Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 2, 2006

GOP DIVISION OVER NSA SEARCHES....Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is hardly among the chamber's more liberal Republicans, but he's certainly been willing to break with the administration more and more lately. In just the last month, Lugar has criticized the Bush administration's practice of paying Iraqi news outlets to publish American propaganda, and has told Newsweek that Bush should be more like Bill Clinton when it comes to being exposed to a variety competing ideas.

Better yet, yesterday Lugar became the latest Republican senator to echo the call for congressional hearings into Bush's warrantless-search program. For those keeping score at home, that raises the total number of Senate Republicans to back hearings to explore this controversy to five: Specter (Pa.), Graham (S.C.), Hagel (Neb.), Snowe (Maine), and now Lugar. It's something to consider when the issue is characterized as a partisan fight.

Of course, for nearly every Republican senator who supports hearings, there's another pushing in the other direction. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has helped lead the way in carrying water for Bush, though Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined the fun yesterday, arguing on Fox News that the warrantless-search program was a legitimate use of presidential power because "the president believes very, very strongly that he has the constitutional authority." And, obviously, if Bush feels "very, very strongly" that he's right, it must be so.

The division within the GOP ranks notwithstanding, the next big challenge is determining which Senate committee chairman will get to host the hearings: Arlen Specter or Pat Roberts. Time reports this week that the White House is hoping to convince Specter to forgo Judiciary Committee hearings and defer the matter to the Intelligence Committee. In fact, Time quoted a GOP official saying that the White House is "going to lean on Specter very hard not to hold hearings."

This makes perfect sense. If the Judiciary Committee investigates the controversy, the White House will have to endure a very public grilling at the hands of a relatively moderate committee chairman who's already suggested he thinks the president has gone too far.

If the Intelligence Committee investigates the controversy, the White House can take comfort in the fact that the hearings would be behind closed doors and the testimony would be classified. Instead of a committee led by a moderate skeptic, the Intelligence Committee is chaired by a partisan hack who's already announced his belief that the administration's conduct in this matter is perfectly legal.

If you're the Bush White House, which of these would you prefer?

Steve Benen 12:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (112)

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In fact, Time quoted a GOP official saying that the White House is "going to lean on Specter very hard not to hold hearings."

Gee, I bet they'll have to lean real hard before Specter caves. Specter will make, may already have made, some comments that sound like he actually understands the principle of checks and balances and the Senate's duty to conduct oversight on the administration. The next day he'll fold like a cheap suit. He's as big a hack as Roberts, it just takes him a little longer.

Posted by: Jim on January 2, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

Why does Dick Lugar hate America?

Posted by: Pat on January 2, 2006 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later, congress will re-awaken, and remember that it is supposed to be an equal part of the balance of power with the other two branches of government. The Republican Party has managed to hold the Congress to a Party authority for now, but, as the midtgerms approach, and as the great undoing of the republican Party continnues, more and more moderates, but also strict conservatives, will break with the activist lame duck White House. It is fun to sit back and watch the show.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Chris holds out more hope than I think is warranted.

This year will decide the fate of America. If the Republicans decide that Bush must be supported, our democracy has come to its end. For Congress to uphold Bush in his contention that he is not bound by any law or by the Constitution is to install an emperor at the head of our government. And Congressional failure to reign in Bush at this point will indeed validate his claim to be above the law.

Do so few Republicans love America less than they love power? I fear that is the case.

Posted by: Derelict on January 2, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

Derelict is one of the The Sky is Falling crowd. America has never been any different than it is now. We jsut weren't around at the time. Mark Twain, some 150 years ago, said: America has the best COngress money can buy. Relax.......The Democratic machinery was in power for a good 30 years or more, and corruption was also at a high point then....America survives as long as a majority of people wants it to survive....and that includes people from both sides of the aisle, and the middle, too.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Question about Gonzales' investigation of the NSA leak.
The Times article states that the Pentagon was given the particulars at least a year in advance.
Which means they knew they had at least one person with, presumably,advanced security clearance divulging highly sensitive info, and left them in place till now.
Why?

Posted by: Disasterman on January 2, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Disaster: We dont' really know if that person still exists in their post, do we? You raise a very important question, however. Bush now has launched a leak investigation. Now. A year Later. But before it was indeed published by the errant and wayward NEW YORK TIMES, this information was secret. Starting an investigation a year ago would have alerted people to a problem. And this is a problem the Bushies want to go away. They hoped pressure on the NYT would make it go away, and they certainly were not about to air the problem without being forced to do so. So the asnwer to your question, why, is, perhaps: Because they have something to hide, and didn't want to alert anyone in advance.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

division within the GOP
Hell, there has to be division within the GOP, the Democrats are useless as an opposition party. You guys have whined yourselves out of a job, the Repubs are doing it all.

Democrats: No Longer Needed in America!

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 2, 2006 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, putting pressure on Specter just before a contentious Supreme Court nomination hearing will work. Another smart move from Karl Rove. It's not like they need him very badly for anything right now, surely Specter is a total moron who will roll right over for a lame duck with sub-50 approval ratings, especially when Specter will never run for anything again.

Bush is in a real pickle. If Roberts holds the hearings, it looks like a coverup, and since the proceedings are secret, the Dems can claim anything they want to the press without refutation. If Specter holds the hearings, they look legit and will undoubtedly be bad for Bush.

Note now the discussion is on WHO holds the hearings, not IF there will be hearings. So much for "no scandal here, Congress approved".

Posted by: Alderaan on January 2, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Since these jerks take care, when confronted with an explosive legal threat, to phrase things very carefully, I read your observations about McConnell a little differently:

"Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) joined the fun yesterday, arguing on Fox News that the warrantless-search program was a legitimate use of presidential power because 'the president believes very, very strongly that he has the constitutional authority. And, obviously, if Bush feels 'very, very strongly' that he's right, it must be so."

I'm thinking the guy is feeling the chill of an impeachment threat and setting up some shelter for Bush saying, in effect, that Bush "honestly believes" he's right and therefore this is a mistake, not a crime. I mean it's not like this noble president Outright Lied Like Clinton, right? No! He Honestly Believes! He's "Legitimate!" And th'murrican people will understand that...

Posted by: PW on January 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

This year will decide the fate of America.

Oh give me a frickin' break. Did Nostradamus predict it?

You sound like those folks that are certain Jesus will come in their time, i.e., their era is The Most Important Of All. I don't think soooo.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I hope the Judicial committee holds the hearings. It's where they belong.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

PW on January 2, 2006 at 1:55 PM:

Bush "honestly believes" he's right and therefore this is a mistake, not a crime.

This would make sense except for what he said in an October 2004 speech:

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.

...to give you an example of what we're talking about, there's something called delayed notification warrants. Those are very important...it allows people to collect data before everybody is aware of what's going on. It requires a court order. It requires protection under the law.

Yes, it's the third time I've posted this quote and link. My point is that Dubya, based on words he has spoken earlier, understood the legal issues involved with warrants.

My two cents: Fuck Congress and order up an independent council. I wonder if Fitz could recommend a suitable lead investigator?

Posted by: grape_crush on January 2, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Conspiracy Nut

Appears to be a republican. Only a repugnut
would so boldly declair the no choice ticket
is what america needs. This is truely troubleing.
America has been taken over by a very demented
group of people who clearly have no scrupples.
When will the law stand up and prosacute the
rich law breakers? When will a democrat stand
up and save democracy? I feel as though I now
live in Russia. I want the USA back.

Posted by: Honey P on January 2, 2006 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

Chris

Your right, we don't know if the leak is still inside. But if the JD is launching a probe it means they don't either.

And yes it is a big problem, not only politically,
but if the terror war is job one why let a breach of this magnitude, purportedly one that threatens national security go unchecked simply to protect Bushs approval numbers?

Posted by: Disasterman on January 2, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

The question is not how much the Great Leader thinks He is right. We take that for granted. The question is when the Great Leader will realize that he is wrong in the eyes of the Republic. And if.

Posted by: parrot on January 2, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

It is difficult to get through to the other side when all they hear for the first 18 years is right-wing propaganda in the form of textbooks. By the time they get to college and on their way to that MBA, they feel they know all they need about history, politics and all of humanity.

Posted by: Gerald on January 2, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

i've been wondering how long it would take them to lean on specter: we shall see how he responds.

i'm not holding my breath, myself....

Posted by: howard on January 2, 2006 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Why? because the "war on terror" is no such thing. one cannot wage war against a tactic (i can't remmeber who said that, but it was not I originally). the Bushies know that their war on terror is a flimsy excuse. There is no real breach with this leak. The "war on terror" is the way that Bush controls his people at home. The real war is a war against Islamo-fascism. THAT is what Bush believes, anyway. But he knows he can't sell that to Americans, so he sells them this so called war on terror. Since it all really is jsut a house of cards, he cannot defend any one part of it too vigorously, or else the whole house of cards will come down when people start examining it. The first wobbly cards have already fallen, of course, and the rest will inevitably do so as well, but for now, he must put on a good show.
THe Emperor has no clothes is the clasic fable that this whole drama is based on. The first child has spoken out. Let's see how long it takes before Americans as a whole stop seeing the fantasy that Bush and Rove have woven. Alas, the Democrats fell sway to it as well.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

So what happens to the Democratic position IF hearings are held and the outcome becomes simply a reinforcement of Bush as a president that cares more about national "security" than the "nitpicking" nuances of the media and Congress?? Does this just become a losing issue for the Dems, who I feel should be focused on Iraq and foreign issues.

Also, isn't there mixed opinion by constitutional scholars as to whether the POTUS is within his rights as to directly authorizing surveillence?

How does an investigation resolve differences of opinion amongst "expert" opinions? Won't this simply become an issue for resolution in the Supreme Court? That forum should be real favorable to Democrats.

Posted by: pencarrow on January 2, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

Chris says, "Derelict is one of the The Sky is Falling crowd. America has never been any different than it is now."

Maybe the sky won't fall, short of nuclear holocaust, plague, or ecological meltdown (all still distinct possibilities). Maybe the smog-of-state today is little worse than at other low points in U.S. history. But that seems a piss-poor standard for the erstwhile leaders of the free world to be selling to the rest of it.

The administration of our petulant puppet king won't last, but the l'etat-c'est-moi legacy of their legal appointments and precedents will outlive most of us. If Congress fails to stand up to this self-declared sovereign-de-guerre, if we see blatant high criminals pardoned en masse, then America's fate for our lifetimes will be the protracted war of crumbling empire. Not a fallen sky, for most of us... just the heightened fear of it, with frequent sirens and blackouts, to keep us safe from terrorist attacks --

Posted by: sadderbudwiser on January 2, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"nitpicking" nuances of the media and Congress??

Now the Constitution is a "nitpicking" nuance?

Posted by: Gerald on January 2, 2006 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Gerald... please allow me the use of sarcasm, noted by use of the quote marks!

Posted by: pencarrow on January 2, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

Was the NSA program directed against Administration officials themselves? Was it directed against the Congress? I only ask these questions because it might explain a lot of what has been going on in politics of late.

These facts include a Presidency that has never vetoed a single bill from the Congress...in five years. These facts include the revealing of the identity by the White House of a covert CIA agent to press sources. These facts include a Congressional wireless system that was installed by an Israeli firm, one Foxcom through Congressman Ney's office. The rumors are treason. Those rumors should be and will be vigorously investigated if true patriots actually believe in a Constitutional form of government in which there are checks on the Executive branch of this our floundering Enterprise.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/10/17/AR2005101701918_pf.html

Under the theories of legality being bandied about by the so-called Department of Justice, would the Administration consider the acquiring of wiretap information from Israeli intelligence of Congressional members as something that the Congress, the Peoples Representatives, be told about? Or, was and is it being used as a tool to rein in dissent to the Great Leader trampling of our Constitution AND His Administration's trampling of basic human deceny? Even if this is not the case, has the Administration and the Congress fully investigate how it was that an Israeli firm is in place to monitor and record the messages of our Representatives' phone calls?

Yes, treason is a complex and loaded word. But whether its committed for money or for political reasons, it is still treason.

The first person(s) on this list should be the folks that decided it was fine to allow a foreign country access to the internal deliberations of our Congress. Of course, if you were the Great Leader and you knew about this, you wouldn't want to mention it...no, you might want to take advantage of it through convoluted legal theories, propagated by a hobbled Justice Department, that permitted you to monitor foreign communications...no matter what...and not have to report any of this activity to anyone but the Great Leader himself. The same Great Leader who himself had dictated that it was all necessary "for the good of the country".

Posted by: parrot on January 2, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

If you're the Bush White House, which of these would you prefer?

If you were a Senator hoping to generate hours of long-winded speeches for television in an election year, which of these would you prefer? I think there's going to be a LOT of support for public hearings.

It gives the Democrats the added edge of being able to just make up what they think the intelligence community is doing, while the intelligence community has to sit there in front of the cameras with its mouth shut to avoid blowing every operation they have.

Either the Intelligence Committee system for Congress works to provide Congressional oversight of intelligence activities, or it doesn't. The committees are bipartisan. If it's now the case that intelligence actions have to be debated in open hearings, not sure what the point of it is any more.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 2, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Some say chicken little, I say chicken shit. Bush has declared that he has the following powers:

1. To arrest U.S. citizens on the basis of secret evidence.

2. To hold them indefinitely without charges.

3. To deny them access to a lawyer.

4. To deny them a trial.

5. To deport them to other countries to have them tortured.

6. To conduct secret searches without warrants, and to conduct secret surveillence without cause or oversight.

7. To ignore any law or Constitutional provision that he and he alone deems inconvenient--and he is not even required to give a reason for his actions.


You tell me: Are these not the powers of a dictator? And if we have a dictator as our leader, is this still the same America it was 6 years ago? I don't think so. I seem to recall that we have presidents--not dictators. And that even our president is not above the law.

Posted by: Derelict on January 2, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no real breach with this leak"

If the assumption is correct that the "War On Terror"TM BushCo,is a smoke screen, that makes the leak a threat to their paradigm.
Why sic 'Berto on it only now?
It doesn't add up.

Posted by: Disasterman on January 2, 2006 at 2:46 PM | PERMALINK

Disaster: no, it doesn't add up. Usually, when the data do not add up, it means that 1) the conclusion could be wrong, 2) the data is incorrect as it stands, or 3) there is data as of yet not discovered or determined that is acting on the whole equation. Which of those it is is a matter of belief. I choose to stick to the facts, and for now, we do not have enough of them to make an informed decision aoubt what is going on, except to say: it all doesn't add up.

Posted by: chris on January 2, 2006 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

From the history books...
(note: If you are an American muslim, it's possible that your rights as a citizen have been violated or disregarded recently)

...
(2) He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such 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; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.
(3) He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the President, financed in part with money derived from campaign contributions to him, which unlawfully utilized the resources of the Central Intelligence Agency, engaged in covert and unlawful activities, and attempted to prejudice the constitutional right of an accused to a fair trial...

http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/impeachments/nixon.htm

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on January 2, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

I guess this is kind of unrelated but my disgust over the latest Washington Posts editorial over 4th Circuit Courts embarrassment at having been lied to by George W. Bush and his administration.

It's beyond the pale.

The conservative court BELIEVED in Bushs lies, but it now seems that the person the Bushies label as an enemy combatant, Mr. Jose Padilla is obviously not as dangerous as Bushies pretended Padilla to be so the Washington Post would have SCOTUS ignore that Bush got caught lying? The late Chief Justice William Rehnquist would NOT have amused either.

Bush gives a whole new meaning to the word "contempt of court". Bush, the President of the US, didnt just embarrass any court it was a US appeals court, a very conservative court.

Republicans are being to find out that Bush lies?

Hey Ho!

Thats good that Republicans are beginning to see the light about Bush, but WHY does the WP go and make the 4th Circuit now the enemy, simply because the court doesnt snap to Bushs fingers? I wonder if Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) would be equally as nasty toward conservative judges if Bush told him to be?

Bush wants to be law, not follow the law. Bushs definition of an activist judge is any judge that will not do what Bush says, unjust or otherwise, conservative, liberal or otherwise.

The editorial in the Washington Post is yet another example of not liberal news NOR conseravtive news - just pro-Bush news.

This is why we certainly don't need a sheild law for journalist. The WP is acting like it's being paid to make these freakish Whitehouse damage control assertions. ARE they being paid? I mean WTF?

As I've been saying for a long time - Bush is not a conservative - Bush is criminal, and certainly a difference.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 2, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Corruption and congress.

There is answer here, for Chris and Derelict and word is "term limits".

I would give congress two term in office ONLY and that is all. Some congressman have around longer than Supreme Court Justices. Thats too long.

Sen. Mitch McConnell should go out the door with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Oh, and Sen. Byrd too.

Posted by: Cheryl on January 2, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Ceryl: term limits is a whole 'nother topic, isn't it? Maybe it is the asnwer, but somehow, I think, the answer lies in a properly educated voting population. With that in place, and with the safeguards of the Republic in place (which means protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority) I think we will survive just fine. The pendulum is always swinging, no matter how much dictator-like pseudo fascist Presidents (like FDR, and Bush II) would try to stop it.

Posted by: CHRIS on January 2, 2006 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it depends on what the harm of disclosure is, doesn't it? I mean, you hold hearings in public in order to get information out. That's the entire point. If we have a program where the details should not be made public because that exposes intelligence sources and methods and alerts the enemy, then of course the hearings will have to be closed. You're assuming that Specter cannot figure that out without being "leaned" on?

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

The REAL question is what has the harm been to the country from the NYT's exposure of intelligence methods? I guess we will likely never know (since court procedings will likely be closed) but if the damage is serious, I for one hope the guys there - and whoever gave them the secrets - do serious time.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:10 PM | PERMALINK

Harm to the country has already been done if the methods to obtain intelligence are illegal. Harm has already been done if the governmental agencies that are meant to protect AMERICA (i.e. the US Constitution) have instead decided that the ends justify the means. Nixon did irreparable harm to this country, but so did Deep Throat. Nonetheless, Deep Throat (who also lived by the morality that the ends justify the means) did less harm overall, because he allowed light to shine on dark areas. So, in this case, the secret wiretapping may easily have harmed us more than it helped us. we do not know. And that is what needs to happen: we need to know. THAT will be the best way to repair any damage done by either the process of secrecy, or the leaking thereof.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 3:19 PM | PERMALINK

The REAL question is what has the harm been to the country from the NYT's exposure of intelligence methods?

The real question is what has the harm to the country been from the violation of the Bill of Rights by a man who swore (presumably under penalty of perjury) to defend the Constitution?

Terrorists have killed 3000 Americans, and you are ready to surrender the Fouth Amendment because your hero CLAIMS, without any evidence, that it will make you "safer."

EVERY YEAR guns in America kill many times the total number of people that terrorists have killed. We know that in countries such as Japan, where a citizen does not have the rights to gun ownership that we have, gun deaths are practically nonexistent.

If you are willing to surrender the Fourth Amendment in the name of safety because 3000 people died, would you also surrender the Second, since hundreds of thousands of Americans have been killed by guns in the hands of their fellow citizens?

If not, why not?

Posted by: Repack Rider on January 2, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

"Harm has already been done if the governmental agencies that are meant to protect AMERICA (i.e. the US Constitution) have instead ..."

Really? That's ALL the government is supposed to protect? We have all 3 branches and pay all that cash to protect the constitution? The military, the police, all just protecting the constitution, not our lives, our property, and general safety? Puh-leeze.

Chris (may I call you Justice Chris?) who put you on the Supreme Court? How do you know this is not constitutional?

And cut it with the Watergate nostalgia, already. Just quit it. Nixon was spying on his political adversaries. AQ is not the DLC (not quite yet, anyway).

Also see Kevin's post below. This is a loser for you lefties because people want someone in charge that can protect the country (in the old-fashioned sense of the word, meaning protect us from getting blown up).

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps someone in the business of finding facts should ask McClellan...
"If the President knew a year ago that a leak which he claims is a grave threat to national security had occured, why did the Administration allow the disclosure of highly sensitive classified information to go un-investigated this long?"

A good follow up would be "Who is directly responsible for the failure to act immediately when it initially came to the attention of the Pentagon?"

Posted by: Disasterman on January 2, 2006 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

OK, RR. Just keep comparing 9-11 to gun violence (why not automobile fatalities, too, just to make it even stupider?). Just keep squandering your party's chances of ever appearing worthy of being in charge. Keep losing elections.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

If open hearings would further damage our security, then closed hearings might appear to be a good alternative, but who has confidence that they won't be leaked? I don't.

A safer answer would be to have only a small group of Senators and Congressmen from both parties involved in vetting the program. Oh wait, that's what the President has been consistently doing.

If you would trust closed hearings to evlauate the program, you should also trust the legislative leadership who have already done the job.

Posted by: David on January 2, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

lab - what harm has been done by the disclosure of a potentially illegal surveillance program?

Most likely no damage has been done to any legitimate US security interest UNLESS foreign agents and terrorist organizations were actually trusting and stupid enough to design their communications on the assumption that the US government would not eavesdrop on their communications with or without a warrant. If they were, more enemies like that, please!

Now, damage to President Cheney's long running attempts to recreate the Imperial Presidency? Hopefully a lot.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Sigh. Fine, David. Why not just distrust anything the executive branch does in secret, then? Why not let newspapers have access to all secret documents produced by the NSA, CIA, and all the branches of the military? I mean, if we cannot trust the administration to do anything in secret, then what secrets can possibly be protected?

Seriously, David, why waste our time with nonsense like this? Protecting secrets means not disclosing in public hearings. This shouldn't be too hard to understand.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Given the historical precedent of Presidents using quasi-espionage in their election tactics, i.e. Lyndon Johnson using wiretaps, Nixon campaign using breakins and enemies lists and Tom Delay using DHS to run down state legislators during the redistrticting debacle. does no one have any concern NSA technology could have been used to gather information for GOP election campaigns? Any campaign would love to have access to that type of data mining.

On an equally somber note, I hope the Bush Adminstration did not have any real cause to believe that any terrorist conspiracy woul have wholly American roots, I mean I cant even conceive of a possibilty where Americans would plot go kill Americans over their differing political or religious ideals can you?????

Posted by: Oxymoron on January 2, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Chris...

I'd be curious as to your perspectives on what would be the best possible outcome of a hearing/investigation? and the worst possible outcome?

Posted by: pencarrow on January 2, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

OK...I'll throw out the line one more time. Does everyone know that James Risen (one of the guys who broke the NSA story in the Times in mid-December) is publishing a book TODAY about the story after a year's research? You can be sure this book, entitled btw, "State of War: The Secrets of the Bush Administration and the CIA,"
(that's a paraphrase) will hold even more explosive revelations about the whole story. The NYT 'had to break' the NSA story because they knew Risen's book was coming out in January. The publishers have even pushed forward the pub date on this one by a couple weeks. I think we're going to have a whole lot more to talk about after someone's read this book.

Bush has no conception of what democracy is. Or maybe that of a five-year old. Voting is just the 'first step' that leads to a possible democracy. Having the elected leader obey the constitution and be responsive to both Congress and the Judicial branch is necessary for a representative democracy too. Bush has no respect for any of it.

Posted by: nepeta on January 2, 2006 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

I anticipate effective stonewalling. A few concerned republicans will not give congress the balls to overcome the administration's stalling, diversions, and claims of executive privilege. Meanwhile the fog and spin machines will be on full blast.

Democrats need to remember that the issue is not whether wiretaps are essential for national security. The only issue is checks and balances on executive power.

Democratic control of one chamber in 2006 is our only real hope.

Posted by: jb on January 2, 2006 at 3:42 PM | PERMALINK

RR. Just keep comparing 9-11 to gun violence (why not automobile fatalities, too, just to make it even stupider?). Just keep squandering your party's chances of ever appearing worthy of being in charge. Keep losing elections.

Owning or driving a car is not a Constitutional right. Owning a gun is.

I see you have no rational response to why surrenderng a constitutional right for a PROMISE of safety (from an administration which has lied about virtually everything they could be checked up on) is a bad idea, so you resort to insults and comparing apples to oranges.

Pretty much what I expected.

Posted by: Repack Rider on January 2, 2006 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

David - if by "only a small group of Senators and Congressmen" you meant that tiny group that was told "here's what we're doing, we don't need your permission, and you can't talk to anybody" then that's not "conferring" - it's more properly called "executive fiat".

And I don't trust any Administration. Or most members of Congress.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Butch, I have no idea what the harm of NYT's disclosure has been. That's what I just said. But, also, YOU have no idea. Not a clue. Totally unaware and in a fog.

Maybe AQ people did not know that their phone calls to the US were being tapped. You lefties certainly seem shocked. Or maybe not. Or maybe AQ suspected that there were some forms that were under surveillance and others were not. Maybe now they have a better idea of what kinds of communication are comparatively "safe" -- and maybe further hearings and publicity will give them even better awareness.

I don't know and none of the posters here know either.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry, RR. I did not know you, too, was a Justice of the Supreme Court. So many of them on this message board. Why don't we wait and see if any 4th amendment rights have been violated, first, huh? The constitution has competing powers and rights in it. How exactly the balance works out at any given time is frankly not something I would look to you for answers on.

Gun ownership (just to take a random example) is already subject to a great many rules and regulations in this country. SCOTUS has consistently held that at least some such regulation is ok with the 2nd Amdnt.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

pencarrow: the best possible outcome would be for the truth to be known about what happened. no spin, no power points, just the truth: this is what we did, this is why, this is the legality of where we thought we stood. (for example).
the worst possible outcome would be a whitewash that was then believed to be true (similar to the drumup to the war in Iraq)

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

Nice try at misdirection, lab. I'm not, and never have been "shocked" at the idea of the Administration tapping AQ or other phone lines. I doubt most "on the left" have been either.

In fact, I expect and hope that the Administration is spying with enthusiasm and gusto on foreign agents. I also expect the Administration to follow the the law in those cases where the surveillance starts to impinge on US persons or make a case to Congress that the laws must be changed.

I have seen no convincing statement by the Administration that FISA prevented them from accomplishing legitimate surveillance and plenty of evidence that they made no attempt to persuade Congress to fix the law if it did.

Nor do I ever intend to put my trust in any Administration without some legitimate independent oversight.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 3:56 PM | PERMALINK

So all this screaming is over something you all knew was going on? If so, I stand corrected. It has of course nothing to do with the overall point. Disclosing this program may have harmed our safety. Or not.

You don't know Butch, just admit it. You'll feel better.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 4:01 PM | PERMALINK

Butch, I have no idea what the harm of NYT's disclosure has been. That's what I just said. But, also, YOU have no idea. Not a clue. Totally unaware and in a fog.

Oh, please. How hard is it to figure out that there is NO plausible consequence of the NY Times "revelation", which told NOTHING of specific methods that might materially alter what terrorists would do?

Look, we can ALL read that article, right, and make the same conclusions terrorists would. The NSA may be scanning their telephone and email. What a big fucking surprise to terrorist, that his email and phone conversations may be being tapped, and he had better talk or write in a way that won't be obviously involving terrorism.

What a huge mystery this had been before, what an enormous epiphany each and ever terrorist must have experienced after reading that article! I'm sure they just changed last thing they did right on the spot after reading it.

Christ in Heaven how you guys just make shit up and try to pretend that the excruciatingly obvious is somehow incredibly opaque and spooky.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

But Butch, we are talking about GWB here, surely you have no reason whatsoever to distrust him!

Posted by: WhoSays on January 2, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

BTW - just as a musing - do others notice the fact that a lot of the psuedo-conservatives coming around seem to have exclusive OR as their only logical operator?

You must choose between security OR civil rights, you must let the Administration do whatever it wants OR you support AQ, etc.

Pretty pathetic actuallly to see minds so limited.

I choose security AND civil rights. It's actually possible - it does take a bit more thought and work, but it can be done. I choose to keep the Administration working within the law AND have them do effective investigative and police work to tackle AQ. Again, it does take more work and thought, but it can be done.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Chris... thanx for the views. The concern I have is that regardless of the end result of the hearings/investigation, neither party will accept the outcome if it is unfavorable to their position. Consequently, it would create an ongoing distraction to what I believe are the more important issues of Iraq, health care, economy, etc.

Now that the issue has been exposed, it seems unlikely there would be near-term future incidents of abuse, so the focus seems to be on punishment, which I feel will be almost impossible to achieve.

Posted by: pencarrow on January 2, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, AQ people has made changes to how they operate numerous times in the past based on stuff they got from news sources. UBL cutting back on his celphone chatting is just one example.

You are assuming that various AQ cells are much smarter, better organized, and aware than they probably are. Of course, if they lack some situational awareness that doesn't mean they're not dangerous. The Atta crew doesn't strike me as a bunch of geniouses, exactly. But they did some pretty good damage.

Posted by: peanut on January 2, 2006 at 4:07 PM | PERMALINK

Let's just suppose for a minute that there's some incredibly stupid terrorist out there who was NOT already assuming that his email and phone conversations might be getting tapped, and, after the NY Times article, realized that, by God, maybe they WERE being tapped, and he better talk in, I don't know, pig latin, foiling the scans.

Now this would have to be one incredibly incompetent terrorist.

And so let's think about this. We aren't anymore giving up our own privacy and civil liberties for the sake of terrorism in general. No, we're giving them up for the sake of incompetent terrorism.

THIS is what our right wing cretins have reduced us to.

Some country they want us to live in. Cowering in fear of INCOMPETENT terrorists.

Jesus Fucking Christ.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Poor lab - you do twist and turn so. Highly amusing.

No - the fact that the Administration was operating in violation of FISA was not something I knew. Nor, apparently, did most of Congress and even some members of the FISA court.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 4:12 PM | PERMALINK

Butch chooses both. How nice it must be in his world where you never have to make any real choices. Dontcha see? It CAN be done. If you just repeat that over and over then you never have to make decisions that might require you to weigh the potential harm to civil liberties (hopefully, small) of doing something vs. the potential harm to people's lives of not doing it (maybe, significant).

This is what the dems have chosen, pretty much. Renounce responsibility. Just say "no" to difficult choices.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 4:13 PM | PERMALINK

Peanut - numerous times in the past? You'll have to put down some cites for that.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

So Butch, you did know or did not? Like I said, it has nothing to do with the issue.

Look, lame0, whether or not terrorists are "incompetent" in your estimation is not all that important. Some of them are likely smarter than others. If you look at some of the 9-11 guys for example, their actions prior to the final attacks do not make them seem like they were all that professional or competent. So what? They got a pretty good hit in.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry Butch that's classified. See you're always trying...

Posted by: peanut on January 2, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Oooh - another twist from lab!

How droll - the idea that with some thought and work you can be secure AND preserve your civil liberties is "not making a choice"!

There's an interesting document you should read some time - full of instructions on how to make choices that provide security and liberty. It's called the United States Constitution.

Another document that does something similar where there's a gray area between the unquestioned power of the President to conduct foreign affairs and the 4rth amendment to the constitution is called FISA. Not a perfect solution to improving security while protecting civil liberties, but an example of how you can, with a bit of thinking, do both.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

lab, would you be opposed to finding a way to allow Bush to continue doing what he is doing under the law?

Posted by: WhoSays on January 2, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

Ace suggestion, Butch: "read the constitution." Sure, that will solve everything. No need for interpretations, or weighing different powers and rights in the constitutions. SCOTUS? Who needs 'em?

This is thinking?

FISA has nothing to do with how the conflict, if there is one, between the President's CINC authority and the 4th amendment can be solved. Because FISA is an act of congress and congress doesn't get to solve such issues. It's not in their purview.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

That would be nice WhoSays, but ultimately perhaps the Supremes will have to settle it (if Congress cannot write a law that works with the program). Or, perhaps the program should be shut down because the benefits do not outweigh the harm. We just don't know.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

http://www.villagevoice.com/news/0529,rozen,66002,6.html

OK, Butch, here's a little one, just for you ;)

Remember the Ballad of Patrick and Judith. Prior to getting involved in leaking Ms Wilson's name, Miller also leaked information on a planned raid of a Muslim "Charity" (aka., terror/AQ front organization). Seems Fitzgerald as the prosecuting attorney was not too happy:

"Some U.S. counter-terrorism officials and the 9-11 Commission find reason to believe the charity destroyed documents overnight in advance of an FBI raid (a charge Global Relief's lawyer has denied in the press). "I think there are people in the government who are concerned about her [Miller's] behavior in that case," a former U.S. government counter-terrorism official told the Voice, on condition of anonymity.

"Asked to investigate the leak, Fitzgerald convened a grand jury and sought Miller and Shenon's phone records. On February 24, a federal judge sided with the Times against the Justice Department in the case (NYT v. Ashcroft), ruling that the newspaper has a First Amendment privilege to shield its confidential sources by blocking government access to phone records. The government has appealed the decision."

Leaking info to the enemy is not really a smart thing to do if you want to win.

Posted by: peanut on January 2, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Please don't throw me in that briar patch!

Congressional hearing where Dems can rail enthusiastically against fighting al Queda are a terrible idea.

Please don't throw me in that briar patch!

Posted by: Birkel on January 2, 2006 at 5:19 PM | PERMALINK

Eiei. But Birkel, how about hearings where dems get to demonstrate they would rather not fight AQ too much, at least not if it's inconvenient or unpleasant, and certainly not on the weekends or after 5. Also, never ever if it might mean tapping someone's phone calls that originate outside the US. Certainly not if it means stopping the NYT's (The Sacred Times) ability to expose secret information and tip off AQ to our activities. How about hearings like that? Where dems get to demonstrate that as much as they really really dislike terror & stuff, they're ready to do very little effectively about it - and they don't care who knows it! How about that briar patch?

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK

lab - and how does an "Act of Congress" differ from a law passed by Congress that the President is bound to execute faithfully?

I'm glad you get the point that the Constitution doesn't necessarily provide SIMPLE solutions to problems. But then, I never said it would be EASY to properly balance security and liberty. It does require more work, HONEST conferring between Administration, Congress, and the Courts (advisory opinions can be requested). And I consider it well worth the effort - as did the founders, who put considerable effort into both the initial balancing and into trying to make sure no single branch could completely dominate. But I guess that means they didn't make choices.

Peanut - leaking information that blows a legitimate investigation or harms US security is not a good thing. I agree completely. This should be investigated FULLY and appropriate punishment applied as specified by LAW.

Leaking information that reveals improper conduct on the part of a government entity is in a slightly different category - and is in fact considered a special protected category under the law. If the Administration (as I strongly suspect) is in violation of FISA then that should also be fully investigated.

Now - PUBLISHING leaked information is yet another whole area of the law. While leaking secret/sensitive information may be a crime, PUBLISHING it is not. And the courts do tend to give considerable deference to the press here, protecting the sources unless the government can clearly show that there's no other way to solve the crime AND that there's an overriding interest forcing the press to reveal sources.

Bypassing the laws of the United States because you can't be bothered to get them changed or do the work required to follow them is even less smart than leaking to an enemy.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

I see lab is back with the XOR again. Obviously it isn't possible to fight AQ AND follow the law. Therefore the choice must be to fight AQ OR follow the law.

Pitiful.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Butch: "While leaking secret/sensitive information may be a crime, PUBLISHING it is not."

Are you really that clueless? You think it's ok to reveal secret information if you put it on newsprint?

As to your contention that some press organization gets to decide what government activities are "improper" and therefore secrets about it can be exposed without penalty - I'd love to hear Keller and Sulzberger tell it to the judge.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

For those who think that Bush is ONLY eavesdropping on Al Qaeda, I have a bridge I would like to sell you.

Bush is most likely eavesdropping on all people he deems his enemy, which could be "lab" or Howard Dean or Jesse Jackson, Cindy Sheehan, etc. Maybe he is even eavesdropping on those rowdy twins of his. This is the same man who lies to the American people about WMD's. He lies every time he opens his mouth. If he were Pinnochio, his nose would stretch from sea to shining sea. Any person--especially if he is President--who has been caught in as many lies as this man has no RIGHT to expect trust from the people who have suffered from his lies. And, those who do trust him are fools.

Posted by: Mazurka on January 2, 2006 at 5:53 PM | PERMALINK

Mazurka - take a chill pill. If the NSA is listening in on Cindy Sheehan's uninteresting and incoherent rambling then I'd be the first to condemn their misuse of their time and my money. I'm sure they have better things to do with a war on.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 5:57 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Mazurka. The power of the NSA eavesdropping would be way too hard for Karl Rove to resist using against his domestic 'enemies'.

Posted by: WhoSays on January 2, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK

Poor lab - ever trying the twist. Didn't say it was good, just that publishing it is not a crime.

Of course, by the time it can be published, someone had to have leaked it. The leak (with the whistleblower exception noted above) is the crime.

Now, since it was Judy Miller who published the info that supposedly blew the raid on the charity, it's dollars to doughnuts that she got it directly from a senior administration official who should lose their security clearance at a minimum.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 5:59 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0
Let's just suppose for a minute that there's some incredibly stupid terrorist out there who was NOT already assuming that his email and phone conversations might be getting tapped, and, after the NY Times article, realized that, by God, maybe they WERE being tapped, and he better talk in, I don't know, pig latin, foiling the scans.

Now this would have to be one incredibly incompetent terrorist.

The history of cryptography and spying (hell, human history) is full of really smart people making stupid mistakes. Even small ones are often enough. Didn't encrypt hard drive. Left piece of paper in cave. Wrote password on sticky pad. Got cocky and bragged on forum. Slept with hooker and got wallet stolen. As leader of free world decided to get blow job from intern with self-image problem and big mouth.

Hackers crack into places that people spend great effort to keep them out of every day. Viruses and spyware. Proof positive it works.

Don't underestimate the enemy, but don't forget they are human.

If I was us, I would leak/announce we could track all of the communication methods we can't, and keep secret all the ones we can.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 6:01 PM | PERMALINK

Butch: "and how does an "Act of Congress" differ from a law passed by Congress that the President is bound to execute faithfully?"

See, there are two levels of law here: the constitution and regular laws (the kind passed by congress). In this context, where we are trying to figure out how the president's cinc authority might interfere with or be circumscribed by the 4th or other amendments, the first matters a lot; the second not so much. FISA would be in the second category. I assume most people learn this much in civics class so I did not specify earlier, but: NO LAW of congress needs to be followed by the president if he has competent authority saying the law is not constitutional.

For example, The War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148) limits the power of the President of the United States to wage war without the approval of the Congress. But no president has ever respected the law, because it's not constitutional.

Does that clear it up for you?

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

Look, lame0, whether or not terrorists are "incompetent" in your estimation is not all that important. Some of them are likely smarter than others. If you look at some of the 9-11 guys for example, their actions prior to the final attacks do not make them seem like they were all that professional or competent. So what? They got a pretty good hit in.

Look, lab, just because you're cowering in fear of, and soiling yourself over some purported terrorist who is about 1000 times LESS competent than the guys behind 9/11 is no reason for the rest of us to do so. We're not such pussies, you know?

Is it really in any way plausible that terrorists answering to Osama would be communicating in ways so obvious that the sorts of scans the NSA has implemented would have any useful effect. What little has been published about their communications before 9/11 seemed pretty clearly to demonstrate that they already, in effect, communicated in code, where events were signified by some kind of metaphorical use of language.

And how hard is it for them to realize that they should take such measures? Don't you think they've seen all the spy movies every last one of us has seen, where spies from years and years ago were already using coded language?

Look, why don't you just go find yourself some little spot where you can piddle yourself out of everyone's view? Why do you have to do so here in such a public forum? Aren't you just a little embarrassed?

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

My point was clear enough, Bitch, but let me make it even clearer:

Putting secret information on newsprint is not legal. Never has been. If you do it you are breaking the law and you could go to jail. If you got secret information from someone you should report that person to the police. If you print the information or disseminate it in any way whether phone call or newspaper, you are breaking the law and is at least as guilty as the one who leaked you the info.

You are confused between the law on secrets and certain prosecutorial rules that limit DOJ actions against the press. But those rules can be changed, and probably should.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK

You know who lab is afraid of?

The Jose Padillas in the world, the little wannabee terrorist incompetents who can't pull a damn thing off for the life of them, but want to talk big when they get on the phone or write an email.

THAT is what lab is pissing himself over. Those are the guys that an NSA scan is going to pick up. The ones who can't keep their damn mouth shut because it's all about big talk to begin with.

And lab is SO afraid of them, he wants us all to give over our privacy to King George.

What a pissant.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Hey lame0 - 1000 times less competent huh? That's really interesting analysis.

I sure wish you were in charge of keeping us safe.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Birkel - how about congressional hearing where lame0 is called as a witness to speak for the dimmocrat what-do-you-mean-al-qaida party. Wouldn't that be something?

AQ?? Who cares?? What if someone listens in on Cindee's phone calls??

That should take care of election results well into the next century.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

Red State Mike,

Your whole argument is nothing but piling up improbability on improbability, and then acting deathly afraid because somehow it could turn out badly if every thing in the world goes the wrong way.

Oh yeah, the NSA scan is going to catch the one mistake a terrorist might ever make, the single needle in a billion stacks of hay. Yeah, that's really going to happen.

Good God, you guys are pathetic, just afraid of your own shadows, willing to give up privacies for the most remote of possibilities. Why don't you have everyone put a video in their living rooms? I'm sure that'll cut down on the possibility of terrorism too, you know? Really, why not? What principled reason would you have to object to it that wouldn't apply to scanning our email and phone conversations?

Why should the spooked out likes of you go in fear, take the risk that Jose Padilla might actually succeed?

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:18 PM | PERMALINK

lab - really? And who are the competent authorities specified in the Constitution that the President can use to say that a law is not constitutional? Does Harriet get to give him a pass as long as she doesn't scrawl any embarrassing notes in the margin? ;>

I presume that your civics class did cover Article I, section VIII, items 1 (provide for the common defense), 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14? Congress does have some considerable say in funding and regulation of the military. The Presidents Article II, section I powers are more framed in terms of actual command of the military but also fall under section III - he shall take car that the laws be faithfully executed.

That last in conjuction with Article I, Section VIII, item 18 makes it a stretch in my mind to say the president can decide what laws he follows UNLESS the competent authority he goes to is the Supreme Court itself.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Your whole argument is nothing but piling up improbability on improbability, and then acting deathly afraid because somehow it could turn out badly if every thing in the world goes the wrong way.

I'm not deathly afraid of the terrorists, and I'm not in favor of warrantless wiretapping or monitoring os citizens. I am against making stupid arguments, and that's what you are doing. We monitor and listen because it works. It worked against the Russians and Nazis and so on, and it works against al Qaeda. Not perfectly, but these guys have to communicate, since they are spread out everywhere. that is there weak link..,communication.

As I suggested, but now i'll say out front, you don't know jack #$% about cryptography and listening in on other communications. You are profoundly ignorant of data mining and pattern matching. you completely fail to understand just how hard it is to completely hide all of your communications. And they all have to be hidden. Crack one, and the house of cards starts to fall.

So read up or shut up, you're making liberals look stupid.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, RedStateMike.

Remember, these guys are the same ones who yell bloody murder if the MTA puts CC video cams in the subway - the exact same technology that solved the London bombings so quickly. It's like 9-11 never happened with these people. The remotest chance of a technology or spying program being used for undesirable ends -- and they're screaming like schoolgirls -- even though the technology could very well save their lives or catch their killers. Never ceases to amaze me.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

As a good intro I recommend "Battle of Wits" by Budiansky. How we cracked the Nazi codes.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 6:26 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, RedStateMike.

Don't thank me too much. Whatever's going on needs better oversight, and looked into by the Legislative branch at a minimum.

Posted by: Red State Mike on January 2, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

As a self-described liberal you probably don't agree with me about most things, RSM, but at least your heart is in the right place on this one.

As to overseeing and looking into, I'm all for it, as long as it's done out of sight of our enemies.

Posted by: lab on January 2, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

We monitor and listen because it works. It worked against the Russians and Nazis and so on, and it works against al Qaeda. Not perfectly, but these guys have to communicate, since they are spread out everywhere. that is there weak link..,communication.

Oh please.

What a totally lame argument.

You know we are succeeding against al Qaeda how, exactly? Is this really the best you can do? Has a single case been offered up of such "success" using the NSA data mining program?

OF COURSE fucking not. The program itself of data mining is still very far from well established technology, particularly in such an arena. And the communications that were intercepted from the Russians etc. did NOT, of course, use data mining because it didn't fucking exist.

You're just making shit up here, Mike.

Pretty fucking desperate. Obviously, you got nothing.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:32 PM | PERMALINK

Birkel, lab, peanut,

Roll yourself back 40 yrs. Would you have shown such enthusiasm and support if the govt. was targetting that other terrorist organization, the KKK? What if the president had said, "We're targetting every redneck. We're listening to the phonecalls, incoming and outgoing, of every good 'ol boy between the everglades and the ozarks. Every cracker's pickup truck is going to be followed until we break this evil gang. Is this illegal? Of course. We're doing it any way."

Would you have supported that? Or would you have argued for more traditional court-sanctioned police methods?

Posted by: The Snowshovel of Bullshit on January 2, 2006 at 6:34 PM | PERMALINK

How we cracked the Nazi codes.

What the hell does cracking Nazi codes have to do with using data mining techniques to catch communications between terrorists?

Man, this is just lame.

Do you have ANY idea how unreliable data mining and "pattern matching" are in general as techniques? Do you have ANY background in computer science?

This is just unbelievable.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Ok lab, I'll bite - where in title 18 (which I think would be the relevant section) does it make it a crime to publish information AFTER it has been disclosed? The various articles look to me to focus on disclosure by an authorized person to an unauthorized person.

But note that the reporters and papers in the Plame case were NOT charged with violating any part of title 18, to my knowledge. They were charged with contempt of court for refusing to reveal information vital to determining who had leaked Valerie Plame's NOC status.

A couple of cites of cases where a reporter or paper was charged with leaking classified information leaked to them by an "authorized person" and convicted would be helpful.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 6:47 PM | PERMALINK

Do you have ANY background in computer science?

Uhhh...My buddy's gotta Xbox...

Posted by: rightist twit on January 2, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

It's like 9-11 never happened with these people. The remotest chance of a technology or spying program being used for undesirable ends -- and they're screaming like schoolgirls -- even though the technology could very well save their lives or catch their killers. Never ceases to amaze me.

Sing yourself to sleep, dimbulb.

Posted by: obscure on January 2, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

OK, here's what seems to be an actual communication before 9/11, just to make my point about the sheer idiocy of expecting data mining to do a damn bit of good:

CNN reported on June 20 that in one communication intercepted by the National Security Agency on Sept. 10, 2001, an individual was overheard saying, "The match begins tomorrow" while in another that same day, a second person said, "Tomorrow is zero hour." In both, the speakers were in Afghanistan and were speaking to individuals in Saudi Arabia. The intercept was not found until Sept. 12, 2001.

Now I ask, what kind of "data mining" has ANY kind of chance of picking out phrases such as "the match begins tommorrow" or "tommorrow is the zero hour" from a bazillion emails and phone calls?

You see, these phrases are used PRECISELY BECAUSE they sound innocuous, and are used by a million other people in a million other contexts.

THAT is why this whole data mining thing is going to catch only the cretin terrorists.

And who is going to fear a cretin terrorist? Why, cretin wingnuts, who find something to piss themselves over everywhere they look.

"Please take our privacy, PLEASE!! We don't want it anymore!! We're so afraid, Jose Padilla is on our tail, we know it!!! You can find us under our beds when you finish!! Yes, we'll clean up afterwards!!"

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

Look, a general point about data mining.

Data mining is unreliable even in the most transparent of contexts, such as trying to decipher and predict consumer behavior.

But in a context in which there is an active effort to frustrate detection, it's almost inconceivable that it will succeed. And most obviously so when you are talking the tiniest of needle in huge haystacks.

Where is a single example of its successful use in such a circumstance? Why isn't the Bush administration shouting that example from the rooftops?

How about because they don't exist, not even remotely?

For this, we give up any privacy at all?

I guess if you get scared shitless when someone looks at you crosseyed.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 2, 2006 at 7:06 PM | PERMALINK

Sooner or later, congress will re-awaken, and remember that it is supposed to be an equal part of the balance of power with the other two branches of government. The Republican Party has managed to hold the Congress to a Party authority for now, but, as the midtgerms approach, and as the great undoing of the republican Party continnues, more and more moderates, but also strict conservatives, will break with the activist lame duck White House. It is fun to sit back and watch the show.

Posted by: Chris on January 2, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK


Hogwash.

I'm a left of leftwing Democrats and whenever I hear other Dems talk about "sooner or later, Congress will have to ____", I know the writer doesn't understand human nature or politics.

With a Republican in the White House and Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, Republicans in Congress are drunk with power. They only motivation for equalizing the branches of government is when one branch thinks that it's not getting its' fair share. With Republicans in the White House and controlling Congress, they all get what they want. Look at the runaway spending - they are emptying out the U.S. Treasury into their own pockets, their own states, now and well into the future. They also get to stack the 3rd branch of government to their favor. They are in hog heaven. They don't give a flying fart in space as to the President's unequal power - he's making them all rich, untaxed and unregulated.

Posted by: Malcolm on January 2, 2006 at 8:54 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care what the White House wants, *I* want a special prosecutor.

Any hearings held by Congress will be strictly for show, dog and pony acts.

Posted by: Carol on January 2, 2006 at 8:56 PM | PERMALINK

Nothing that the NSA is doing would have prevented 9/11.

Nothing.

The things that could have caught 9/11 haven't been fixed.

The State Dept. is still giving visas to Saudi young men with no visible means of support.

The planes, the airports, still have not been secured, and over the objections of the airline personnel, passengers can now board planes with weaponry.

Walls between intelligence agencies weren't the problem. Intelligence supervisors rubbing elbows with the Colleen Rawleys of the intel community, reading underlings' reports and listening to what their employees are uncovering.........that was the problem!

We have the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Negroponte, Goss, Bolton and Cheney) in charge, and their purpose isn't to bring freedom and democracy to the people of the world.

The democratic experiment died, and we're doomed if we don't wake up and wise up, but fast.

Posted by: Lon on January 2, 2006 at 9:12 PM | PERMALINK

Salute the dominion of Christ in Bush, contemptible mewling slaves. You will learn to cringe on cue without resentment. False accusations may help to protect you if you come to be suspected of undue awareness, so pick out some friends to destroy in a pinch, you servile, frightened slaves.

Posted by: vidkun on January 2, 2006 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

frankly0 - I think you may be going off course here.

Data mining is very tricky, as you mention, but data mining requires that you accumulate a lot of data to mine, and I think this may be where the Administration is trying to dance and dodge.

After you have accumulated a huge amount of data (presuming the collection bandwidth and storage required) you must then be able to ask the right questions. That's the big problem - there may be 1 person in 100,000 that knows how to ask the right question AND (note the lack of XOR) determine that the data really does support the THAT question and not several others that might share similar characteristics - but I repeat myself - asking the RIGHT question is part of the discipline.

Now - going into speculative mode - the preparations for a really good data mining venture include getting every bit of data you can vacuum up about anything that might even be peripheral to your actual interest. Then, as identifiable events come up you can (assuming people with really good question formation capability) trace backwards to common characteristics - snail mail or e-mail addresses, after action message characteristice analysis, etc.

Encryption/Decryption doesn't apply - if I was a member of an insurgent group I would never send an obviously encrypted electronic or physical message to anyone (unless I was doing a flood attack). Messages using simple (and changing) phrases go clear in all mail and can be dropped anywhere.

Oh yeah - and once you have all that juicy data, and no effective oversight, you can ask some REALLY directed questions about opponents or supposed friends - just a test of the system, you know...

But I'm sure lab and peanut will be here shortly to explain why NO ONE (well, except for LBJ, Nixon, Bush I, Clinton, and Bush II) would EVER use this stuff for partisan gain, and why Hilary '09 should have this ability.

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 10:48 PM | PERMALINK


lab: "AQ is not the DLC (not quite yet, anyway)"

You're right, AQ. The DLC is exactly like AQ. You'd better be careful about what you say about the DLC, because that car in front of your house could be a car bomb placed by the DLC to silence you.

You and your Committe of Public Safety don't scare me, lab.


Posted by: Andy on January 2, 2006 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Dammit Andy! What did I say about posting plans outside the AQ/DLC double secret blog?

Now peanut and lab know everything! There goes our plan to take down the Golden Gate Bridge with butane matches!

You suck, Andy! Turn in the decoder ring, dude!

Posted by: Butch on January 2, 2006 at 11:17 PM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz is clearly taking some time off to recover from his recent inane postings. Now a new troll - Lab - crawls out from the sewers to take his place, and performs the astounding feat of making Tbrosz appear rational. A performance which should be acknolwedged at the next round of the Koufax Awards.

Lab earlier wrote:

"Sigh. Fine, David. Why not just distrust anything the executive branch does in secret, then? Why not let newspapers have access to all secret documents produced by the NSA, CIA, and all the branches of the military? I mean, if we cannot trust the administration to do anything in secret, then what secrets can possibly be protected?

Seriously, David, why waste our time with nonsense like this? Protecting secrets means not disclosing in public hearings. This shouldn't be too hard to understand."


Bloody stupid fool. The issue is not the right of the New York Times or anyone else to publish this story. Everyone knows the rules of the game as far as publication of leaks is concerned, and the risks run by both the leaker and the organ which publishes the leak.

The question, foolish Lab, is not one of letting NEWSPAPERS have access to what the administration does in secret, but letting the FISA COURT know what the administration is doing in secret, as the law prescribes. Recall that FISA was set up in the aftermath not just of Watergate, but of the revelations on the CIA's and FBI's illegal activities abroad and at home, which included, of course, the extensive use of warrantless wiretaps. The FISA compromise existed to accommodate surveillance within the law.

The last time I looked, the stability and integrity of our democracy does not depend on citizens having to trust the administration, but on an institutional system of checks and balances which force accountability between the branches of government. Remember all that blathering on by your guys in 1998-1999 that no person is above the law? It is this system of checks and balances Bush has subverted. To paraphrase Mae West, "Trust has nothing to do with it."

Moreover Bush avoided all the routes constitutionally available to him to act legally. He could have complied with FISA's generous provisions for the post-facto issuance of warrants. They could have sought to amend the law. They could have chosen to challenge its legality through the courts. Their talking points-explanations for avoiding these obvious avenues don't really pass muster.

I don't see anyone here denying the administration the right to operate in secret; FISA was created specifically to ensure that checks and balances - rather than trust - keeps the executive on the straight and narrow.

But when the administration acts in secret AND avoids the legally established checks and balances, they've then got a special burden to explain themselves - to the courts, to congress, and ultimately to the citizens. And so far the talking points-explanations fall pretty far short of persuasive.

Posted by: Tbrosz watch on January 3, 2006 at 12:03 AM | PERMALINK

Tbrosz watch - well and eloquently said.

But I still wait lab's cites of cases where publishing leaked information (post original leak) is a crime.

Posted by: Butch on January 3, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

Butch - don't hold your breath!

Posted by: Tbrosz watch on January 3, 2006 at 8:22 AM | PERMALINK

Lab, upthread: I think you are so wrong. The Pres. takes an oath to faithfully uphold the laws (by definition, whatever Congress passes) and not just the Constitution per se. Even if he thinks the law is not constitutional, WTF is this junk about "on competent authority"? Just whoever he wants to listen to, such as psychopathic sycophantic slug Yoo? Shouldn't the SCOTUS look into that? (You are always griping that anyone who has opinions about that issue deigns to be on the SCOTUS, so I guess you can't comment yourself.)

The worst gaffe of all:
"For example, The War Powers Resolution (Public Law 93-148) limits the power of the President of the United States to wage war without the approval of the Congress. But no president has ever respected the law, because it's not constitutional."
Huh? The USC specifically says the Congress shall have power to wage war. Presidents ignore such rules because they can get away with them, not because they are unconstitutional.

Finally, the unkindest cut of all: Your pragmatic idea that the President is supreme and we can bend the Constitution to protect ourselves may be valid, but it is above all else not conservative. (See honest conservatives like George Will on this, not the party loyalist hacks that people like you confuse with "conservatives.") You don't even know what you are.

Posted by: Neil' on January 3, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

Question.

How does the disclosure (of this secret program that allowed the President to wiretap without warrants) compromise national security? In the Plame case, while one could argue whether she was active or not, you at least had a specific agent and a specific cover for an operation that arguably was exposed. Here, what the press exposed was not a specific program that thus needed to be shut down, but the outlines of a general program. Given that Al Qaeda members already knew of the possibility of their communications being intercepted, how does the fact that it was revealed that there were no warrants sought for these wiretaps substantively help the enemy (especially since little regarding the specific procedures have been revealed)?

Now the leaker most likely did break the law and should be prosecuted as a result, but how was national security harmed as a result and, if Bush was not fully consulting Congress of this program, how were we to find out about it if not for the leak?

Posted by: PE on January 4, 2006 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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