Saturday, December 24, 2005
Norad is tracking Santa
But for some reason this one from Norad creeped me out. Maybe it's the cold miltary overtone that made me feel like they might be treating Santa as a potential threat.
NSA spying worse than imagined
The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.
As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain back-door access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.
Oh, but it gets worse...
What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation.
So, the Bush defense on this, that the FISA court doesn't give them the speed and agility necessary, is somewhat true. If your objective is to analyze every call, email, and internet ping into, out of, and through the US, then, yes, filing all that paperwork could be a little cumbersome.
This is just awful. It's my worst paranoid Big Brother nightmare come true.
Never thought the words to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" would creep me out so much.
Friday, December 23, 2005
The End of Iraq
They are threatening to boycott parliament(approx 80 seats out of 275) and are already obliquely making statements threatening further violence. Looking at what I see as the possible mid term outcomes for the Iraqis, it is essential that a significant portion of these 80 or so parliamentarians be convinced to participate in the government.
I've been thinking alot about the possible outcomes in Iraq for the Iraqis, and here's a short list of possibilities going from best to worst case outcomes.
1. Somewhat turbulently, the fledgling Iraqi parliament comes together and manages to form a government that almost all factions accept. This would involve significant concessions on all sides, and my sense is that at this point, with the extremists winning the elections on both sides, this is not the current will of the people, so I would rate it as fairly unlikely without a really unique leadership.
2. A Shia government forms and manages to corral enough of the anti Shia factions to form a government. Violence is still carried out, but the cooperation of some Sunnis marginalizes the remaining fighters and turns the violence from sectarian to anti-Iraq.
3. A religionist Shia dominated government forms with which the Sunnis refuse to participate to some degree, and in that we get a civil war with many possible midterm outcomes.
And then, of course, there's the issue of the longterm influence Iran has won as a result of our invasion, or the probability of a mass refugee exodus into neighboring countries in the face of increasing violence and the resulting humanitarian crisis that would bring.
a. Both sides continue violence against each other until there is enough blood spilled that the two sides compromise and come to some sort of agreement. I view this as pretty unlikely even with a lot of blood. Historically, this doesn't happen very often.
b. After years of violence, one side has so destroyed the other, that there are no longer enough resources or men left to fight. This would also involve a whole lot of blood, and the winning group would then set one sided terms for the future of Iraq which would guarantee periodic flare ups of violence in the future.
c. A fracturing of Iraq into several smaller countries. At first this sounds like the best option until you consider that although there are heavily Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish regions, there are no recognized historical, geographic, or regional boundaries to fall back on. And not only would the area around the boundaries be contested, but what would happen to the people left inside the other factions' new borders, Sunnis left in Bagdhad for instance. Are we looking at an ethnic cleansing? A mass migration?
We'd better really get going to guarantee that results one or two take place, the formation of a viable government with at least some Sunni and secular participation to give it legitimization in the eyes of the people. Because after looking at the battle lines of a civil war, and the vast amount of munitions spread throughout the country, that outcome would be even more disastrous than where we are now with Iraq occupied by a foreign power.
And, I do believe that a large portion of Iraqi society wants no part in current or future violence, but, again looking at historical examples, it takes only a small dedicated percentage actively fighting to keep a civil war going. And, whether they support the violence or not, history also shows that the civilians of the warring ethnic factions will suffer the most.
What a freakin' mess. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?
No, Cassandra, there is no Santa Claus in Iraq.
I'll go back to Christmas posting tomorrow. But this has just been on my mind for the last day or so and wanted to get it out.
The Friday before Christmas Alito Dump
WASHINGTON -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps for national security when he worked at the Reagan Justice Department, an echo of President Bush's rationale for spying on U.S. residents in the war on terror. ......Also, it appears that Bush's litmus test on his Supreme Court Nominees is whether they recognize his claim to extraordinary executive powers. Remember Roberts, when he must've known he was on the short list, ruled in favor of the government on the detention of Hamdi. And, I take as a given that Harriet Miers also held similar views simply by her longterm service in support of those ends.
Among the documents released Friday was a June 1985 memo in which Alito said abortion rights should be overturned but recommended a roadmap of dismantling them piece by piece instead of a "frontal assault on Roe v. Wade."
More questionable searches
In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. ....And, it sounds to me like the motivation for the leakers is to get their objections on the record before this blows up. If that motivation becomes prevalent, we could have a whole bunch more of these dubiously legal practices to discuss in the new year. There's a reasonable chance that every one of these classified program leaks, including the secret prisons story, is motivated by CYA.
Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. ....There are also issues of public vs private property in this. As well as an unmentioned issue of racial/religious profiling.
One source close to the program said ..... "The targets were almost all U.S. citizens," says the source. "A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal."
A more efficient weapon
So, leaving out Iraq, having the standing military that we do costs roughly $1,500/person in the US.(population 'more or less' 300 mil.) If you do it by taxpayer, about 100 million, or ration it out relative to income, it gets even scarier.
Also, taking that $453 bil and divide it into the world population, minus the US, and you get about $75 per person per year. I don't have a sense what it should cost to protect me from every citizen but, somehow, the long dormant engineer part of my brain tells me that $75/person/year isn't particularly efficient.
Think about what it could mean if you chopped off 25% or so and dedicated it to world health or education. Let's just make it a round $100 billion for easy math.
We could go the Cuba route and train doctors to send around the world. Much like the rural doctor programs in the US, we could pay their schooling then rotate them abroad for four years. Figuring $100K for schooling(25k/yr) then another $100K/yr in support. That's 800,000 doctors working around the world every year if my math is right! And that's assuming that we didn't take a smarter, and far cheaper, long term approach of training locals as doctors who would then remain in their country of origin.
Or, we could do the same with teachers, and there the math gets really crazy because of the lower expense. Let's figure $40K for schooling(10K/yr) and $40K/yr in support. That's 2 million teachers a year worldwide(again assuming solely US personnel.)
Now, I'm not advocating turning our swords into plowshares, for geopolitical reasons, beyond the threat of invasion, a strong military is a reasonable investment. The question to me is how strong is enough, and could that money be spent more efficiently to effect our ends.
Just for examples' sake, let's cut my numbers above significantly and put together a mix of doctors and teachers. Let's say that the US made a worldwide commitment to send 50,000 American doctors abroad, and trained another 100,000 local doctors(figuring half the cost of US personnel.) And let's pick a random number of 125,000 US teachers with another 250,000 local teachers trained.
For $37.5 billion, about 7.5% of current military spending, our country could transform the world increasing world health substantially and also increasing the futures of hundreds of millions of children. The US, I would argue, would end up far more secure deploying 150,000 doctors and a 500,000 teachers around the world than we would be spending that 7.5% on a couple of weapons programs.
I don't have a way to quantify it, but, I would argue that, in a fairly immediate way, the US would gain enough benefit and goodwill to far outweigh the current benefits of that top 7.5% of the military budget. Tell me that the poor countries of the world, Togo for instance, wouldn't cooperate more with a United States who was offering them 5,000 development personnel, than one that possessed some high end military toy.
Also, the long term benefits to the US economy would be huge. Think about the spike in the world economy that would follow on by ten to fifteen years as the children who were brought up through this program, healthy and educated, reached their productive years. Maybe the US slice of the production pie might grow a little smaller in relation to the rest of the world, but the overall production numbers would explode upward and the US economy would benefit hugely as large segments of the world's poor were lifted up to such a level that they could buy goods beyond a subsistence level.
Oh, and also the US would go down in history as the most beneficient country in the history of the world.
You want a legacy, Mr. Bush, how 'bout that one.
(There are other potential goodwill roles that could be served. I chose doctors and teachers for the simplicity of this example. But, quite frankly, there are many other specialties that would have great benefit if included in such a program. Agriculture experts, for example could teach methods and irrigation to greatly increase the living standards of hundreds of millions. Public health specialists could travel from town to village consulting on safe water practices, disease prevention and food and waste handling. Engineers could be deployed to help build roads, irrigation projects, etc. You get the idea.
And I do recognize that some of that money could be better spent in the US on the same issues, but for the sake of this post, I am simply trying to discuss the use of money for international defense and influence.
Also, if my math is wrong somewhere in here, sorry. My semi compulsion is to do the math, not always to do it right.)
The NYTimes has a mash piece on John Yoo, the former Bush administration lawyer who authored the findings claiming Bush has almost unlimited powers as a "wartime president." This seems rather bizarre in the current context of the debates on unlimited powers of the president.
This also returns to my mind all the times that Bush stressed that he was a "wartime president." At the time I thought that he was just playing at some ego game, but now, it seems that he was attempting to lay the groundwork for the massive expansion of presidential powers we are now seeing.
And, Tom Daschle comes back from the political grave to take a shot at Bush's claim of unlimited powers by telling his version of what happened on the "War Resolution" on Sept 18, 2001 in a WaPo editorial.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
If you look into the myths and lore of Christmas, you find a collection of stories, some fact, some fiction, which attempt to draw out a moral of positive individual transformation. And, in this post, I'm not talking about the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, instead, I'm referring to the later, culturally spawned "true meaning of Christmas" stories.
Stories like Dicken's "A Christmas Carol," or "Charlie Brown's Christmas," or an episode of some awful sitcom that purveys a story of a Christmas turned disaster, turned "best Christmas ever." These types of Christmas myths exist across all of the Christian cultures, and each has a slightly different emphasis because of that, but the underlying elements are still present.
What's interesting to me is the cultural palatability of this message of transformation and rebirth. Each year, the same basic theme is churned out in literally hundreds of new forms and we all still enjoy the message, a message of the core value and strength of gentleness, generosity, and love.
So, with that in mind, I'm going to offer a brief telling of my understanding of the Christmas truce of 1914. Accept that this is neither neccesarily wholly accurate in its facts or characterization. I recognize that this is a romanticized view of these events stripped clean from their historical context, but that is precisely my point. I view this event as a Christmas myth which reaffirms some core belief that I have about the true nature of the holiday.
In WWI, 1914, the fighting in Belgium had bogged down after a week of rain. This was the era of trench warfare, before the use of mustard gas, and the British and French faced off against the Germans in stagnant trenches in places a mere 75 yards apart. The deaths and casualties had been significant, and if you were to stick so much as a hand above the trenchline, there is a fair chance you would have it shot off.
Then, on the night of Christmas Eve, beleagured German soldiers longing for home started putting small trees lit by candles, an ancient German tradition, along the lip of their trenches. The British and French soldiers seeing this across such a distance became confused and began to fear some sort of surprise action and began firing rifles and artillery acrosss the fields. After several hours, when no German attack materialized, the firing died down.
Later in the night, or perhaps early in the morning, the British and French began to hear the sounds of singing and merry making coming across the fields and occasionally accented shouts of 'A happy Christmas to you, Englishmen!' Faced with this, the Brits belted out a chorus of "The First Noel" and when that ended, the Germans responded with "O Tannenbaum." They didn't recognize the words, but they knew the tunes.
This continued for quite awhile, until finally a few men from each side crept out of their trenches, unarmed, to the midpoint line between them. They exchanged a few words and then returned to their respective sides. Shortly, a few more men scrambled out from each side to do the same. And slowly, ever so slowly, the trenches on both sides began to empty.
The men gathered in the middle of the field, still wearing their uniforms. They mixed together, joked as best they could, exchanged stories and small food items. There is even a report of a soccer match breaking out. This "Christmas Truce" stretched along almost the entire line.
The officers were horrified as they looked in their abandoned trenches and out into the middle of the field where their soldiers were joking and sharing cigarrettes with the enemy. After many hours, the men each found their way back to their opposing positions, and the "truce" lasted another day through Boxing Day. And on the 27th, the war was on again.
This stands to me as a great Christmas myth. Although they returned to fighting, there was a moment of recognition of the humanity of the other side. A moment, in the middle of a very bloody war, when the opposing soldiers found that they had more in common with each other than with the governments that sent them to fight.
Do you have a Christmas myth that resonates with you? Some story of transformation that you find particularly meaningful? Do you cry when they all decorate Charlie Brown's sad little tree?
(And if I could ask, if you comment on this post, please don't turn this into an argument over Christianity or Jesus. This post is intended to be about the positive philosophy surrounding this holiday, and a catfight would just spoil my mood.)
It seems to me that the news cycle is beginning to putter out for the holidays, or maybe it's just me. I'll still post news, but I decided in the periodic lulls to throw up a couple of longer form "soft posts" to talk about some things in a more meandering form. I have a couple of different topics in mind for the next several days, so, even if there's not much news, if you want something to read, come on by. And I'll still be putting up pictures.
And, if you don't like this softer side of Mike, just tune out for a couple of days. I would wager that the Christmas cheer will be quickly replaced by the usual sputtering outrage by Monday or Tuesday.
In the meantime, we'll call this my Christmas Truce. Come meet me in the middle and we can find the good in each other.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men.
A little more on the Iraqi elections
1. "Dozens of Sunni Arab and secular Shiite groups threatened to boycott Iraq's new legislature Thursday if complaints about tainted voting are not reviewed by an international body."
2. "American diplomats called it "mission impossible" -- to bend the rules on contact with powerful anti-American Sunni forces in Iraq and negotiate a cease-fire -- all before last week's elections." (source: Moonie Times, so be aware.)
Picture of the Day - 2
The FISA court is concerned about NSA spying
Among all the interesting bits in this piece, the one that grabbed me is the mention that the FISA court might revisit previously approved taps if the evidence for them was obtained in an illegal way. That would be misrepresenting to the court and that's gotta be illegal.
I'm beginning to think that's the crux of this whole thing, that this illegal spying is an outgrowth of the questionably legal renditions and "harsh interrogation tactics." This has always been ONE of the problems with the Bush administration's claims around detainee practices, that any evidence gathered is totally inadmissible in any court. (See Padilla below.)
"I want to thank Scotty for saying --- nothing" - Bush
ALSO: Dont miss yesterday's HUGE Plame story by Jason.
And, there's a pretty funny WaPo piece about Bush citing an "urban myth" in his press conference about the press leaking "sources and methods" regarding Bin Laden's satellite phone. Page A02.
It's not gonna get any easier for McClellan.
Abramoff Plea Bargain
While not as serious as the Plame case in the big picture, the Abramoff investigation should make for much better TV.
Bribes, lavish trips, false "children's" charities, extravagant gifts, with maybe a dozen different sets of lawyers all trying to leak to help their clients. And to top it off, the defendants will be people whose natural instinct is to try to talk their way out of trouble(not like the Plame folks who try to scheme,) so we should get years of good TV out of this one.
Oh, and if the Brent Wilkes, MZM, thing happens to be tied in, we may get to hear about the Washington "hospitality suites" staffed by several young women. And there's also that little matter of the Sun Cruz mob style hit that Abramoff's partner may have ordered.
Not as important as Plame, but probably more fun to watch.
So, Bill, take a look at this NYTimes piece for a start. Laura Rozen has a significant section of the decision.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Finding the fall guy in the NSA story?
After, what, a year and a half of Negroponte in his position as Director of National Intelligence, suddenly, yesterday, Bush has ordered a line of succession directive for that post. In other words, after a year and a half, the Bush administration suddenly felt the need to establish exactly who would take Negroponte's place as DNI if he, and his principal deputy General Mike Hayden, were unable to perform their duties and functions.
And this was ordered right after the NSA spy scandal broke? I am prone to paranoia, but this seems just a little too coincidental.
Update: Looks like McClellan spells fallguy HAYDEN. From today's press briefing:
MR. McCLELLAN: ....General Hayden is the Deputy Director of National Intelligence and the former head of the National Security Agency. He's someone who is widely respected for the work he does to protect Americans. And he stated how he can -- he said, I can assure -- this is a quote from him: "I can assure you by the physics of the intercept, by how we actually conduct our activities, that one end of these communications are always outside the United States of America." And the Director of the National Intelligence Office said that they stand by that comment......
But, no. Our friend Jason at Rawstory is reporting, (oh, man, there's alot here.)
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is not expected to shut down his investigation into the leak of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson when he finishes his inquiry of White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove's role in the leak, lawyers close to the probe said. ....Hoooo boy, there's alot here. First, more prospective indictees apparently around the Vice President's office. The guessing game begins again. (Cheney? I don't think so at this point, or that, I think, would have been the lead, but Fitzgerald may be getting the riff raff in line before turning on the Don.)
Individuals close to the probe say Fitzgerald is still investigating other unnamed White House officials. This part of the investigation, like that of Rove, is focusing on whether these officials committed perjury, obstruction of justice or lied to federal investigators during the early days of the investigation....
The investigation is expected to shift back to top officials in the Office of the Vice President, the State Department and the National Security Council, and may even shed some light on the genesis of the Niger forgeries, lawyers close to the case say......
Separately, these people said, the FBI's renewed interest in probing the Niger forgeries grew out of Fitzgerald's probe....
Some of those people, who sources close to the case would only say were "senior level," have cooperated with the prosecutor in exchange for immunity related to their role in the case. No plea deals have been entered into with any official, they added.
"Mr. Fitzgerald has secured the cooperation of certain individuals who faced the possibility of being prosecuted," one attorney close to the case said. "That's all I'm going to say."....
Sources close to the probe said the State Department official referenced in both stories is the same, and has been providing the special counsel with crucial evidence against certain White House officials for the past two years.
Second a couple tantalizing mentions of the Niger forgeries, that this investigation "may even shed some light on the genesis of the Niger forgeries," and that it was Fitzgerald's investigation that prompted the FBI to reopen the forgeries case which the LATimes was reporting as now looking at "US citizens who advocated an invasion of Iraq."
If the Niger forgeries case is making headway, and overlapping with Fitzgerald's investigations into senior US government officials, this could be HUGE.
Lastly, further mentions of cooperating witnesses, a seemingly plural reference to cooperating "senior officials," and also a reference to a State Department official who "has been providing the special counsel with crucial evidence against certain White House officials for the past two years."
So, first impression is that the immunity bargainers are indeed singing, Fitzgerald appears to be working on more than just Karl Rove's testimony, and those significant mentions that Fitzgerald has had some involvement in the Niger forgeries.
Gonna go eat lunch and think about this a little. More later, certainly, but for now, I'll leave you with a question: If Fitzgerald does round up several more of these guys, and the seperate Niger forgeries investigation ties in a couple of them as well, what does this mean for this president? Just how much ignorance can he claim?
And, as a personal note, Thanks, Jason. You're breaking more stories than anybody else. Keep up the great work.
Update: I realized I left out that Rawstory has previously reported that John Hannah and David Wurmser are cooperating witnesses. Talk left is theorizing that Fleitz is the State Dept. leaker. Bolton's dirtywork guy, had his hands on the state dept memo identifying Plame, that's not a bad guess. (According to the WaPo's list, Fleitz was not a regular member of the WHIG, but did maintain his active CIA credentials, wearing two hats, while working for Bolton at State. Not essential, just unusual and interesting.)
(Also, keep your eyes open for news of Fitzgerald going back to the grand jury. My gut tells me that this is coming soon allowing for the holidays. If anybody sees it out there, even a rumor, post a comment and let me know. I'm getting that feeling again.)
Let's talk about the "Victory" in Iraq
A bloc of Shiite religious parties close to Iran has, according to results released Tuesday, attracted the largest percentage of voters.
It takes a two thirds majority to appoint ministers or amend the constitution. Remember how that constitution deal was passed, weeks late with the promise to the Sunnis that it could be altered after this election? (AP)
A senior member of the Alliance, Hussain al-Shahristani, predicted the bloc would receive about 130 seats — 10 fewer than they have now. But unlike last January's elections, which most Sunni Arabs boycotted, this time the Sunnis voted in large numbers. (there are a total of 275 seats - mike)So, the objections that the Sunnis had when they signed on to the constitution, the differences with the Shia they were told could later be amended, will not be changed without the consent of at least some of the strongly religious, tied to Iran, Iraqi Alliance vote regardless of what the Kurds do. (And I would guess that the tactics of an Iraqi vote whip are probably pretty effective.)
So that leaves the avenue left to the Sunnis as open violence. (WaPo)
Alluding to Sunnis who chose to abandon their earlier rejection of Iraqi politics and participate in Thursday's election, Adnan Dulaimi, a chief of the main Sunni coalition, the Tawafaq front, demanded: "What would we tell those whom we indirectly convinced to stop the attacks during the election period? What would we tell those people who wanted to boycott and we convinced them to participate?"
The preliminary results, he said, were "not in the interest of stability of the country."
And, as if having the Sunnis practicing open violence isn't enough...(Same WaPo piece)
The final distribution of seats in the 275-member National Assembly will be decided by a complicated formula that is based on turnout and is skewed to reward small parties by giving them some representation.Do you think the Shias who "won" the election are going to accept this dilution of their power without some extra-legislative response?
2,158 have died so far for this, with tens of thousands physically wounded and estimates of up to 50,000 more with psychological damage.
Tell me again about the "beacon of freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for freedom and liberty" which "will serve as such an optimistic and hopeful example for reformers from Tehran to Damascus."
I like that story.
Line of the day
From that, we get the line of the day (via Motherlode - No More Apples)
We don't know what the criteria were for "expanding" that "chain," but it does begin to sound a bit like a massive game of Six Degrees of Qevin al-Baiken.
His lips are moving.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - A surveillance program approved by President Bush to conduct eavesdropping without warrants has captured what are purely domestic communications in some cases, despite a requirement by the White House that one end of the intercepted conversations take place on foreign soil, officials say.Remember, just Monday at his press conference, Bush said this:
...you brought up something that I want to stress, and that is, is that these calls are not intercepted within the country. They are from outside the country to in the country, or vice versa. So in other words, this is not a -- if you're calling from Houston to L.A., that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that.
So, then, that would be a direct and blantant lie, wouldn't it?.
Also, OH, MY GOD, The Wapo prints this in support of spying on American citizens.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act makes it difficult to conduct surveillance of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents unless they are suspected of being involved in terrorist or other hostile activities. That is too restrictive. Innocent people, such as unwitting neighbors of terrorists, may, without knowing it, have valuable counterterrorist information. Collecting such information is of a piece with data-mining projects such as Able Danger..
The Dictatorial Presidency Has No Defense.
First appearing in the rendition argument, the Bush defenders are now trotting out parallels to the NSA spying programs (Drudge has up some unbacked "flashes" to that effect) with the underlying logic that somehow this makes a blantant breach of the law OK.
By your logic, because Tom Delay is crooked, Duke Cunningham is crooked, Bob Ney is crooked, and apparently Bill Frist is crooked, that means the Dems get four crooked politicians. Well, the Dems appear to have Jefferson in LA. so that means they get two more Congressmen and a Senator. Is that how this stuff works now?
This isn't a party issue, you idiots, this is a legal issue. It's a massive constitutional issue. This is about preventing a president from claiming unilateral dictatorial powers. This is about the very essence and health of our constitutional democracy.
Under the powers currently claimed by this administration, within the same authorization they are using for the NSA taps, the president, solely at his discretion, has the power to designate any individual an enemy combatant, detain that person, freeze or seize that person's assets, transfer them anywhere in the world, dance the fine line of torture, and detain them so long as the president deigns. All with no access to judicial remedy.
This claim of an omnipotent presidency in a time of "war" is a very dangerous precedent to allow. If this is allowed to stand, we, in effect, have a dictatorship. A dictatorship who has committed a war of unprovoked aggression, who makes repeated threats about military action against other nations, who possesses and is developing a WMD arsenal which could destroy the world several times over, who has used WMD in the past, and has made threats to use them in the future. A dictatorship who disappears its citizens without any legal recourse, and tortures individuals deemed a threat by its leader.
Didn't we just go to all the trouble of starting a war to remove one of those?
I don't care if Clinton did it too. No president should be claiming that he is the sole arbiter of our grand nation. No president should be able to claim that the Bill of Rights no longer applies to the citizens of this country. That runs against the great philosophical thread that has been passed forward through the generations in our country. There are no greater mandates on our democracy than the rights enshrined in those first ten amendments. They are truly the freedoms that we are supposedly fighting to protect.
If Clinton did it, fine, prosecute him as well. This is a nation of laws and not men. And, if men are allowed unlimited power, as history shows us in every example, it will not end well, and it will certainly mark the end of the great democratic experiment that is America.
So, Mr. Republican, if you truly are as conservative as you claim to be about the nature and scope of our government, step in and stop this.
Stop worrying about trying to save your party, and start worrying about how to save your country.
And, to my Bush apologist, pro-torture, pro-rendition, Texas Senator Cornyn, who said this today, “None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead,”
I would respond, "Give me Liberty or Give me Death, Motherfucker." Do you value America's freedoms so cheaply, Senator Cornyn?
I don't. I know how much blood has been spilt for our freedom and I treasure it. I'm not willing to give up that hard won liberty simply because some goddamned crackpot is out there trying to kill me.
By giving up our rights so easily, sir, it is you who is dishonoring the sacrifice that literally millions of American soldiers have willingly made over the last two centuries to guarantee our freedoms. And for putting such a low price on their lives, sir, you should be ashamed.
Judge quits FISA court in protest
A federal judge has resigned from the court that oversees government surveillance in intelligence cases in protest of President Bush's secret authorization of a domestic spying program, according to two sources.
U.S. District Judge James Robertson, one of 11 members of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, sent a letter to Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. late Monday notifying him of his resignation without providing an explanation.
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Dance, Scotty, Dance
Q The President has publicly acknowledged that we went to war under false information, mistaken information. Why does he insist on staying there if we were there falsely, and continue to kill Iraqis? .........
Q By killing people in their own country?
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I reject that. We're liberating and freeing people and we're targeting the enemy. We're killing the terrorists and we're going after the Saddam loyalists. .........
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, we've got a lot of technology that we can use to target the enemy without going after -- without collateral damage of civilians. And that's what our military does.
Q Are you kidding?
MR. McCLELLAN: Oh, I'm going to stand up for our military. Our military goes out of the way to protect civilians. In fact --
Q Fallujah, we didn't kill any civilians?
MR. McCLELLAN: We freed some 25 million people in Iraq that were living under a brutal regime.
Go ahead. (Go away, Helen) .....
Q Last year the President lauded the Patriot Act for giving him tools to track terrorists that he never had before, including roving wiretaps and other such tools. If the President has what he needed in the Patriot Act, why the need for this NSA program that he authorized? ......
Q Congress defines oversight as "the authority to conduct inquiries or investigations, to have access to records or materials, or to issue subpoenas or testimony from the executive." Which of these powers were members of Congress granted with regard to the NSA surveillance program? ....
Q So in what way were they given oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: They were briefed. And we believe it's important to brief members of Congress, the relevant leaders --
Q Would you also say they were given full oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: They're an independent branch of government. Yes, they have --
Q Were they given oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, they have oversight roles to play.
Q So they have oversight. So, in what way could they have acted on that oversight?
MR. McCLELLAN: You should ask members of Congress that question. .....
18,000 NSA taps?
Q Another question. It's our understanding this power(NSA spying) has been used 18,000-plus times. Are we to presume that there are that many al Qaeda agents in this country?
And the non-denial:
Q Did the President meet The New York Times editor on December 6th and ask him to not publish the eavesdropping story?
MR. McCLELLAN: I saw reports about that; I'm not going to get into discussing it, though.
Q No confirm, no deny?
MR. McCLELLAN: No, neither.
Picture of the Day - 3
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
You've gotta say, "I'm a human being, goddammit! My life has value!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, "I'm as mad as hell,and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
(Credit Michael for the picture)
More on the NSA story
The LaTimes is Reporting that the NYTimes sat on the story through the 2004 election. "The New York Times first debated publishing a story about secret eavesdropping on Americans as early as last fall, before the 2004 presidential election."
Antiwar has a post on their blog quoting Bush from April 20, 2004 promoting the PATRIOT act: (source: presidential speech)
Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so.And heads up later, early reports are that the Press briefing was a doozy. I'll post it when I see it.
And, Sens. Reid, Rockefeller, and Leahy wrote a pretty strong letter to the president asking for information and details. I wouldn't hold my breath on this, but it's pretty sweeping.
An AEI guy and an ex-Reagan deputy atty general are talking about impeachment, and AMblog has a significant part of the FISA statute up.
Hagel and Snowe, the kind of Republican Senators I wish I had, have joined Levin, Feinstein, and Wyden "calling for a joint investigation by the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees into whether the government eavesdropped "without appropriate legal authority."
My Senator Krazy Khristian Kornyn is, of course, defending this in his usual "love Bush or die" style. “None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas.)
A little on the old Church Committe hearings here and here.
As new things break, I'll just update on this post throughout the day.
Pcture of the Day - 2 - If they're gonna spy on us...
(While I was looking for this, I also found very high definition satellite pictures of other places to make my point, the Whitehouse without the defensive countermeasures blacked out, the Naval Observatory (VP's residence,) Al Gonzales' house. It's really pretty amazing what's out there in the public record, but I decided not to put those up because I didn't feel right about it. This low definition picture of the NSA will have to do.)
Choosing the right PR window.
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Sunni Arabs on Tuesday challenged partial election results released a day earlier, calling them a ''falsification of the will of the people'' and saying evidence of fraud was abundant. ....
The Iraqi Accordance Front, a coalition of three major Sunni Arab groups, rejected those results, warning of ''grave repercussions on security and political stability'' if the mistakes were not corrected.
Now it's the FBI spying on Americans
As it says in my descriptive blurb to the right, "This is not the America I was brought up to believe in."
Also, just as an interesting aside, notice that all three of Bush's supreme court nominees have made statements either directly or indirectly endorsing this administration's extreme interpretation of executive powers.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum has up an interesting post theorizing that this program was basically a massive datamining effort, sifting through a significant portion of everybody's electronic communications, and that's why the FISA warrants weren't applied for. I've been collecting other possibilities here.
Also, do you think these issues will survive the Christmas break? Will they offer the Whitehouse a break in which to reframe what everyone's talking about?
This is brilliant blogging
The Last Commercial Break of the Bush Presidency
Monday, December 19, 2005
Why did the NYTimes hold the NSA story for a year?
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.
The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference.....
No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important story—which the paper had already inexplicably held for a year—because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had “legal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.” But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law.....
Also, Josh Marshall has an interesting post based on the Rockefeller memo theorizing that this might be a clone of the TIA or some great vacuum which sweeps up and "searches" all emails.
Why not go through FISA?
As the FISA warrants are available retroactively up to 72 hours(you can start the tap with a finding by the AG then apply for a warrant within three days,) the entire administration defense, that these warrants are required for reasons of speed or agility is shown to be false.
The logical question then, assuming the administration is being disingenuous,(I know, I know) is what other reasons would they have for trying to obtain these taps outside of the FISA court. I've come across what I think are two valid possibilities.
1) The taps were wanted for individuals who were not involved in any sort of activity that might warrant such a tap. A possible example: a reporter with contacts within al qaeda or within a foreign government or intel service like Pakistan.
2) The information that prompted the desire for these taps was not obtained in a judicially admissible way either by unreliable reports or through torture. One other more benign possibility is that the administration didn't want to name the sources, but I would think that with the special conditions around a FISA court that would not be a real issue.
Take your pick. I don't like any of them.
Who lost Iraq?
In Iraqi election results, Allawi(the US and British hope/hype) "had won only meager support in crucial provinces where it had expected to do well, including Baghdad."
"The front-runner in Sunni Arab regions was a religious coalition whose leaders have advocated resistance to both the American military and the Shiite-led government and has insisted that President Bush set a timetable for withdrawal."
The big winner? "Early voting results announced by Iraqi electoral officials today indicated that religious groups, particularly the main Shiite coalition, had taken a commanding lead, with nearly two-thirds of the ballots having been counted."
And as for Rumsfeld's other puppet, "Another prominent secular candidate, Ahmad Chalabi, the former Pentagon favorite, won less than half a percent of the vote in Baghdad, possibly denying him a seat in the new Parliament."
So, we invaded Iraq to give them the democracy of Iran. Extremists won on both the Sunni and Shia sides. Is this what victory tastes like?
UPDATE: Genius of Insanity adds an element from the LATimes version which emphasizes the Shia parties, who look to be winning so big, are tied to Iran.
Plame Gossip - Rove indictment this week?
Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald met with the grand jury investigating the leak of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson for several hours Friday. Short of a last minute intervention by Rove's attorney, Fitzgerald is expected to ask a grand jury-possibly as soon as next week--the to indict Rove for making false statements to the FBI and Justice Department investigators in October 2003, lawyers close to the case say.
Will Rove get the Hot Karl by Christmas? (Don't look it up. If you don't know, be thankful.)
And what would that mean to this wobbly administration faced with so many problems? Will the vultures swoop? Will this lead to the Dems taking the House or Senate? So many questions, and all the answers are bad for this President.
Support for Alito falling among Republicans (-18%)
A President on Defense
1) "When the weapons weren't there, like many Americans, I was concerned." President Bush.
2) In regards to the " a democracy in Iraq will serve as a beacon for people of the region," isn't this just a warmed over version of the Domino Theory from Vietnam.
3) Regarding the NSA spying, what I heard is the regret of the bad husband "Everything I did, I did for you."
4) The hottest response was to a question about his claims of executive power, and that if the war on terror is to continue for generations, are we not looking at a "dictatorial president"(Bush's words) for decades to come? After responding hotly, he seemed to be belching with indigestion through the question following this one.
5) Bush kept stressing the absolute necessity of protecting sources and methods in his defense of the NSA program. The kicker unasked question would have been,
"If the protection of sources and methods is of such significant importance, why do you still employ Karl Rove at the Whitehouse with full security access and policy role? This is a man who has admitted his involvement in outing a CIA agent who was involved in gathering information regarding the black market transfer of nuclear plans, materials, and information. Why does Karl Rove, an admitted leaker who has damaged national security still have security access and a job in your administration?"
6) Also, did anybody else find it kind of creepy/desperate that Bush kept half raising his right hand when talking about his inaugural oath to uphold the laws and constitution of the country?
7) Did anyone else see irony when Bush was discussing secret prisons under Saddam? Not only in relation to the US gulags, but also to the secret torture prisons that have been discovered run by Iraqi police.
8) I also noticed a shift in language saying the Congressional leaders saw the same NIE that Bush did, not the same intel. First, that is more factually correct, but it leads me to wonder whether all the qualifiers on the intel were ever actually presented to him. In other words, did Cheney lie the president into war?
These are just quick first impressions, things that jumped out at me. I'll keep adding to this list as I think of stuff. If you've got anything else, or anything I forgot, throw it in the comments.
UPDATE: Leslie at In an Alternate Universe has a great excerpt from an Al Gonzales press conference held prior to the Bush conference. Short and worth a look. Crooks and Liars has the video.
Bush Press Conference 9:30 AM Central!!!!
Always much better than a speech. I wonder if the speech didn't test well.
WASHINGTON - The White House unexpectedly announced Monday morning that President Bush will hold a news conference at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Or maybe he just wanted to surprise the terrorists. But like any press conference, it all comes down to the questions and the questioners. I'll be really curious at this particular political moment, where the balance is between deference to office and fear of retribution, versus the reporters desires to be 'the one' to ask the question.
The lowest of expectations
How low has the bar been set for this president that he gets wide ranging praise for simply admitting that his Iraq war hasn't gone perfectly? He gets credit for admitting that his WMD intel was bad when every reporter and independent analyst had come to that conclusion years ago?
Isn't the fact that he's not admitted this for the two years since his "mission accomplished speech" really what we should be talking about? Have we gone so far that the President barely admitting part of the truth is worthy of praise?
UPDATE: Came across Rising Hegemon saying the same thing. He may say it better.
Also, Amblog has a good post up on one of the clever rhetorical partial admissions. Citing aluminum tubes, Niger forgeries, al qaeda connections..
Bush made a very clever lie in his umpteenth speech on Iraq last night. Bush said, "But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong." Actually, the intelligence was RIGHT. Bush just ignored it.
Gonzales defends NSA spying
Also, over the past day or two, the defense that "we did it because the FISA courts were too slow," has been shot down by the revelation that FISA warrants can be sought retroactively. In other words, start the tap immediately, then go and get the warrant.
Thre's something more going on here, but I'm not sure exactly what.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Cheney flops in Iraq.
Shouts of "hooah!" from the audience interrupted Cheney a few times, but mostly the service members listened intently. When he delivered the applause line, "We're in this fight to win. These colors don't run," the only sound was a lone whistle.
The skepticism that Cheney faced reflects opinions back home, where most Americans say they do not approve of President Bush's handling of the war. It was unique coming from a military audience, which typically receives administration officials more enthusiastically.
Picture of the Day - 2
WaPo "analysis" piece on NSA spying
And just a little historical framework that's bound to be brought out by the Bush supporters. There is a significant history of presidents overstepping normal bounds within "wartime", although these examples were all done within the public's sight. The defense would go something like, "well, this isn't nearly as bad as..."
The Sedition Acts. 1798 - John Adams, gave the president the ability to imprison or deport "aliens" or US Citizens who criticized the government. 1 alien deported, 10 convicted of sedition.
1861 - Abraham Lincoln passed a number of laws and policies during the Civil War which were restrictive, declaring Marshall Law and suspending Habeus Corpus.
1918 - The Espionage and Sedition Acts passed by Wilson were used to raid the homes, seize the assets, and imprison administration critics.
WWII - The internment of Japanese Americans, which was also authorized by Executive Order justified by a "war president."
If you want to learn more about Governmental Abuse of Power, visit your local library.
But don't check anything out, or you'll go on the list. It's up to 80,000 and counting.
(Note: I use the wikipedia entries because they're quick and easy. If you're really interested in any of this, do some looking to find more vetted and thorough histories.)
Padilla at the Supreme Court
Instead, the appeals court ordered the sides to submit briefs on what should become of the September decision "in light of the different facts that were alleged by the president to warrant Padilla's military detention and held by this court to justify that detention, on the one hand, and the alleged facts on which Padilla has now been indicted, on the other."This is a case we should all watch as it would give judicial backing as to whether the President has the ability to seize US citizens and hold them solely at his(or her) discretion.
The world is coming unglued
A gang of "Santas" cut a trail of havoc across New Zealand's biggest city in what was meant to be a protest against the commercialisation of Christmas. About 40 men in ill-fitting Father Christmas costumes ran around Auckland vandalising or stealing property, and throwing bottles, police say.
And, yes, I'm deperately looking for pictures from this. If anybody runs across any, post a link in comments. Apparently, "Santarchy" is a non-violent goofy thing where a bunch of people in Santa suits get together and drink, with a pretty nothing website.
(And Doonesbury is FUNNY today.)