"There is an old rhetorical tactic in Washington: you repeat something often enough, regardless of whether it's true, and hope people will start to believe it."
As [the WaPo's Dan Froomkin has] often noted, this tactic is one of the White House's signature approaches to communication. But Perino wasn't talking about her boss.
"This has been the preferred tactic of many Democrats involved in the FISA debate," she said, "and the Democratic chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees employ it again in an op-ed published today in the Washington Post. . . .
"The President has listened to the judgment of these same professionals that the absence of long-term legislation creates uncertainty that poses a risk to those tools and could lead to the loss of intelligence information and that further short-term extensions of the PAA do not solve the problem. Stating that fact is not a scare tactic -- it reflects the considered judgment of the intelligence community, whose principal concern is not politics, but doing their jobs."
Well, it may very well indeed be the "considered judgment of the intelligence community" that the Constitution has to be stomped on with muddy, hobnailed boots in order for them to do their jobs the way they'd like to do them, but that doesn't mean we American citizens have to consider their judgment to be the final word. What Bush doesn't want to include in any surveillance program is any measure that prevents him from listening in on or rifling through any communications that he gosh-darn jolly well wants to listen in on or rifle through.
The problem with Perino's statement is that there's simply no room for the considerations of American citizens who would like to not have their communications placed under the Bush Administration's baleful glare. We don't know what the Bush Administration is surveilling and it's certainly not necessary for regular citizens such as myself to know. What IS necessary is for non-administration figures, both for Democratic partisans and for professional non-partisans, to keep a careful eye on just what communications are being read or listened to. As an American citizen, I very proudly do not trust my government. We've always been a "Show me the books" nation, where the government is responsible to the people and needs to be kept on a leash. As a democracy, we've never blindly trusted our government in the past and there's no compelling reason to do so now.
Yes, 9-11 occurred several years back, but even if we set aside the findings of 911Truth.org, even if we put aside all of the conspiracy theories, the fact remains that 9-11 was a one-time, non-repeatable event. Hijacking jet airliners is an operation that requires passengers to remain in their seats and obviously, they will only do that if they are convinced that all will be well if they cooperate with the hijackers. If passengers feel that sitting quietly in their seats means that their aircraft will be flown into a building, they have every reason in the world to jump up and to stop the hijackers at all costs. Even if half a dozen passengers are shot by the hijackers, the rest of them still have every motivation to press their attack. Could terrorists attack a nuclear power plant with equally spectacular results? Yes, but my brother took a tour of a nuclear power plant a few months after 9-11 and reports that such an attack would be next to impossible to carry out successfully.
As to the NSA surveilling all calls and emails, the question remains: Was it absolutely necessary for the NSA to have had unlimited surveillance capability in order to prevent 9-11 from happening? The testimony of the 9-11 Widows or Jersey Girls makes that awfully doubtful. They list ten separate reasons for the Bush Administration to have been aware that an attack was imminent, yet "...post 9/11 reports and commissions found no evidence of any action taken by appropriate officials." Why did the Bush Administration spend August 2001 sitting around, chilling out, their feet up on their desks, clearing brush on the ranch and generally yawning as if nothing required their urgent attention? Well, such a lackadaisical response to an upcoming disaster would not be unprecedented.
Hitler’s original plan called for the invasion of Russia to begin on May 15, but logistical problems and the need to rescue Mussolini’s forces in Africa and the Mediterranean forced a postponement. When the Blitzkrieg finally came, the Russian people were surprised; however, Stalin had ample warning of the German attack.
A variety of intelligence sources relayed information to Stalin that an invasion was imminent. Richard Sorge, his spy in Tokyo, who had access to the German ambassador’s messages, sent word of the date of the invasion. Both the British and Americans passed on a variety of warnings and details about German troop movements. However, Stalin could not be persuaded that Hitler would turn on him and did not want to provide an excuse for him to do so. He continued to ship strategic materials as agreed in his economic treaty with Germany up until the moment Wehrmacht troops crossed into Russia.
The Bush Administration's actions prior to 9-11 could be chalked up to simple negligence, incompetence and dereliction of duty. The fact of the matter is that if the NSA's apparent lack of capability to intercept and read all conceivable messages was a factor in 9-11, it was only one of many factors.
Froomkin then cites a radio address given by Bush where Bush does indeed acknowledge the issue of the government grabbing an excessive amount of information on citizens, but he doesn't acknowledge it as a civil rights or Constitutional issue. Bush identifies it purely as a method of enriching trial lawyers. He cites the patriotism of those intelligence agents and cooperating telecommunications companies, saying that they are simply trying their best to "protect America," but views the issue as an entirely one-sided problem, with the Constitution's historically-justified restraints on government snooping counting for nothing. Bush then gave a speech to governors of various states in which he movingly cited the problems of those agents and companies who trusted their government to give them sound legal advice and who were now in jeopardy of being held accountable for violating the rights of citizens.
Well, sorry if I'm kinda hard-hearted about that issue, but as a sailor (PN3(Ret), USN) I was taught the distinction between lawful and unlawful orders. I was expected to know the difference and the first kind of order you needed to obey, the second, not so much. Telecommunications companies have large legal staffs with decades of experience in FISA. They know full well the difference between lawful and unlawful government requests.
Bush wants to "go forward." Well, that sounds like a marvelous thing to do, but many millions of US citizens would like to go forward with our Constitutional rights being respected in the process.