaida operation, but I could be wrong. We just don't know."
Sunni and secular political groups angrily claimed Tuesday that last week's Iraqi national election was rigged, demanded a new vote and threatened to leave a shambles the delicate plan to bring the country's wary factions together in a new government.
The more things change, the more they stay the same...
Former Senator Graham's Questions for the Bush Administration
Former Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham (D-FL) weighs in on the Bush Administration's domestic spying with a series of questions (video):
1) What are the problems with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act?
2) If they identified those problems, why didn't they go to the Congress and ask that they be corrected? In the aftermath of 9/11, Congress would have done almost anything the administration suggested.
3) Of the cases that have been made based on these warrantless intercepts, would they also have been made if they followed the legal procedures -- has in fact this process of avoiding the law made us safer?
David Sirota's explanation should be fairly obvious for anyone paying attention for the last 5 years, but nonetheless, it's worth mentioning for the less moonbatish of the bunch:
Why would the President deliberately circumvent a court that was already wholly inclined to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? The answer is obvious, though as yet largely unstated in the mainstream media: because the President was likely ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, so unrelated to the War on Terror, and, to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would not have granted them.
This is no conspiracy theory - all the signs point right to this conclusion. In fact, it would be a conspiracy theory to say otherwise, because it would be ignoring the cold, hard facts that we already know.
This Minority Report has been produced at the request of Representative John Conyers, Jr., Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. He made this request in the wake of the President's failure to respond to a letter submitted by 122 Members of Congress and more than 500,000 Americans in July of this year asking him whether the assertions set forth in the Downing Street Minutes were accurate. Mr. Conyers asked staff, by year end 2005, to review the available information concerning possible misconduct by the Bush Administration in the run up to the Iraq War and post-invasion statements and actions, and to develop legal conclusions and make legislative and other recommendations to him.
In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war with Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and other legal violations in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration.
In response to the Report, I have already taken several initial steps. First, I have introduced a resolution (H. Res. 635) creating a Select Committee with subpoena authority to investigate the misconduct of the Bush Administration with regard to the Iraq war and report on possible impeachable offenses. In addition, I have introduced Resolutions regarding both President Bush (H. Res. 636) and Vice-President Cheney (H. Res. 637) proposing that they be censured by Congress based on indisputable evidence of unaccounted for misstatements and abuse of power in the public record. There are a number of additional recommendations in the Report that I expect to be taking up in the coming weeks and months.
After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, John Ashcroft, who was then attorney general, loosened restrictions on the F.B.I.'s investigative powers, giving the bureau greater ability to visit and monitor Web sites, mosques and other public entities in developing terrorism leads. The bureau has used that authority to investigate not only groups with suspected ties to foreign terrorists, but also protest groups suspected of having links to violent or disruptive activities.
But the documents, coming after the Bush administration's confirmation that President Bush had authorized some spying without warrants in fighting terrorism, prompted charges from civil rights advocates that the government had improperly blurred the line between terrorism and acts of civil disobedience and lawful protest.
One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.
Finally we have a Washington scandal that goes beyond sex, corruption and political intrigue to big issues like security versus liberty and the reasonable bounds of presidential power. President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgate—he made it seem as if those who didn't agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaeda—but it will not work. We're seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.
No wonder Bush was so desperate that The New York Times not publish its story on the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without a warrant, in what lawyers outside the administration say is a clear violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president's desperation.
The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference. His comparison to the damaging pre-9/11 revelation of Osama bin Laden's use of a satellite phone, which caused bin Laden to change tactics, is fallacious; any Americans with ties to Muslim extremists—in fact, all American Muslims, period—have long since suspected that the U.S. government might be listening in to their conversations. Bush claimed that "the fact that we are discussing this program is helping the enemy." But there is simply no evidence, or even reasonable presumption, that this is so. And rather than the leaking being a "shameful act," it was the work of a patriot inside the government who was trying to stop a presidential power grab.
No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had "legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force." But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing "all necessary force" in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.
At today's press conference we were introduced to what appears to be the latest White House plant. "Joe" pitched the following softball (video):
You said last night that there were only two options in Iraq -- withdraw or victory. And you asked Americans, especially opponents of the war, to reject partisan politics. Do you really expect congressional Democrats to end their partisan warfare and embrace your war strategy? And what can you do about that to make that happen?
Oddly enough, Bush still fumbled for a coherent response.
Apparently the sycophant's name is Joseph Curl, and he has been making regular appearances on Fox News as of late. He might truly be Gannon's replacement after all.
U.S. Rep. John Lewis said Monday in a radio interview that President Bush should be impeached if he broke the law in authorizing spying on Americans. The Democratic [congressman] from Georgia told WAOK-AM he would sign a bill of impeachment if one was drawn up and that the House of Representatives should consider such a move.
Debunking Gonzales's Explanation for Unwarranted Domestic Spying
Jeffrey Toobin, a CNN senior legal analyst, weighs in on Alberto Gonzales's explanation for under what authority the White House had the right to conduct domestic spying without court orders. Toobin concludes that the administration's defense basically amounts to, "because we said so, that's why we have the authority" (video).
Under "extraordinary" circumstances, the government also can wait 72 hours after beginning wiretaps to get a warrant, but the administration did not seek to do that under the special program, which monitors the international communications of some people inside the United States.
President George W. Bush's decision to eavesdrop on people within the United States was backed by the U.S. Congress' authorization of military force after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on Monday.
"There were many people, many lawyers, within the administration who advised the president that he had inherent authority as commander in chief under the Constitution to engage in this kind of signals intelligence of our enemy," Gonzales said in an interview with CNN.
"We also believe that the authorization to use force which was passed by the Congress in the days following the attacks of September 11th constituted additional authorization for the president to engage in this kind of" electronic surveillance, he said.
I'd like to know specifically what the administration has in mind. They talk about constitutional authority. There are limits as to what the president can do under the constitution, especially in a context where you have the foreign intelligence surveillance act, which makes it unlawful to have spies or surveillance or interceptions on citizens in the United States unless there is a court order.
Condoleezza Rice: Bush Acted Within Statutory Authority
Secretary of State Rice attempts to explain under what authority the administration had the right to conduct domestic spying without warrants (video):
The President has authorities under FISA which we are using and using actively. He also has authorities that derive from his role as Commander in Chief and his need to protect the country. He has acted within his constitutional authority and within statutory authority. Now, I am not a lawyer and I am quite certain that the Attorney General will address a lot of these questions.
Um, what statute would that be -- the Nixon Wiretapping Statute?
Look, whoever was notified, and it certainly was a narrow group if they were, it doesn't matter if you tell everybody in the whole country if it's against the law. And I believe it does violate the law. [...]
This is a frightening pattern by these lawyers and those in the White House of disregard for the law, and the Supreme Court had to in fact strike down parts of this enemy combatant stuff that was going out.
So the fact is, Wolf, that this administration is playing fast and loose with the law in the area of national security. And Senator Specter had it absolutely right when he reacted the way he did in the Senate floor and said, "Look this is very troubling. We need the oversight, we need the hearings." [...]
It doesn't -- if you want to sell drugs and tell everybody in the country you're going to do it, that doesn't make it legal. And so, the question here is, yes, those are side questions and I'm glad Senator Specter is talking about how do we deal with this when we're told something that's -- and I view -- patently illegal but we're told we can't talk about it.
But the more important point here is that the president has, I think, made up a law that we never passed. And I think that's the most serious issue. [...]
I believe what we're seeing today with the announcement about the national security activities and the efforts that were made with regard to wiretapping gives me every reason to believe that this administration is exploiting all the laws that it can and now making up its own laws. I believe that this is an abusive situation.
And we don't even know the extent of it, Wolf, because so much of this is in secret.
So I think this is dangerous. The administration has shown us they're willing to take provisions and expand them beyond their meaning. And that's why I've insisted and many of us in the Senate, including four key conservative Republican senators, Senator Murkowski, Senator Sununu, Senator Craig and Senator Hagel, all voted with us -- because we want innocent Americans protected from having their library records, their business records, their medical records from being swept into this secret court.
Well, that about covers it. Let the impeachment proceedings begin.
What's wrong with it is several-fold. One, it's bad policy for our government to be spying on American citizens through the National Security Agency. Secondly, it's bad to be spying on Americans without court oversight. And thirdly, it's bad to be spying on Americans apparently in violation of federal laws against doing it without court order. [...]
Well, the fact of the matter is that the Constitution is the Constitution, and I took an oath to abide by it. My good friend, my former colleague, Dana Rohrabacher, did and the president did. And I don't really care very much whether or not it can be justified based on some hypothetical. The fact of the matter is that, if you have any government official who deliberately orders that federal law be violated despite the best of motives, that certainly ought to be of concern to us. [...]
Here again, this is absolutely a bizarre conversation where you have a member of Congress saying that it's okay for the president of the United States to ignore U.S. law, to ignore the Constitution, simply because we are in an undeclared war. The fact of the matter is the law prohibits -- specifically prohibits -- what apparently was done in this case, and for a member of Congress to say, oh, that doesn't matter, I'm proud that the president violated the law is absolutely astounding, Wolf.