Our problems remain epistemological.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Very Gory Opportunism

Ex-everything (senator, vice president, sane person) Al Gore seized the occasion of Dr. Martin Luther King Day to excoriate the Bush administration by comparing its wiretapping of terrorist phone calls to the government's spying on MLK's personal life in the '60s.

Mr. Gore forgot to mention it was not a power-mad fascist Republican, but modern lefty saint Bobby Kennedy who authorized it.

Must have been an oversight.

Source Material Addendum:
"At the outset, let me emphasize two very important points. First, the Department of Justice believes, and the case law supports, that the President has inherent authority to conduct warrantless physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes and that the President may, as has been done, delegate this authority to the Attorney General."---Deputy Attorney General Jamie S. Gorelick, July 14, 1994


(Mr. Gore must have been out sick that day.)


Jay D. Homnick said...

Yes, there was oversight - by the Democratic Congress of that time including, presumably, the late Senator Al Gore Sr.

connie deady said...

Do you ever get tired of being a partisan Republican. I'm sure there is something that Bush has done wrong according to you, but I've yet to see it.

I'm not clear why Bobby Kennedy has anything to do with it. He was wrong then just as Bush is wrong now. Of course J. Edgar was the man behind the paranoia.

I figure they found my phone calls between my daugher and myself while she is in Europe really interesting.

Jay D. Homnick said...

For Connie, a partial list of things that Bush has done wrong.

1) Blew the relationship with Senator Jeffords and cost the Republicans a Senate majority for two years.

2) Left the same stupid wet-foot Cuba policy where refugees are repatriated if they don't make it to shore.

3) Has completely ignored the immigration problem; in fact, he has actually made the border patrols weaker. This is bad government and bad politics, not to mention dangerous.

4) Has continued a completely hypocritical policy of saying that the U.S. must never negotiate with terrorists while insisting that Israel must kowtow to terrorists and accede to their demands.

5) Has shown an almost comical level of disengagement from, if not downright ignorance of, the political situation in South and Central America, which is becoming more dangerous to the United States with each passing day.

6) Has not really made a move (not that Clinton did either) to limit our dependency on oil or to improve the terms under which we acquire it.

7) Has not had the courage to fight environmentalists over their stranglehold on the building of new oil refineries.

8) Has not figured out approaches to getting the middle-of-the-road person in America to see him as a "uniter, not a divider".

I'm just warming up. But I can't even begin to count the ways in which he is better than the alternative.

Tom Van Dyke said...

I understand (but do not agree with) absolutism as to the privacy of communications, but only in the abstract, as a slippery slope argument.

I was quite aware during the Clinton administration, of Echelon, the Colossus: Corbin Project-like omni-computer that sees and hears all. And we all should have been aware of the administration's championing of the Clipper chip. This is old news.

I mention this because I was cool with all that back then, and after 9/11, which was designed and is seen my many as a clarion call for worldwide jihad, am cool with the NSA program now.

Partisan? Moi?? I'm objecting to Gore's cynical co-opting of MLK Day. I'm objecting to Gore's own partisan chickenspit at this late date.

There were some who were opposed to Clinton's Big Brotherism at the time, but I think it's fair to say their response was muted. Certainly Gore's was, back when not listening in on you and your daughter was an abstraction, a matter of principle, not survival.

Now that there's a Republican administration, and even after 9/11, the segment of the population that today feigns outrage seems to me to be almost entirely partisan. It is for them I reserve my ire.

Read Ms. Gorelick's arguments in the link I so thoughtfully provided, which passed without much comment at the time. Her record is mixed in clarity of thought as to how best to preserve the physical integrity of the republic, but at least on that day, she was nice and sparkling clear.

(And Bobby Kennedy had everything to do with it. If he perceived a threat to the republic over MLK's vague commie ties, spying on the contacts of terrorists hardly seems an overreaction. Just asking for a little empathy here, an empathy that the gleeful Mr. Gore is loath to extend.)

connie deady said...

Now that there's a Republican administration, and even after 9/11, the segment of the population that today feigns outrage seems to me to be almost entirely partisan. It is for them I reserve my ire.

That's just nonsense. You keep talking about Democrats being hypocrits, but frankly they aren't saying anything that I haven't believed for years.

Frankly I have no problem with the mass data mining that they are doing or with spying on people believed to be tied to terrorists.

From what I understand, however, there is a way to do the data mining without knowing "who" it comes from in order to determine patterns. Later, if critical information is found, it can be unencoded.

There is no need to do it without court oversight. The current law allows warrants with retroactive approval, so why is that a problem?

Problem is we have a president with no respect for the rule of law. I don't attack him because I hate him. I hate him because I abhor virtually anything and everything that he stands for. Period.

connie deady said...

8) Has not figured out approaches to getting the middle-of-the-road person in America to see him as a "uniter, not a divider".

An impossible chore, because he has no desire to unite.

Tom Van Dyke said...

"...almost entirely..."

Meticulously selected weasel words to leave wriggle room for rare jewels like yourself, Connie. And Bob Barr, of course.

The rest are indeed hypocrites. They do not believe in that which they themselves profess.

tbmbuzz said...

I figure they found my phone calls between my daugher and myself while she is in Europe really interesting.

Well, Connie, do you really think that you or your daughter are on a list of suspected terrorists? If not, then what is your problem?

tbmbuzz said...

Peter DuPont summarizes the issue of surveilling the nation's enemies and its history quite nicely today in the WSJ:

'Better Than Well Said'
Ben Franklin understood the need for secrecy in matters of national security.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006 12:01 a.m.

Has President Bush exceeded his constitutional authority or acted illegally in authorizing wiretaps without a warrant on calls between American citizens in the United States and people abroad who are, or are suspected of having ties to, terrorists?
Benjamin Franklin (whose 300th birthday is today) would not have thought so. In 1776 he and his four colleagues on the Continental Congress's foreign affairs committee (called the Committee of Secret Correspondence) unanimously agreed that they could not tell the Congress about the covert assistance France was giving the American Revolution, because it would be harmful to America if the information leaked, and "we find by fatal experience that Congress consists of too many members to keep secrets."

While the Constitution was being ratified in 1787 John Jay (later the first chief justice) in Federalist No. 64 praised the Constitution for giving the president power "to manage the business of intelligence in such manner as prudence may suggest." And of course Article II of the ratified Constitution gave the president the nation's "Executive power" and states that "the President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States."

When in the early 1800s President Jefferson hired foreign mercenaries to invade Tripoli and free American hostages, he did not inform Congress in advance. In 1818, when a controversy arose over a diplomatic mission abroad, House Speaker Henry Clay told his colleagues that since the president had paid for the mission with his contingent fund it would not be "a proper subject for inquiry."

So it is clear that the Constitution's original intent was that the president had the authority to take undisclosed foreign actions to protect America.

In modern times, the 1947 National Security Act contained no provision for congressional oversight of presidential national-security actions. In 1968 Congress enacted the Safe Streets Act, providing that nothing in the act "shall limit the power of the President to take such actions as he deems necessary to protect the Nation against actual or potential attack or other hostile acts of a foreign power, to obtain foreign intelligence information deemed essential to the security of the United States, or to protect national security information against foreign intelligence activities."
When President Carter signed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, his attorney general noted that it did not "take away the power of the president under the Constitution," and in 1994, when President Clinton expanded FISA, his administration agreed. As constitutional scholar Robert Turner noted in The Wall Street Journal last month, "Section 1811 of the FISA statute recognizes that in a period of authorized war the president must have some authority to engage in electronic surveillance 'without a court order.'"

America's judicial system has reached the same conclusion. The Supreme Court's 1972 decision in U.S. v. U.S. District Court (known as the "Keith case") held that the Fourth Amendment's "unreasonable searches and seizures" clause applied to domestic wiretapping, but refrained from concluding that it restricts "the president's surveillance power with respect to the activities of foreign powers within or without this country."

In 1980 the Carter administration argued in the Truong case that the government could conduct domestic, warrantless wiretaps of conversations between a U.S. and a Vietnamese citizen who had been passing on U.S. military intelligence to the North Vietnamese. The Supreme Court agreed.

In 1982 a federal court of appeals ruled that "the National Security Agency may lawfully intercept messages between United States citizens and people overseas, even if there is no cause to believe the Americans are foreign agent."

And in 2002 the FISA court said that the president has "inherent constitutional authority to conduct warrantless foreign intelligence surveillance."

America is engaged in a global war against terrorists whose intention is to inflict significant damage upon us. They attacked the World Trade Center in 1993, at U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000, and of course in New York and Washington in 2001.
If we had known that one of those terrorist attacks was coming, could our government have electronically eavesdropped on the attackers without a warrant?

If a known Al Qaeda terrorist had made a phone call from outside the country to someone inside America about these or other attacks, could our government have listened in?

If we had found an American phone number on a captured terrorist's computer before one of the attacks, could the military have listened in to the next call without a warrant?

If we know of a conversation set for a week from Wednesday between an Al Qaeda operative in Iraq and a sympathetic American citizen in Illinois, one could argue there is time to seek a FISA warrant. But if the CIA has only a three minute knowledge of the call, may it listen in without one?

The answer to all these questions is yes; the federal courts have consistently ruled that the constitution gives the president the authority--as "Commander in Chief" or using his "executive Power"--to acquire foreign intelligence without warrants or other approvals.

There is of course a different view held by America's liberal left. Democratic chairman Howard Dean somehow believes that warrantless surveillance is "a serious blow to our ability to fight and win the war on terror."
And Ted Kennedy said last week that what the President has done in using his constitutional powers to listen in to terrorist communications is "such an arrogant and expansive view of executive power" that it "would have sent chills down the spines of our Founding Fathers."

But of course he has it backward too--it is what Sen. Kennedy believes that would have sent chills down the spines of Benjamin Franklin and our Founding Fathers.

Hunter Baker said...

When it comes to the wiretapping issue, I've always felt that he who has done no wrong has nothing to fear. I've got no bombing plans to protect, so they can listen for mentions of bomb, bombing, explosion, and every other synonym without riling me one bit.

I think the opposition here is hypocritical because we'd all be for it after a couple more attacks.

Tlaloc said...

"When it comes to the wiretapping issue, I've always felt that he who has done no wrong has nothing to fear."

The problem is that the people listening in get to decide what is "wrong" since they have absolutely no independent oversite. Political affiliation? Religious denomination? Sexual orientation? Who knows?

The administration claimed they only listened into to terrorists and BIG SURPRISE they were lying. See the NYT


Tlaloc said...

"I think the opposition here is hypocritical because we'd all be for it after a couple more attacks."

Nope. 9/11, as big as it was, was the tiniest flea bite. 14x as many people die in auto accidents EVERY YEAR. It was only a big deal because people got so worked up about it (which of course was the point, terrorism is psychological warfare and we are massively psychologically vulnerable).
No government agency should operate without oversite. Ever. Intelligence and Justice departments especially.

I have no problem with the NSA existence. As long as their activites are propery monitored by congress or the judicial I am perfectly okay with them monitoring communications. But without that they are quite simply a rogue agency waiting to happen.

James F. Elliott said...

The Gorelick quote is entirely irrelevant. FISA was not amended to include physical searches among the searches eligible for retroactive warrants until 1995. In fact, that's what she was testifying about - the state of the law before 1995. Please note that 1995 comes before 2001, for the calendar-impaired.

Any references to the 1991 search of Aldrich Ames' house or Gorelick's testimony have no bearing on the legal standards in operation from September, 2001 to today under which the Bush Administration is supposed to operate. Nice try, no cigar for you.

Further, Bush's "excuses" make no sense. If there was any indication that any American was "talking to al Qaeda," then that American falls under FISA, and the executive could begin wiretaps and/or searches and then apply for the retroactive warrant within three days. Nothing in the excuse-making follows.

Perhaps not so coincidentally, the FBI has revealed that the NSA, under Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, sent them thousands of tips to follow up on. Of these thousands of wiretaps, they say, most led to dead ends or innocent Americans. Of the few terrorists they actually led to, the FBI already knew about them from other sources. FBI officials state that the warrantless wiretapping program was given priority by Bush, and that it pulled them away from what they considered far more promising counterterrorism work.

George W. Bush. Making America less safe by the illegal wiretap.

Jay D. Homnick said...

James, much as I hate to help the opposition, if you need a slogan it's patent: The Bush Enchaining Administration.

Tlaloc said...

"The Bush Enchaining Administration."


connie deady said...

The rest are indeed hypocrites. They do not believe in that which they themselves profess.

Perhaps you might acknowledge hypocrites who are Republicans, too. A few examples come to mind, like those declaiming Bill Clinton's oral sex with Monica Lewinsky while doing their own little diddling on the side. My fine upright family values Republican congressman kept a bimbo in an apartment in Washington and only got caught because she called the cops when he assaulted her.

Or what about all the Republicans demanding an up or down vote on judicial nominees while never letting Clinton nominees out of committee at far greater numbers historically than ever before.

There are plenty of hypocrites in politicals to go around of all persuasions, it is the nature of the game. But to simply name call without addressing the issue means we miss legitimate debate about whether the policy is good, regardless of the motivation of those questioning.

For the record, the Democratic party has stood for civil rights and civil liberties for a number of years. It really is not hypocritical or out of character to declaim government invasions of personal privacy. Bobby was a long, long time ago.

I have much more to say on this subject vis a vis comments about only the guilty need fear, I'll get to that later.

Tom Van Dyke said...

But Bob Livingston and Newt Gingrich did pay for their hypocrisy.

"In the opening moments House Speaker-elect Bob Livingston (R-Louisiana), who was embarrassed earlier this week by the disclosure of past extramarital affairs, made a stunning announcement that would not run for speaker and would quit the Congress.

Livingston called on Clinton to follow his example and resign as president. "I can only challenge you in such fashion if I am willing to heed my own words," Livingston said..."