Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 9, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

DEMOCRATS AND THE NSA....Joe Klein thinks Democrats are heading off a cliff by making too big a deal out of the NSA's domestic spying program. Conservative James Joyner has a reasonable reaction:

Klein is right on two counts here. First, there are some legitimate questions about the scope of this program and especially about the Bush administration's assertions of power to conduct it without congressional authority. Second, by seeking to turn this into the next Watergate, the Democrats are overplaying their hand and may well see it backfire.

An AP-Ipsos poll released over the weekend showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans think a warrant should be required for domestic eavesdropping. I believe these numbers are distorted by a misunderstanding of the nature of the program, caused by poor reporting and the constant use of the term "wiretapping." Still, the Democrats are on firm ground in challenging the administration on civil liberties and legal/checks and balances grounds.

This is a legitimately tough issue for Democrats, because I think James is right on both counts. Americans should be suspicious of Bush's assertions, especially given his almost complete lack of candor about the war on terror for the past four years, and they should be concerned about domestic spying conducted without a warrant.

At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11. In fact, the only reason I have even a niggling doubt about that is the fact that Bush resisted getting the law changed to explicitly authorize it. In the weeks after 9/11, Congress would have approved virtually any reasonable intelligence program by huge bipartisan margins, and the only reason not to ask for that approval is to preserve the president's ability to do something unreasonable. But what?

Politically, I continue to think Democrats should make it absolutely clear that what they're attacking isn't necessarily the NSA program itself, but the fact that the president unilaterally decided that he could approve the program without congressional authorization even though Congress had specifically forbidden it. In the world of 10-second sound bites, that might end up being a difficult distinction to make, but it's worth making it over and over anyway. We're not opposed to cranking up our intelligence efforts, but we are opposed to a president who thinks that a vague and indefinite state of war gives him the authority to do anything he wants.

POSTSCRIPT: As for Klein's assertion that "the terrorists have modified their behavior" in response to disclosure of this program, that barely even deserves a response. Like many another liberal, I'm still waiting for even a colorable argument that al-Qaeda knows something today that they didn't know two months ago.

UPDATE: Wording changed in response to Mark Kleiman's comment here. He's right.

Kevin Drum 12:32 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (259)

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Comments

Joe Klein makes my skin crawl. Always has.

(...oh, is it a crime to say this under a pseudo now?)

Posted by: ty lookwell on January 9, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

> As for Klein's assertion that "the terrorists have
> modified their behavior" in response to
> disclosure of this program, that barely even
> deserves a response. Like many another liberal,
> I'm still waiting for even a colorable argument
> that al-Qaeda knows something today that they
> didn't know two months ago.

Yeah, but except for that little slip we believe _everything_ the Radicals tell us about domestic spying. I put this right up there with the NSA's anonymous statement that they wouldn't spy on US citizen journalists because it is "against the law" - as if W hadn't just ordered them to VIOLATE the law.

Tell me Kevin - was CONTELPRO justified? Was wiretapping Martin Luther King justified? At the time, conservatives thought it was.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 9, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Joe Klein is an asshole.

He and Tweety can burn in hell.

As should everyone who contends we should roll over no matter what BushCo does.

Read andrewtobias.com today.

Posted by: Gore/Obama '08 on January 9, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

you can put me in the "agrees with Kevin" column on this.

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

I lost respect for Joe Klein some time ago. This confirms it.

didja miss me? You should see my tan...

Posted by: craigie on January 9, 2006 at 12:36 PM | PERMALINK

Politically, I think Democrats should make it absolutely clear that what they're attacking isn't necessarily the program itself, but the fact that the president unilaterally decided that he could approve the program without congressional authorization.

Seems to me that is what they have been doing. And they are trying to tie it in to other things as well. It's funny that "liberals" seem to parrot the same right-wing talking points that the "conservatives" do in attacking the Democrats.

Posted by: gq on January 9, 2006 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Klein is a hack. Huck fim.

Posted by: bubba on January 9, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

I for one would like to be on the record for attacking the program itself.

It's crap, and won't be used for anything other than purposes that it shouldn't be. I cannot believe that people think that freedom is only important when it isn't under attack (from without or within).

Clarify your point, Kevin. Otherwise, move to a nice, safe country where you can be happy and exercise your severley limited freedoms.

Don't you get tired of being afraid or trying to convince others to be afraid all the time?

Posted by: abjectfunk on January 9, 2006 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

God, how predictable. Clinton-ites are right wingers now? Sure, makes perfect sense. And it does tell you a lot about how far out in left fielf most of the posters here are.

Drum - his assertions that "hardly deserves a response" were based on actual reporting. Done any lately?

And this "we don't believe anything the admin says until we see the hard evidence" schtick is getting tiresome. It's tantamount to sticking yer heads in the sand, because some of the evidence is unavailable (i.e., secret) and always will be. There will always be information that could illuminate the debate about a program one way of the other, if revealed, which cannot be revealed for good reasons. That's why the less "debate" about this the better.

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

In the small farm towns that pepper Central New York, before the 2004 election, I saw more anti-PATRIOT act signs than I did pro-Kerry signs. I wonder if your conventional wisdom is coming from the wrong people, Kevin.

Posted by: Me2d on January 9, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

What the Dems need to keep reinforcing -- CONSTANTLY -- was that Bush had the power to wiretap at the drop of a hat already, and get a warrant after the fact from a court that almost always grants them. He didn't need to go outside the law; he simply, as he often does, chose to do so because he has no respect for it.

What the Dems can't do is get into a big philosophical discussion on what is and isn't necessary in the age of terrorism, since most people think anything is necessary and justifiable in the age of terrorism. So they can't be seen as the civil-liberties sissies who are soft on terrorism. They must instead show Bush to be an arrogant, out-of-control president whose complete contempt for the law has not only spawned the war in Iraq, but made the world and this country a much more dangerous place.

The Dems might also point out that going outside the law actually HURTS our chances of getting convictions against terrorists. They must frame the argument in practical terms, not philosophical ones.

Posted by: sullijan on January 9, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

If "the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11", could you specify what the circumstances would be in which such a response/new policy would no longer be necessary? That is, presumably at some point in the future, conditions will return to their pre-9/11 status. If we're going to roll back civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, it seems important to specify at the same time exactly when (conditions, obviously, not a set date) those civil liberties get reinstated. Has the time arrived yet?

Posted by: BD on January 9, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush was using FISA concurrently with NSA, then what was the diff between the two intel spying methods, targets?

Bush via NSA could be spying on his political enemies, he could be spying on other parts of the government, there's no way to know.

One thing for sure: he didn't want FISA to find out who NSA was spying on. Why?

It's a simple question, and the reason why we have checks and balances.

Posted by: bebimbob on January 9, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK
...Bush resisted getting the law changed to explicitly authorize it. In the weeks after 9/11, Congress would have approved virtually any reasonable intelligence program by huge bipartisan margins...

Exactly. This illustrates that the Bush administration doesn't feel he has to answer to anyone. Indeed anyone who challenges him must be "weak on terror". The only way this is going to change is if Congress takes his "Mandate" away from him and spanks him bare assed behind the woodshed.

Posted by: Jon Karak on January 9, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: You are ignoring the big elephant in the room. The NSA actions as described up to now constitute a felony, explicitly. I have yet to hear a remotely reasonable argument saying otherwise, besides the "president is above the law in wartime" blather.

You are participating in using the policy discussion as a smokescreen covering the real issue: lawlessness.

Felony.

There are policy arguments for legalization of marijuana possession and sale, but that doesn't stop people from being convicted of felonies under federal law for those acts.

Posted by: ChetBob on January 9, 2006 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin,

You're a brilliant guy, but your milquetoast tendencies keep resurfacing. You want to bend over backwards to be fair, and this is dangerous when opposing the current right-wing crowd.

You write as if you know the exact nature of the program that Bush authorized. On what basis do you know? And what about the other programs the administration appears to have authorized, including levels of surveillance of peaceful dissident groups not seen since J. Edgar Hoover's time?

In any case, the Bush administration is advancing the argument that the president has unlimited power in wartime, and we are now in wartime, on all fronts. If he can toss Jose Padilla in the clink without charges, what's to prevent him from doing the same to, say, the gadfly journalist Dahr Jamail (who, like Padilla, is an American citizen)?

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 9, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that someone like Joe Klein still writes for any publication is emblematic of what is wrong, very wrong, with our mainstream press: The man is a known liar. He lied brazenly, without a modicum of remorse about his own identity as the author of "Primary Colors." And this was not without consequences, since he essentially accused professor Donald W. Foster, who revealed him as the author, of being dishonest or incompetent. Yet this man has not been shunned, he has not retreated to Mount Athos to hide his face from the world, but continues to write pablum for America's major weekly, and hang out with the press glitterati. No shame, no competence, no problem!

Posted by: Aris on January 9, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11."

This statement is in direct contradiction to the First Rule of the Bush Administration: If it's a major policy initiative, they'll find a way to screw it up.

If you go back to the reports of people talking about TIA and similar programs in the wake of the September 11 attacks, you see quite a lot of discussion about the detailed safeguards that would be necessary to ensure that constitutional safeguards were not violated. "Go ahead and record whatever comes up as long as your shift supervisor says it's OK" seems unlikely to meet this standard.

It's not just Congress that the administration knew wouldn't approve this program. Even John Ashcroft, who was fine with the indefinite detention of arbitrarily selected US citizens, was unwilling to approve the NSA wiretap machine. That has to tell you something, and not something good.

Posted by: paul on January 9, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Democrats could safely adopt a simple strategy: anything that Joe Klein advises - do exactly the opposite. (Similar for David Broder, Tweaty, etc). They play liberals on TV, but they're not. And they're really out of touch.

Kevin is right on one thing, though: how to get the sound-bite. Maybe "the President can't just do whatever he likes, there was a specific provision to spy and then inform the Commission, the President just ignored it."

But like a few of the other commentators I'm pretty uncomfortable with the statement that the NSA program appeared pretty reasonable. The track record just isn't good. Our spooks have frequently gone wild (MLK, Nixon, etc.) It's awfully hard to believe that the program is just what it's painted to be.

It also depends on the excuse that the US didn't have enough info in advance of 9-11. And that just isn't true. The will to look just wasn't there. Missile Defense was more important than Osama determined to strike the US...

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 9, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Klein:

"The release of Pelosi's letter last week (..) left the misleading impression that a) Hayden had launched the controversial data-mining operation on his own, and b) Pelosi had protested it. But clearly the program didn't exist when Pelosi wrote the letter. When I asked the Congresswoman about this, she said, "Some in the government have accused me of confusing apples and oranges. My response is, it's all fruit.""

So, (1) Pelosi lied about actions she supposedly took in her "oversight" role and (2) really truly doesn't give a damn about either our national security or our anti-AQ intelligence efforts. It's just "fruit".

Quiz: This makes Dems more or less electable?

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

What I want to know is... what does Pete Williams think?

I MUST KNOW THIS!

(and what does Juan Williams "think"? and are they related?)

Posted by: Mr. Doodles on January 9, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

What's the big deal? A little harmless spying, a few wiretaps, some data mining, good clean fun. Let's not spoil the party by getting upset over some harmless amendment-shredding. ..after 9/11, Congress would have approved virtually any reasonable intelligence program by huge bipartisan margins, we were attacked, bad folks, protectin' the peepul, just doin' my job...

"...third-rate burglary....."

Posted by: adios on January 9, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only liberal reading the NSA spying stories and making a connection between it and all the stories about spying on Bush's political opponents?

The problem isn't the program per se. It's about the potential for abuse and the continued determination of this administration to avoid any type of accountability. Oh, and Joe Klein is an asshole. When is he going to get more concerned about the excesses and malfeasance of the Republicans than the reaction of Democrats to that malfeasance?

Posted by: brewmn on January 9, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

There's a legitimate complaint here. This issue is not the smoking gun or the straw that breaks the camels back. The people who Klein says were clamoring for impeachment are a bit of a problem.

So long as you can't demonstrate that the program is targeting people who are absolutely no threat to national security, it's a very difficult issue to use to (further) erode public confidence in Bush. As long as it is spun as done with all the best intentions, there are people who will give him a little leeway. They won't necessarily like it, but they will tolerate it.

It's an issue which Democrats can use to fire up the hardcore portion of the base, but it's not a knockout blow that belongs in a national platform of ideas and issues going into the mid-term elections. It is a reason to be wary, but there are so many focal points and wedge issues that the Democrats would be better concentrating on.

Posted by: Anthony on January 9, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you bought a lot of the propaganda that led us into war, and now you're buying some more. If they scare you enough, apparently you will surrender something better people than you died to obtain.

Data mining does not make anyone safer, and it is a foot in the door for looking at a lot more than just terrorists, who would have to be pretty stupid not to assume their communications are monitored and act accordingly. If there were a "terrorist capture" success story in this program after three years, we would have heard it.

Resist all attempts to undermine our rights. All of them. All of the time.

I don't even trust someone I trust with this power, and George. W. Bush has given ample reason for us not to trust him with anything valuable.

Posted by: Repack Rider on January 9, 2006 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK
At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11.

Okay, let me get this clear.

We don't know the parameters of the program. We do know that it operated without either warrant or the kind of controls imposed in FISA for warrantless surveillance, that it delegated decision-making authority to operational staff at the NSC with no high-level review of target selection.

On what basis are you concluding that it is "quite likely" that it was a reasonable response to 9/11?

In fact, the only reason I have even a niggling doubt about that is the fact that Bush resisted getting the law changed to explicitly authorize it.

Failing to do so, in the wake of 9/11 (especially given the ease with which the USA PATRIOT act was passed) ought to, to any reasonable observer, create a clear presumption of unreasonableness (arguably, failing to secure legal authority is in and of itself unreasonable), since the only justification for not doing so is the expectation that even the minimal attention that was devoted to USA PATRIOT would have found the program unreasonable and the proposal would have been rejected.

In the weeks after 9/11, Congress would have approved virtually any reasonable intelligence program by huge bipartisan margins, and the only reason not to ask for that approval is to preserve the president's ability to do something unreasonable. But what?

Given that the Vice President of the United States has already stated openly that the administration's motivation was to reestablish the pre-Vietnam/Watergate unconstrained power of the President to do whatever he wanted in the way of surveillance, foreign or domestic, under the guise of security, I think the "what" is well established.

But, ignoring even that statement which already answered the "but what?" question, its odd that you claim only a "niggling suspicion" but maintain that the program is "quite likely" reasonable, while at the same time maintaining that the only reason not to ask for authorization is the desire to preserve the ability to act unreasonably. If, as you say, that is the only logical reason -- and I think that is quite correct -- then the fact that such
authorization was not requested is, in and of itself, an indicator that it is, at best, quite unlikely that the program is reasonable.

Politically, I continue to think Democrats should make it absolutely clear that what they're attacking isn't necessarily the NSA program itself, but the fact that the president unilaterally decided that he could approve the program without congressional authorization.

Politically, I think that Democrats need to demand the President provide a full accounting of the program to Congress, and until that is done, what they should be attacking him for is failing to do that.

Once investigation of the program has provided more hard facts, either the programs reasonableness as policy, or its illegality and the inherent violation of the Presidential oath and trust involved in that can be attacked, as is warranted. As it is, there is some ground for that now based on what little the administration has revealed, but, politically, it would be better for members of Congress to be more sure of the ground before levelling that kind of attack.

We're not opposed to cranking up our intelligence efforts, but we are opposed to a president who thinks that a vague and indefinite state of war gives him the authority to do anything he wants.

But, as Cheney already made clear, they don't think that -- they think that the President ought to have that authority to do that regardless of the presence or absence of a vague and indefinite state of war, and merely have seized upon the present "emergency" as a wedge to restore the power they think the monarch ought to have inherently, regardless of circumstance.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

What point am I missing here? What was ever wrong with getting a court order to tap ANY citizen's phone who was under suspicion? Court orders for this sort of thing come in Cracker Jack boxes. The only reason for not getting court orders is that the people being listened to were not under surveillance for the right reasons. Shades of J. Edgar and Richard Nixon

Posted by: murmeister on January 9, 2006 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

"But like a few of the other commentators I'm pretty uncomfortable with the statement that the NSA program appeared pretty reasonable. The track record just isn't good. Our spooks have frequently gone wild (MLK, Nixon, etc.) It's awfully hard to believe that the program is just what it's painted to be."

Back to the same: Is there anything other than Watergate nostalgia that supports the idea this program was used in an inappropriate way?

It's awfully hard to believe? Who cares what you believe?

Posted by: peanut@yahoo.com on January 9, 2006 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

The people who Klein says were clamoring for impeachment are a bit of a problem.

Why are those who call for impeachment - on reasonable grounds - always portrayed as 'clamoring'?

So long as you can't demonstrate that the program is targeting people who are absolutely no threat to national security...

Well...you probably can't demonstrate anything without evidence, and you can't collect evidence - particularly from this crowd - by being too timid to investigate anything, no matter how outrageous. What should our threshold of outrage be set at?

Posted by: adios on January 9, 2006 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK
Is there anything other than Watergate nostalgia that supports the idea this program was used in an inappropriate way?

The fact that were it reasonable and appropriate, there were legal means of conducting any surveillance the Administration wanted, and that if the warrant requirement was burdensome, it would have been no difficulty to get it reasonably amended in the wake of 9/11, and Cheney's explicit statement that the motive for not seeking authorization was the aggrandizement of executive power and the undermining of laws passed in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate to control abuses all indicate that the program is itself inappropriate no matter what it was used for, and that the motive for the conduct actually engaged in was not, centrally, the preservation of the national security of the United States.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

"The fact that were it reasonable and appropriate, there were legal means of conducting any surveillance the Administration wanted, and that if the warrant requirement was burdensome, it would have been no difficulty to get it reasonably amended in the wake of 9/11, and Cheney's explicit statement that the motive for not seeking authorization was the aggrandizement of executive power and the undermining of laws passed in the wake of Vietnam and Watergate to control abuses all indicate that the program is itself inappropriate no matter what it was used for, and that the motive for the conduct actually engaged in was not, centrally, the preservation of the national security of the United States."

So, in other words, cmdicely, you know nothing about the program to lead you to think it was used inappropriately in any way. Just speculation based on tangentially related Cheney statements (which wisely said nothing about the actual program) or what wasn't done (going to congress)

Nothing but speculation and balloon juice.

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Like many another liberal, I'm still waiting for even a colorable argument that al-Qaeda knows something today that they didn't know two months ago.

Ask yourself this, Kevin. What do you know about the NSA intelligence operation now that you didn't know two months ago?

What about all the members of Congress claiming to have been completely blindsided by this new information? Apparently the details of this operation were news to somebody.

The argument that terrorists "assume" they're being listened to, and don't know anything better now, doesn't stand up. A bad driver may know that a certain highway is monitored by radar. That's not the same thing as knowing exactly which overpasses the cops are parked under.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 9, 2006 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Alternative sound-bite possibility:

"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. By saying he wants the right to do anything he wants despite the law, the President is asserting he should he have absolute power. No, he shouldn't."

PS Peanut - the MLK taping was ordered by J Edgar Hoover prior to Watergate. Please check your history before posting. Thanks.

BTW - Anyone else see Dean's pasting of Wolf Blitzer on CNN. He hit the right notes on the scandal didn't he?

Posted by: Samuel Knight on January 9, 2006 at 1:15 PM | PERMALINK

Back to the same: Is there anything other than Watergate nostalgia that supports the idea this program was used in an inappropriate way?

Is there anything other than the adolescent fantasies of people who spend too much time watching "24" to support the idea that this program was in any way useful?

It's ILLEGAL. If you want to claim it's necessary, make a freaking case for it. So far the only evidence the administration has presented in its favor are exculpatory claims that it isn't very big. "Oh, I can't tell you because it would damage national security" - feh. I bet you have a girlfriend in Canada, and she's really pretty, too.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 9, 2006 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK
So, in other words, cmdicely, you know nothing about the program to lead you to think it was used inappropriately in any way.

Wrong. I know the program conducted searches of US persons private conversations without probable cause, either of criminal activity or the kind of national security interest outlined in FISA, and failed to obey the dictates of the law governing electronic surveillance by the executive branch for intelligence purpose. That use is, in and of itself, unreasonable, inappropriate, unconstitutional, and criminal.

What I don't know -- because the administration hasn't released information that would establish these points -- is if the program is the kind that would have been inappropriate and/or unconstitutional even if it had been approached consistently with the law (e.g., had the provisions for warrantless searches in FISA been complied with, if that would be possible, or if warrants under FISA had been secured, or if the President had sought to get Congress to amend the law restraining warrantless searches.)

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

Peanut, is there anything other than unwavering blind faith in Our Leader that supports the idea this program was not used in an inappropriate way?

We know the people currently in power have been spying on Quakers and animal rights activists. We know they've used Homeland Security for political purposes, tracking Democratic legislators during the Texas reredistricting. It seems that John Bolton was getting NSA transcripts of conversations of people in government he disagreed with. There are indications the NSA was intercepting the communications of journalists. Why on earth would we give Bush the benefit of the doubt at this point?

Posted by: KCinDC on January 9, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

I love the way posters here argue both (a) they know more than enough to say this is impeachable stuff (dude, they've been spying on Cindy Sheehan!!!) and (b) Al Qaead has learned absolutely nothing from this huge media shitstorm.

I doubt that AQ learned that much specifics yet, but there's almost certainly operatives in the group that know to be more careful.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin the soundbite is 'the president should have changed the law but broke the law instead."

Posted by: cheflovesbeer on January 9, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

In fact, the only reason I have even a niggling doubt about that is the fact that Bush resisted getting the law changed to explicitly authorize it.

Gosh, ya think? The only reason you have a niggling doubt is that Bush explicitly broke the law? Way to step out on a limb, there.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

> Ask yourself this, Kevin. What do you know about
> the NSA intelligence operation now that you didn't
> know two months ago?

That whatever sneaky things I assumed were being done were being done COMPLETELY ILLEGEALLY, in violation of FISA and without the oversight of the FISA Court which was specifically set up to allow such things to be done while maintaining a semblence of due process, separation of powers, and Constitutional rights (only a semblence, since the FISA court is always stacked with arch-conservatives, but at least the forms were observed).

I knew, in other words, that the United States did not have a Star Chamber. Now I know it does.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 9, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

What was ever wrong with getting a court order to tap ANY citizen's phone who was under suspicion?

in this case, the NSA is doing more than simply listening to the phone calls of specific individuals. the NSA's program is apparently a way to find out who's likely to be of-interest, based on calling patterns of suspects and known enemies. in other words they're trying to find new suspects based on who's talking to current suspects.

that is the "data-mining" aspect - phone records are put into a database and queries are run against the data to find out, based on who's calling who, who is likely to be someone who needs looking at. so, this part isn't really traditional wire-tapping, since the conversations themselves aren't the interesting thing. that's where it differs from FISA.

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

What the Dems can't do is get into a big philosophical discussion on what is and isn't necessary in the age of terrorism, since most people think anything is necessary and justifiable in the age of terrorism.

This used to be the country of Patrick Henry's famed "Give me liberty or give me death!" We're now the country of "please Daddy, don't let the bad man hurt me!" Pathetic.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

What we're looking for is congressional and judicial oversight.

Everyone thinks we should be wiretapping Osama bin Laden's phone.

But the Bush Administration is alone in thinking that no one should be making sure he's not tapping the Democratic National Headquarter's phones.

Change the law, don't break the law.

Posted by: theorajones on January 9, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

Ask yourself this, Kevin. What do you know about the NSA intelligence operation now that you didn't know two months ago?

This is really dumb, tbrosz. What we know now is that, whereas we used to think the government went to a secret intelligence court and got a secret warrant to monitor communications, it turns out they've been violating the law by not going to the secret court at all.

Why should the terrorists care that the monitoring of their communications which might have been taking place with a warrant was instead taking place without a warrant? Did they really feel more safe placing international calls to the US because they knew that the officer monitoring their conversation had to have a warrant?

This doesn't alert the terrorists to where the speed traps are. They still have no idea where the speed traps are. But now, they also don't know whether the traffic cop is actually a cop, or some weird private militia masquerading as cops. What difference that should make, I have no clue.

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 9, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

..."what's to prevent him from doing the same to, say, the gadfly journalist Dahr Jamail (who, like Padilla, is an American citizen)?"

Or any American citizen for that matter.

Posted by: bncthor on January 9, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

oh, and let me add: i think Bush should have tried to get formal approval for this. this is something the American public (via their rep's) should be allowed to decide on. Bush going ahead and doing it unilaterally is ... most unsettling.

it might be a useful tool, but we should be allowed to have a say in whether it's legal to use or not.

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

Congress would have approved virtually any reasonable intelligence program by huge bipartisan margins, and the only reason not to ask for that approval is to preserve the president's ability to do something unreasonable. But what?

Jeebus H, wtf?!?

Yes Congress would have, the administration is deliberately unsurping the balance of powers set forth in the constitutions.

But what?

I sure in the hell hope that was a rhretorical question.

Additionally, I call bullshit. Attack the program. Attack the abuse of power. Else, next thing you know Kevin, its going to be a Cartman style anal probe for you. How much more of this shit are you going to put up, because you don't think it is politically viable to oppose?

Posted by: Simp on January 9, 2006 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11.

Mostly I agree with cmdicely's point about this.

The deep problem is that we have absolutely NO good sense of how invasive that program might be. None. Practically from day to day we get different official accounts of its purview.

Truly, I have NO idea how extensive it might be. I don't see how anybody on the outside could claim to know better.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2006 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The argument that terrorists "assume" they're being listened to, and don't know anything better now, doesn't stand up. A bad driver may know that a certain highway is monitored by radar. That's not the same thing as knowing exactly which overpasses the cops are parked under.

?!?

How on Earth does this tell anyone, at all, where the cops are parked? Do you think Al Queda had access to the ultra-secret FISA court and what warrants it meted out? That's the only way your apologia makes any sense at all.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK
I love the way posters here argue both (a) they know more than enough to say this is impeachable stuff (dude, they've been spying on Cindy Sheehan!!!) and (b) Al Qaead has learned absolutely nothing from this huge media shitstorm.

The two positions are not incompatible. Since everything we've learned about so far is consistent with monitoring that could have been done -- at least so far as it targetted al-Qaeda -- covertly within the law, and possibly without warrants in many cases provided the safeguards in FISA for required determinations and notifications were followed, there is nothing inconsistent with saying that what has come out makes no difference to al-Qaeda, and yet is quite illegal.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

I suggested Dahr Jamail because he evidently has contacts in the Iraqi insurgency; I could see the Bushites going after someone like that, and selling it to the supine moderate Democrats and press as a necessary move.

Posted by: Joe Buck on January 9, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

tbrosz,
If the President signed a secret Executive Order permitting Bills of Attainder in order to "respond to the terrorist threat", would you say that was within his power? Would you approve? Note I said Bills of Attainder, not Letters of Marquee.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on January 9, 2006 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

The argument that terrorists "assume" they're being listened to, and don't know anything better now, doesn't stand up. A bad driver may know that a certain highway is monitored by radar. That's not the same thing as knowing exactly which overpasses the cops are parked under.

This doesn't even pass the laugh test. Any half-way competent terrorist would assume that the authorities could be monitoring any communication and would act accordingly, even if he didn't know they were monitoring him specifically. So how does knowing that they were doing it illegally put him on any more notice? It's nonsense.

Plus, the analogy doesn't even make sense. We don't now know which underpasses the cops are parked under -- but we do know that they feel free to pull over all cars without any probable cause, even those that were obeying all the highway rules and weren't speeding.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

cranky,

I doubt that AQ learned that much specifics yet, but there's almost certainly operatives in the group that know to be more careful.

Oh for Jesus Christ, more careful how? What changes their dynamics? Is it that they just found out of the existence of the NSA?

Here's the play boyo, Al Queda is still being monitored. FISA is still operative. Some in the NSA itself had qualms about this domestic spying operation (conducted on American citizens). The only news that should come as a shock to anyone is that, despite the soft rules for getting wiretaps on potential domestic targets (72 hour ipso facto warrants), the Bushies ingored them.

That doesn't affect Al Queda. It affects American citizens who have no relation to terrorism, unless you claim that Bush is above the law, in which case, make that argument. Not a "revelation of the facts helps the terrorists" one.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 1:40 PM | PERMALINK

I doubt that AQ learned that much specifics yet, but there's almost certainly operatives in the group that know to be more careful.

This would only make sense if you believed that before the recent revelations Al Qadea assumed that US intelligence wasn't already spying on them. Which is, of course, absurd.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

The argument that terrorists "assume" they're being listened to, and don't know anything better now, doesn't stand up. A bad driver may know that a certain highway is monitored by radar. That's not the same thing as knowing exactly which overpasses the cops are parked under.

Look, we know that even before 9/11, terrorists spoke in coded language. One of the intercepted communication immediately before 9/11 was, "The match begins tomorrow" -- an utterance obviously designed to be as innocuous and indecipherable as possible (hence, for what it's worth, a very poor target for a data mining operation).

Do you imagine that SINCE 9/11, they have become less, not more careful with how they speak? Is that your idea?

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

I bet 30% of the USA voting population would happily support Bills of Attainder

Posted by: WhoSays on January 9, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if I'm a terrorist, I think what I do is make sure I never speak by phone, or write by email, in a way that could easily be understood as planning terrorism. I do so because, for all I know, every single such conversation might be being intercepted by the authorities.

I would do this BEFORE 9/11, AFTER 9/11, BEFORE I learn about the illegal wiretaps, and AFTER I learn about those wiretaps.

I can't imagine how anything I would do would change.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: We're not opposed to cranking up our intelligence efforts, but we are opposed to a president who thinks that a vague and indefinite state of war gives him the authority to do anything he wants.

The incomparable cmdicely: But, as Cheney already made clear, they don't think that -- they think that the President ought to have that authority to do that regardless of the presence or absence of a vague and indefinite state of war, and merely have seized upon the present "emergency" as a wedge to restore the power they think the monarch ought to have inherently, regardless of circumstance.

Moreover, isn't it the case that Congress explicitly rejected the kind of domestic powers the Executive requested as part of the AUMF? The argument that the AUMF contains some sort of implicit carte blance for the POTUS to disregard the law of the land doesn't hold water.

No, no, Kevin...it's quite simple. The President could have obeyed the law with, in all likelihood, no harm to national security whatsoever. He could have had the law changed. He chose to disregard the law and commit felonies, trusting in the ubiquitous "national security" defense the Republicans have been using since before Watergate to obtain a free pass. Don't you dare give it to him.

Posted by: Gregory on January 9, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

Goddamn Kevin, you pathetic shill. The Dems are NOT wrong here. It IS wrong for the NSA to spy on Americans. Period. Without a warrant. That. Is. The. Law. Get it? It doesn't matter what the justifcation is. The law is the law and the law is clear. In a war footing, the Pres has 15 days to do its spying. After that, FISA rules the day and they have 72 hours to get judicial permission to continue spying. End of story. Get it? This is NOT a problem issue for the Dems. Get it? FUCK you are dense and weak-kneed.

It was a vacuum cleaner general sucking of ALL communication looking for tell-tale words and routings looking (fishing, is the correct term) for anything suspicious. This is illegal and unacceptable and indefensible. It is particularly damning when they have the documentation that shows that they feared that judges would NOT OK the surveillance so they had to sidestep the law. THAT IS THE PROBLEM! They didn't like the law so they decided to sidestep it and to CONTINUE sidestepping it and REFUSE to brief the Congress on the program because they don't want Congressional review or oversight.

Please turn in your right to vote and leave the office. You are pathetic and weak.

Posted by: Praedor Atrebates on January 9, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

I'm still waiting for even a colorable argument that al-Qaeda knows something today that they didn't know two months ago.
Seeing as how our ability to determine this (because of the leak) has been degraded, I wouldn't hold my breath on this.

Why for all the undermining of the US on the pages of the NYT?

Posted by: conspiracy nut on January 9, 2006 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Look, if I'm a terrorist, I think what I do is make sure I never speak by phone, or write by email, in a way that could easily be understood as planning terrorism. I do so because, for all I know, every single such conversation might be being intercepted by the authorities.

Well, frankly0, that's only because you think like a rational agent. To our conservative friends, Al Queda types are both super-intelligent and stone stupid.

Super intelligent because they represent such an unbelievable threat that the secrecy of a FISA warrant holds no match to their powers of intuition and that only a covert, arbitrary decision made by the administration can thwart them.

Stone stupid because, until the treacherous Times reported on the domestic NSA program, Al Queda-types never had any idea that they were ever targets of intellgence intercepts.

In this, lies the mind of the modern conservative.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Violating the law and violating the constitution hurts our national security. Look at the effect of the torture policy on our national security.

EVERYTHING Dems/progressives do needs to be framed in terms of national security. EVERYTHING that is wrong with the Bush administration is damaging to our national security, including so-called "pocket book" issues. Trashing our economy for the narrow personal interests of cronies certainly makes us weaker on the international stage. Economic weakness is strategic weakness.

The security of our republic is IDENTICAL with the security of our constitutional system. Destroying that is by definition an attack our our nation.

It's not a difficult frame. Someone just needs to do it.

I'm not holding my breath, though.

Posted by: mondo dentro on January 9, 2006 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

"Look, if I'm a terrorist, I think what I do is make sure I never speak by phone, or write by email, ..." (more of the same).

Sure. If only you guys were the terrorists, then AQ would really have its Dream Team in place. Brilliant operatives like frankly0 and Stefan, alas, do not grow on trees. In the real world terrorists are more like Richard Reid, probably one of the stupidest guys to ever flunk his O-levels. And Moussawi the Loon. Not exactly James Bond. But Moussawi was on the original 9-11 team. And Reid got within one dud lighter of blowing 250 or so people to the hereafter.

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Super intelligent because they represent such an unbelievable threat that the secrecy of a FISA warrant holds no match to their powers of intuition and that only a covert, arbitrary decision made by the administration can thwart them.

Stone stupid because, until the treacherous Times reported on the domestic NSA program, Al Queda-types never had any idea that they were ever targets of intellgence intercepts." - d.o.l.t

Stupid terrorists kill people too. Do you people really not get this?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Scientists are using politicians for experiments now because there's some things that even rats won't do. There is no need for any wire tap to ever take place under any circumstance without the supervision of a legal public guardian. There are no conditions in a republic which justify any thing else. It is not until you hit the far edges of the right wing that you begin to find the political theories which talk of the need to act in the public interest without their authority. This is at the same point where the left wing has bent and converges to meet the right and both parties become the lunatic fringe. aka King George W. the First and his Royal Court

Posted by: murmeister on January 9, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the new Democrat slogan will be "We're just as reliable on national security. We will spy on Al Qaeda just as much as that mean Bush guy. Except only on the smart one. The not quite as smart terrorists we will just let be. Let them do their thing. They're not smart so they can't hurt us, right?" Heh.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

Did Klein ask a terrorist if he'd changed his behavior? Or did the infomation just filter through the aether?

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on January 9, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Stupid terrorists kill people too. Do you people really not get this?

Right. Then, why exactly, does the President need to break a very, very lenient, covert law regarding warrants?

You'll get no arguments about the rationality of terrorists. But then, I also question the rationality of your paralyzing fear of them too, peestain.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

Sure. If only you guys were the terrorists, then AQ would really have its Dream Team in place. Brilliant operatives like frankly0 and Stefan, alas, do not grow on trees. In the real world terrorists are more like Richard Reid, probably one of the stupidest guys to ever flunk his O-levels. And Moussawi the Loon. Not exactly James Bond. But Moussawi was on the original 9-11 team. And Reid got within one dud lighter of blowing 250 or so people to the hereafter.

If they are, then, so stupid then why the need to break the law to spy on them? As n.o.l.t.f. points out, you're assuming that they are at once so fiendishly clever that you have the throw out all the hallowed civil rights of America to Sylvester the Cat look like a criminal mastermind.

By the way, cranky and peanut: Boo! Look out, behind you, a terrorist! Run, run for your lives!

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

The trouble with George Bush is the tip of the iceberg phenomena--you only hear just a bit. NSA wiretaps without a warrant; refusing to ask Congress for more powers after 9/11--tip of the iceberg stuff --underneath it all is an aloof cabal that runs the country fueled by big business and religious zealots. That's the real scare.

Remember, giving Bush an inch only encourages him to take a mile.

Posted by: Rootless Cosmopolitan on January 9, 2006 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

Why are those who call for impeachment - on reasonable grounds - always portrayed as 'clamoring'?

Because it generally comes across as a toothless demand. Call for impeachment when you actually have a chance of getting it done and I won't call it clamoring. If we criticize Bush for fighting untenable wars on the military battlefield, why make the same sort of mistakes on the political battlefield?


Well...you probably can't demonstrate anything without evidence, and you can't collect evidence - particularly from this crowd - by being too timid to investigate anything, no matter how outrageous. What should our threshold of outrage be set at?

Our private outrage should already be inflamed, but we shouldn't let emotion drive us irrationally. Our public outrage should have a higher threshhold because we don't want to sound shrill. The boy who cried wolf and all that.

Save the major condemnations for when we can score political points. Leave the loud chest-beating to the O'Reillys of the world. We really can't do anything until we gain control of Congress or the White House. Pushing this issue won't bring us any closer to those goals. I'm not saying we should approve of Bush. I'm saying we should concentrate on other issues and have a long memory for when our day comes around again.


Posted by: Anthony on January 9, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

cranky,

I think the Democrats could run on the notion that we won't break laws to treat American citizens like terrorists. I think that has a nice ring to it.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

And I'm apparently so stupid that I accidentally deleted half my post. That should have read "...hallowed civil rights of America to catch them and yet so stupid that they make Sylvester the Cat look like a criminal mastermind."

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 2:15 PM | PERMALINK

Btw, d.o.l.t.f., I love that line: "Well, frankly0, that's only because you think like a rational agent."

You just made frankly0 cream his pants. Smart. Really smart. Bin laden could really use a couple of terror-wiz's like you two. That would really put some spring back in his step.

But, riddle me this: how brilliant do I have to be to be on the team that commits suicide to get 72 virgins (or raisins, who cares) in paradise? Sounds like a great gig, so I might want in. So really, what's the SAT cutoff?

Losers.

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

actually, i think it's quite questionable that "most" people think that anything and everything is acceptable in the face of the prospect of a terrorist attack on the US. "most" people, in fact, have more sense than george bush and his enablers.

but the serious issue here is the impeachment one, and not because i think impeachment is such a swell idea. rather, the point of the impeachment reference is that there doesn't appear to be any other way to keep bush from breaking the law.

i mean, bush is proud of breaking the law; he boasts about it; his supporters make up disgusting shit like if this program had existed, we could have stopped 9/11 in order to garner support for it.

so suppose someone with sufficient standing to bring a suit gets it to the supreme court, and suppose the supreme court finds the program unconstitutional: is there anyone in this great land who thinks that bush would care?

Posted by: howard on January 9, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the new Democrat slogan will be "We're just as reliable on national security. We will spy on Al Qaeda just as much as that mean Bush guy.

Cute, but stupid.

The Democratic slogan will be "We will defend our constitution against all of its enemies, foreign and domestic."

Howya like them apples, coolaid drinker?

Posted by: mondo dentro on January 9, 2006 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

But, riddle me this: how brilliant do I have to be to be on the team that commits suicide to get 72 virgins (or raisins, who cares) in paradise? Sounds like a great gig, so I might want in. So really, what's the SAT cutoff?

Like I said, you'll get no argument from me arguing in favor of the rationality of terrorists.

I only assume they act like 'rational agents' if only not to get caught before they're able to carry out their evil act. I realize that you might not have gotten the SAT score to comprehend things like 'context' which might also explain your craven collapse on conservative principles like unchecked executive power.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

so peanut, given that we did legally learn that "the match will be struck tomorrow" (or however it was phrased) on 9/10/01, but didn't get it translated until 9/12/01, why is our security better for lawbreaking?

i have no idea how old you are, but if you're above the age 35, you spent some degree of your sentient life with the constant threat of nuclear annihilation, a far more existential threat than AQ. However did you manage to walk out the front door every day, gripped as your with disabling fear of the comparatively more modest threat posed by AQ?

Posted by: howard on January 9, 2006 at 2:23 PM | PERMALINK

I just pointed out that not-the-sharpest-knife-in-the-drawer guys like Moussawi and Reid still are killers, and this is Stefan's riposte:

" If they are, then, so stupid then why the need to break the law to spy on them? "

Wow. You just gotta give up when confronted by logic like that. I say they're stupid, but that's irrelevant. They key thing is they're killers. And able, despite their stupidity, to kill hundreds, or thousands, of people right here. But their IQ level is not what makes them dangerous.

And the only response from the left is "Sure, yea, but they're stoooopid!!!"

This is going to give dems credibility on national security?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:24 PM | PERMALINK

...the only response from the left is...

And the only response from the rightists is to lie.

The left's actual response is to defend the constitution. Those of you pseudo-conservatives defending an imperial presidency are fascists are monarchists, but certainly not small-R republicans.

Posted by: mondo dentro on January 9, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

If the Democrats have to be careful to "frame" an issue which involves the absolutely iron-clad deliberate continued violation of law by the President of the United States, our democracy is finished.

Posted by: Peter G on January 9, 2006 at 2:26 PM | PERMALINK

howard, your first point is irrelevant. As to the second one, I was a bit less worried about guys like Breznev pushing the button than I am about bin Laden. Something about them strikes me at not just the same...

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:29 PM | PERMALINK

"If the Democrats have to be careful to "frame" an issue which involves the absolutely iron-clad deliberate continued violation of law by the President of the United States, our democracy is finished."

... or at least one of our two parties.

How about instead of spending so much time worrying about "framing" ya come up with some policies on national security on your own? Something more reassuring than a laundry list of things you would never ever do because that might be some minor technical violation of the civil rights of the people in AQ's "friends and family" circle? That might help, don't you think?

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 2:33 PM | PERMALINK

At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11.

If so, then why don't we know what it is?

There has been enough writing Bush a blank check ( to show how "reasonable" they are ) and then - saying "tut, tut, tut" when things go wrong.

Kevin, either you're with Bush or you're against him. And this type of talk means you're with him.

Posted by: Thinker on January 9, 2006 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

guys like Moussawi and Reid still are killers

Reid never killed anyone, and we haven't stopped Moussawi (who isn't a US citizen anyway and so is irrelevant to the NSA's program).

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

Peanut's afraid not because they're not stupid but because they're evidently magic.

How else to respond to this:
was a bit less worried about guys like Breznev pushing the button than I am about bin Laden. Something about them strikes me at not just the same...

Now, of course, Breshnev had a button to push, a million-man army (or so) and a few hundred inter-ballistic nuclear warheads pointed our way, but OBL must have the Staples "Easy Button" or something.

So naturally, terrorists are a greater threat than the Soviets ever were (here I challenge any conservative to speak up in favor of the previous endless war for civilization that we fought against the Soviets) and embrace magical thinking so much so, the NSA has to spy on Americans in order to prevent them from nuking the U.S.

Phew.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 2:39 PM | PERMALINK

Everything that Joe Buck said way up near the top. This is an extremely frustrating post, in part because I think Kevin's a smart guy, but yes a milquetoast. You have the president breaking the law and you're worried the Dems might be heading off a cliff? On what planet are you living?

Yeah, there are some distinctions to be made but everybody gets it. You gotta understand this: there is no "program" here except that the president is breaking the law. If he complied with FISA, it's business as usual. No one is against the spying, but everybody should want to make sure it's done with judicial oversight.

Kevin would be a true asset for our cause if he had a little backbone. This is no time to go wobbly, to coin a phrase.

Posted by: JJF on January 9, 2006 at 2:42 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes you hear people say that the "hard left" (not guys like Drum, but the Kossacks) are not really the most, shall we say, patriotic bunch. There's whispers that any loss for Bush is a gain for them, even if it's a loss to the country. Conversely, if something goes right for the US, that's a bad thing in their minds since it might help the Bush admin. But you have to assume that's an exaggeration.

But then there's people like the ironically named "Thinker" who says: "Kevin, either you're with Bush or you're against him. And this type of talk means you're with him."

Then you have to wonder. Right?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

...irrelevant to the NSA's program

(lemme clarify)

...irrelevant to the current discussion of the NSA's program, because the NSA has always been able to spy outside the US

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

peanut, the relevancy of my first point is that we don't need lawbreaking: we need an administration that cares to use its legal resources correctly.

that would, of course, be a separate administration from the one currently in power.

and speaking of irrelevancy, your response to my second point is the irrelevant one: the question is whether we face an historic danger that justifies ignoring the constitution. the answer is no we don't. the idea that you think that brezhnev (and stalin?) are more reasonable people than bin laden has nothing to do with anything, other than to remind us what a failure this administration has been in dealing with the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation....

Posted by: howard on January 9, 2006 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Buy a clue!

Joe klein sees the politics unfolding and it's a loser for the Dems. There will be no impeachment

Posted by: rdw on January 9, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

Conversely, if something goes right for the US, that's a bad thing in their minds since it might help the Bush admin

And illegally wiretapping US citizens is "something going right for the US"?

Posted by: ckelly on January 9, 2006 at 2:49 PM | PERMALINK

So naturally, terrorists are a greater threat than the Soviets ever were (here I challenge any conservative to speak up in favor of the previous endless war for civilization that we fought against the Soviets) and embrace magical thinking so much so, the NSA has to spy on Americans in order to prevent them from nuking the U.S.

It's even worse than that.

In fact, the wingers want to give up our privacy to prevent cretins like Mr. Shoe Bomber Reid, and Mr. Dirty Bomber Padilla from having a chance at us. It's only the utterly incompetent spies who haven't been speaking in code even before 9/11 -- ruling out all of al Qaeda, of course. THOSE are the guys that make our resident trolls quake and shake and lose sphincter control.

And as for the NY TImes revelation, would idiots like Reid and Padilla even keep up on that news? Who the hell knows.

But I guess I'd like to know just what level of IQ it would require in any case to be dumb or sloppy enough NOT to speak and write carefully before the NY Times revelation, but still be bright enough and disciplined enough to do so AFTER that revelation.

That strikes me as a pretty fucking narrow range. Maybe somewhere between 70 and 80.

Ooh, please take my civil rights, Mr. Imbecile. I'm SO afraid of you because you are SO much smarter than a certifiable idiot.

Posted by: frankly0 on January 9, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

You got me, d.o.l.t. That's a really astute point you made there. Bin Laden doesn't really have a button. Way to go.

I never should have employed a figure of speech like that. Button. Give the go-ahead. Etc. I realize now that was way too difficult to figure out. Of course, Breznev (or his US counterparts) did not really have a button either. But nevertheless, a good point. I stand very properly chastised.

From now on, I will try to be very literal when speaking to you. And use short words.

Just for the record: my point was that one guy (Breznev) was sorta, kinda, less crazy than the other guy (bin Laden).

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

Joe klein sees the politics unfolding and it's a loser for the Dems

conservatives are like Magic 8-balls; ask a question, get one of a half-dozen pre-recorded responses.

Posted by: cleek on January 9, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

Something more reassuring than a laundry list of things you would never ever do because that might be some minor technical violation of the civil rights of the people in AQ's "friends and family" circle? That might help, don't you think?

For a country that fought and outlasted Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union in the past 75 years in part because of the strength of our constitutional system and belief in its ideals, I'm interested to see how fear overrides principles in this day and age. We used to be a tougher country. We have cowards running it and cowards enabling them to do it.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 2:53 PM | PERMALINK

oh, and harold, that means that while one group (the soviets) had more in the way of means, then it's still possible to be less worried about them than about the other group who have less in the way of means but, let's say, is a bit further advanced in the "screw loose" department. Get that?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

The argument Charlie (peanut) is using is that the Times article let the terrorists know they were being spied on. So, if the Times wrote merely an informative article about the legal and publicly available knowledge of the NSAs methods, Charlie would still have to tell us that was "compromising national security" in order to be consistent. In other words, the fact that FISA is on the books is a breech of national security.

This is insane.

Posted by: heavy on January 9, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

As to the second one, I was a bit less worried about guys like Breznev pushing the button than I am about bin Laden. Something about them strikes me at not just the same...

The fact that Brezhnev actually had nuclear weapons which could kill every American a dozen times over and bin Laden doesn't? The fact that bin Laden has no button to push?

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

The real point, champ, is OBL doesn't have a small, tiny fraction of the power, manpower or weaponry that the Soviets had. And they represented a far greater threat (if overstated at the time) than a few thousand religious nutjobs.

You're more fearful of the few thousand and willing to shred the Constitution in order to fight 'em. Just for the record, I really do want to know if this is the new wingnut talking point:

Al Queda is a bigger threat than the Soviet Union.

If so, it must mean that Bill Buckley finally died.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

"For a country that fought and outlasted Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan and the Soviet Union in the past 75 years in part because of the strength of our constitutional system and belief in its ideals..."

I'm pretty sure we defeated Nazi Germany by other means than the 4th amendment. Statements like the above are sign of serious confusion of what our country is, what means a great power will sometimes have to employ (and do employ) to win its fights, and the facts of history.

The fact is that in previous wars, such as the one fought by "the greatest generation," far worse offenses were committed against civil rights than ANYTHING that has happened in this one.

The only difference is that the whining from the ACLU types is a much louder din. Dolt and frankly0 talk about cowards, and yet they whine like cranky babies if the NSA listens in on some phone calls. It's not about being or not being afraid, it's about priorities.

It's also about who you are the most worried about: Al Qaeda or the NSA. If your answer is the NSA, then what does that say about your personal feelings about your country?

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

How about instead of spending so much time worrying about "framing" ya come up with some policies on national security on your own?

How about catching Osama bin Laden? That might be good for a start, no? Of course, that would be something Bush hasn't managed to do in four and a half years....

And how about going after Al Qaeda worldwide, instead of committing almost all available US resources to the one country in the region that probably had the least connection to Al Qaeda? Committing some money to port security and to controlling nuclear proliferation might be nice, as well. But none of these are things Bush is capable of doing.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

I can't decide which is the funniest line of the day. This:

Now, of course, Breshnev had a button to push, a million-man army (or so) and a few hundred inter-ballistic nuclear warheads pointed our way, but OBL must have the Staples "Easy Button" or something.

Or this:

If so, it must mean that Bill Buckley finally died.

Thanks for the giggles, notlf (what does that stand for, anyway?).

Posted by: shortstop on January 9, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

ok, Stefan: I already answered it but here we go again. The danger one group poses is based on two (!!!) things: not just how much weaponry they possess but also how willing they are to use it. Can you wrap your mind around this two-factor formula?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

What still hasn't come out is just how widespread this eavesdropping is. I have reason to believe that this is a large $500M+ automated voice recognition system that listens to ALL calls involving a foreign nation and collects terabytes of data every day. The keywords it listens for can be anything, not just terror related. We should all be concerned: power that can be abused WILL be abused.

Posted by: Pimpthe9th on January 9, 2006 at 3:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm pretty sure we defeated Nazi Germany by other means than the 4th amendment.

Why did we bother if you think its expendible? I'm glad, at least, that at least you wear your contempt for the Bill of Rights on your sleeve.

The fact is that in previous wars, such as the one fought by "the greatest generation," far worse offenses were committed against civil rights than ANYTHING that has happened in this one.

True. And we won in spite of them, not because of them.

It's also about who you are the most worried about: Al Qaeda or the NSA. If your answer is the NSA, then what does that say about your personal feelings about your country?

Wow. Just wow.

I believe in my country because its leadership has, on many occassions, lived up to its pledge to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. I believe in the promise and the words (yeah, even the Second Amendment) that make up the Constitution and believe they should be defended at all costs. That's what makes our Constitution different than similarly worded documents. Plenty of countries claim to codify the same things in their Constitutions, but their leadership subverts them by cutting corners and ignoring them. I'm glad you're willing to compromise the very core of American principles to fight a few thousand radical Muslims but I'm not.

Anyway, yours is a false choice. It's not either I support the NSA spying on American citizens or I side with Al Queda. That's a really dumb thing to assume. I think the middle ground here isn't difficult, at all, to find. Our government can simultaneously protect Americans, fight Al Queda and uphold the law. Why the hell do you think differently?

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

The danger one group poses is based on two (!!!) things: not just how much weaponry they possess but also how willing they are to use it.

Yeah, too bad Bush won't do anything about nuclear proliferation to keep serious weaponry out of tarrists' hands. The tarrists' are willing to use them because they figure Bush will trudge off and invade Barbados afterwards.

Posted by: ckelly on January 9, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

My thoughts elsewhere:

I believe the original NYTimes article was intentionally sensationalist for some reasons unknown, perhaps to force Congress into dealing with the technical issues and to loosen the restrictions by the spirit of FISA which the Justice department has had reservations over.

It's not clear that "traffic analysis", which includes the calling patterns that the telcos are turning over to the NSA, is a violation in the letter of FISA, since it is not the "contents" of the communication.

I also have a hunch that the NSA had capabilities prior to 9/11, which probably included traffic analysis, to defend against cyber warfare. The fact that they are monitoring communications does not implicate them in FISA violations.

It's also not clear that data mining all communications which targets foriegn agents is a violation either, since it is not "intentionally targeting" US persons.

It's also interesting to note the operational procedures at the NSA prior to 9/11. Whenever a communication was found to contain US persons, it was immediately erased by law. The fact that the communications were trapped in the first place was not in violation of the law. Therefore, you could argue that domestic wiretapping by the NSA is and was legal for foreign intelligence purposes.

Also in the aftermath of 9/11, the field of battle was on US soil. I think Bush was completely within his rights to defend US soil by monitoring domestic communications so long as the threat was reasonable. Remember that "connecting the dots" was the key phrase for many moons, and that intelligence official after intelligence official was brought before congressional committees with hard questions to answer. And that anthrax cleared out the Senate for some time. It's hard to have a democracy when the lawmakers can't go to work.

Posted by: chris on January 9, 2006 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

I propose that the name of this blog be changed to:

Political Pussycat

Posted by: Libby Sosume on January 9, 2006 at 3:27 PM | PERMALINK

me: The fact is that in previous wars, such as the one fought by "the greatest generation," far worse offenses were committed against civil rights than ANYTHING that has happened in this one.

d.o.l.t.: "True. And we won in spite of them, not because of them."

No, we did NOT win WWII despite what our soldiers did. They fought hard AND were brutal. The sum total of their efforts won the war. Wishing that they would have won in a "cleaner" way is just make believe. Bad things happen in wars. And, in a war, the proper posture for a patriotic citizen is that - above all else - my country has a right to fight back. And a right to do whatever it takes to win. Sure, it would be nice if it could be done without hurting anyone's feelings. But winning comes first.

I know that the current admin thinks that winning comes first. I take it you don't. Until you do, you won't get my vote.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin: nobody has a problem with wiretapping terrorists - you're really buying into the GOP frame. What we object to is Bush breaking the law and refusing to get a warrant.

Posted by: The Fool on January 9, 2006 at 3:31 PM | PERMALINK

And a right to do whatever it takes to win. Sure, it would be nice if it could be done without hurting anyone's feelings. But winning comes first.I know that the current admin thinks that winning comes first. I take it you don't. Until you do, you won't get my vote.

And this worldview would be different than, say, Saddam Hussein's exactly how?

Posted by: shortstop on January 9, 2006 at 3:33 PM | PERMALINK

They fought hard AND were brutal. The sum total of their efforts won the war. Wishing that they would have won in a "cleaner" way is just make believe. Bad things happen in wars. And, in a war, the proper posture for a patriotic citizen is that - above all else - my country has a right to fight back. And a right to do whatever it takes to win. Sure, it would be nice if it could be done without hurting anyone's feelings. But winning comes first.

That much scan better in the original German. At any rate, I assumed that, in terms of shredding the Bill of Rights during WWII, you were talking about internment. For the rest of your hyperbole, we pointedly didn't do whatever it takes to win.

It's amazing that for as brutal and hard we fought in WWII, we didn't torture Nazis for information or hold show trials. We followed real laws and supported the Geneva Conventions when dealing with our captured enemies. It's rather incredible, don't you think, that for all of our total war a justified one given an entirely different context than the one we're fighting now we obeyed international laws and conventions?

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

"I believe in my country because its leadership has, on many occassions, lived up to its pledge to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic. I believe in the promise and the words (yeah, even the Second Amendment) that make up the Constitution and believe they should be defended at all costs. That's what makes our Constitution different than similarly worded documents. Plenty of countries claim to codify the same things in their Constitutions, but their leadership subverts them by cutting corners and ignoring them."

Our leadership has defended the Country, d.o.l.t. Not just the constitution. Do you think maybe there is a thing or two - from north to south, east to west - in this country worth defending other than the constitution? Like our families? Our infrastructure? Anyting at all? Scalia said a few years ago, that the constitution is not a suicide pact. Don't remember the facts of the case, but his point was that there is a point where the "freedom" or "right" to do something in particular can impinge on the "lives" of others. So, for example, your "right" to make untapped calls to your AQ contacts in Riyadh might not be reconcilable with my right to survive working in a highrise in New York. Scalia's on the Supreme Court, so I suppose he's working to "protect" the constitution, too.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

Sometimes you hear people say that the "hard left" (not guys like Drum, but the Kossacks) are not really the most, shall we say, patriotic bunch.

Sometimes you hear people say that you are a drooling idiot who masturbates to a picture of George W. Bush in a flight suit. Do you believe them?

I am a proud Kossack, UID# 207. Like Markos, I am a United States Army veteran.

What's your problem with people who have served their country? What more would we have to do for you to demonstrate our patriotism?

Posted by: Repack Rider on January 9, 2006 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

America needs a strong dictator to provide order and protect us from the terrorists.

Posted by: GW Chimpzilla on January 9, 2006 at 3:52 PM | PERMALINK

So, for example, your "right" to make untapped calls to your AQ contacts in Riyadh might not be reconcilable with my right to survive working in a highrise in New York.

Ahem...speaking as one who actually works in a highrise in New York within sight of Ground Zero, if n.o.l.t.f. makes calls to his AQ contacts in Riyadh what's to stop the Bush regime from getting a warrant to listen in? Nothing at all, and no one objects to that. What Bush is saying, instead, is that he's above the law and that despite the law saying he needs a warrant to do that, he's going to thumb his nose at the law, break it, and do whatever he wants to, including spying on American citizens within America.

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 3:53 PM | PERMALINK

Herr Cranky:

Here's the Presidential Oath of Office (not incidentally, it's also very similar to the oath of office for everyone who serves this country in almost any form). Read the damn thing:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

Maybe they didn't include the addendum, "except in cases of national cowardice or when the President's supporters jump at the sound of thunder" because they just forgot.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 3:55 PM | PERMALINK

I often think the trolls on this thread, currently peanut and cranky (the lesser), are actually Al Qaeda operatives gleefully cheerleading the Bush regime to trample our Constitution and limit our civil liberties.

Posted by: ckelly on January 9, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, right, I forgot to respond to cranky's cheap shot.

Like Stefan, I do work in a high rise in New York. And I watched the towers collapse from a mile away on 9/11, after which I lost my job. AND I volunteered at Ground Zero for days afterward. For months, I smelled the vile electrical fire burning from downtown. And was lied to by the EPA, whose exposure to really toxic air was far greater than mine, so you can spare me the hysterics regarding terrorism.

Millions of us have experienced it and still think there's a way to fight it without sacrificing the rights we have as Americans.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 4:03 PM | PERMALINK

"What Bush is saying, instead, is that he's above the law and that despite the law saying he needs a warrant to do that, he's going to thumb his nose at the law, break it, and do whatever he wants to, including spying on American citizens within America."

All spin. You have no idea what the program entailed, so you have no idea whether or not getting a warrant was as easy as you claim it was or not. Perhaps it was infeasible, due to the technology employed. Chris above has a nice summary but it's mostly speculative. Bottom line is you don't know.

What you want (and what other similarly lefty posters above have demanded) is that the administration has the burden of proof to show why they had to implement the program the way they did. But that would reveal secret details of the program.

The question was and is, do you want to win or not?

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

Let's take a vote.

How many people here think that it is wrong for the NSA to eavesdrop on conversations between AQ affiliates abroad and their contacts in the US? This one is pretty easy - that's foreign intelligence gathering, there's never been a warrant requirement for that.

How about monitoring phone calls to or from domestic US numbers found in cell phones or computers captured from AQ members in Afghanistan? Suppose the calls were to another domestic number? Does it even make sense to talk about domestic numbers in an era of portable, international cell phones? These are tougher questions and I suppose you could make a good argument that the President should have asked Congress after 9/11 to authorize that type of warrantless intercept program.

Posted by: DBL on January 9, 2006 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

No, we did NOT win WWII despite what our soldiers did.

We're not talking here about what the soldiers did, then or now. The best WWII parallel to this program is the internment of Americans of Japanese descent, a useless and dishonorable action that we did win in spite of. Despite your efforts to change the subject, this isn't a debate about our soldier's tactics, it's about how much we are willing to allow the Executive Branch to compromise our constitutional rights without any legal authorization.

Posted by: VAMark on January 9, 2006 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, ckelly, I am sure that's AQ's number one goal: limiting our civil liberties.

And your lot wants to run the war. Unbelievable.

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Hey a billion Dollars a week and nothing to show for it and you guys think you should stay in charge? That's not peanuts were talking about.

Posted by: neo on January 9, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

Nice one, DBL. As chris points out (and I think he's probably right), prior to 9-11, "Whenever a communication was found to contain US persons, it was immediately erased by law."

I think that was done by checking if it was a communication which involved a US phone number.

If we blocked off that option (or made it too cumbersome), AQ could just buy a bunch of US celphones and would never have to worry about surveillance again.

Is this a worry? I don't know. It must be nice to feel as safe as Stefan and d.o.l.t. and never have to worry at all, except about that oh-so-scary NSA.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:15 PM | PERMALINK

What you want (and what other similarly lefty posters above have demanded) is that the administration has the burden of proof to show why they had to implement the program the way they did.

Exactly. If the Executive Branch is going to violate the explicit provisions of the Constitution and relevant law, they damn well do have the burden of proof to show why. Maybe not in the pages of the newspapers or in an open session of Congress, but they have to do a heck of a lot better than "we can do whatever we want to do, the Consitution is just a piece of paper."

I doubt an attempt impeachment is practical or a political winner, but there could hardly be a clearer case of violating the Presidental oath than this policy.

Posted by: VAMark on January 9, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

Checking out. I guess the really important questions in my mind, and it seems to be something that interests k-Drum too, are:

Are you committed to winning?
Is that more important than political point scoring?
Are you serious about the threat?
Do you think that people who want to kill us are more dangerous than people who want to read our mail?

Posted by: peanut on January 9, 2006 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, ckelly, I am sure that's AQ's number one goal: limiting our civil liberties.

peanut's right. It was obviously Bush's goal, not Al Queda's. They want to kill us. Bush just wants us to submit.

The question was and is, do you want to win or not?

Oh, I see, cranky's using Sean Connery's "Chicago Way" speech from the Untouchables.

Bush: "I will use every legal means in my power to fight that threat."

cranky: "Nah! Then what are you prepared to do?"

Bush: "You're right! Saudis pull a box cutter, I fight Iraq and bug Christine Amapour."

PS: The Iraq war was just one of the more ineffective ways Bush chose to 'win' the war against Al Queda. So, the question is, why are our soliders dying in the Middle East to protect Americans against a different threat?

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Bye Peanut. VAMark, showing proof that the program is necessary and important - as long as it's done behind closed doors (and the guys behind the doors don't squawk later) and not in the press - is all peacy with me. And no, impeachment is not a "political winner" - gee, thanks for that small dose of sanity on this board. It's small stuff, but better than nothing.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

We need to monitor all domestic communications without a warrant because sometimes communications from the FBI field office in Phoenix get lost.

Posted by: Poindexter on January 9, 2006 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

Yes peanut brain, what better way to "destroy" America than to destroy our democratic institutions or better yet sit back and watch Bush do it for them.

Posted by: ckelly on January 9, 2006 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

And, VAMark, the admin is not arguing "we can do whatever we want to do, the Consitution is just a piece of paper."

They're arguing that specifically that the Constitution gives the president powers that in some limited circumstances can override laws of congress (if those laws unconstitutionally deprives the prez of some of his constitutionally given powers).

You've got it upside down. The constitution is the admin's card, congress is arguing that FISA applies. Not sure who's right, but those are the arguments.

Just thought I'd straighten that out for you.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK
If we blocked off that option (or made it too cumbersome), AQ could just buy a bunch of US celphones and would never have to worry about surveillance again.

While that might force some adoption of changes in operating procedures, an examination of FISA will show that legally, that has no effect at all.

And, so, it doesn't justify, as somehow "necessary" to security, breaking the law.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

peanut puts on his thinkin' cap...

Are you committed to winning?

"Winning" an open-ended, ill-defined war against 'terror' is a subject worthy of a particularly absurdist Beckett play. When terror finally gives up do get we throw a party in Times Square?

Is that more important than political point scoring?

RULE OF LAW!RULE OF LAW!RULE OF LAW!RULE OF LAW!RULE OF LAW!RULE OF LAW!

Are you serious about the threat?

Yes. I for one, having watched the attack live and in person understand the extent and limits of the threat. Moreover, I wouldn't kill Iraqis for the work of a handful of Saudis, which makes me more serious than this administration.

Do you think that people who want to kill us are more dangerous than people who want to read our mail?

I think they're one and the same in that they both want to control us. One thinks that killing Americans can have them cower in fear, the other thinks that terrifying Americans can have them submit to GOP rule.

Both, sadly, are right in their assumptions.

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 4:33 PM | PERMALINK

cranky: The constitution is the admin's card, congress is arguing that FISA applies.

Funny, I thought the Constitution allowed Congress to pass laws that apply to the President.

But what do I know. I really wanted a Dictator, but the terrorists won that Constitutional debate.

Posted by: James Madison on January 9, 2006 at 4:34 PM | PERMALINK
They're arguing that specifically that the Constitution gives the president powers that in some limited circumstances can override laws of congress (if those laws unconstitutionally deprives the prez of some of his constitutionally given powers).

You've got it upside down. The constitution is the admin's card, congress is arguing that FISA applies. Not sure who's right, but those are the arguments.

Since there are specific Article I powers that Congress can point to that actually are directly relevant to FISA, and no Article II provision that can be pointed to except vague penumbras and emanations of the designation of the President as "Commander-in-Chief" that the executive can point (and since, in any case, Amendment IV is hanging out there as a limit on government power whether exercised by the Executive or the Legislature), I think the side that the Executive is on has a weaker Constitutional case than either the "Congressional power" side or the "unreasonable without a warrant even with Congressional action" side.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

n.o.l.t.f. Like Stefan, I do work in a high rise in New York. And I watched the towers collapse from a mile away on 9/11, after which I lost my job. AND I volunteered at Ground Zero for days afterward. For months, I smelled the vile electrical fire burning from downtown. And was lied to by the EPA, whose exposure to really toxic air was far greater than mine, so you can spare me the hysterics regarding terrorism.

Good for you, n.o.l.t.f. I was also volunteering down here after 9/11. Wonder if we ran into each other?

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, d.o.l.t.

Your post above is a very neat summary of probably the thinking of most of the posters here. If anyone is serious about national security and votes on that basis, you could just cut that out, hang it on the fridge and be forever reminded that dolt and his friends cannot ever be trusted to take charge.

1. The war on terror is a Beckett play.
2. Political point scoring? Me likey...
3. More serious about the threat? No answer.
4. AQ and the NSA are the same, because they both want to control us. (Negates any chance of having a believable answer to 3.)

So there we have it.

Verdict, I guess, is "not serious"

Just not ready for prime time.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:42 PM | PERMALINK

All spin. You have no idea what the program entailed, so you have no idea whether or not getting a warrant was as easy as you claim it was or not. Perhaps it was infeasible, due to the technology employed. Chris above has a nice summary but it's mostly speculative. Bottom line is you don't know.

Actually, we do know. Here from Josh Marshall:

"According to this table compiled from DOJ statistics at the EPIC website, the FISA Court did not reject a single warrant application from its beginning in 1979 through 2002. In 2003 it rejected four applications. In 2004, the number was again zero.

"So, in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants...." [out of a universe of, I believe, 20,000 plus requests. That's the very definition of a rubber stamp.]

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky: The NSA complying with the restriction on foriegn vs domestic communications is more difficult than would first appear. Often the intel analysts are using massive indexes which can't be erased in a timely manner. What they do is filter the searching, audit the search terms and use crypto tricks to hide identities and so forth.
You are right, this is speculation... I don't have any security clearance which would prevent me from disclosing operational stuff.

Posted by: chris on January 9, 2006 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

They're arguing that specifically that the Constitution gives the president powers that in some limited circumstances can override laws of congress (if those laws unconstitutionally deprives the prez of some of his constitutionally given powers).

Can any of our strict constructionist friends point out where in the Constitution the President gets these powers to overrule the laws that Congress passes? Because I've read it over and over and I just can't seem to find it....

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 4:48 PM | PERMALINK
"So, in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants...." [out of a universe of, I believe, 20,000 plus requests. That's the very definition of a rubber stamp.]

Or, its an indication that the executive branch has been very careful in applying for such warrants.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Chris. But, check it out: Stefan knows! Josh Marshall told him. He told him all about the technology involved. JM's blogpost clearly shows that it would have been really easy for the admin to go to FISA for this particular technology and gotten warrants.

Except, it does no such thing.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK
JM's blogpost clearly shows that it would have been really easy for the admin to go to FISA for this particular technology and gotten warrants.

Particular technology is largely immaterial to FISA warrants, particularly, none of the speculation here as to the technology involved would make FISA warrants unobtainable, though some of the speculation on the universe of information surveilled (not the technology used) would tend to indicate that the searches were indeed unreasonable and that warrants could not be secured because the surveillance was illegal not merely because Congress prohibited it with FISA, but because it was outside of the power of the government under the Fourth Amendment.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

I do not have time to read them all, but noted Repack Rider's post which seems to hit a couple of nails on the head. One is that only cowards will give up freedom for the false security of a police state. The second is that all attempts by the government to restrict freedom should be resisted. Repack says he/she would not trust the spying power with someone he/she trusts and I agree. This should not be a partisan fight--it should be about defending American citizens rights in the face of the federal government's attempts to ignore those rights when it is convenient. There should and is bipartisan concern being expressed about W's actions and if Democrats quit trying to make broader political hay out of it, they just might win not only the battle, but ultimately the war.

Posted by: terry on January 9, 2006 at 4:54 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Chris. But, check it out: Stefan knows! Josh Marshall told him.

Actually, it was William E. Moschella, Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legislative Affairs of the U.S. Department of Justice -- i.e., the Bush regime -- who told us how many warrant requests were rejected.

http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/doj/fisa/2003rept.pdf

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 4:56 PM | PERMALINK

cranky,

You tell me when we 'win' a war on a noun, or, if you really want to be serious about it, a deep-seeded, complex, web of at-times-conflicting agendas, which range from a medieval caliphate, to ethnic autonomy, to independence? Some terrorists want us dead, others want Israelis, some are 'insurgents', others are cocoa or poppy farmers. In you context, all are Arab, or muslim, but realistically, there are also white Americans who fall under the rubric. I trust that your militia friends who happen to call you sometime don't mind unlimited, warrantless domestic surveillence either.

Bush hasn't even defined what we're fighting for and the "American way of life" doesn't count, especially when Americans like yourself think that the American way of living isn't all that special, so long as its 'living' but I'm not serious?

How about this, will we win when you stop looking under the bed?

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

Particular technology is largely immaterial to FISA warrants, particularly, none of the speculation here as to the technology involved would make FISA warrants unobtainable...

Not true, and a number of people have said so.

Tom Maguire has a pretty good post on this here. Check the links.

It also makes the point that the "no secrets have been revealed by this exposure" idea doesn't stand up very well.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 9, 2006 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, ckelly, I am sure that's AQ's number one goal: limiting our civil liberties.

I thought that Bush said they hated us for our freedom....

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 5:02 PM | PERMALINK

There is no difficult issue here for the Democrats.What was difficult was getting them to stop being political chickens and stand up to Bush and the conservatives. Bush broke the law. Bush talks out of both sides of his mouth. Bush has absolutely no defense for bypassing the FISA court and the Republicans are on record as saying that breaking any law by a President, even perjury about a private sexual matter, shakes the foundations of our government and must be dealt with by applying the same rule of law to the President as any person. Just ask Ken Starr.
Klein on this one doesnt know what he's talking about. He hasnt a clue as to whether there were abuses or whether innocent Americans were wiretapped. He has an ends justfies the means argument and as always, that argument holds no water.

Posted by: MDR on January 9, 2006 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Someone needs to tell the likes of Joe Klein that backlash liberalism went out with grunge, the Larry Sanders Show, and Bill Clinton's presidency.

It's damn near time to begin evicting all the clueless, nuance-free, historically ignorant backlash liberals from the pantheon of the chattering class. They did a fine service to the country in the era of Amy Fisher and Newt Gingrich but really it's time for them to go.

You can be certain that Russ Feingold will never be president, but 2006 is a midterm election year, and the country wants a Congress that will defend dometic liberties - even in wartime.

The Lost Generation Republicans, led by Senator Taft, picked up 50 House seats and 8 Senate seats in 1942 defending domestic freedoms, and making mush out of FDR (who had soaring approval ratings through much of the period).

The trouble with the present generation of Democratic elites (as in the boomers) is that they can't decide whether they want to be the Willkie Democrats or the Taft Democrats. So far they have leaned strongly toward the former, and in doing so came not-so-far from winning the White House (this ain't horse shoes), while getting killed in Congress.

This isn't a perfect analogy. The Bush Republican majority isn't the size of the New Deal majority, and indicators abroad suggest we may be entering a period of centrist, coalition governance (there is a "grand coalition" in Germany, and talk of one in at least two other Western countries; the Israeli center may still get its long-wanted centrist party) rather than an era of fierce partisanship, but its someone's historical, constitutional, and patriotic to defend and protect civil liberties at home; if it isn't going to be the Democrats who will it be?

Posted by: The Blue Nomad on January 9, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

" "So, in a quarter century, the FISA Court has rejected four government applications for warrants...." [out of a universe of, I believe, 20,000 plus requests. That's the very definition of a rubber stamp.]

Or, its an indication that the executive branch has been very careful in applying for such warrants."

And it is now a very reasonable possibility that this administration is being very careful simply by not asking for a warrent except when they are sure they will get one. Funny how that was a silly conspiracy theory a couple months ago.

Posted by: jefff on January 9, 2006 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

The latest from the hard left dolts:

"will we win when you stop looking under the bed?" "You tell me when we 'win' a war on a noun"

Just. Not. Serious.


Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

What is the next step? A knock on your door at midnight by some FBI types, and arrest without legal representation? Will anyone know where you have been taken? All in the name of fighting terra, that makes it ok.

Can you see the writing on the wall? We have an emperor, absolute ruler who is above the law.

He rules without consent, breaks treaties, decides for himself what the law is. It is long past time for the citizens to man the barricads, the Democrats are not doing it. It is only a few minutes to midnight.

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

Answer the question cranky:

It's an undeclared war. There's no definining end to it. Terror, in its many manifestations will be around forever.

So, it's either an endless war, or it has parameters. Either the President can, in an undeclared war, have extra-constitutional powers or he asks for a declaration of war from Congress for the war powers to fight a declared enemy with definable goals.

If you want me to get serious on a "War" on a noun, tell me who the hell we're really fighting here. If it's Al Queda, then why are we stuck in Iraq? If it's all terror everywhere, well, it'll be as useful and fruitful as our War on Drugs, which, now in its 25th or so year, has been a total joke. Drugs have won.

Stefan,

Sorry I just noticed you said you were down there too. I was serving sandwhiches for the overnight shift (which, in most cases, was the day shift too).

Posted by: n.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

George W. Bush knowingly, deliberately, and flagrantly broke the law. Hundreds of times over several years, and, for all we know, continuing to this very day.

What could be simpler than that?

Oh and by the way he trampled on the civil liberties of American citizens in the process.

Just amazing that anyone (other than a criminal defense attorney) would try to defend such a thing.

But sure enough, our intrepid Political Pussycat says:

"At the same time, the NSA program itself is quite likely a reasonable response to 9/11. In fact, the only reason I have even a niggling doubt about that is the fact that Bush resisted getting the law changed to explicitly authorize it..."

Posted by: Libby Sosume on January 9, 2006 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

They're arguing that specifically that the Constitution gives the president powers that in some limited circumstances can override laws of congress (if those laws unconstitutionally deprives the prez of some of his constitutionally given powers).

Can any of our strict constructionist friends point out where in the Constitution the President gets these powers to overrule the laws that Congress passes? Because I've read it over and over and I just can't seem to find it....

Posted by: Stefan on January 9, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK

Nice twists and turns there. This is about wiretapping calls made by AQ to their associates in the US, remember? It has nothing to do with Iraq and I don't have to defend and have no intention of defending the Iraq action or any other admin position. Whether or not that war falls under the broader "terror war" is an unrelated question.

The question was, are you serious about fighting AQ or not? If so, by what means? Are you more interested in political point-scoring than making sure the administration has the tools to stop a bunch of crazy islamists who think they will gain parasise by killing americans?

The answer is no. You have made that abundantly clear.

For the rest of you dems, until you are serious, you will always lose.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

It is quite possible that Bush broke laws. This adminstration has on numerous occasions shown it's willingness to test the limits to executive power. The flip side of that is an executive that is overly concerned with the legality in prosecuting the WOT which may have allowed another devistating attack. The people and Congress might have regarded that as an impeachable offense as well. Imho, it's a combination of a weak congress and a powerful executive which is a volatile combination.

Posted by: chris on January 9, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Hitler won only 33% of the votes and when he usurped the power only the Social Democrats opposed him and paid the price. The others believed they could control him and could not imagen how bad things would get.

I believed Bush was less than mediocre but never thought he would be so bad for the nation. I believed the nation would get through one term, that would be the end of him, I was wrong.

How does anyone know how far Bush is willing to go and if and when will he be stopped?

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

I really hope that tbrosz, conspiracy nut, and all the other Bush bootlickers one day get to live in the plutocratic dictatorship that they wish for, where they can be what they long to be: subservient subjects of a King, not citizens of a democratic republic.

But in some other country.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 9, 2006 at 5:58 PM | PERMALINK
This is about wiretapping calls made by AQ to their associates in the US, remember?

No, it isn't. Its about breaking the law. The Office of Censorship under FDR monitored -- or at least had the power to monitor -- every international communication to or from the United States during WWII, and I doubt even the most liberal here would argue that that level of monitoring, during war, is unreasonable.

The difference between this President's actions and those of President Roosevelt is that Roosevelt sought, and received, Congressional authorization for the Office of Censorship and its authorities.

The President's Constitutional duty is to execute the laws made by Congress, not to invent his own rules.

The question was, are you serious about fighting AQ or not?

The answer is, yes, of course I am serious. There is no incompatibility between demanding executive accountability and being serious about the war. Indeed, demanding accountability to the law is part of being serious about winning the war.

Are you more interested in political point-scoring than making sure the administration has the tools to stop a bunch of crazy islamists who think they will gain parasise by killing americans?

The impact of the administration breaking the law in this respect is that the disclosures to Congress and the FISC -- particularly, in this context, the former -- required in warrantless searches under FISA, which would provide confidence that the administration was appropriately using the tools it already has against the actual enemy were not made.

I am serious about defeating al-Qaeda, which is why I demand that the Administration demonstrate that it is serious, and not let its admitted interest in politically restructuring the government to enhance executive power for ideological reasons trump its legal obligations to be accountable to the law and to the people's representatives in Congress in the methods of conduct of the campaign against al-Qaeda. And, where there may be needs for powers beyond those in the current law for that fight, that it show that it is serious by making the case for those changes to Congress and the American people and getting the changes made, rather than just acting in accord with whatever impulse any officer of the executive branch has at the time without any kind of accountability.

Accountability is security not only against abuse, but against ill-conceived, wasteful, ineffective programs that divert resources from productive methods of dealing with real problems. The President's decision to evade the law and avoid accountability -- and the Administration's admitted, non-security, ideological motivation for that action -- is prima facie evidence that this Administration is not serious about the fight against al-Qaeda, but rather sees it as a convenient pretext for other things that it was committed to, but didn't have a hook for, prior to 9/11 -- from attempts to enhance (or, in Cheney's words, "restore") executive power to the invasion of Iraq.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 6:03 PM | PERMALINK

cranky: Are you more interested in political point-scoring than making sure the administration has the tools to stop a bunch of crazy islamists who think they will gain parasise by killing americans? The answer is no. You have made that abundantly clear.

The answer is, you are full of shit.

There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING AT ALL that the Bush administration and the NSA could not have done to fight terrorists just as easily, and just as quickly, if they had gone to the FISA court and/or the Congress and gotten the authorization (warrants and/or legislation) to do it legally.

They chose to do it illegally.

The question is, do you endorse blatant corruption and criminality by the President? And the answer is abundantly clear: you not only endorse it, but you cheer it on and gloat over it.

Which makes you as much an enemy of this country as Al Qaeda.

Why don't you go to some other country, where you can be a slave in a dictatorship, the subject of a King, as you obviously long to be? You and your ilk don't deserve to live in America. North Korea is the sort of place you belong in.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 9, 2006 at 6:04 PM | PERMALINK

calls made by AQ to their associates in the US

Cranky after all the lies how can you be sure?

Has there been an investigation with proof that is the only time NSA wiretapped american citizens?

There should at least be some doubt!

To have no doubts is to be naive.

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

cranky,

Jesus Christ. It's all about unchecked Presidential authority not:

This is about wiretapping calls made by AQ to their associates in the US, remember?

That's the spin version, but not the actual outrage. It's about your rights as an American citizen. The NYT report was that the President authorized the NSA to spy on US citizens, not about spying on Al Queda. The assertion was that it was to fight the war on terror, but there are ample provisions to do this through the FISA standards.

They know this. They chose not to get the proper warrants, which, assuredly, would have been granted if it was Al Queda calling some guy in Baltimore.

This is about unfettered power of the Executive branch to do whatever they want to do under the idiotic, fear-driven 'war on terror'.

You say such measures are how we "win" a war you won't even define. The Constitution, you say, isn't a suicide pact.

Well, let's see. The President said he's not bound by it, breaking an oath in the name of this war.

Fine. Let's sum up your argument: Indefined, unlimited wiretapping and intelligence gathering on U.S. citizens is OK, because we have more important concerns than the Constitution, even though there is a well-established law in place that requires some oversight regarding who gets spied upon IN THIS COUNTRY ONLY. And because I oppose a lawless Executive branch, the left isn't serious about winning a war on a noun that you're not even willing to define what victory would look like.

This has everything to do with Iraq, the administration and what they're willing to do with their power. It's about the Patriot Act, the NSA, the CIA and the FBI. It's about this undeclared war and the non-existent crediblity of those in charge of the prosecution of it.

But I'm not serious. Jesus.

Posted by: N.o.l.t.f on January 9, 2006 at 6:07 PM | PERMALINK
Not true, and a number of people have said so.

The number of people saying so will not change the fact that the terms of the FISA law make the source of the information, the targets of the surveillance, and the evidence justifying surveilling those sources and targets legally relevant, and do not make the technology legally relevant (except insofar as FISA only applies to "electronic surveillance" and "physical searches", so technology that involves neither is outside of its purview.)

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 6:11 PM | PERMALINK

Just to summarize the better points here:

- dolt thinks that the fight against Al Qaeda is like a Beckett play.

- Renate is waiting for "the knock" on her door. Oh, and Bush is an emperor just like "Hitler" - of course.

- Secular Animist thinks were heading for a plutocratic dictatorship.

Really serious people. Exactly the kind I want to keep us safe.

Posted by: cranky on January 9, 2006 at 6:17 PM | PERMALINK

One reason Bush hid this program as long as he could wasn't necessarily to keep it from Democrats, and everyday American people, but to hide it from factions of his own political party and support.

We need to remember that a signifigant demographic of Republican voters are limited government types, conservatarians, and libertarians, all of whom would have resisted attempts by Congress to make legal what Bush wanted to do.

And this helps explain why Bush never went to Congress, even though it was Republican-controlled, to change the laws. If he had, he would have brought schisms within his own political party that he wanted to avoid. He's been pulling a fast one on all libertarians, conservatarians, and small government conservatives for almost 5 years now, and he finally got caught.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

And this helps explain why Bush never went to Congress, even though it was Republican-controlled, to change the laws. If he had, he would have brought schisms within his own political party that he wanted to avoid. He's been pulling a fast one on all libertarians, conservatarians, and small government conservatives for almost 5 years now, and he finally got caught.

And this has nothing to do with tipping off terrorists. If they'd known about FISA, then they would have known about allowing warrantless wiretaps. Plus, nearly everyone in the world already believes that the NSA taps everything regardless of laws, and terrorists are naturally the more suspicious types, so only a stupid terrorist would think he could just talk freely on the telephone, and stupid terrorists are not really what we're worried about, or need to justify trashing our civil liberties in fear of.

Posted by: Jimm on January 9, 2006 at 6:29 PM | PERMALINK

56 percent of respondents in a recent AP-Ipsos poll said the government should be required to first get a court warrant to eavesdrop on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. citizens when those communications are believed to be tied to terrorism...."

Frankly I find that 56% underwhelming and very disturbing. That means 44%, a sizable minority, thinks it is okay. Hmmm.

Is this America? Let me double-check our history and our legacy?

"Give me Liberty or Give me Death" - Patrick Henry

"Those who compromise a little liberty for the sake of a little security deserve neither" - Benjamin Franklin (paraphrased)

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself" - Franklin Roosevelt

"Land of the Free and the home of the brave." - Last line in the National Anthem of the United States of America.

"Know the truth, and the truth shall set you free..." - Jesus H. Christ (paraphrased)

If Truth is the key to freedom, ignorance is the key to captivity and fear is the key to ignorance.

Is it any wonder that Bush consistently tries to scare us all stupid with threats of possible terrorist attacks and economic collapse if he doesn't get his way? Good grief! We are being led by a proven idiot into a fools paradise.

You can't have freedom without courage. Indeed, those who do compromise a little liberty for the sake of a little security deserve neither, and I might add, will soon not have either.

Perhaps they out to add to the last line of the national anthem: "Land of the Brave no more, Land of the Free no more."

One thing seems certain: Our founding forefathers would think this nation to be nothing but a bunch of chickens who don't deserve the legacy that they left us. They willfully entered into and fought a revolutionary war against the most powerful nation on earth with little more than homemade weapons. "You get the government you deserve. Our forefathers got good government. Weve got Bush. In surrendering our rights and freedoms we are descending into cowardice and captivity. Might God help us, for we are not helping ourselves.

Posted by: Bubbles on January 9, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK
Frankly I find that 56% underwhelming and very disturbing. That means 44%, a sizable minority, thinks it is okay.

Without going on looking at the poll results, no, it doesn't. It means that 44% either think it is okay or are unsure, which the poll probably splits out. And, really, the need for a warrant when surveilling international communication that may be hostile during what is something like a declared war is debatable (witness the WWII Office of Censorship). What is less debatable is the need for legality and accountability in such an operation. Which is why the same Office of Censorship was proposed to Congress and authorized there rather than being instituted on executive whim.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 6:51 PM | PERMALINK
Just for the record: my point was that one guy (Breznev) was sorta, kinda, less crazy than the other guy (bin Laden).Posted by: peAnut
Neither are crazy, but in the case of the latter, Bush ignored all warning and made no effort to deal with the known threat. Since bin Laden is such a danger, why doesn't Bush go after him? Why did Bush stop the pursuit in Tora Bora? Could it be that an enemy uncaptured is a political plus in an election?
Sometimes you hear people say that the "hard left"are not really the most, shall we say, patriotic bunch. Right?Posted by: peAnut
In Republicontarian land, it is always time to trot out tail-gunner Joe. The president is not above the law. The president is not above the law. I repeated it because you don't appreciate the rule of law: You think Republican presidents are not bound by any law.
whine like cranky babies if the NSA listens in on some phone calls. Posted by: clunky
There is a law, a specific law that was written when it was discovered that a president was abusing his power. That law forbad warrantless wiretapping. That law stated that violating it was a felony. No man is above the law. No president is above the law. The Supreme Court has held that principle. According to the Republican cant, it's ok if you're a Republican. Then no law applies to you. It isn't the case. You want to listen in on phone calls then get a warrant. It's that simple.
I know that the current admin thinks that winning comes first. Posted by: clunky
The only thing this administration is about winning is elections and those by any means possible. It is certainly not about winning the GWOT or the war in Iraq because it is not winning either.
Our leadership has defended the Country, d.o.l.t. Posted by: clunky
That is this administration's greatest failure: It failed to defend the country.
...the admin is not arguing "we can do whatever we want to do, the Consitution is just a piece of paper." Posted by: clunky
The Constitution is just a piece of paper.
They're arguing that specifically that the Constitution gives the president powers that in some limited circumstances can override laws of congress (if those laws unconstitutionally deprives the prez of some of his constitutionally given powers). Posted by: clunky
Bush says he has unlimited authority but the constitution says no such thing. Posted by: Mike on January 9, 2006 at 6:53 PM | PERMALINK
the "no secrets have been revealed by this exposure" idea doesn't stand up very well. Posted by: tbrosz
It is also quite irrelevant to the question, Does Bush have the right to violate American law ?

In conclusion, the DOJ letter fails to offer a plausible legal defense of the NSA domestic spying program. If the Administration felt that FISA was insufficient, the proper course was to seek legislative amendment, as it did with other aspects of FISA in the Patriot Act, and as Congress expressly contemplated when it enacted the wartime wiretap provision in FISA. One of the crucial features of a constitutional democracy is that it is always open to the President--or anyone else--to seek to change the law. But it is also beyond dispute that, in such a democracy, the President cannot simply violate criminal laws behind closed doors because he deems them obsolete or impracticable.

Posted by: Mike on January 9, 2006 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK
There is a law, a specific law that was written when it was discovered that a president was abusing his power. That law forbad warrantless wiretapping.

That's not entirely true. It set explicit conditions and procedural requirements for wiretapping, both with and without warrants, for intelligence purposes.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 7:10 PM | PERMALINK

You are very very wrong about this.

The President's actions were obviously illegal under a FISA act that provided the smallest possible restriction on his ability to wiretap, and as you note, he made no effort to get the law changed by a completely compliant Congress.

It is an usurpation of power that is unprecedented. Your "niggling doubt" should be screaming at you. The criss in this case is not about the 4th Amendment (which may or may not apply). It is the Administration's self-proclaimed doctrine that the President can do whatever he wants when we are "at War" -- whatever that means (since in Constitutional terms, we are not at war).

In this case, the actions that he authorized repeatedly were specifically prohibited by Congress.

We have a DUTY to try to stop this WHETHER OR NOT it scores political points for our side. (By the way, I think it is a winning issue for Dems, but that is not the point).

Repeat. We have a duty to transcend politics about this.

You attitude is defeatist and dangerous because this is not politics as usual, we are talking about separation of powers that form the bedrock of our Republic.

If people like Bob Barr can see this it beats me why you don't, maybe you have spent too much time around the Washington Monthly.

Posted by: Ba'al on January 9, 2006 at 7:16 PM | PERMALINK

In surrendering our rights and freedoms we are descending into cowardice and captivity.

I don't care which of my rights and freedoms Bush violates as long as he doesn't abuse my right to own assault rifles.

Posted by: Buck on January 9, 2006 at 7:20 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, I don't see a terrorist under every bed like you seem to do. A nation of almost 300 millin should be able to handle a lot of terrorists without panicking.

An out of control Bush administration is indeed scary.

" Monica, where are you when we need you so much"

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 7:35 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin - The incredible usurpation of this power by the executive is so dangerous and so violates the entire spirit of the Constitution in addition to Amendments IV and XIV, that you have to quit being so cute about it.

This is a constitutional crisis. This isn't a situation in which it is at all prudent to tip toe through the tulips, clutching your pearls and crying: "We Democrats do to believe in homeland security."

That is not what this is about. Quit the hell worrying that someone is going to think you're soft on terrorism. This is serious shit that goes right to the heart of the structure of our government and it behooves all of us to be straightforward about it.

Posted by: Tena on January 9, 2006 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK
The incredible usurpation of this power by the executive is so dangerous and so violates the entire spirit of the Constitution in addition to Amendments IV and XIV, that you have to quit being so cute about it.

Amendment XIV? I assume you are thinking of the due process clause, but the relevant place that is found applicable to federal (as opposed to state) action is Amendment V, not XIV.

Or were you thinking of something else in Amendment XIV?

Posted by: cmdicely on January 9, 2006 at 7:48 PM | PERMALINK

If Bush has nothing to hide, let him explain himself. So it's okay for HIM to have secrets but not me? Why? I would argue that he has LESS right to secrets because he is accountable to everyone in the United States. I want to know EXACTLY what he is up to.

Posted by: Helen on January 9, 2006 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

Here's an idea. Bush should show that HE, for one, is not afraid to be wiretapped. If we could all listen in on what he is doing at every moment of the day, we would have less to worry about. I suspect Bush just sits around eating pretzels all day while Rove orders up profiles on the ever-growing political "enemies" list. Just a guess. I do hope to be proven wrong.

Posted by: Helen on January 9, 2006 at 8:17 PM | PERMALINK

Soldiers break into the home of an Iraqi journalist, and fire their weapons in the bedroom were he and his wive and children sleep, other journalists have been killed in Iraq, yes it is far away but they are AMERCAN SOLDIERS.

We did not think our soldiers would do that, we did not think that we would not honor the Geneva Conventions, we did not think our government would wiretap without legal orders, we did not think so much would happen in our name.

What happens when good people stay silent?

We don't want our government and our soldiers to do anything we have to be ashamed of, but it is happening.

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 8:23 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, but Helen, we can't do that - it would damage national security! And hearing just how idiotic Bush actually is in private, all day long, might discourage the troops!

Posted by: brooksfoe on January 9, 2006 at 8:53 PM | PERMALINK

So long as you can't demonstrate that the program is targeting people who are absolutely no threat to national security, it's a very difficult issue to use to (further) erode public confidence in Bush.

It's very important to make the point that this rationalization can be used to erode any protection we have under law. Why not just let cops attack criminals? The problem is that once the protection of the law is gone it can be very hard to get it back.

The Bush administration's use of the powers it has already should breed very little confidence in its ability to break the law "responsibly". What has it accomplished to date? The legal cases it has broght against "terrorists" have been laughable.

Posted by: No Preference on January 9, 2006 at 9:00 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry but I haven't the time to read all upstream comments, but here is my thing.

How many times since 9/11 has the Admin followed the FISA procedures and secured a warrent? I'm assuming many, many times but I'd like to know. My guess is something many more times than zero, which would mean they didn't have too much of a problem with FISA.

So what's the difference between the eavesdropping done by warrant versus those without a warrant? If there is a rat in this, my guess is that rat is revealed by the answer to this question. Osama bin Somebody equals warrant. Christiane Amenpour equals no warrant?

Don't know. Just askin'.

Posted by: Don on January 9, 2006 at 9:23 PM | PERMALINK

One issue that really needs clarifying before too much criticism is levied at BushCo: Are/should the rules different for transmissions that cross our borders, and if non US citizens are involved on at least one end? This is at least credible to make a difference, meaning that *simplistic* Fourth Ammendment complaints may not wash.

OTOH, note that the non-partisan Congressional Research Service report gave no support for the NSA domestic spying (Hey - did you hear of that on any of the big news broadcasts? ...)

Posted by: Neil' on January 9, 2006 at 9:56 PM | PERMALINK

Cranky, I don't see a terrorist under every bed like you seem to do. A nation of almost 300 millin should be able to handle a lot of terrorists without panicking.


In essence the impulse behind conservativism is always cowardice.

Oh yes, they like to parade around like they are some kind of viral violence monkey that loves their guns. Except for sportsman and true gun connoisseur, the instinct to want, to have, and to hold guns is cowardice.

Wasn't it Irving Crystal, yes, Bill Crystal's father who said: A liberal is a conservative whose been laid off, a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. There in lies the essence of fear on the part of the conservative - fear. Fear is another word for cowardice.

Never mind that 99% of the population isn't a criminal, you have to have a gun, and be very afraid of the 1% who are criminals. That's a form of irrational behavior.

Of course, it would be much cheaper to figure and spend money on addressing the root and proximate causes of that 1% then for the other 99% to go out and buy guns, and then build jail and house and clothe and feed and provide healthcare in incarcerating the 1% that commit crimes (the cost of which at least 50% of the gun industry's revenues and the cost of incarceration is $40,000 a year x 2,000,000 = to almost double Iraq gnp) - but that's another issue of rationality.

What Crystal is really describing is post traumatic stress syndrome: after a car accident one is heightenly afraid of being struck again; after being mugged, ones awareness of crime and fear of being victimized is outsized in proportion from the true reality of it.

Its similar to the fear of flying. Yes, planes do crash, but 99% of the time they don't, especially commercial aircraft. Even if you happened to be flying on the morning of 9/11, you still had only a 1 in 1000 chance of being on a hi-jacked plane because there were roughly 4,000 planes flying and in the air at the time.

So these wingnut, fundamentalist, bush bootlicking, the hell with the constitution, conservatives represent irrational behavior that is more a function of America's dystopia than the reality that terrorism creates.

Furthermore, like crime, we arent addressing the root causes of terrorism we are manifesting the causes of terrorism. Its axiomatic that fear often drives people to do the opposite of what they ought to do to cure the fear.

Now this irrational behavior of fear mongering is being driven to the point of trashing the constitution. Its pathetic and its pure and simple cowardice.

Conservatives hate to hear that theyre pathological cowards, but there you have it. Take a look at the administration - they all dodged Vietnam, even though they were all for fighting that war. Now they said courageous young Americans in the flower of their youth to die so that a coward of a President can use the pretense of war to grab more power than the constitution warrants. Neocon -Republicans are Cowards, every last one of them.

Posted by: Bubbles on January 9, 2006 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK

From what I have read it seems to me alot of people are missing the bigger picture. One, the past is not so relevant to this debate. Whether or not they spied on people they shouldn't have is irrelevant. I remember in the 90's alot of conservatives made alot of noise about how bad gun registration was. The argument was what once registration of guns would make it very easy for the government to take them one day. No one seriously thought Janet Reno was aiming to take the guns, or that Clinton was politically naive enough to try that, but the argument is that we shouldn't give them the power to do this, because of the consequences later. This is the way to look at the wiretapping issue. Who has been wiretapped, and the intentions of the Bush administration are immaterial. What matters is that if we let this stand we give up one of our rights (the right to have our private conversations go unmonitored unless the government can prove to a judge that they have good reason to suspect something illegal is going on) to the government, and once you allow that it is very hard to get that right back. Bueracracies don't like to give powers back. That means that one day if we elect a would be dictator, they will have the power to listen to us, to listen to converstations that have nothing to do with terrorism. This is the thing that is bad, this risk. When peanut babbles on demanding evidence that something objectionable happened, in the form of showing how the program has been used illicitly, he misses the point grandly. The point is that the government took the power to listen to us without oversight, and if we don't stop them now, they will keep that power.
The other really objectionable thing isnt so much the program but the response from some conservatives to the criticism of it. Namely, the Kristol take on checks and balances where the President can nullify any law in a time of war (even when this hasnt been declared by Congress). This justification has to be crushed. This amounts to the endorsement of the tearing up of the Constitution, and is probably a scarier thing than the program itself.

Posted by: progdem on January 9, 2006 at 10:30 PM | PERMALINK

The signs of usurpation of power by Bush and Co. are all around us. And we go on fooling ourselves by thinking we are only dreaming, we better wake up.

It is as bad as it looks.

Posted by: Renate on January 9, 2006 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Who's the most dangerous person in the world?

Is it a drunk who isn't 'responsible'?
Is it a serial killer who is insane?
Is it a hired assassin who is sane, intelligent and skilled?
Is it a president who has vast resources and little oversight?

Nobody, nobody in America is allowed unchecked and unbalanced power.

The founders of this country saw how dangerous that could be and specifically wrote our Constitution to prohibit it.

George W. Bush seems to think he's above the law (and some of his supporters agree), but he's really just an outlaw and should be punished as such.

Posted by: MarkH on January 10, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

but he's really just an outlaw and should be punished as such.

Posted by: MarkH on January 10, 2006 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

Yeah! Stick it to the man! Bush is the source of original sin and the serpent in the garden.

He started the Vietnam war. He did!

Posted by: McAristotle on January 10, 2006 at 1:50 AM | PERMALINK

I wish he would be more circumspect. In all honesty he was a poor orphan transexual I adopted to save from the local lynch mob. I can't help it if the operation didn't take. We didn't exactly have great surgical technique back then. I'm proud of him/her though. For a virgin it's prety well adjusted.

Posted by: Aristotle on January 10, 2006 at 2:08 AM | PERMALINK

WTF Kevin? Where the hell is your head at? The President of the United States has authorized illegal wiretaps for the past 4 years and all you can come up with is "This is a legitimately tough issue for Democrats". Whoa! Such brilliance. Bush's offenses are impeachable, and far worse than lying about a blowjob. Your weak response to all this sure appears to give bush the benefit of the doubt. Well, that's been done before, and we've how well that worked out.

Posted by: LPaul on January 10, 2006 at 8:02 AM | PERMALINK

You are missing the forest for the trees!

In attempting to make this a political issue by focusing on impeachment you surrendered to your natural instincts which is to be weak on terrorism. That's a far bigger political issue than some obscure FISA law. Democrats aren't even debating if this s/b done or how best to do it. The debate within the party is as it has always been, 'How do we get Bush'.

Klein's point is this battle is going to cost you the war. Even Carville and Begalia agree as long as Democrats are perceived as soft on security they will sit in 2nd place. Worse is the battle has already been lost.

Most of the people on this tread are certain GWB broke the FISA STATUTES. No is arguing he did not. He is saying they do not apply to the Presidency. This is a constitution issue. It will only get settld by the Supreme Court and few Senators are anxious to lose that fight.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

Most of the people on this tread are certain GWB broke the FISA STATUTES.

We're certain of that because Bush said he broke the FISA statutes. It was his admission that sort of woke people up to this issue.

No is arguing he did not. He is saying they do not apply to the Presidency.

There is simply no way to address such a ridiculous statement. A law that doesn't apply to the Presidency? A law that the President can simply wave aside with a magesterial hand and say, 'I don't have to follow that law?' I cannot wait for President x-Democrat, whoever that may be in the future, to say that there are Federal laws he/she doesn't have to follow because, in their opinion, they don't apply.

Unfortunately, any reading of the FISA law would explain to you in the clearest and simplest terms that the FISA statutes were written and designed to place a check on the power of the Executive Branch that would prevent the Executive Branch from abusing the power of an intelligence agency to spy on US persons.

Bush43 has broken the laws in ways his own father would never, ever even imagine being stupid enough to break. You want a fair and honest examination of the real issue here? Bush41 would never publicly admit breaking the FISA statutes. Why? He's too fucking smart to do that.

This is a constitution issue.

Keep clapping and applauding your guy. He's never read the Constitution, either.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

pale rider,

He doesn't have to read the constitution. He's got lawyers for that. And he's got an army of lawyers ready, willing and able to defend the Powers of the Presidency in this regard, and win.

Congress cannot pass laws which infringe on the powers of the Presidency, co-equal branches and all that! As it stands now he will remain unchallenged on this despite doing everything to provoke a challenge. There's a reason GWB wants this fight and Klein does not.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

pale rider,

This nomination will be especially interesting in this regard as well. When Bush appointed both Roberts and Alito he knew they would be a contitutional challenge on this issue. Remember, they knew one year ago the NYTs had the story and they were just waiting for a good time to leak it. Obviously they want judges with the 'correct' point of view.

Unless Alito screws it up there's little they can do to stop him. Once on the court it increases GWBs odds on this issue. My money is on Sam. He's not as personable as John Roberts but is a more sympathetic figure. He is also supposed to be equally brilliant. These traits match well against the parade of blowhards on the judiciary committee. There's no way Sam can look bad against Kennedy or Biden or Schumer.

It's not over until it's over but GWB has his ducks lined up on this one.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

rdw blows past the real issue:

Is Bush43 so stupid that he would do something his own father, Bush41 would never do?

Answer that question. Just a hint: they're related, they're both Republicans. We realize things have to be explained to you.

He doesn't have to read the constitution. He's got lawyers for that.

Harriet Miers, for one! Way to go with your A-Team!

And he's got an army of lawyers ready, willing and able to defend the Powers of the Presidency in this regard, and win.

Actually, they've already lost.

Congress cannot pass laws which infringe on the powers of the Presidency

See, there's already a Constitution for that. But I'm sure it would take three to four years to explain to you what 'Congressional Oversight' is to you, but here's our friend Barney, the Purple Dinosaur to help poor demented and ignornat rdw out...

"...Hello, I'm Barney. The Congress watches the President. Not through a spy glass! Not through a glass darkly! Up close, and they shuffle many, many papers around. The Congress oversees the President to keep the President from doing bad things, like eating too many cookies! Hee hee hee..."

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

PR at 9:35: That's our boy! Thanks for the laughs.

Posted by: shortstop on January 10, 2006 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

shortstop,

Ah, but it's still a tragedy, isn't it?

Poor rdw. Still laboring under the assumption that Republicans have been made exempt from the rule of law simply by winning a few elections.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

See, there's already a Constitution for that. But I'm sure it would take three to four years to explain to you what 'Congressional Oversight' is to you,

Well how long to explain separation of powers?

How about co-equal branches of Government?

BTW: Please, please let this be an issue. Let's remind Americans every day GWB is focused on getting terrorists and you are focused on stopping him.

BTW2: We've had our best lawyers meet your best lawyers before. Ask President Al how well that worked out.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

PR: Ah, but it's still a tragedy, isn't it?

I s'pose. School starts again next week in many places, so I'm assuming we'll get a break from our obsessive-compulsive friend rdw then. I never read him anymore--he's too boring--but if y'all get amusement from poking him with sharp sticks, go to it.

Posted by: shortstop on January 10, 2006 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

We've had our best lawyers meet your best lawyers before. Ask President Al how well that worked out.

I thought Bush43 won that election fair and square? Now, you seem to be saying that it was all done through lawyers. Hmmm, I think you best reverse yourself on that particular talking point.

Let's remind Americans every day GWB is focused on getting terrorists and you are focused on stopping him.

I think the only people GWB and his GOP cronies care about are the terrorists with bags full on money and golfing trips to St. Andrews. If they could simply do a better job stopping well-heeled terrorists from absconding with all kinds of perks and favors, why I would give them high marks for defending America. And, while they're at it, could your boy do something about that southern border with Mexico?

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 10:20 AM | PERMALINK

I never read him anymore--he's too boring--but if y'all get amusement from poking him with sharp sticks, go to it.

Well, we practice on rdw in case a real troll shows up.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

RDW
Lets clean up the language and call a spade a spade:

What Bush is doing is called "USURPATION OF POWER"

Maybe an honest language will help a better judgment along.

Posted by: Renate on January 10, 2006 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

And, while they're at it, could your boy do something about that southern border with Mexico?

It's coming but it won't be his idea. You won't like it any more than he does and Vncente Fox has already expressed outrage. We're going to put up fences in those places where most of the illegal crossings are happening. It's worked in Indai and in Israel and I've read a story San Diego had done something on this lines successfully.

I am with Bush on this. He doesn't want to stop honest people looking to make a living. I am not against a fence but I'd at least want an expansion of the number of guest workers with an opportunity for them to stay as long as they are gainfully employed and no criminal record.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 11:23 AM | PERMALINK

I am with Bush on this. He doesn't want to stop honest people looking to make a living.

Ha ha ha ha ha! rdw now says that it's okay to break the law and that Mexican citizens can come to this country illegally. The rule of law means nothing to rdw. I'm guessing you're not too happy when the Philly cops pull you over. How dare they! Don't they know that Bush won the last election!?!

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

Clap harder! More applause! The Bush administration is winning the war on terror! These Iranians sure are scared of Bush, aren't they?

Now, if Bush had just one shred of credibility left, he might have been able to make the case that the United States should engage Iran on this issue...

Sadly, Bush has to get behind 'old Europe' and hope they save his ass...

Iran Earns Scorn of West by Removing Seals
Jan 10 10:23 AM US/Eastern

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
Associated Press Writer

TEHRAN, Iran

Iran removed seals on its nuclear facilities Tuesday, ending a two- year freeze on work there despite warnings from the United States and other countries concerned about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.

The United States rebuked Iran for the move, calling it a step toward creating the material for nuclear bombs. British Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said the international community was "running out of patience" with Tehran.

Both countries, along with France and Germany, have called on Tehran to cease nuclear activities until an agreement has been reached on the scope of its nuclear program.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Tehran was again in breach of resolutions passed by the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog and said steps to restart uranium enrichment could not be justified.

"We are profoundly concerned that Iran has decided to restart research and development activities related to uranium enrichment," Straw said in a statement.

"There was no good reason why Iran should have taken this step if its intentions are truly peaceful and it wanted to resolve long standing international concerns," he added.

Iran announced plans last week to resume research on the production of nuclear fuel, heightening concerns that Tehran was moving toward building atomic weapons. Iran says the research is aimed at generating electricity.

Mohammad Saeedi, the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, said Tuesday that Iran was not resuming the production of nuclear fuel, a process that would involve uranium enrichment.

"What we resume is merely in the field of research, not more than that," he said at a news conference. "We make a difference between research on nuclear fuel technology and production of nuclear fuel.

"Production of nuclear fuel remains suspended."

Inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency affixed the seals more than two years ago after Iran agreed to the measure in an effort to dampen suspicions about its nuclear ambitions.

IAEA inspectors were present Tuesday as Iranian officials began removing the seals, spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said from Vienna, Austria, where the agency is based. She declined to say whether the Iranians planned to start enriching uranium or would be satisfied with testing the equipment used in the process.

In Vienna, the chief U.S. representative to the IAEA, Gregory L. Schulte, said that by cutting the seals, Iran had shown "its disdain for international concerns and its rejection of international diplomacy."

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 11:39 AM | PERMALINK

Sadly, Bush has to get behind 'old Europe' and hope they save his ass...

Now this is funny. GWB all along has been standing aside and letting Old Europe handle it. He's also allowing the UN to handle it. If you remember we do not have diplomatic relations with Iran. This is why nothing is getting done. Iran has only contempt for Old Europe.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

GWB all along has been standing aside and letting Old Europe handle it.

rdw now admits that Bush has allowed Iran to become a nuclear power!

Great answer! And Bush doesn't have to respect no stinking laws anymore, right?!?

Brilliant analysis, Wooten. All we have to do is stand aside and watch you blunder into trap after trap. I'm guessing when you go deer hunting you use a bullhorn and a spotlight in order to get anything done.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

Bush does not honor international agreements why should Iran?

International relations have turned into a wild west show and the Bushies have a lot to do with it.

Posted by: Renate on January 10, 2006 at 12:11 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider,

So you are saying Bush is King of the World? He gets to decide who gets what?

George is following a careful strategy that has as much to do with the UN and Old Europe as well as Iran. It's his desire for the UN or Old Europe to prove themselves relevent. This is the entire purpose for the UN isn't it? I think so. Old Europe as we all know is far more sophisticated and nuanced than GWB could ever pretend to be. It was the smart decision to step aside, keep a low profile and allow the smart guys to get it done.

We all know of course the UN and Old Europe are useless. This exercise will clearly demonstrate their uselessness. GWB is well down the road for removing Kyoto, the UN and the EU from trying to manage global environmental affairs. IN the next couple/few years we'll see more of the disaster of Kyoto for the signees and the ineptitute of the UN and EU and it will make the transition to global management by the Asian - Pacifice Partnersip far more attractive.

You really need to look down the road. Everyone else in the world has made it clear they're smarter than GWB. Here's their shot at proving it.

Here's where we see Bush as a brilliant tactical and strategic politician. Kyoto doesn't expire until 2012 but it's already dead. And they don't even know it yet. It's fun to watch.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 12:20 PM | PERMALINK

rdw wrote: I am with Bush on this.

What a surprise.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 10, 2006 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

rdw forgets to send Judge Alito a love note, now they're at cross purposes...

FROM TODAY'S HEARINGS...

On executive power, Alito skirted giving specifics on whether President Bush had the power to decide unilaterally to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens.

Bush has admitted he authorized the National Security Agency to spy on some Americans without court approval in the months following 9/11.

"No person is above the law, and that includes the president, and includes the Supreme Court," Alito said.

He added the president had no authority to order anyone to violate a congressional law, including one banning torture of captured soldiers or suspected terrorists.

"Our Constitution applies in times of peace and in times of war. And it protects American citizens in all circumstances," Alito said.

WTF??? Come on rdw, explain yourself. Why did your boy nominate a guy to the Supreme Court who is clearly less qualified to kiss his ass than Harriet Miers was???

The immortal words of rdw:

Congress cannot pass laws which infringe on the powers of the Presidency, co-equal branches and all that!

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 12:26 PM | PERMALINK

Renate,

Bush honors ALL agreements.

The ABM treaty contained a clause allowing either party to end it with 6 months notice. GWB ended it and then negotiated much deeper cuts with Russia.

The Kyoto nonsense was never imposed in the USA. Slick Willie signed it and then put it in his drawer so it would never become law. Only Congress can approve treaties. Clinton never asked them.

It's amazing how much angst this has caused the liberal world and yet their suffering has been utterly meaningless. GWB was still elected easily because few really care about their silly causes

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

rdw, you are comparable in stupidity, ignorance, dishonesty, and pathetically servile worship of George W. Bush to your fellow neo-brownshirt Bush-bootlicking mental slave, conspiracy nut. However, his comments are quite a bit shorter than yours, concisely packing at least as much idiocy into far fewer words. Maybe you could work on that?

Posted by: SecularAnimist on January 10, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

WTF??? Come on rdw, explain yourself. Why did your boy nominate a guy to the Supreme Court who is clearly less qualified to kiss his ass than Harriet Miers was???


You are not being clear here. You seem to be suggesting alito just rebuffed GWB. To take anything out of these show hearings is absurd. We've got the worst of the Democratic Senators making asses of themselves and by doing so making Sam look pretty good.

You've got to understand how repulsive Teddy Kennedy and Chuck Schumer are to most of America. You have a really bad balance here. It doesn't help that Biden and Feingold are running for President. 4 over the top, over the hill Senators beating up on this soft spoken, hard working son of proud immigrants isn't going to sell on main street.

Sam is in and Sam is NOT your cup of tea.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

ahh, back again at Milquetoast democrats dot com...

where to begin? Joe Klein is not at all right, Kevin Drum is simply stuck in the year 2002 and will probably not re emerge for another good 5 or 6 years. too bad. middle aged wussy men who sit in their comfy chairs talking about this issue make me laugh in a sad, pathetic way. as if terrorists would be baffled by and threatened by the idea of a wiretap. as if we didn't have the ability to do this beforehand and with total secrecy. as if we can trust Bush and his evil minions to do things like this.

this debate is soooooo far off its really laughable. how stuck up the right wings ass this website is. truly amazing. and people like Kevin Drum and Joe Klein still qualify as liberal democrats. we don't need people this confused trying to espouse the party line.

of course people who really care about this country are totally against this bullshit NSA program as there is no basis for it in law or in the constitution. and that ought to be enough reason even for pussies like Klein. it is also wrong though, simply by association with Bush the war criminal, domestic criminal, general criminal. Still waiting for these bastards running our government into the ground to be thrown in jail over Abu Ghraib! Too bad people like Drum and Klein who are in a position to do something just spend all their time apologizing instead of attacking Bush and company, for they are as anti-American as they come.

Posted by: Onceler on January 10, 2006 at 12:45 PM | PERMALINK

You seem to be suggesting alito just rebuffed GWB. To take anything out of these show hearings is absurd.

Oh my God! Alito is under oath.

Are you the stupidest person on the face of the Earth? Judge Alito is sworn to tell the truth and you're calling these 'show hearings???'

With each post, you break your own all-time record for abject idiocy. Bravo.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK
Bush honors ALL agreements.

Aside from the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the International Convention against Torture (etc.), and so on.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 10, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Pale Rider,

In a sense, strange as it is to utter this phrase, rdw is right: these are show hearing, and to take much out of Alito's comments in them is, well, stupid.

Alito wants a job, and will tell the Senate what he thinks they want to hear so that he can get that job. That's his track record.

Are you the stupidest person on the face of the Earth? Judge Alito is sworn to tell the truth and you're calling these 'show hearings???'

Look, what he's saying is, clearly, that Judge Alito is an opportunistic power seeker with no serious commitment to the truth.

And he's probably mostly correct.

Posted by: cmdicely on January 10, 2006 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely,

Sad, isn't it? We've reduced sworn testimony before Congress into a show hearing.

We need to have you pass the bar and start going after these bastards.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

rdw
12:20 post, you called Bush " a brilliant tactical and straategic politician" and Kyoto is already dead they just don't know it.

You imply the brilliant politician destroyed the agreement. And you have a sense of Schadenfreude.

Also the Bushies want to improve and advance existing nuclear weapons.

The Geneva conventions are quaint and need not be honored, Bush can do whatever it takes.

Also with executice directives he can undo anything previous administrations did, and he did a lot of that.

Why would anyone, Americans and foreigners trust this administration?

The Iranians have every reason to want nuclear weapons.

Now we have a nut in Iran and in DC. That is dangerous.

While the Europeans tried to negotiate with Iran the Americans talked about more and better nuclear weapons. Like a stab in the back.

Posted by: Renate on January 10, 2006 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, pale rider,

These hearings are about fund-raising 1st and judging qualifications 2nd. This is a partisan political battle. Sam is very highly qualified as suggested by the ABA and everyone who has worked with him. If Ruth can get on he deserves the same pass.

I can't blame you for stopping him. He's Clarence Thomas and along with Clarence and John we've got 3 bedrock conservatives for 30+ years.

It's your misfortune the judiciary comittee is staffed with hacks. Biden talked for 15 minutes before Sam said a word. A minute later Joe interrupted him. At the end Joe thanked Sam for his responsiveness. Sam said 72 words in 30 minutes. What he meant to say was, "thanks for not interrupting".

This is a farce and you know it. Alito is an outstanding jurist

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Alito is an outstanding jurist

And is complete agreement with me that the President is NOT above the law and he is in complete disagreement with you on all matters regarding executive power.

So far, I would say confirm him. Unlike you and GWB, at least he's read the Constitution.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

I'm lost as to how Bush broke these treaties.

The Geneva conventions do not apply in Iraq and I have no idea how we're supposed to have violated anything else we've signed.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

For all the nitpickers with their talking points above:

1) Would you really feel differently about these issues if the Authorization to Use Force had been retitled a Declaration of War? Acually I agree we should have had a formal declaration of war -- it would have trapped nuanced (i.e., two faced) Senators into deciding which side of the issue they wanted to be on.

2) The best explaination I've seen as to why Bush did not bring this issue to the attention of Congress (and therefore to be debated publicly) is that most terrorists were not aware that servers and switching stations in the US, due to our redundant capacity, are frequently used even for purely outside-the-US calls -- i.e., from Instanbul to Islamabad. Now that the issue has been publicised al Qaida has changed their tactics. I'm glad you guys are happy about that, but I don't think voters in Ohio will be.

Posted by: minion of rove on January 10, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

So far, I would say confirm him. Unlike you and GWB, at least he's read the Constitution.

I'm increasingly certain you are about to get your wish. The 1st 1/2 day analysis is he came through clean. The Senators were surprisingly easy with Sam following a smart rope-a-dope strategy of letting them do all of the talking. As one paper noter earlier Teddy Kennedy is far over the hill sounding increasingly shrill and clearly less able to think on his feat. He does not do well in an exchange.

It's also much to Sams advantage the GOP went to school after the Bork hearings. The GOP Senators have so far been well prepared to rebut any charges or slanders made by the previous Senator. It's very helpful to Sam he is actually able to talk when it's the GOPs turn andwe get to see this smart but humble, self-effacing guy. A bit of a geek but in a good way.

Unless something changes dramatially he's in easy. Forget a filibuster.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 1:53 PM | PERMALINK

The Geneva conventions do not apply in Iraq and I have no idea how we're supposed to have violated anything else we've signed.

Funny, the Bush regimes seems to think they do apply, since Iraq and the US are both signatories to that treaty:

By Campbell Brown
Correspondent
NBC News
Updated: 8:10 p.m. ET May 20, 2004

...But as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has made clear, the Geneva Conventions do apply in Iraq.

Iraq's a nation. The United States is a nation. The Geneva Conventions applied. They have applied every single day from the outset, Rumsfeld has said.

NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 8:10 p.m. ET May 17, 2004

...[Attorney General] Gonzales told NBC News on Monday night that there was no evidence linking his determination on al-Qaida detainees to the abuse in Iraq, where, he said, the Geneva Conventions protections are supposed to apply.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan concurred, telling reporters that the memo related specifically to al-Qaida and the Taliban. It did not reference Iraq at all. We have made it clear that we are bound by the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.


Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

rdw proves he is the stupidest of the stupidest, a paragon of stupidity in the stupid world of Republican politics...a giant amongst stupid men everywhere...

The Geneva conventions do not apply in Iraq

They don't??? Wait a minute...didn't the United States sign on to the Geneva Conventions?

Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949.

United States of America
Signature 12.08.1949

Ratification / Accession 02.08.1955

Reservation / Declaration 02.08.1955.;04.03.1975.;31.12.1974.

Reservation / Declaration text

Reservation made upon signature and maintained upon ratification:

Mr. VINCENT, Minister of the United States of America in Switzerland, on signing the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of August 12, 1949, made the following declaration:

"The Government of the United States fully supports the objectives of this Convention.

"I am instructed by my Government to sign, making the following reservation to Article 68:

"The United States reserve the right to impose the death penalty in accordance with the provisions of Article 68, paragraph 2, without regard to whether the offences referred to therein are punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory at the time the occupation begins"

SOURCE: Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol.I, Federal Political Department, Berne, p.346.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Jinx!

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

I said double jinx first, so it doesn't count.

Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

Well, either way--rdw is a dipshit.

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 2:22 PM | PERMALINK

stefan,

I stand corrected. I should have been clearer. The geneva conventions apply everywhere. Everywhere we have armed combatants wearing a uniform. To the extent the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and for that matter, France, are not wearing ir uniform, or some like distinction, they are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. For all practical purposes this means the middle east.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 2:38 PM | PERMALINK

stefan,

last post cont.

Thus I did say we are not bound by the Geneva conventions. I said they do not apply because the enemy isn't covered in the Geneva Conventions.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 2:41 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter rdw,

"Everything I meant to say was wrong."

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

pale rider,

Everything stands. GWB is untouchable. You've been babbling about impeachment for years now and have only managed to get a few laughs.

You had your hair on fire over the ABM treaty. What a dud that was.

You had your hair on fire over Kyoto. You ain't seen nothing yet. Bill Clinton had a meltdown in Montreal last month but he impelled the team to a 'watershed agreement' (AP headline). They agreed to meet again and talk some more.
So far Blair's told them 2x's it's over and the new Conservative PM of Canada has already said they're pulling out.

You've had your hair on fire over GITMO. And why not? Just because it's not possible for the Koran to fit down a toilet doesn't mean it didn't happen. Ann Merkel just told the home crowd when she goes to DC she'll lobby GWB to close Gitmo. Here's my prediction. She's just posturing. She won't say anything. We'll know for sure within a month. If GWB pulls another 10K troops out of Germany we'll know she got diarhhia of the mouth.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

The geneva conventions apply everywhere. Everywhere we have armed combatants wearing a uniform. To the extent the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan and for that matter, France, are not wearing ir uniform, or some like distinction, they are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. For all practical purposes this means the middle east.

In fact, no. The Geneva Conventions apply as well to armed insurgents not in uniform (so that, for example, they applied to our treatment of Vietcong guerillas in Vietnam). While the Third Geneva Convention addresses "prisoners of war" (POWs), including one category of prisoner that must be in uniform ("a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance") to be granted protections, the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which lays out separate protections for civilians. Although the protections for civilians are more limited than for POWs, under Article IV they cover "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

Captured combatants who are not entitled to POW status have been described as "unlawful combatants" or "non-privileged combatants, " although neither term is found in the Geneva Conventions. Such persons are still protected under the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention. This Convention also applies to civilian non-combatants who are affected by the conflict and due special protections as "protected persons."

All detainees fall somewhere within the protections of these two Conventions; according to the authoritative Commentary to the Geneva Conventions of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): "nobody in enemy hands can fall outside the law."

Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 3:21 PM | PERMALINK
The Geneva conventions do not apply in Iraq

Yes, they do. Both the Third and the Fourth, particularly.

and I have no idea how we're supposed to have violated anything else we've signed.

You have no idea how the US use of torture violates the Convention against Torture?

Posted by: cmdicely on January 10, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Thus I did say we are not bound by the Geneva conventions. I said they do not apply because the enemy isn't covered in the Geneva Conventions.

In fact, no. Under international law the protections of Geneva are triggered not by mutual recognition of the parties but by the mere existence of armed conflict itself. That is to say, the United States, as a signatory to Geneva, is bound by law to obey its provisions even if its opponents do not. (Just as, for analogy's sake, the police have to obey the law even if the criminals don't).

Moreover, Additional Protocol I, which the United States has signed but not ratified, extends the Conventions' protections even to those engaged in "armed conflicts in which people are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their rights to self-determination" -- i.e. it covers armed insurgents against an occupying power, as is the case in Iraq.

But don't take my word for it, take Don Rumsfeld's, who has said "There is no ambiguity about whether the Geneva Conventions apply in Iraq. There has never been any ambiguity...The Geneva Convetion's applied."

Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Cmdicely, Stefan,

we're not getting in the weeds. 1st off I've seen no evidence of torture. 2nd, we're not talking about civilians or non-combatants. We're talking about terrorists.

Hurl all of your accusations all day long. They're not a factor in the real world. It is true the Europeans are upset about this. It is equally true they are not relevent. I know public opinion in Europe means everything to liberals. It has a quite different meaning to conservatives. By itself it means nothing. It has value to the extent it's a signpost. If Jacques says up that means the correct answer is down.

I understand Rummy and he is quite right and there's absolutely no conflict.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

Hurl all of your accusations all day long.

How does quoting something Secretary Donald Rumsfeld actually said constitute an 'accusation?'

Oh, wait--we're in rdw world!

Doot doot doot dooten-da-doot! This edition of Sesame Street brought to you by the letter "R" and the number "Dumbass."

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 10, 2006 at 5:24 PM | PERMALINK

I understand Rummy and he is quite right and there's absolutely no conflict.

So when Rumsfeld says that the Geneva Conventions apply in Iraq he is, therefore, quite right.

Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 5:38 PM | PERMALINK

2nd, we're not talking about civilians or non-combatants. We're talking about terrorists.

There is, however, no category of "terrorist" within the Geneva Conventions. The Conventions cover all persons in a war zone, both military and civilian, both occupier and occupied. All persons apprehended in the course of an armed conflict are covered by Geneva.

Moreover, the mere fact that someone has committed a war crime or similar offense does not remove them from the protections of Geneva -- even convicted war criminals must be held under Geneva rules.

Posted by: Stefan on January 10, 2006 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

stefan,

THat is not true. There is a middle ground of combatants who are not in an army. Terrorists are NOT covered by Geneva.

BTW: Alito kicked ass. It's the classic case of a 1st rate lawyer and a brilliant legal mind, against 3rd lawyers and political hacks. They had more time to prepare for Alito and 15 years of history but have NOTHING. Moreover, they act like hacks. Alito is clearly a patient and reasonable man. The contrast is sharp.

One other thing is obvious. The GOP is unusually well prepared. It appears they've anticipated every attacked thread and had a practiced response.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 6:23 PM | PERMALINK

The Genneva Conventions are about human rights, just simple human decency, to argue about it is obscene by itself.

Anyone who would justify any kind of torture is simply dispicable. Cheney, bush and the likes of them are without honor, they make me want to puke, rdw are you one of them ? Do you think you can justify this kind of behaviour and the go to church?

Posted by: Renate on January 10, 2006 at 8:13 PM | PERMALINK

absolutely,

We must fight the terrorize with all the tools at our our disposal so we can exterminate every last one of them.

Posted by: rdw on January 10, 2006 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

THat is not true. There is a middle ground of combatants who are not in an army. Terrorists are NOT covered by Geneva.

Yes, they are. Everyone in a war zone is covered by Geneva. The United States, as a signatory to Geneva, is obliged by law to apply Geneva in its conflicts. I've provided you with the wording of Article IV of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

If you believe that "terrorists" (which term is never used in the Conventions) are not covered, please cite chapter and verse in the Conventions to back up your statements. Mere repititions of "it's not true! It's not, it's not!" aren't exactly convincing.

Posted by: Stefan on January 11, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Stefan,

Actually. There are lots of clauses for terrorists to not be combatants. See below.
I would note that you bashed others without citing any evidence yourself or getting it right.

http://www.genevaconventions.org/

sabotage - An occupying power may sentence civilians to death if they are guilty of serious acts of sabotage but only if these offenses were punishable by death by local laws before the occupation began. (Convention IV, Art. 68)

spies- Combatant who are captured while spying do not have the right to prisoner of war status unless they were wearing their military uniforms. (Protocol I, Art. 46)

mercenaries -A mercenary is any person who is specially recruited in order to fight in an armed conflict, who takes a direct part in the hostilities, who is motivated by money and is promised substantially higher pay than that paid to other combatants of similar rank, who is not a national of one of the countries involved in the conflict nor a resident of a territory controlled by any of the parties, is not a member of the armed forces of any of the parties, and who has not been sent by another country on official duty as a member of its armed forces. (Protocol I, Art. 47)

A mercenary does not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war. (Protocol I, Art. 37)


Posted by: McAristotle on January 11, 2006 at 4:29 AM | PERMALINK

McAristotle,

Thanks, I learned something. I did not know mercenaries were not covered by Geneva but it makes sense.

Posted by: rdw on January 11, 2006 at 7:50 AM | PERMALINK

McAritotle 4:29 AM

So does that mean anyone not a POW can be tortured?

Do the Geneva Conventions permit anything less than human treatment anywhere?

I don't think so.

Posted by: Renate on January 11, 2006 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

sabotage - An occupying power may sentence civilians to death if they are guilty of serious acts of sabotage but only if these offenses were punishable by death by local laws before the occupation began. (Convention IV, Art. 68) spies- Combatant who are captured while spying do not have the right to prisoner of war status unless they were wearing their military uniforms. (Protocol I, Art. 46)

No, incorrect. You'll recall that this began when rdw asserted first that the Geneva Conventions do not apply in Iraq (which has been proven false by the Bush regime's own assertions to the contrary) and second that the Geneva Conventions do not somehow cover the treatment of "terrorists."

The clauses cited above, however, (i) refer to spies and saboteurs, both terms which have a commonly understood meaning in the laws of war, and not terrorists, and (ii) demonstrate that rather than Geneva not applying, Geneva instead provides a legal framework for how to deal with those categories. In the case of saboteurs, for example, the plain language of the clause is that the occupying power may only treat saboteurs in accordance with local law, not that they exist outside of the law. While saboteurs may be sentenced to death, the key word here is "sentenced" -- i.e. punished after due legal process, not held outside of any legal channels.

In the case of spies, moreover, combatants who were captured out of uniform still have the right to a hearing in which they can challenge their status.

In either case, the determination of the status of spies and saboteurs is made under a legal regime set up by Geneva and thus disproves the claim that Geneva somehow does not apply.

Posted by: Stefan on January 11, 2006 at 10:11 AM | PERMALINK

I did not know mercenaries were not covered by Geneva but it makes sense.

That's too bad for the US because it's America and not the Iraqis who are employing mercenaries in this conflict. (Or, as the Republican PC police prefer to call them, "contractors" -- not only will they fight your war for you, they'll redo your plumbing, plaster the ceiling and install a new kitchen!)

Even mercenaries, however, have the right to humane treatment. While they do not have the right to be treated as "combatants or prisoners of war" they are still covered by the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Posted by: Stefan on January 11, 2006 at 10:15 AM | PERMALINK

Renate,

I'm not a lawyer but I know the Geneva conventions are not the US Constitution. We agreed to specific restrictions in specific launguage. If the situation is not covered the conventions do not apply. We follow US law regarding terrorists and US law ONLY.

Posted by: rdw on January 11, 2006 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

A note to those who say the President can avoid laws: doesn't he take an oath to faithfully execute the laws? What does the term "executive" mean, anyway? (Look it up.) Where in the USC do you see the grounds for such a strong executive? Finally, you may be right that someone has to bend rules to protect us etc., but by definition of principles that is not a "conservative" position.

Posted by: Neil' on January 11, 2006 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

I'm not a lawyer but I know the Geneva conventions are not the US Constitution. We agreed to specific restrictions in specific launguage. If the situation is not covered the conventions do not apply. We follow US law regarding terrorists and US law ONLY.

I am a lawyer and I know that the Geneva Convention is actually US law since it's a treaty we have bound ourselve too. Article VI of the Constitution provides that "This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding."

What that means is that any treaty which the US signs becomes, ipso facto, US law. The US has signed the Geneva Conventions and they are, in the language of the Constitution, "the supreme law of the land."


Posted by: Stefan on January 11, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

the rdw hit parade:

One other thing is obvious. The GOP is unusually well prepared. It appears they've anticipated every attacked thread and had a practiced response.

We must fight the terrorize with all the tools at our our disposal so we can exterminate every last one of them.

I did not know mercenaries were not covered by Geneva but it makes sense.

I'm not a lawyer but I know the Geneva conventions are not the US Constitution.

What's next? What other words of wisdom and deep intellectual thought will well up out of the depths of that deep, deep thinker rdw?

rdw: "There's no way a man wearing a nice suit can lie to the American people."

rdw: "If you put some tomato juice on that, it won't smell."

rdw: "The other day I ate a cookie and it was good! Mmm, mmm!"

rdw: "When the doctor forgets to make me take my pills, I see blood red murder everywhere."

rdw: "France! Blood! Hamdingers! Interest Rates! Old Europe! Little GTO! Canned Ham! Germany! Flat Tax! Flugelhorns! Blaaaaaaaaaaaahrrrgggghhh!"

Posted by: Pale Rider on January 11, 2006 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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