Tuli Can't Stop Talking

These are just my thoughts on contemporary issues and an attempt to open up a dialogue.

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A citizen who cares deeply about the United States Constitution and the Rule of Law.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

NYT’s Covers for Bush’s Search and Seizure.

As I said in my last post, Doug Thompson at Capital Hill Blue sometimes gets it right and should not be dismissed out of hand as when he reported that Bush, who swore to uphold the constitution, said the U.S. Constitution, “It’s just a god dammed piece of paper.”

Now, that “God dammed piece of paper” has what is known as The Fourth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which is part of that pesky Bill of Rights, to protect American Citizens against the Government’s illegal searches and seizures.

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

The Bill of Rights, for those who don’t remember, is part of our Constitution to protect us all from the Whim and Tyranny of the Monarch. This is part of what makes the United States a country of Laws and not Men.

So, it appears Thompson was right with his reporting over a year ago about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying on U. S. Citizens at the President’s order.

As the Times reported:

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials.

Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the intelligence agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said. The agency, they said, still seeks warrants to monitor entirely domestic communications.

The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval was a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.”

That the New York Times reported that George W. Bush signed an executive order three years ago subverting the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the 1978 law establishing the rules for surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) is indeed troubling and shows that Thompson indeed can not be dismissed out of hand.

That George W. Bush would engage in this contravention of the U. S. Constitution and any other law of the land is not shocking to me. Let’s face it this is not an administration that hews to the letter of the law as in torture and rendition. It has called the Geneva Conventions quaint and subverted Habeas Corpus by detaining American Citizens indefinitely without charges or access to lawyers and the court. Just ask Mr. Padilla and Mr. Hamdi if they are shocked at anything this administration would do.

The real nut of this disclosure is that the New York Times sat on this story and covered for the administration for at least a year.

According to the New York Times:

“The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.”

Have these people learned nothing from the Judith Miller “WMD” debacle. Is this just another example of the “Liberal Media” that FOX screams about? That the “Paper of Record” acquiesced to this administration's request to sit on this vital information concerning the possible subverting of the law of the land in 2004 is unconscionable. When exactly in 2004 did they have this information, was it before or after November 2nd?

That Bush is unrepentant about this breach with the trust of American Citizens* and the U. S. Constitution is not surprising. That he is outraged by the press outing this more than likely unlawful activity is to be expected. Maybe he thought the “Liberal Media” would keep his secret forever.

It is heartening to see that some in Congress may have awakened from their slumber and will actually engage in some oversight. As the WAPO reports:

“Disclosure of the NSA plan had an immediate effect on Capitol Hill, where Democratic senators and a handful of Republicans derailed a bill that would renew expiring portions of the USA Patriot Act anti-terrorism law. Opponents repeatedly cited the previously unknown NSA program as an example of the kinds of government abuses that concerned them, while the GOP chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee said he would hold oversight hearings on the issue.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who favored the Patriot Act renewal but said the NSA issue provided valuable ammunition for its opponents.”

The Times reasoning for withholding this vital information from the U.S. electorate is less than convincing. As reported by one of their competitors, the Washington Post:

“The Times said it agreed to remove information that administration officials said could be "useful" to terrorists and delayed publication for a year "to conduct additional reporting."

The paper offered no explanation to its readers about what had changed in the past year to warrant publication. It also did not disclose that the information is included in a forthcoming book, "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration," written by James Risen, the lead reporter on yesterday's story. The book will be published in mid-January, according to its publisher, Simon & Schuster.

The decision to withhold the article caused some friction within the Times' Washington bureau, according to people close to the paper. Some reporters and editors in New York and in the bureau, including Risen and co-writer Eric Lichtblau, had pushed for earlier publication, according to these people. One described the story's path to publication as difficult, with much discussion about whether it could have been published earlier.

In a statement yesterday, Times Executive Editor Bill Keller did not mention the book. He wrote that when the Times became aware that the NSA was conducting domestic wiretaps without warrants, "the Administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security."

So, what has changed that the Times is releasing this story now? Was it that the Patriot Act is being reconsidered? Could Sen. Feingold’s statements on the Senate floor during the Filibuster have anything to do with the decision to come clean?

Here is a portion of his statement and plea for the reconsideration of the USA Patriot Act and its Fourth Amendment ramifications:

“Let me make one final point about sneak and peek warrants. Don’t be fooled for a minute into believing that this power is needed to investigate terrorism or espionage. It’s not. Section 213 is a criminal provision that could apply in whatever kind of criminal investigation the government has undertaken. In fact, most sneak and peek warrants are issued for drug investigations. So why do I say that they aren’t needed in terrorism investigations? Because FISA also can apply to those investigations. And FISA search warrants are always executed in secret, and never require notice. If you really don’t want to give notice of a search in a terrorism investigation, you can get a FISA warrant. So any argument that limiting the sneak and peek power as we have proposed will interfere with sensitive terrorism investigations is a red herring.”

It is good to know that some of our legislators understand that these Fourth Amendment subversions are about undermining our Civil Liberties and not protecting us from the Terrorists.

In fact if we continue down this road the Terrorists will have won.

Wake Up “Liberal Media!” In your mealy mouthed desire to be “Balanced” you are betraying the American Public. You know there is a reason the New York Times is called “Pravda,” it is because it is seen as being the scribe and stenographer of the Administration and those in power.

Khrushchev and Nixon would have been thrilled.

UPDATE: Here is the earlier Yahoo Article* which I had posted before it was extensively edited:

Bush Won't Discuss Report of NSA Spying

By JENNIFER LOVEN, Associated Press Writer 21 minutes ago

President Bush refused to say whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States but leaders of Congress condemned the practice on Friday and promised to look into what the administration has done.

"There is no doubt that this is inappropriate," said Sen. Arlen Specter (news, bio, voting record), R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said there would be hearings early next year and that they would have "a very, very high priority." He wasn't alone in reacting harshly to the report. Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., said the story, first reported in Friday's New York Times, was troubling.

Bush said in an interview that "we do not discuss ongoing intelligence operations to protect the country. And the reason why is that there's an enemy that lurks, that would like to know exactly what we're trying to do to stop them.

"I will make this point," Bush said. "That whatever I do to protect the American people — and I have an obligation to do so — that we will uphold the law, and decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people."

The president spoke in an interview to be aired Friday evening on "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer."

Bush played down the importance of the eavesdropping story. "It's not the main story of the day," Bush told Lehrer. "The main story of the day is the Iraqi elections" for parliament which took place on Thursday.

Neither Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice nor White House press secretary Scott McClellan would confirm or deny the report which said the super-secret NSA had spied on as many as 500 people at any given time since 2002 in this country.

That year, following the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush authorized the NSA to monitor the international phone calls and international e-mails of hundreds — perhaps thousands — of people inside the United States, the Times reported.

McClellan said the White House has received no requests for information from lawmakers because of the report. "Congress does have an important oversight role," he said.

Before the program began, the NSA typically limited its domestic surveillance to foreign embassies and missions and obtained court orders for such investigations. Overseas, 5,000 to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are monitored at one time.

"This is Big Brother run amok," declared Sen. Edward Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), D-Mass. Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., called it a "shocking revelation" that "ought to send a chill down the spine of every senator and every American."

Administration officials reacted to the report by asserting that the president has respected the Constitution while striving to protect the American people.

Rice said Bush has "acted lawfully in every step that he has taken." And McClellan said Bush "is going to remain fully committed to upholding our Constitution and protect the civil liberties of the American people. And he has done both."

The report surfaced as the administration and its GOP allies on Capitol Hill were fighting to save provisions of the expiring USA Patriot Act that they believe are key tools in the fight against terrorism. An attempt to rescue the approach favored by the White House and Republicans failed on a procedural vote Friday morning.

The Times said reporters interviewed nearly a dozen current and former administration officials about the program and granted them anonymity because of the classified nature of the program.

Government officials credited the new program with uncovering several terrorist plots, including one by Iyman Faris, an Ohio trucker who pleaded guilty in 2003 to supporting al-Qaida by planning to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge, the report said.

Some NSA officials were so concerned about the legality of the program that they refused to participate, the Times said. Questions about the legality of the program led the administration to temporarily suspend it last year and impose new restrictions.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales refused to confirm that the NSA eavesdrops on Americans or whether he played any role, in his previous job as White House counsel, in providing legal justification for the program.

Gonzales said Bush is waging an aggressive fight against terrorism, but one that is "consistent with the Constitution."

But he said generally that the government has an intense need for information in the struggle. "Winning the war on terrorism requires winning the war of information We are dealing with a patient, diabolical enemy who wants to harm America," Gonzales said at a news conference at the Justice Department on child prostitution arrests.

Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the group was shocked by the disclosure.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon said it was reviewing its use of a classified database of information about suspicious people and activity inside the United States after a report by NBC News said the database listed activities of anti-war groups that were not a security threat to Pentagon property or personnel.

The administration had briefed congressional leaders about the NSA program and notified the judge in charge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret Washington court that handles national security issues.

The Times said it delayed publication of the report for a year because the White House said it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. The Times said it omitted information from the story that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists.


More from TalkLeft and Firedoglake

UPDATE: Bush Says he Ordered Secret Domestic Spying and he was Right!


Blogger Tote Board Brad said...

Just infuriating, really. For the rest of the day, I'm steering clear of politics. It's Christmas, for Christ's sake.

Headed to Santa Anita for opening day tomorrow.

3:23 PM  

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