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Defending The Indefensible

Tuesday, Feb. 07, 2006 12:01 AM

"I am here to explain the department's assessment that the president's terrorist surveillance program is consistent with our laws and Constitution,"Attorney General Alberto Gonzales informed the Senate Judiciary Committee.

That being said, Gonzales promptly did nothing of the kind. Instead, he trotted out the same circular logic and snake oil that the Bush Administration has been trying to feed the public since the spying program came to light.

In short:

1. It's a war, we don't have time to do it under FISA. Hey, Alberto, even in war, you gotta read the label that says THIS SIDE TOWARDS ENEMY before you pull the trigger. War is precisely the time to have a mind towards doing things properly; this is why our troops train extensively, so that such behaviors are automatic, freeing the soldier to deal with the unexpected.

2. It's in the Constitution. No, it's not. However, there's that bit about the President, "... (taking) Care that the Laws are faithfully executed."

3. It's in the Authorization of Force. Gonzales cites, 'specific authority,' but there is no mention of surveillance or spying in the Authorization. If it is implied through the term 'military force,' it is not specific.

4. Nothing in FISA blocks the NSA program. That is, the law to prevent illegal use of warrantless wiretaps doesn't affect or otherwise restrict a program utilizing warrantless wiretaps.

5. The program has built-in safeguards. And they are ...? Without external review from a separate branch of the government, it's snake oil. You turn in your homework, Alberto; you don't tell the teacher you did it and get graded on your earnest affirmation.

6. The program is regularly reviewed by lawyers. The Executive Branch is checked by the Legislative and Judicial Branch, not by its own lawyers.

Gonzales criticized media reports about the program, saying that, "... in almost every case, in one way or another, (they have been) misinformed, confused, or wrong."

So tell me the truth, Alberto. Give me the facts so that I may make an informed decision. As President Reagan once said, "Trust, but verify."

It should be noted that the committee voted along party lines to not have Gonzales sworn in. However, Sen. Arlen Specter pointed out that there are penalties under law for a false statement before Congress, regardless of oath, under 18 USC 1001 and 1505.

As to the fact that FISA allows for warrants after-the-fact, Gonzales discounts it as taking precious time, that the process is far more complicated than the public realizes, and that it hampers our fight against terrorism.

In short, the Bush Adminstration continues to ask Americans to sign off on a secret program that cannot be reviewed by our elected representatives, cannot be evaluated through its results, and is not framed within the law.

A boot to the head for Sen. John Cornyn (R - Texas), who wondered why we can capture and even kill terrorists, but apparently, listening to their phone calls is wrong.

It's called the Fourth Amendment, Senator.

Lowering the standard of proof from 'probable cause' to 'reasonable standard to believe' is hogwash. Why would we apply a different standard to a terrorist as opposed to a teenage gang member?

Sanctifying the terrorist as a creature beyond the norm, and thereby requiring exceptional and/or special methods to curtail, only lends credence to their views. Treat them as the criminals they are, give them the full benefit of law, and nail their hides to the wall.

As it stands, the surveillance program is outside the law, but also violates FISA and 4th Amendment protections. Insisting that we don't have time to do it by the book means we risk doing it wrong. We risk charges being dropped, searches overturned, suspects freed.

How is this protecting the country?

Another boot to the head goes to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who says it's appropriate for an administration to find new ways to protect the country, because, "We are faced with a war unlike any we have ever been in."

And so far, the 'new ways' chosen by the Bush Administration have been torture, clandestine prisons, and warrantless wiretaps.

As such, a policy of, 'out with the old and in with the new' is not necessarily a good thing.

The Ministry has received 3 comment(s) on this topic.

John - 2006-02-07 14:05:13
Bob -- Correct me where I'm wrong here, but I thought that the wiretapping/spying at issue was done specifically on those who had documented connections to Al-Qaeda, and no others.

Bob - 2006-02-07 19:38:31
Were it only true. Gonzales would not give assurances that this was the case. He would not give specifics on the program or its safeguards. And there have been reports that of the thousands of names submitted by the NSA to the FBI post-9/11 ... turned out to be false leads. I'm also approaching this from a security aspect: security that cannot be evaluated is bad security. You want things in the refrigerator to be cold; you can open the door and check. Even if the power fails, you understand the design will keep the cold air inside and maintain a safe environment for the items inside. It does *not* cede an advantage to the stove, oven, or microwave. I maintain that this is a dangerous illusion; we have to be able to defend/respond against a terrorist attack even if we miss a critical phone call. We know the NSA does foreign-only surveillance, yet al-Bingobangobongo STILL escaped from a secure facility. --- So, in short - no laws to govern + no checks/balances + no measurable output = no security.

John - 2006-02-08 12:47:23
Thanks; point taken!