Tuesday :: Dec 20, 2005

What Exactly Is The NSA Doing? Does Congress Even Know?

by Steve

Several updates today, and a suggestion.

Cheney: Shut Up And Be Happy

Cheney tells us this morning that we should be glad for the NSA spying, because it has kept us safe for four years:

"You know, it's not an accident that we haven't been hit in four years," Cheney said. "I think there's a temptation for people to sit around and say, 'Well, gee that was just a one-of affair, they didn't really mean it.' The bottom line is we've been very active and very aggressively defending the nation and using the tools at our disposal to do that," he said.

By the way Dick, where is Osama?

The Times Sat On It

As many of us suspected when the story first came out, the senior editors of the New York Times, the same guys who put every damn thing Judy Miller wrote about WMDs into the paper without a whiff of journalistic oversight, decided not to publish the NSA spying story before the election.

FBI Punts On Anthrax Bomber-Goes After PETA

While the FBI hasn’t found the anthrax terrorist, filled its anti-terror positions, or ever fully investigated the source of the Niger forgeries, it did find a way to conduct surveillance on People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Greenpeace these last several years. And Rummy is just as dangerous.

NYT and WaPo Editorials Against NSA Spying

Coming from a paper whose editors were cheerleaders for this administration the last five years, read the WaPo's editorial today, as well as the NYT's. Both basically say if the Bush Administration is now claiming that Congress gave them authority to do this with the 2001 resolution, and Congress is saying "no we didn't", then it is time for Congress to rescind that resolution and re-issue it, since the Administration cannot be trusted.

Monitoring Versus Data Mining

Lastly, given how this administration has taken Clintonian parsing to a new level, I think what is really going on here isn’t about monitoring as we know it, in other words, wiretapping. The Bush Administration is fighting back hard on this issue not only because it will soon be clear that they never briefed Congress or got explicit congressional approval for what they are doing, and are therefore acting illegally. That is politically lethal enough right now, given the looming presence of Patrick Fitzgerald.

No, what is really at stake here is that the NYT learned over a year ago that the NSA has been doing data mining on Americans since at least 9/11, and like Kevin Drum surmises over at the Political Animal, what the Bush Administration is doing is using the latest computer and satellite technology around the globe to detect possible threats by scanning emails and websites around the world and storing that information in secret databases. Such an effort goes way beyond getting warrants on individual searches as FISA requires, which is why the administration hasn’t gone that route or ever gone to Congress to get specific authority to do so, because even many Republicans would have a hard time granting any administration a blank check to do data mining on the everyday lives of Americans that passes through the internet.

Yet as the NYT and Post indicate today, the first step here aside from congressional inquiries is to take back the congressional authorization for fighting terror and rewrite it to be more specific upon the Bush Administration. The second step is to find out what it is Bush’s GOP sycophants in Congress think they are supporting. There have been many representatives and senators over the last several days like Trent Lott, Rick Santorum, and Dana Rohrabacher who have fully supported whatever Bush wants to do here. Let’s find out what they think he is doing and see if they have a clue what is going on here. If they come out and say that they support something only to find out that Bush is doing something far more invasive, for whatever reasons good or bad, then we’ll get the two-fer of seeing how ill-informed and yet blindly supportive his sycophants really are. And then their constituents can deal with them next year.

Look, the Bush Administration in a post-9/11 world could have made a credible case for such an effort, and I believe could have received overt congressional support for a super Eschelon-type project, given the threat we face. But in order to gain that support, the imperial presidency cabal inside this administration would have had to clue Congress in and let them have real oversight subject to national security restrictions. This was never going to happen with this crew, which is why we are seeing this major battle now. It's all about turf and the lack of trust in this administration.

Steve :: 1:20 PM :: Comments (186) :: TrackBack (0) :: Digg It!