Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 24, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

BUSH TO CONGRESS: JUST KIDDING!....Republicans have spent the past week thunderously denouncing the Traitorcrats for failing to permanently adopt the Protect America Act, complete with retroactive immunity for telecom companies. But guess what? Turns out the White House was just joshing with us:

On Friday evening, Atty. Gen. Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence J. Michael McConnell had said in an unusually blunt letter to Congress that the nation "is now more vulnerable to terrorist attack and other foreign threats" because lawmakers had not yet acted on the administration's proposal for the wiretapping law.

But within hours of sending that letter, administration officials told lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees that they had prevailed upon all of the telecommunications companies to continue cooperating with the government's requests for information while negotiations with Congress continue.

...."Unfortunately, the delay resulting from this discussion impaired our ability to cover foreign intelligence targets, which resulted in missed intelligence information," Mukasey and McConnell added.

Government officials declined to comment on how much intelligence data may have been lost or how serious it might have been.

One Democratic congressional official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, expressed skepticism that any significant gap had existed, noting that existing rules permit continued monitoring of known terrorists and their associates.

...."This is serious backpedaling by the DNI," the Democratic official said of McConnell. "He's been saying for the last week that the sky is falling, and the sky is not falling."

In other words, it was just the usual partisan fearmongering from our supposedly nonpartisan intelligence pro Michael McConnell. At least now we know how seriously to take him the next time he says something like this.

Kevin Drum 4:58 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

So they've started paying them again? I thought that was the big hold up on the wiretaps and not the immunity since they're already immune (though the administration is not).

Posted by: jmauro on February 24, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

This is not good: an Administration and its sycophants (sometimes to the point of being psychophants) willing to distort what happens for smearing and partisan advantage even when it is very important to know what is going on, and even when provided by the sort of sources expected (one might say, above all) to be objective and careful what they say.

Posted by: Neil B. on February 24, 2008 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

Why don't we start calling Telecom Immunity what it really is -- nothing less than an attempt to cover up of the greatest invasion of the privacy of innocent Americans in the history of the country for no damn good reason except they had a bright shinny new toy and thought they could get away with it.

What they have been doing doesn't have a damn thing to do with catching terrorists. If it did they would have caught some and knowing what we have learned over the last 7 years about Bush/Cheney and the gang it they had they would even now be touting how wonderful they are.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 24, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

Wolf!! Wolf!!

Posted by: jcricket on February 24, 2008 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

This McCain ad on the right (yeah, the right) side is hilarious. What is it a 30 yo video of St. John saluting? Do they actually think we are THAT stupid?

Oh, and the teleco immunity? BULLSHIT!

Posted by: icantbelieve on February 24, 2008 at 5:27 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, but it remains true that the Dems want most of us to die, and the rest of us to wear burkas. This is the best the "party of ideas" has.

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 24, 2008 at 5:28 PM | PERMALINK

Osama bin Laden has a degree in engineering. His right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri is a medical doctor. Do the idiots in the Bush Adminstration think that bin Laden and Zawahiri NOT KNOW their communications are being monitored 24/7? How stupid can these morons (i.e. the Bushies) be???

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 24, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

no damn good reason except they had a bright shinny new toy and thought they could get away with it.

Don't be a fool, corpus juris, if you think the criminal cabal behind the theft of the 2000 and 2004 elections, the enablers of 9/11, the military industrial-complex that is looting the US treasury, and all the criminality of the past 7 years were just spyin' for fun and cuz they could - YOUR ARE INSANE!

Posted by: little bear on February 24, 2008 at 5:45 PM | PERMALINK

The full text of the 6-page letter is at http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080222_ag_dni_letter.html

The letter lists a number of problems due to the lack of authorization of this bill. Most of them remain. Lack of cooperation by communications companies was not the primary problem. In fact, the letter says, "most partners intend to cooperate for the time being."

So, the revision is minor.

Furthermore, there's no indication that the original letter was inaccurate. At the time it was written, the letter correctly a few communications companies were not cooperating. Now, those few are cooperating.

But, the other, more serious, problems remain. I expect Congress to eventually pass the Senate version, since a majority of the House supports it.

Posted by: ex-liberal on February 24, 2008 at 5:46 PM | PERMALINK

Not to worry. Bush ignores any laws he doesn't like.

Posted by: Noodles on February 24, 2008 at 5:56 PM | PERMALINK

Sky is falling... falling... falling... never mind.

Posted by: MattF on February 24, 2008 at 6:08 PM | PERMALINK

Little bear, have you taken a look at data mining theory? Employing data mining technology (successfully used to predict shopping patterns and to aid in just in time inventory analysis) to identify potential terrorists is insane. The false positive potential when employing any reasonable set of queries renders any information derived about individuals virtually useless. Then there are issues of data integrity and redundancy. You are better off using good old fashioned detective tools.

That is why I referred to a bright shinny new tool. To a man with a hammer every problem looks like it can be solved with a nail. A bureaucrat with a bright shinny data mining tool thinks he can solve every problem. Mostly he wastes resources. The key is asking the right questions. Most people in the Bush administration aren't smart enough to ask the right questions.

Posted by: Corpus Juris on February 24, 2008 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

It's the usual democrat baiting. It makes no difference whether or not Bushie bills have any effect upon legitimate intelligence gathering, all that matters is that they can fool Joe Sixpack into believing the Democrats are traiors who care nothing about preventing the next terrorist attack. It's been that way for the last six and a half years.

Posted by: bigTom on February 24, 2008 at 6:16 PM | PERMALINK

The full text of the 6-page letter is at http://www.politico.com/static/PPM43_080222_ag_dni_letter.html

Wow, what a bullshit letter. It would be harder to find a longer string of lies and misinformation if you were looking for it.

First, it uses the phrase "in the aftermath of 9/11" over and over as an emotional and cover for lawbreaking. But the reality is the illegal wiretapping began long BEFORE 9/11.

So there is lie #1.

Secondly, the illegal wiretapping did nothing to stop 9/11 attack. Is it perhaps because the administration was using this program for reasons other than tracking down terrorists? In addition to the fact that at the time they weren't very concerned with terrorism according, to officials who worked with the White House?

Signs point to yes.

As jcricket said, this letter is a cry of "wolf!" Hell, this letter was written by the Wolf to the little pigs and Red Riding Hood. In it there are no assurances about not spying on Americans or using information obtained without warrant against citizens.

But if we don't open the door to the administration and let them in or if we don't believe they're really our grandma we're all going to die a fiery death!

The letter hints at "new paths and technologies" but doesn't say what those are or to what level they will be monitored. Web surfing? Email? Text messages? That's where the real meat is at here.

This is definitely a letter in need of strong cross-examination to get at all that is unsaid. In public. On national television. So that every American can know to what level their government is monitoring their communications and with what constitutional provisions and protections.

Or not, as the case may be.

Posted by: trex on February 24, 2008 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

How do "they" "know" they missed intelligence? If they weren't listening, "they" don't know what "they" missed. If "they" were listening, then "they" know what was there. If "they" "know" what was missed, then it wasn't missed.

Posted by: ggersten on February 24, 2008 at 6:44 PM | PERMALINK

you mean i pissed the bed for nothing?

Posted by: benjoya on February 24, 2008 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, let's hear it for Mr. Ego--Ralph Nadar.

Posted by: elr on February 24, 2008 at 7:22 PM | PERMALINK

Clearly Ralph wants to be remembered as the Harold Edward Stassen of the 21st Century.

He might get 600 votes this time.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 24, 2008 at 7:26 PM | PERMALINK

corpus juris, I think you've misconstrued little bear's remarks.

As I read them, he did not intend to claim that data mining was an effective and important tool for gathering intelligence about foreign terrorist activities.

I think he meant to point out that the data mining started before 9/11, and that foreign terrorists are only BushCo's nominal, for-public-consumption enemies. The point and purpose of the data mining is and was domestic and political: the establishment of a Permanent Republican Majority by whatever means necessary, including illegal wiretaps and other intelligence gathering on Democrats, liberals, and other persons appearing on BushCo's Actual Enemies list.

Like me, I imagine. And Kevin. And since you've posted here, you. And Rep. Pelosi the Speaker of the House. And Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. And, well, everyone.

Apparently, 19% of the nation loves Big Brother.

Posted by: joel hanes on February 24, 2008 at 7:39 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of fear and national security-

check out a new post on my blog.

http://www.swanpoliticsblog.blogspot.com

Posted by: Swan on February 24, 2008 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

This type of lying and fear mongering makes it obvious that the Democrats should have started impeachment hearings- with subpoenas- 13 months ago when they retook Congress. Starting a House Judiciary Committee investigation into impeachment which focuses on President Bush's and Vice President Cheney's and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's lies and violations of the Constitution, including the Fourth Amendment's protections against unlawful wiretapping, would immediately squelch all of this behavior.

Mukasey and McConnell would be subpoenaed and put under oath, then asked about the statements they put out with regard to wiretapping, when it actually began (i.e. was it pre 9-11), and whether Americans who had committed no crimes were illegally tapped. Gonzalez, Ashcroft, Powell, and Rice would also be forced to testify under oath about the real focus of the spying when they were in their prior positions. Witnesses would fear that perjury would be prosecuted-- if not by this Administration, especially if it is led by a Democrat.

We wouldn't even need a conviction in the Senate to bring down this lawless administration- Nixon never was even tried on impeachment in the Senate, as the Watergate hearings were sufficient to cause the resignations, prosecutions, and criminal convictions of Nixon and his top officials, including his Attorney General, John Mitchell. But hearings, televised live, have to start, and soon. America needs to know the truth.

Wouldn't it be a good idea for these types of questions to come up at the next debate and in press conferences with John McCain, instead of the faux controversies being manufactured on both sides?

Posted by: James Finkelstein on February 24, 2008 at 7:52 PM | PERMALINK

The guys who failed to protect the United States in 2001 aren't really good judges of what it takes to protect us now. These clowns have enabled more terrorism than any of their programs could ever do to protect us.

Republicans: bad at foreign policy, bad at domestic policy and bad at anti-terrorism policy.

And yes, the impeachment hearings should have started long ago. Bush, Cheney, Scalila, Thomas, Alito and Roberts should all be on the docket. Once those are gone then we can see if our Constitution has been restored. If not, we need to keep going until it is.

Posted by: the on February 24, 2008 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK

Joel

If there were anybody in the administration capable of properly using information derived from data mining, Bush wouldn't be at 19% and the Republicans wouldn't be in the tank. This gang's incompetence appears to be so deep they can't even cheat effectively.

The real question is what the hell happens when a competent bunch of crooks takes over?

Damn I want my Constitution back.

Posted by: corpus juris on February 24, 2008 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

ex-liberal: Lack of cooperation by communications companies was not the primary problem.

Then why is liability, immunity, and the lack of cooperation by those companies a constant refrain in the letter and administration statements? Why would Bush threaten to veto any bill that did not contain immunity provisions, instead of focusing on the other merits of the bills? What does immunity from past sins have to do with cooperation on a go-forward basis? Hint: see S.2448 Sec 202(a)(1)(ii) and Sec 202(b).

Posted by: has407 on February 24, 2008 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

At least now we know how seriously to take him the next time he says something like this.

Uh Kevin, we already knew.

Posted by: ckelly on February 24, 2008 at 8:22 PM | PERMALINK

Well, maybe telecom immunity wasn't a big deal after all, but Obama not wearing a flag pin or putting his hand over his heart during the national anthem is something that our country could never recover from.

Posted by: AJ on February 24, 2008 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

Kudos to Neil B. for "psychophants". (I hope that was original with you.)

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on February 24, 2008 at 8:59 PM | PERMALINK

Our country will never recover because people no longer have ribbon magnets on their cars???

Posted by: Jet on February 24, 2008 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

They are being sarcastic U SAP.

Posted by: Jet on February 24, 2008 at 9:55 PM | PERMALINK

God hates America because we Americans have lost faith in the Grand Old Party. We will continue to suffer terrorist attacks until we pass more tax cuts on the highest marginal tax bracket, we do this in Jesus' name, amen.

Posted by: anonymous on February 24, 2008 at 10:07 PM | PERMALINK

Wonder what would happen if Obama started leading the pledge of allegiance at his rallies?

Posted by: corpus juris on February 24, 2008 at 10:27 PM | PERMALINK

I don't understand the self-hating Obama voter shtick. Rumsfeld had a resume to put Hilary to shame. So what?

Posted by: Ryan on February 25, 2008 at 12:49 AM | PERMALINK

anonymous at 10:07 p.m. upthread may win the award for the funniest post of 2008 so far....

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 25, 2008 at 7:26 AM | PERMALINK

It would be harder to find a longer string of lies and misinformation if you were looking for it.

Why do you think "ex-liberal" liked it so much?

Posted by: Gregory on February 25, 2008 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Instead of waiting until after the PAA provisions expired, why didn't they secure an agreement from the telecoms *before* so that there would be no interruption? It's not like Congress was hard to predict.

Unless... contingency planning is a sign of weakness.

Posted by: Grumpy on February 25, 2008 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

Mukasey and McConnell would be subpoenaed and put under oath, then asked about the statements they put out with regard to wiretapping, when it actually began (i.e. was it pre 9-11), and whether Americans who had committed no crimes were illegally tapped. Gonzalez, Ashcroft, Powell, and Rice would also be forced to testify under oath about the real focus of the spying when they were in their prior positions. Witnesses would fear that perjury would be prosecuted-- if not by this Administration, especially if it is led by a Democrat.

Subpoenad? Put under oath? Screw that -- waterboard the bastards. That'll make 'em talk.

Posted by: Stefan on February 25, 2008 at 9:28 AM | PERMALINK

The 600 ton gorilla in security deficiencies is the open borders with Mexico policies supported by both corrupt Democrats and corrupt Republicans. It is estimated that as many as 60,000 illegal infiltrators from terrorist countries may have entered the U.S. through the Mexican border.

It's obvious al-Qaeda could attack us at any time, if bin Laden wanted to. Apparently he doesn't want to, after underestimating the damage that would occur on 9/11 from the airplane attack and failing to predict the loss of two Moslem countries to infidels in response to the attack.

Everybody in the world knows the U.S. government is monitoring communications, so realistically how much intelligence on terrorists can they get from these activities? I think the motive is control of the American public. The type of monitoring the phone companies have been doing is broad-based using Narus equipment that monitors all communications in real time. Real terrorists probably chatter up a storm of disinformation for fun while the government puts out phony bulletins on having learned of plots that never existed in the first place.

Posted by: Luther on February 25, 2008 at 11:09 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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