Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Skidmark Amendment

The proposed constitutional amendment, in full:

The law is what we say it is, when we say it is.

In acknowledging the message was true, President Bush took aim at the messenger Saturday, saying that a newspaper jeopardized national security by revealing that he authorized wiretaps on U.S. citizens after September 11.

After The New York Times reported, and CNN confirmed, a claim that Bush gave the National Security Agency license to eavesdrop on Americans communicating with people overseas, the president said that his actions were permissible, but that leaking the revelation to the media was illegal.

Uh-huh. Except the Times sat on the story for over a year, supposedly to "investigate further". Someone should call a panel on blogger ethics. Once again, it would have been handy to know this stuff last fucking year, when we could have done something about it.

But it is rather comical to listen to Mister Man smack his wittle sppon against the high chair and excoriate the leakers. We know how you feel about leakers, Chief, at least when they leak stuff that supposed to benefit you.

Such a fine, moral, forthright straight-shooter. Why, I'd like to have a beer with him.

Bush added: "Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."

He acknowledged during the address that he allowed the NSA "to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."

Heh. Interesting how they go from the usual "nobody here but us chickens" mode to "yeah, we did it, and fuck you if you have a problem with it" in less than 24 hours. Verily and forsooth, the adults are in charge. Listen, why don't you guys take the weekend and see if you can get your stories straight, then send Fluffer McClellan out to disassemble to the press corps for the millionth time, treat us all like we're in third grade, and then you can go back to your power naps and pretzels. Sound like a deal?

After hearing Bush's response, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, said there was no law allowing the president's actions and that "it's a sad day."

"He's trying to claim somehow that the authorization for the Afghanistan attack after 9/11 permitted this, and that's just absurd," Feingold said. "There's not a single senator or member of Congress who thought we were authorizing wiretaps."

He added that the law clearly lays out how to obtain permission for wiretaps.

"If he needs a wiretap, the authority is already there -- the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act," Feingold said. "They can ask for a warrant to do that, and even if there's an emergency situation, they can go for 72 hours as long as they give notice at the end of 72 hours."

Feingold lays it out right there. They can file for a warrant under FISA quite easily; the mechanism is there for just that purpose. As I've already pointed out, there's a reason they've chosen this path to do things, the same reason they've chosen to outsource torture to former Iron Curtain gulags, the same reason they've "accidentally" kidnapped German and Canadian citizens and sent them to Egypt and Syria to get their fingernails yanked out for a year or so.

They don't think they should be held accountable for anything they do. They don't want to leave a paper trail. When they assured us post-9/11 that they had flirted with and discarded the notion of a shadow government to take care of covert domestic surveillance, it was an obvious head-fake, and sure enough, the truth is finally starting to trickle out.

Bush defended signing the order by saying that two of the September 11 hijackers who flew the plane into the Pentagon -- Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi -- "communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas, but we didn't know they were here until it was too late."

He said the authorizations have made it "more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time, and the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad."

Sure, except all we heard after the initial cries of intelligence failure was the opposite -- that if anything, we had a veritable firehose of intelligence, but lacked the proper mechanisms and interdepartmental coordination to process all of it. That was why the Homeland Security boondoggle was set up. That's why Slam Dunk Tenet got his golden handshake, and Porter Goss, who unwittingly met with Mahmoud Ahmad (a Pakistani ISI general who had contributed $100K to al Qaeda) on the morning of September 11, 2001, to be DCI.

Has Bush forgotten about the August 6, 2001 PDB (handed to him by none other than Harriet Miers) entitled "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In The US"? Probably he has; that was pretty early into his vacation season that summer. Well, it doesn't all just go down the memory hole, Harvard -- some of us can recall all this shit pretty well.

And lest you just assume that all this covert muscle is being deployed exclusively at the swarthy types, this [via Kos] may disabuse us of that notion:

NEW BEDFORD -- A senior at UMass Dartmouth was visited by federal agents two months ago, after he requested a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's tome on Communism called "The Little Red Book."
Two history professors at UMass Dartmouth, Brian Glyn Williams and Robert Pontbriand, said the student told them he requested the book through the UMass Dartmouth library's interlibrary loan program.
The student, who was completing a research paper on Communism for Professor Pontbriand's class on fascism and totalitarianism, filled out a form for the request, leaving his name, address, phone number and Social Security number. He was later visited at his parents' home in New Bedford by two agents of the Department of Homeland Security, the professors said.
The professors said the student was told by the agents that the book is on a "watch list," and that his background, which included significant time abroad, triggered them to investigate the student further.
"I tell my students to go to the direct source, and so he asked for the official Peking version of the book," Professor Pontbriand said. "Apparently, the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring inter-library loans, because that's what triggered the visit, as I understand it."


The Little Red Book, is a collection of quotations and speech excerpts from Chinese leader Mao Tse-Tung.
In the 1950s and '60s, during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was required reading. Although there are abridged versions available, the student asked for a version translated directly from the original book.
The student told Professor Pontbriand and Dr. Williams that the Homeland Security agents told him the book was on a "watch list." They brought the book with them, but did not leave it with the student, the professors said.

So are we fighting terrorism or retro communism? Why exactly did the agents not only put the arm on this kid, but not let him have the book, once they apparently realized that he was just working on a research paper? What is the fucking deal with these people?

Are we feeling safer yet?

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