"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Friday, December 16, 2005
GOP leaders told Bush that his hardcore push to renew the more onerous provisions of the [Ptriot Act] could further alienate conservatives still mad at the President from his botched attempt to nominate White House Counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t give a goddamn,” Bush retorted. “I’m the President and the Commander-in-Chief. Do it my way.”
“Mr. President,” one aide in the meeting said. “There is a valid case that the provisions in this law undermine the Constitution.”
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face,” Bush screamed back. “It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!”
I’ve talked to three people present for the meeting that day and they all confirm that the President of the United States called the Constitution “a goddamned piece of paper.”
I didn't mention this story at the time, because it comes from Capitol Hill Blue, a source even less reliable than the New York Times (and more on that subject below). I have no idea whether the exchange quoted here ever actually occured, and in particular, whether George Bush ever actually called the Constitution a "goddamned piece of paper." And, since no one else reported such a story - even though the writer claims to have been able to triple-source it - I remain skeptical.
But you know what? It no longer matters in the slightest whether the Empty Flight Suit ever said such a thing, because it is now abundantly clear that he certainly believes it.
You have no doubt read a great deal today about the New York Times story detailing the secret executive order authorizing the National Security Agency to spy on Americans without such quaint niceties as warrants or probable cause. The significance of this development is difficult to overstate. Simply out, this President and his toadies believe that he has the power to suspend the Fourth Amendment on nothing more than his say-so. And, indeed, why not? After all, he also believes he has the power to suspend the First Amendment, as well as the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, so what's one more dead constitutional right at this point?
Here is a passage from the NYT story which underscores the seriousness of this issue:
The previously undisclosed decision to permit some eavesdropping inside the country without court approval represents a major shift in American intelligence-gathering practices, particularly for the National Security Agency, whose mission is to spy on communications abroad. As a result, some officials familiar with the continuing operation have questioned whether the surveillance has stretched, if not crossed, constitutional limits on legal searches.
"This is really a sea change," said a former senior official who specializes in national security law. "It's almost a mainstay of this country that the N.S.A. only does foreign searches."
Nearly a dozen current and former officials, who were granted anonymity because of the classified nature of the program, discussed it with reporters for The New York Times because of their concerns about the operation's legality and oversight.
According to those officials and others, reservations about aspects of the program have also been expressed by Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and a judge presiding over a secret court that oversees intelligence matters. Some of the questions about the agency's new powers led the administration to temporarily suspend the operation last year and impose more restrictions, the officials said.
And more, from the Washington Post:
The law governing clandestine surveillance in the United States, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, prohibits conducting electronic surveillance not authorized by statute. A government agent can try to avoid prosecution if he can show he was "engaged in the course of his official duties and the electronic surveillance was authorized by and conducted pursuant to a search warrant or court order of a court of competent jurisdiction," according to the law.
"This is as shocking a revelation as we have ever seen from the Bush administration," said Martin, who has been sharply critical of the administration's surveillance and detention policies. "It is, I believe, the first time a president has authorized government agencies to violate a specific criminal prohibition and eavesdrop on Americans."
Caroline Fredrickson, director of the Washington legislative office of the American Civil Liberties Union, said she is "dismayed" by the report.
"It's clear that the administration has been very willing to sacrifice civil liberties in its effort to exercise its authority on terrorism, to the extent that it authorizes criminal activity," Fredrickson said.
The NSA activities were justified by a classified Justice Department legal opinion authored by John C. Yoo, a former deputy in the Office of Legal Counsel who argued that congressional approval of the war on al Qaeda gave broad authority to the president, according to the Times.
That legal argument was similar to another 2002 memo authored primarily by Yoo, which outlined an extremely narrow definition of torture. That opinion, which was signed by another Justice official, was formally disavowed after it was disclosed by the Washington Post.
Wouldn't you just figure that Yoo's fingerprints were all over this outrage? Here's a lawyer - worse yet, someone who is now responsible for training future lawyers in his current role as a professor at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall - who has made clear his hostility to the Constitution in general. And that, in a nutshell, is the problem here. Back to the NYT:
The Bush administration views the operation as necessary so that the agency can move quickly to monitor communications that may disclose threats to this country, the officials said. Defenders of the program say it has been a critical tool in helping disrupt terrorist plots and prevent attacks inside the United States.
Administration officials are confident that existing safeguards are sufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans, the officials say.
I do not doubt that the unnamed "officials" actually said this and, even worse, believe it. It never occurs to these people that the only "existing safeguards" are, in fact, the very constitutional provisions they are presently eviscerating. That's precisely why these people are so dangerous - if they were the least bit ashamed of what they've done, they might be redeemable, but instead they honestly believe that they are saving our nation by betraying it.
It's bad enough that Der Böy Führer believes himself to be the personification of the law and the state, bound by no authority greater than himself, but the larger peril is that he has managed to surround himself with a government composed entirely of sycophants, bootlickers, and honest-to-God fascists who will make his fever dream a reality. That no one - no adviser, no member of Congress, no staffer at the NSA - saw fit to bring these crimes to public light illustrates how close we are today to being completely lost.
But it gets worse. Again, back to the Times:
The White House asked The New York Times not to publish this article, arguing that it could jeopardize continuing investigations and alert would-be terrorists that they might be under scrutiny. After meeting with senior administration officials to hear their concerns, the newspaper delayed publication for a year to conduct additional reporting. Some information that administration officials argued could be useful to terrorists has been omitted.
Think about that. The "Paper of Record" has known for a full year that the administration has authorized - nay, demanded - blatantly illegal conduct as a matter of policy, and only now sees fit to share some of the news. There's your liberal media at work, boys and girls. (For more on this aspect of the story, see this dainty examination at CBSNews.com.)
And there it is. We already knew that George Bush has no compunction about trashing the Constitution, along with the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and the Magna Freakin' Carta; as far as he's concerned, they collectively make a nice pile of tinder with which to ignite his National Guard service records. But now we know that the rest of the government, along with our allegedly free press, is more than willing to play along. Watch how this story plays out over the next few days - to the extent that it doesn't simply fade away, it will consist of ineffectual hand-wringing by the so-called Left, harrumphing rationalizations from the Right, and stony silence from the "centrist" Good Germans.
We are beyond worrying about the prospect of a police state. We already live there.