February 7, 2006
The Opposite of Intelligence
If anyone can show me that the National Security Agency, under order
from President Bush or top aides, eavesdropped on Hillary Clinton
or Ted Kennedy or some prominent partisan critic, I'll change my
tune and see what this administration is doing as a threat to civil
liberties. Until then, I can only see the attacks on an NSA surveillance
program -- on Monday the Senate Judiciary Committee grilled Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales over the program that allowed officials
to data-mine information from international phone calls and the
Internet -- as ill-conceived, partisan and dangerous.
The Sept. 11 commission's purpose was to figure out why authorities
did not connect the dots and prevent those deadly terrorist attacks.
Now, Washington is scolding the NSA for using state-of-the-art
technology to try to connect more dots.
Yes, there are Republicans who have questioned the NSA program.
Still, most Democrats won't give the Bushies the same break they'd
hand to a Democratic administration in a heartbeat.
the Clinton administration conducted warrantless searches in an
American's home. His name was Aldrich Ames, and he later pleaded
guilty to spying for the former Soviet Union while working for
the CIA. As The Washington Post reported in 1994, "government
officials decided in the Ames case that no warrant was required
because the searches were conducted for 'foreign intelligence
purposes.'" There was no huge outcry that Clintonia should
have obtained a warrant.
Justice official Jamie Gorelick contended in a letter to the Judiciary
Committee that the president had "the inherent authority
to authorize foreign intelligence physical searches" -- but
that, after Ames, the administration later sought to change the
FISA law to include physical searches because "it would be
better" to have congressional and judicial oversight of those
be better? That's it? Gorelick won't say that the Bush NSA program
is illegal, as some senators charge, but only that her testimony
for the FISA change in 1994 "does not address that question."
That should tell you that the legality of the NSA program is,
at worst, debatable.
Actually, it's only dangerous if Washington manages to bury vital
intelligence information that allows a terrorist attack which
might have been thwarted to occur.
ask: Why didn't the NSA simply seek warrants retroactively? They're
as easy to get as candy. Why, the FISA courts only rejected four
out of tens of thousands.
is clear. As The Washington Post reported Sunday, much
of the NSA data-mining produced leads that led nowhere. They didn't
provide probable cause for a warrant.
cases where a FISA warrant would seem to be a sure thing -- as
when FBI agents wanted to get into (now admitted al-Qaida terrorist)
Zacarias Moussaoui's laptop -- it was not.
straight from the Sept. 11 panel report: Even though an FBI agent
had figured out that admitted terrorist Moussaoui was "an
Islamic extremist preparing for some future act in furtherance
of radical fundamentalist goals,'' even though Moussaoui drew
suspicion taking lessons for flying the Boeing 747 without the
requisite background, even though Moussaoui had $32,000 in the
bank but no plausible explanation why, "the case agent did
not have sufficient information to connect Moussaoui to a 'foreign
power'" -- which was a "statutory requirement for a
Is the Bush
administration doing everything right? Hell, no. The Bushies'
argument that Congress essentially authorized these wiretaps when
it authorized the use of military force after the Sept. 11 attacks
is disingenuous and infuriating.
Dubya, the Senate Judiciary Committee is filled with the most
bombastic windbags in America -- they are more irritating saying
absolutely nothing than Gonzales is saying next to nothing.
Specter, R-Pa., the committee chair, has pushed for the administration
to ask the FISA court to review the NSA program. "You think
you're right, but there are a lot of people who think you're wrong,"
Specter told Gonzales. "What do you have to lose if you're
should be: What does America have to lose? If FISA found against
the NSA program, one would hope Congress would pass laws designed
to give intelligence officials what they need -- as long as there's
oversight to prevent abuses. But that may be asking too much.
way to define the most irritating senators on the Judiciary Committee:
They voted for the Patriot Act before they voted against it.
2006 Creators Syndicate