2006/02/23

More hysterical justifications

ON SEPT. 11, 2001, three planes carried death and destruction to American targets.

Wow! That was quick! A conservative arguing that we should surrender our Constitutional rights in exchange for false promises of safety delivered by an administration that doesn't even seem to care about seaport security. Usually, people at least wait a couple of sentences before gnashing their teeth, rending their garments and screaming "9-11! 9-11!" Notice what the author then does in the next paragraph. Note especially the two passages I've emphasized:

On Sept. 14, Congress passed a resolution giving George Bush authorization to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against the masterminds of the attacks. In those dark moments, we resolved to use any means at our disposal to deter future attacks.

The first passage cites what the legislation that was passed actually said. The second cites what some citizens, by no means all citizens, felt was necessary to be safe.

Daschle, a former Democratic senator from South Dakota who helped negotiate the resolution with the White House, said the resolution did not grant President Bush authority to order warrantless spying on Americans suspected of terrorist ties. Daschle said warrantless wiretaps of Americans never came up in the negotiations.

"I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps," Daschle wrote in an article on the Post's opinion page. "I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance."

Daschle said the White House sought, but failed, to have included in the resolution language that would have given the president war powers within the United States. He said he refused "to accede to the extraordinary request for additional authority."

"Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text."

The following statement then, is dishonest in the extreme:

...the same body that enacted FISA issued the enabling authorization. And contrary to what some critics claim, the resolution was not limited to sending troops into Afghanistan. Read the language.

The language is quite clear and specific and, as Daschle says, does not authorize warrantless wiretaps.

It's naive to believe that the NSA controversy is about privacy.

This is a highly cynical and insulting statement. It completely denies that anybody with an opinion different from the President's could possibly be sincere or is arguing in good faith, as an American citizen who wants the best for his or her fellow citizens. Naturally, there is no attempt to prove this statement by any citation of facts or evidence.
Is this a controversy about "executive power, its limits and its prerogatives"? Of course it is, no doubt about it. Nor is there any doubt that citizen privacy and what the Constitution, specifically the 4th Amendment, says about "unreasonable searches and seizures" is also at issue. There's no reason whatsoever to suggest that Congressional opponents are being in any way dishonest or cynical.

But a clear and unbiased examination of this administration's actions shows that, at the very least, Bush and his advisers believed that they were acting under a constitutional umbrella.

There is no reason to disparage this statement. We can grant the Bush Administration the honest belief that it was and is acting within the law of the land. But their belief that what they were doing was legal does not translate into "What they were doing was legal." Somebody can sincerely, even fervently believe in something. That doesn't make it true.

The administration briefed key members of congressional oversight committees as well as the chief judges of the FISA court. If any of these individuals felt that the program crossed into illegality and, worse, unconstitutionality, they could have spoken up years ago.

Actually, they could not have done so as the following passage shows:

...according to a newly released letter sent to him that month by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.). Pelosi, the ranking Democrat on the committee, raised concerns in the letter, which was declassified with several redactions and made public yesterday by her staff. [emphasis mine]

If Pelosi's letter had to be declassified before she could share it with the public (The same article states that "The substance of Hayden's response one week later, on Oct. 17, 2001, was redacted.") then there is no mystery whatsoever as to why opponents of the program did not speak up. They were only permitted to speak privately to the Administration and the Administration didn't care very much for their views.

Not being sure of her case, the author feels obliged to close with yet more 9-11 horror:

...the screams of the innocent and the smell of burning flesh.
...their blood will not have been shed in vain.

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