December 20, 2005

Bush: Roving the Times?

With James Risen presumably off reading the galley proofs of his forthcoming book Screwing Over America (For Fun and Profit), David Sanger joined in the next installment of Eric Lichtblau's year-long fevered pursuit to tip al Qaeda to the nature of NSA-run surveillance operation authorized by a White House executive order in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Despite the ill will of the Times, the present administration is standing firm. Law professor/blogger Ann Althouse even notes of Bush's impromptu press conference Monday morning:

I'm just reading, but it seems to me that he's awfully relaxed, joking like this, when he's under fire about not complying with FISA restrictions...

And later:

I'm watching the C-Span replay of the press conference now, and I'm even more impressed by the strength of Bush's confidence. This man is happy.

It does seem like very odd behavior for a man that is, if the Times is correct, on the edge of not only losing one of American's most effective surveillance tools, but of facing a political firestorm that have some of his fevered foes calling for impeachment.

As some of the nation's top legal minds spent Monday building an unfavorable case against him based upon what the Times has leaked, and what his own administration had confirmed... hey, wait just a cotton-pickin' minute.

I think I've seen this film before.

Indulge me, please, for just a moment.

The NY Times discovers a top secret internal spying effort by the Bush Administration. The Times presumes that their sources are accurate (indeed they may be), and presumes to know most if not all of the facts. They then hold onto this information for approximately one year, flushing it out with information from confidential sources, before finally breaking the story last week. Bush's only known attempt to quash publication?

As a breathless Jonathan Alter explains:

I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting, but one can only imagine the president's desperation.

Indeed. Bush was so desperate, in fact, that he gave two of his most relaxed press conferences in recent memory. Perhaps the NY Times can't see it, or perhaps I'm just a bit fevered, but the Bush Administration appears to be writing this story in the national media as much as they are starring in it.

Let me offer up these simple thoughts for you to consider:

The Bush administration has known for a year that the New York Times was investigating and intended to run at some point a story about the executive order NSA.

The government probably figured out exactly what James Risen and Eric Lichtblau knew about the program within the first week of their investigation coming to light.

The government could easily "turn" any of Risen's and Lichtblau's informants with the very real, legally valid threat of long-term accommodations of the government's choosing. It could then use these turncoats to feed "fake but accurate" information to the NY Times.

The result?

The release of a story with just enough truth to be thought credible by enemies both "foreign and domestic." The story causes a cascade of irregular signal activity that "paints" terror cells as clearly as active sonar on a submarine. Unwittingly, the Times contributes to the NSA project.

If you are willing to go that far, one then has to ask this question: is the NSA program mentioned in the Times the program actually being run, or was the Times misled into being "useful idiots" for an entirely legal program out of the reach of FISA entirely?

My contention? Military intelligence operates outside of FISA restrictions that control domestic surveillance organizations, and if the NSA is collecting intercepted information offshore and is feeding it directly to the military to kill or capture bad guys overseas, the Bush's AUMF justification is both crystal clear and perfectly legal. If this is true, teh seemingly murkey explanations the Adminstration had been giving for the past week would be perfecty accurate, as well, would they not?

The fake civilian spying program can run its course to be "shutdown," while the real military program continues to run and provide for our safety in the cover of its own apparent grave.

This is of course, all just wild speculation…

Isn't it?

Posted by Confederate Yankee at December 20, 2005 12:20 AM | TrackBack

Good Theory, the only problem I really see with it is it may only be a one shot deal. The terrorists now are looking for other ways to communicate. That, to me, is the biggest problem of leaking out this information. We now have one less tool to use in the on-going struggle with terrorism.

Posted by: Retired Navy at December 20, 2005 06:49 AM

You ought to be writing spy novels. The NY Times, tricked into actually helping defend the country from terrorists? Too beautiful to be real.

Posted by: Van Helsing at December 20, 2005 06:28 PM

Dear Sirs,

I was in the Army Security Agency 1961-1963. We were a collection arm for the NSA. The Air Force Security Service and the Naval Intelligence Service served the same function. The military supplied the logistics and the manpower at that time. The ferret aircraft that were shot down and the ship captured by the NOK's were on NSA missions.

I don't know if it still works that way. They don't talk about it much.


Posted by: Roy Lofquist at December 20, 2005 06:53 PM

Sounds like we might hear of some sudden retirements from CIA.

Or maybe won't hear of some sudden retirements from the Directorate of intelligence.


Posted by: Charlie (Colorado) at December 21, 2005 01:00 PM