George Bush’s evolving NSA-gate scandal makes him look like a presidential peeping Tom. He scurries around in the shadows, peering through partly-closed shades, afraid that someone is going to catch him invading the privacy of American citizens.
It’s pathetic. More obvious now than ever is how weak Bush is. He isn’t a strong leader with the courage of his convictions. Never has been, never will be. Strong men admit when they’re wrong and don’t try to cover up their mistakes. Wimpy peeping Toms whimper “But I was just looking for my cat in these bushes!” when they’re caught.
Be a man, George. You’ve been spying illegally on Americans, intercepting email and phone conversations without a court order. Take your licks, apologize to the citizens you’ve let down, and make us a promise that you’ll never trash the Constitution again. You know you're on very weak legal footing.
And read Patrick Henry’s famous speech. It’s short. You should be able to handle it. There are a few big words, but Laura can help you sound them out. Focus on the ending: Give me liberty, or give me death!
You like sharp distinctions, George: good or evil, for us or against us. Here’s another one to put in your dichotomy basket: liberty or death. That’s why so many Americans have died in so many wars, to defend our liberty. Life isn’t worth living if it isn’t free.
Bush doesn’t understand that. Projecting his cowardice onto the citizenry, he keeps talking about how important it is to “keep our people safe.” Safe is good, George, but not at the price of our constitutional rights. That’s why this country had a revolution: to get out from under an imperious King.
Bush wants to be a king, not a president. He knows that he isn’t strong enough or smart enough to govern straight up, stating his goals and policies openly and honestly. So he and his cronies rely on secrecy, lies, back-room deals, back-stabbing, and other nefarious tactics to move their agenda along.
The Daily Kos has a nice series of posts today about NSA-gate that indicate how low the Bush administration is willing to go in its attempt to dismantle our constitutional protections.
(1) Bush was so desperate to keep his illegal peeping Tom activities from being revealed he tried to convince the New York Times not to publish its story about the National Security Agency eavesdropping on Americans without a warrant. (2) Contrary to Bush’s claim that congressional leaders approved of the underhanded NSA domestic spying, Sen. Rockefeller wrote a letter to Dick Cheney disapproving of the practice.
(3) Attorney General Alberto Gonzales admits that if the Bush administration had sought congressional approval to give the NSA explicit power to spy on Americans, Congress wouldn’t have agreed. (4) Cheney spoke falsely when he said that if the National Security Agency had had this sort of capability before 9/11, the attacks might have been prevented. The NSA always could eavesdrop on suspected terrorists--with a warrant.
One good thing emerging from this mess is that more people are starting to realize that the emperor has no clothes. King George is naked: morally, intellectually, constitutionally. Right now he’s blustering away, trying to distract us from his NSA-gate failings by accusing the New York Times and other “He’s got no clothes!” types of aiding the enemy.
That’s absurd, George. You’re the enemy when it comes to chipping away at our constitutional rights. The sooner Americans realize this and bravely choose liberty over the fear of death from a terrorist attack, the better.
[Next day update: The New York Times has a good editorial today about the "Fog of False Choices." Bush, they say, is fond of false choices such as invade Iraq or face a nuclear attack. But the most absurd phony choice of all is Bush's justification for his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law. You can read the full editorial in the continuation to this post.]
December 20, 2005
New York Times Editorial
The Fog of False Choices
After five years, we're used to President Bush throwing up false choices to defend his policies. Americans were told, after all, that there was a choice between invading Iraq and risking a terrorist nuclear attack. So it was not a surprise that Mr. Bush's Oval Office speech Sunday night and his news conference yesterday were thick with Orwellian constructions: the policy debate on Iraq is between those who support Mr. Bush and those who want to pull out right now, today; fighting terrorists in Iraq means we're not fighting them here.
But none of these phony choices were as absurd as the one Mr. Bush posed to justify his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law.
Mr. Bush said he thwarted terrorist plots by allowing the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international communications without a warrant. We don't know if that is true because the administration reverts to top-secret mode when pressed for details. But we can reach a conclusion about Mr. Bush's assertion that obeying a 27-year-old law prevents swift and decisive action in a high-tech era. It's a myth.
The 1978 law that regulates spying on Americans (remember Richard Nixon's enemies lists?) does require a warrant to conduct that sort of surveillance. It also created a special court that is capable of responding within hours to warrant requests. If that is not fast enough, the attorney general may authorize wiretaps and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.
Mr. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered a whole bag of logical pretzels yesterday to justify flouting this law. Most bizarre was the assertion that Congress authorized the surveillance of American citizens when it approved the use of "all necessary and appropriate force" by the United States military to punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or who aided or harbored the terrorists. This came as a surprise to lawmakers, who thought they were voting for the invasion of Afghanistan and the capture of Osama bin Laden.
This administration has a long record of expanding presidential powers in dangerous ways; the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" comes to mind. So assurances that surveillance targets are carefully selected with reasonable cause don't comfort. In a democracy ruled by laws, investigators identify suspects and prosecutors obtain warrants for searches by showing reasonable cause to a judge, who decides if legal tests were met.
Chillingly, this is not the only time we've heard of this administration using terrorism as an excuse to spy on Americans. NBC News recently discovered a Pentagon database of 1,500 "suspicious incidents" that included a Quaker meeting to plan an antiwar rally. And Eric Lichtblau and James Risen write in today's Times that F.B.I. counterterrorism squads have conducted numerous surveillance operations since Sept. 11, 2001, on groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group.
Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the power to spy on Americans. Fine, then Congress can just take it back.
Domestic spying isn't cool - however, the part about the NSA is nothing new. The NSA has been spying on Americans (and everyone else) since the 1980s.
Through a system known as "Echelon," pretty much all forms of electronic communication are monitored including phone calls (land-line and mobile), e-mails, internet traffic, radio communications, ect.Echelon is a multi-national project with the NSA handling the US end of it. How it works is there are numerous sites around the globe that take in all of these signals. It is truly a massive amount of information and for intelligence purposes most of it is garbage. Large banks of computers hash through this mountain of information looking for certain keywords and phrases that are determined by the people running the system. When these are detected those intercepts are pulled and processed further. If they make it far enough they'll end up in front of a human being who will make the final determination of whether it is useful or not.
Yes, domestic spying is illegal; but, that has not been a problem to get around. Friendly countries whose intelligence services are a part of the system simply do the "spying" on Americans (because for them it is not illegal), and then pass the information back to US authorities. This is basically information laundering and that makes it completely legal. Thus, the NSA spying on its own citizens is nothing new. Comforting isn't it?
Posted by: Hokie Explorer | December 19, 2005 at 10:07 PM
By all means let's have a serious debate about the limits of executive power under circumstances where there's increased temptation to use it, and where the executive is likely to be given more latitude. But let's conduct that debate with an appreciation of the gravity of the threats we face. Calling the president a "peeping Tom" is simply juvenile and shows how many are motivated more by a visceral, irrational hatred of the man than by sober concern for real-world dangers.
Grow up already.
Posted by: Anthony | December 20, 2005 at 08:54 AM
Anthony, I don't have a "visceral, irrational hatred" of George Bush. But I stand by my peeping Tom description of him.
What else should you call a person who secretly spies on American citizens without a warrant? An "honest Tom" (or George) would seek Congressional authorization for such a practice, making sure that it is legal.
As I said, Bush likes to govern imperiously. He thinks he is above the law. So torture is OK because King George says so. Outing CIA agents is OK because King George says so. The NSA spying on Americans is OK because King George says so.
More and more he looks like a sad, pathetic man to me. His power and credibility are slipping away, and he knows it.
Posted by: Brian | December 20, 2005 at 12:03 PM
Thanks for the post. I found you through progressive traditionalist who often comments on isamericaburning.blogspot.com a political blog shared by another great-granny and me.
rocrebelgranny.blogspot.com is me as well - more of a coffee-klatch thing. More about families, etc. and less political although politics sneaks in from time to time.
I'll be back and we'd welcome you at our site. We're small but we're mouthy.
Posted by: ann adams | January 29, 2006 at 08:05 PM