Tuesday, December 20, 2005

An Impeachable Offense?

President Bush has admitted he secretly ordered the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans without ever seeking constitutionally-required court approved warrants. Under the program -- authorized in the weeks following the 9/11 attacks -- the agency has monitored the international phone calls and e-mails of hundreds -- and possibly thousands -- of people inside the country. The New York Times broke the story Friday. Hours later, Bush was interviewed by PBS' Jim Lehrer.

Bush later reiterated he would not comment on the program because doing so would: "compromise our ability to protect the people." But less than twenty-hours later, after a storm of public criticism, he reversed his position. This is President Bush, in his weekly radio address Saturday.

The disclosure has led to bi-partisan calls for a congressional investigation. In response, administration officials pointed out both Democratic and Republican congressional leaders had been briefed on the program. But former Democratic Senator Bob Graham, who attended the briefings as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Washington Post he was never informed of the two key issues to arise from the disclosure. Graham says he was never told the government was eavesdropping on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the country, nor was he told it was bypassing the special courts imposed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Under FISA, the government can obtain warrants directly from a special court that requires almost no evidence or probable cause. Passed by Congress in late 1970s, FISA describes it itself and the criminal wiretap statutes as "the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance . . . may be conducted."

Several analysts have questioned the administration's decision to not seek court-approved warrants when FISA courts have almost never rejected them. According to the Electronic Privacy Information Center, FISA courts have rejected only FOUR of over 15,000 warrant requests made since 1979. That number includes over 4,000 warrant requests since the 9/11 attacks.

The Washington Post notes the revelation marks the third time in as many months the Bush administration has been forced to defend a departure from previous restraints on domestic surveillance. Most recently, NBC News reported last week the Pentagon has been conducting domestic intelligence on peaceful anti-war protesters and others.

But the revelation also marks the second time in as many months one of the country's leading newspapers has withheld information at the request of the Bush administration. In a November piece on the existence of CIA-run, Soviet-era prisons in Eastern Europe, the Washington Post complied with a White House request to withhold information administration officials said could be harmful to national security. In its report Friday, the New York Times revealed it had not only withheld information, but had in fact delayed publishing the story -- also at the government's request - for at least one year.

  • Martin Garbus, a partner in the law firm of Davis & Gilbert LLP. Time Magazine calls him "one of the best trial lawyers in the country," while the National Law Journal has named him one of the country's top ten litigators.
  • James Bamford, investigative journalist and author of several books including the first book ever written about the National Security Agency called "The Puzzle Palace : Inside America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization." He is also author of "Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency"; and most recently, "A Pretext for War: 9/11, Iraq, and the Abuse of America's Intelligence Agencies."
  • Christopher Pyle, Professor of Politics at Mt. Holyoke. In 1970 Pyle disclosed the military's surveillance of civilian politics and, as a consultant to three Congressional committees, worked to end it.
Read Rush Transcript
I am sure that everyone has heard bits and pieces of what is said here, by some pretty impressive experts, yet it is a must read, if you really want to understand ALL that is at stake here.
All of us intuitively know that there is far more involved in this spying thing than meets the eye. There are a number of issues that the MSM seems to be asking questions about; poking around about; in a round about way.
I tend to believe that, while this operation may well have been instituted for the express purpose of surveilling Americans who are in contact with known members of Al Qaeda, I would bet that it has gone beyond that. We know that the NSA is also eavesdropping on the Americans, or legal visitors'/permanent residents' (non-citizen), calls to other people in the U.S.
Just how far has it gone, and are people who dissent and disagree with Bush policies being tapped?
We have been called traitors, unAmerican and have been accused of giving comfort to terrorists. So, how many of us are having our emails read and our phones tapped?
This is a huge fishing net, it seems to me.
Kind of like the provision in the Patriot that gives the government permission to conduct a warrant-less search, not only on American's book reading habits, but also to obtain medical records, without a warrant.
(Can someone please explain to me, any instance in which the government would need someone's entire medical record for a terrorist investigation? Maybe I am just dense, but I sure don't get that one at all.)
I could probably understand why they might want to know if someone is collecting books on bomb-building, even though there could be a very good and innocent reason even for that. But medical records are a whole other a all of wax.
But unless we have given into despair that results in giving up on the American experiment, (still imperfect as always, but still capable of becoming a beacon of hope, if only we could all just get real, for once), the kind of powers Bush is claiming for himself are totally intolerable, we  have to gain back our democracy and nurture it back to health again, for we have surely allowed it to be stolen by thieves in the night.
This hasn't been about saving democracy for a very long time. We don't have a democracy at the moment. Most everyone I know,  and I live in the deep south, does not believe that George W Bush is our duly elected president. Not in 2000 or 2004. Nor do they believe he acted to protect the American people in the critical weeks and months before 9/11. They also believe that his failure to do so was intentional.
It is time for a Resolution of Inquiry, impeachment hearings and trial by the Senate. If this does not happen soon, I predict the end of the Republican party, if not the United States of America, as we have known it.
More and more people are losing any trust they may have had in the institutions of government, and the same thing is happening to the institutions of religion. The same can be said of the sociopathic corporations that have bought and control our government.
If this trend continues, we can look forward to the collapse of the entire system.
Democrats, Independents and un-corrupted Republicans must come to the aid of their country and do it now.
I am not only speaking of the office holders, but all Americans who love their country and are horrified at what it has become.


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