December 17, 2005

Against Enemies Foreign and Domestic


President Bush has personally authorized a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States more than three dozen times since October 2001, a senior intelligence official said Friday night.


...Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorizations.

During the reviews, government officials have also provided a fresh assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to the country or government, the official said.

"Only if those conditions apply do we even begin to think about this," he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the intelligence operation.

"The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources — let me underscore this now — consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend the United States and its citizens," the official said, adding that congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.

If true, Bush's executive order authorizing streamlined NSA surveillance procedures was not a blanket endorsement, but apparently a specific series of case-by-case authorizations designed to save American lives from specific terrorist threats. What's more, congressional leaders were updated "more than a dozen times" on the use of these orders.

It would appear that President Bush operated well within his Constituional rights as Commander in Chief, and America's civil liberties were not threatened in any way while the ability to respond to specific terrorist threats was greatly improved. I think we call that a "win-win" situation, folks.

The knee-jerk reaction of the political left to cry out over apparently non-existent civil liberties violations is shameful, as is their two-faced hypocrisy regarding this leak of intelligence information to news sources.

Hinderaker called it right:

Under the Plame precedent, this case is a no-brainer. The intelligence officials who leaked to the Times should be identified, criminally prosecuted, and sent to prison.

Several decades in Club Fed is exactly what justice demands for those that would compromise America's national security concerns for partisan political vendettas.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 17, 2005 01:29 AM | TrackBack
Would you be saying this if it were Bill Clinton?

Speaking for myself, I'd have to say yes.

While I considered Clinton an unprincipled and laughable buffoon, I didn't have the psychotic hatred for him that the liberal moonbats have for "Dubya".

Besides, we both know that Clinton wouldn't do anything of the sort without conducting endless polls and focus groups. (Which would render the surveillance procedures useless)

Clinton cared more about his legacy (and turning Monica into a "human humidor") then the safety of the American people as we all found out on 9/11...

Posted by: Elephant Man at December 17, 2005 08:05 AM

Always be afraid of those who speak to loud and often. The lie is sacred with the left. This is not a surprise. Washington politics are a disgrace.

Posted by: Jeffersonranch at December 17, 2005 08:17 AM

Some people went over what a NOC is; non-official cover. Also known as an illegal, the host country can have these denied by the the US.

NOC was no big deal, but it depends who you work for. For example a DIA NOC would be of much higher value than a CIA or DEA NOC, illegal.

Plame may have actually worn a couple of badges from CIA NOC to NSA or DIA NOC considering her father's background and her vehicle to getting hired and being paramilitarily trained at the 'farm' byher own admission; 'We shot guns' means they are this and can very easily move to DIA or NSA from CIA. Loaning a CIA operations officer is not uncommon and the opposite usually occurs from DOD to CIA, but if it was the reverse, this may have caused some friction based on the military history of the operations officer.

Posted by: anonymoius at December 17, 2005 09:19 AM

Anon - If that's true, then the kids have taken the letters out of the soup with hardening happening on the table. In this state, they're easier to read but not as tasty to the consumer. Let's get them back in the bowl where they mix better with the other letters.

Jefferson - You're right, right and right again. What a waste of time and resource! It's really lousy in that town right now.

See how Harry Reid is entangled with Val Plame here.

Posted by: Punster at December 17, 2005 10:12 AM

The knee-jerk reaction of the political left to cry out over apparently non-existent civil liberties violations is shameful, as is their two-faced hypocrisy regarding this leak of intelligence information to news sources.

Just to be clear -- it was a *Republican* senator who was quoted in the article as saying "There is no doubt that this is inappropriate." There is plenty of conservative outcry. For example, see the conservative Christian blogger's post, The anti-American President.

I'm not going to debate the legalities with you -- that's something which experts who are higher up will eventually decide. However, caring about the constitution and individual rights is not a bizarre concern only to those in the far left.

Posted by: jhkim at December 18, 2005 03:37 AM

I smell a "fake but accurate" basis for the NYT non-story here. Doesn't it strike anyone as strange that after having this info for a year the NYT decides to print it in place of any good news relative to the Iraqi elections or the latest polls indicating the Iraqis (including the Sunnis) want the US to remain until Iraq is secure? Do you really think the NYT would sit on a "spying on citizens" violation-of-the-constitution story for a whole year, just because senior WH people asked them to? I believe they knew this was a non-story (because everything they discovered was actually within the confines of law) and biased it to have the appearance of a violation of the constitution. Constitution violations usually generate outcries from both political spectrums, not just the left or right. However, once again, there is an MSM entity spotlighting a story that is grossly misrepresented and obviously not favorable for George W. Bush. The NYT at its finest.

Posted by: Old Soldier at December 18, 2005 08:52 AM

And, Harry Reid's little buddy Dennis Kucinich is now involved with the NSA. Details here.

Posted by: Punsmith at December 18, 2005 03:00 PM

The president has the power to conduct warantless surveillance of foreign powers conspiring to kill Americans or attack the government. This includes plots that involve U.S. citizens no statute can limit the Presidents inherent authority as given to him by the constitution. The bottom line he did not break any law and if he did that law was not legal anyway. There is no Supreme court precedent on this issue yet. I think if and when it does go to them they will rule in Bush's favor.

Posted by: Joe at December 18, 2005 08:56 PM

The problem is that we are talking about the President ordering surveillance on American citizens with no warrants ever issued. The US Constitution prohibits that.

The relevant law is FISA - Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which you can read here. It clearly spells out the procedures for intercepting the communications of people and makes it very clear that there must be warrants if American citizens are involved in any way. There is a whole section on "minimumization procedures" to protect citizens. It even covers when there is a time problem - a ticking bomb - by allowing the surveillance IF a warrant is granted within 72 hours after. (Along with proof that there really was a time consideration, of course.)

So the question "the left" (like those Republican Senators) is asking is, why were there no warrants? The only logical reason seems to be that something has been going on that they know judges will not grant warrants for them to do.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at December 19, 2005 01:05 AM

CY - Before you say it, the problem here is that warrants were NEVER requested or obtained. Not even in six months - so the myth that FISA judges wait 6 months to issue warrants is not valid. FISA is a special court that exists only to issue those warrants, and it has almost never failed to issues a warrant.

My theory of what happened is that Bush tasked NSA to start intercepting domestically. This means doing what they are said to do internationally - intercept every communication, analyze wuth computers, and humans look at what the computers flag. THIS is why no warrants - because you can't get blanket warrants that cover everyone. If your only interest is in "protecting us" and you aren't concerned with civil liberties, you'll certainly want to do this because it does increase the chances of catching terrorists operating here. But, you are intercepting everything, from everyone.

The problem is that it requires putting a huge physical infrastructure in place. The routers have to all be rewired to let the government in (and they have been), you have to set up ways to get all that data to NSA's computers, digitize all the speech, and you have to buy the computers. And you have to hire all the people to read what the computers flag. THIS is why it was never done before. Huge cost, huge number of people involved, and illegal. So you just couldn't get away with it -- before 9/11. AFTER 9/11 who would talk about it? Everyone would just assume it was legal now and necessary.

And the real problem is that once that is all in place there is NOTHING to prevent it from being abused. Want to know everything a Senator or CEO is saying to his mistress? No problem, just type a line into a computer. Want to look for every instance of "Democratic Party strategy meeting?" No problem, just type a line into a computer.

Posted by: Dave Johnson at December 19, 2005 01:27 AM