Saturday, December 17, 2005

The President Goes on Offense regarding Defense

Reasonable Individual absolutists continue to demand, under the guise of protecting "civil liberties", that the government handcuff itself and give ideological judges the the key. Their cheerleaders at the Gray Lady pound the drums for their mantra. There's just one problem; The President isn't dancing:
President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists."

In an unusual live radio address, President Bush defended a classified eavesdropping program.

In an unusual step, Mr. Bush delivered a live weekly radio address from the White House in which he defended his action as "fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities." He also lashed out at senators - both Democrats and Republicans - who voted on Friday to block the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, which expanded the president's power to conduct surveillance, with warrants, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The revelation that Mr. Bush had secretly instructed the security agency to intercept the communications of Americans and suspected terrorists inside the United States, without first obtaining warrants from a secret court that oversees intelligence matters, was cited by several senators as a reason for their vote.

"In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without this law for a single moment," Mr. Bush said forcefully from behind a lectern in the Roosevelt Room, next to the Oval Office. The White House invited cameras in, guaranteeing television coverage.

He said the Senate's action "endangers the lives of our citizens," and added that "the terrorist threat to our country will not expire in two weeks," a reference to the approaching deadline of Dec. 31, when critical provisions of the current law will end. His statement came just a day before he is scheduled to make a rare Oval Office address to the nation, at 9 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, celebrating the Iraqi elections and describing what his press secretary on Saturday called the "path forward."
The usual suspects cry foul, of course:
Not surprisingly, Democrats saw the issue differently. "Our government must follow the laws and respect the Constitution while it protects Americans' security and liberty," said Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and the Senate's leading critic of the Patriot Act. Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the committee, said on Friday that "there is no doubt this is inappropriate" and that he would conduct hearings to determine why Mr. Bush took the action.
Mr. Specter's cognitive dissonence on the issue will only make me drop out of my chair in hysterics. If there's "no doubt" that what the President did was "inappropriate," then why does he need to "conduct hearings"? Just put out a motion to censure the Commander-In-Chief and leader of your political party, Chairman Spector. Get right to the point.

As to writer David Sanger's baseless conjecture that the President:
did not address the main question directed at him by some members of Congress on Friday: why he felt it necessary to circumvent the system established under current law, which allows the president to seek emergency warrants, in secret, from the court that oversees intelligence operations. His critics said that under that law, the administration could have obtained the same information.
I seem to recall the President's position as being this:
The president said on Saturday that he acted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks because the United States had failed to detect communications that might have tipped them off to the plot. He said that two of the hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, "communicated while they were in the United States to other members of Al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn't know they were here, until it was too late."
If Mr. Sanger and the President's critics are so confident in FISA, then how do they explain this?
A complaint from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the federal judge who oversees the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Court, helped spur the suspension, officials said. The judge questioned whether information obtained under the N.S.A. program was being improperly used as the basis for F.I.S.A. wiretap warrant requests from the Justice Department, according to senior government officials. While not knowing all the details of the exchange, several government lawyers said there appeared to be concerns that the Justice Department, by trying to shield the existence of the N.S.A. program, was in danger of misleading the court about the origins of the information cited to justify the warrants.

One official familiar with the episode said the judge insisted to Justice Department lawyers at one point that any material gathered under the special N.S.A. program not be used in seeking wiretap warrants from her court. Judge Kollar-Kotelly did not return calls for comment. (p. 4--A.H.F.)
The bureacratic foot-dragging that characterized the Clinton policy of separating Intelligence and Law Enforcement agency cooperation has no place in a post-9/11 world. As long as Judges like Colleen Kollar-Kotelly refuse to accept this, FISA can obstruct legitimate efforts by the NSA and FBI to prevent a future terrorist attack. More power to the President if he removed this roadblock by executive order.

There are appropriate civil liberty issues to raise with the Bush administration. Why did the President take so long to support Senator McCain's ammendment? Does the Administration still follow the flawed policy of rendition? Why haven't terrorist suspects not captured on the battlefield in Iraq or Afghanistan faced military tribunals? While these llines of inquiry clearly promote the human rights our constitution protects, they do little to promote THE issue that opposes Reasonable Absolute Individualists' unfettered aspirations: repealing the Patriot Act.

Long made the bogey-man of Civil libertarians of the Right and Left, the controversial law has helped protect American lives since 9/11. Now, thanks to the smoke and heat of the NSA's "American spying" story, opponents of the PA had a pretext they could use to bury it. The Absolutists may now least until enough Fools hollar about the idiocy of exposing the nation to attack. Islamofascists would welcome any opportunity for foment their totalitarianism. We shouldn't give them one. Period. Let alone so that the usual mouth-foamers can score political points. The security of the American Homeland should never be just another domestic political football. We shouldn't need another enflamed and collapsing tower to remind us of this. Let's not give our enemies an opportunity to give us such a reminder.