Wednesday :: Jan 4, 2006

King-George-gate takes an unexpected turn

by eriposte

In the past couple of weeks, the Shills for Republican-Dictators Coalition (SRDC) - formerly known as "Conservatives" - seemed to have almost wet themselves with the excitement that Dear Leader, King George, was out catching those thousands of terrist-supporters in the United States (which jails are they in BTW?) using his patently illegal, dictatorial powers under his Executive Order. Some even sycophantically trotted out the myth that the lack of these powers was somehow responsible for letting 9/11 happen (this lie was particularly brazen considering that warrantless spying was already possible under FISA for 72 hours). Not only does the illegal spying program jeopardize national security (right now), as Atrios said yesterday:

Explain to me, in your best wingnutnese, how exactly it damages national security to reveal the fact that we spy on people without secret warrants instead of the fact that we spy on people with secret warrants?

Now, it appears King-George-gate has taken an unexpected turn. First, via John at Americablog, we learn that the NSA apparently started the domestic spying business on its own without President Bush's Executive Order - shortly after 9/11. That's what the New York Times is reporting. And an entirely new justification for the illegal spying is being rolled out (emphasis mine):

Bush administration officials said on Tuesday that General Hayden, now the country's No. 2 intelligence official, had acted on the authority previously granted to the N.S.A., relying on an intelligence directive known as Executive Order 12333, issued by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Setting aside this new garbage, it looks like the real story may be even more appalling and unfriendly to the SRDC. Via the indispensable Laura Rozen, we see a different revelation in Slate by Shane Harris and Tim Naftali (emphasis mine):

A former telecom executive told us that efforts to obtain call details go back to early 2001, predating the 9/11 attacks and the president's now celebrated secret executive order. The source, who asked not to be identified so as not to out his former company, reports that the NSA approached U.S. carriers and asked for their cooperation in a "data-mining" operation, which might eventually cull "millions" of individual calls and e-mails.

Like the pressure applied to ITT a half-century ago, our source says the government was insistent, arguing that his competitors had already shown their patriotism by signing on. The NSA would not comment on the issue, saying that, "We do not discuss details of actual or alleged operational issues."

There's more at Slate about the NSA operation, but, as Laura says:

The NSA getting access to all of this domestic telecommunications information from private companies ahead of September 11th didn't stop the big terrorist attack.

Well, we knew that this cockamamie nonsense about warrantless illegal spying (as opposed to warrant-based legal spying) somehow being required to save this country was just that - nonsense. But if Slate's revelations are true, the SRDC is fast running out of talking points.

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