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.