Friday, December 23, 2005
Known Facts™, as you may well know, are things which are not really facts at all, but are clung to by the left with all the force and tenacity of runaway religious fervor. It is common for conservatives to express amazement at how liberals come to believe in ridiculous things like War-for-Halliburton, and even more, to simply assume that the rest of the world shares in their delusion. If you ever ask a liberal to provide you with evidence for one of these bizarre conspiracy theories, they will likely respond in amazment, "Everyone knows that - it's a Known Fact™ that (Bush lied, we went to Iraq for oil, or whatever the liberal conspiracy theory du jour might happen to be). It's less often analyzed how these Known Facts™ come to be, but the recent bru-ha-ha over the NSA wiretaps is slowly but surely giving birth to another Known Fact™ - namely, the Known Fact™ that Bush broke the law by authorizing these NSA wiretaps. We are therefore provided with a unique opportunity to study the phenomenon as it occurs.
Phase one generally involves the media. Whenever a story comes out that might possibly shed negative light on a Republican, and most especially George W. Bush, you can expect the media to sensationalize the information and interpret what little is known in the worst possible light. Thus, a program in which computers sift through the international telephone calls of known Al Qaeda operatives for certain key words gives birth to ludicrious headlines like, "Bush authorizes spying on Americans," complete with the obligatory "Specter calls for investigations."
With Phase two, the partisan liberals (insofar as they are distinguishable from the media) kick in, as they set about to prove this interpretation of the facts. After all, this seems like the kind of thing they'd expect from Bush, it's consistent with the picture they have painted in their own minds of "King George," and so the more intellectually lazy liberals will simply assume it is true without further evidence and move on with their lives. Some of the more industrious liberals will actually take things a step farther, and try to produce evidence to back up their claim. Thus, you have folks like Glenn Greenwald, who, so far as I can tell, is the only lefty even trying to produce evidence of any actual lawbreaking by Bush anymore.
Phase three begins when disinterested experts like Richard Posner and Cass Sunstein (who is, by all rational accounts, a giant in liberal legal circles) take the time to actually do real research into the situation. Posner has actively declared that the Bush administration's policy has not gone far enough in gathering domestic intelligence, and even Sunstein is forced to admit that the Bush administration's justification for this program is "plausible," and that if FISA conflicts with the President's Article II authority, then FISA itself might just be unconstitutional!
For most rational people, at this point, the argument dies and they move on with their lives. However, the media is generally never bothered to print a retraction, and certainly nothing on the level of the furor that was generated over the original story. The lazy liberals continue to repeat the contentions of the few liberals who did any homework whatsoever, even after that homework has been largely discredited - discounting all contrary evidence as part of a NeoCon PNAC conspiracy that probably involves the Freemasons and Knights Templar if you only dig down deep enough. The fact that you have to shoehorn guys like Posner and Sunstein into such a bizarre conspiracy group is irrelevant - the only important fact is what everybody "knows" really happened - the evil Chimpy McBushitlerburton broke the law and spied on American citizens. They "know" that this happened because it is consistent with their neverending, burning hatred of Bush, and their vision of him as the boogeyman who lurks in their closet, just waiting to throw all Democrats and Liberals in jail and send them off to forced labor for Halliburton in the West Texas desert.
What do you mean, you want evidence? They're only telling you a Known Fact™.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
What makes this president think he can invade the privacy of Americans without a warrant?
I don't know. Could it be the powers, long recognized by federal law, to:
Detain American citizens for investigative purposes without a warrant;
Arrest American citizens, based on probable cause, without a warrant;
Conduct a warrantless search of the person of an American citizen who has been detained, with or without a warrant;
Conduct a warrantless search of the home of an American citizen in order to secure the premises while a warrant is being obtained;
Conduct a warrantless search of, and seize, items belonging to American citizens that are displayed in plain view and that are obviously criminal or dangerous in nature;
Conduct a warrantless search of anything belonging to an American citizen under exigent circumstances if considerations of public safety make obtaining a warrant impractical;
Conduct a warrantless search of an American citizen's home and belongings if another person, who has apparent authority over the premises, consents;
Conduct a warrantless search of an American citizen's car anytime there is probable cause to believe it contains contraband or any evidence of a crime;
Conduct a warrantless search of any closed container inside the car of an American citizen if there is probable cause to search the car — regardless of whether there is probable cause to search the container itself;
Conduct a warrantless search of any property apparently abandoned by an American citizen;
Conduct a warrantless search of any property of an American citizen that has lawfully been seized in order to create an inventory and protect police from potential hazards or civil claims;
Conduct a warrantless search — including a strip search — at the border of any American citizen entering or leaving the United States;
Conduct a warrantless search at the border of the baggage and other property of any American citizen entering or leaving the United States;
Conduct a warrantless search of any American citizen seeking to enter a public building;
Conduct a warrantless search of random Americans at police checkpoints established for public-safety purposes (such as to detect and discourage drunk driving);
Conduct warrantless monitoring of common areas frequented by American citizens;
Conduct warrantless searches of American citizens and their vessels on the high seas;
Conduct warrantless monitoring of any telephone call or conversation of an American citizen as long as one participant in the conversation has consented to the monitoring;
Conduct warrantless searches of junkyards maintained by American citizens;
Conduct warrantless searches of docks maintained by American citizens;
Conduct warrantless searches of bars or nightclubs owned by American citizens to police underage drinking;
Conduct warrantless searches of auto-repair shops operated by American citizens;
Conduct warrantless searches of the books of American gem dealers in order to discourage traffic in stolen goods;
Conduct warrantless drug screening of American citizens working in government, emergency services, the transportation industry, and nuclear plants;
Conduct warrantless drug screening of American citizens who are school officials;
Conduct warrantless drug screening of American citizens who are school students;
Conduct warrantless searches of American citizens who are on bail, probation or parole.
These could conceivably be some of the things that the president is thinking about, though certainly not all. I neglected, after all, to mention the long-established "inherent authority" of the president to "conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information," recognized by federal appeals courts and assumed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review in 2002.
Where does this president get such crazy ideas? Obviously, he should be impeached.
Monday, December 19, 2005
I’m an excellent multitasker, and often times I do some of my best thinking when I’m doing four things at once. Such was the case the other day at work, the day of the Iraqi elections. Like everyone else I had been reading the news reports, and also the naysaying coming from the Democrats. I was amazed at how a party could be so unified in its contempt for George W. Bush that they could work feverishly to downplay one of the most significant accomplishments of any president since the collapse of the Soviet Union. I mean, politics is politics, and the elections are coming up next year, but this is different. What could their motivation be? And then it hit me.
The last major war the United States was involved in was Vietnam. The modern Democratic Party leadership all came of age during that war, as did most of the editorial staff in the manistream media. It wasn’t just a defining moment in the modern American left, it was the defining moment, the prism through which the left would view the world from that moment on. Vietnam was justification for every pacifist tendency that every liberal has ever had. When they said that war didn’t solve anything, they could point to Vietnam. When they wanted to show the consequences of war, they could point to Vietnam. When they wanted to show the failure of military force as a tool for political change, they could point to Vietnam. It was the last major war this country was ever involved in. Sure we’ve had military operations, from Grenada to the Gulf War to the Balkans, but Vietnam our last big one, and it was a war we ended up losing. Vietnam has been their de facto answer for everything for the past 30 years.
Iraq threatens their entire belief system.
Look at it from their point of view. We now face an enemy such as this country has never faced before. There have been and will continue to be legitimate differences of opinion on how to prosecute that war. Shortly after 9/11, when the United States went into Afghanistan, the left immediately hauled out all their old Vietnam-era anti-war slogans and rhetoric. And why not? The last big war was a loss in large part due to the political activism of the American left. These were tried-and-true methods of getting out the left-wing message. Then, when the controversial decision was made to go into Iraq, the anti-war left was at a fever pitch. How many stickers on how many cars have we seen the last few years saying “War is NOT the answer!” Think about that for a minute. It doesn’t say that this particular war is not the answer in this particular instance, it makes a blanket condemnation of war under any circumstances. This position is only tenable because our last full-scale military conflict, Vietnam, was a loser. 58,000 Americans lost their lives for nothing, which they feel is a strong argument towards their proposition that war doesn’t solve anything. The Korean war was a draw, and WWII was a winner, but only our grandparents and great grandparents were around to experience that one. Vietnam is all the left has in their corner.
Let’s assume that this election is, indeed, a crossroads for Iraq. That from here on, with a constitution of their own design an a government of their own choosing, and a military capable of defending that government and the Iraqi people from Islamist forces, Iraq will surely grow bigger and stronger and more independent. In short, from the ruin of an authoritarian regime comes the font of democracy, and a new nation is born. I mean, think about this for a second. If someone had come to you in the mid 1990s and says that a decade from now there was going to be a functioning democracy in the Middle East, you would have laughed in their face. Not only a democracy, mind you, but an Arab democracy comprising three main ethnic and religious groups. One where women have the right of the vote. It sounds like a dream, doesn’t it? What an amazing achievement.
The Democrats can see the writing on the wall. They know that if we stick around and maintain our will there is no way we can lose this conflict. We shall prevail! And that idea is terrifying to the Democrats and the rest of the American left. Why? Because it shows that war CAN solve problems. That with our overwhelming technical skill we can invade and secure just about any other country in the world, and not only that, but we can get a democratically elected government in place within just a few years.
War never solved anything? My fat ass it didn’t. In the last four years two wars have liberated two countries, and we are in the process of getting those countries on their way to prosperity and self-sufficience. In terms of the cost of life, especially when you look at the numbers for previous wars, we have suffered quite a low number. While the death of any man or woman is tragic, they should be honored to the fullest for their sacrifice to this nation, and to the people of Iraq.
The Democrats and the left cannot have this. The US has been in the “lose” column for so long now, That’s been one of their main sources of political strength. They must prevent, at all costs, the US from getting to a point where this was can be chalked up as a win. If we get a win then we negate the rallying cry of Vietnam. The next time a war is proposed and someone mentions Vietnam, we can point to Iraq as an example of just how many legitimate problems war can solve. Conversely, if they can get Iraq declared a loss, then they’ll have a patten. “We’re two for two!” So the next time someone proposes military force, the lefties will get to pull out Iraq and Vietnam. Their message will get new life breathed into it for the next forty years.
This is why they will stop at nothing to prevent President Bush from winning this war. A win in Iraq means that their whole “War Solves Nothing” argument becomes virtually worthless, a relic of a bygone era. And that terrifies them.
Iraq must be a loss at all costs. The future of left-wing political activism is at stake
Friday, in a report that the White House asked not be published because it could jeopardize ongoing anti-terrorist operations, the Times revealed that in 2001 the president authorized the National Security Agency to collect intelligence from conversations routed through the United States and possibly including people within the United States. And the media feeding frenzy aimed at declaring George W. Bush a criminal started all over again.
It's pretty clear that NSA's domestic intelligence gathering was -- and is -- legal. But before we get to that, we have to set the context for this debate correctly, which is more than the Times, the Washington Post, or any of the other politico-media will do. We need only two data points to accomplish that.
First, the last time a war was fought on American soil, the president then didn't merely authorize intelligence gathering within our borders, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus for anyone held in military custody (even though we didn't yet have a base at Gitmo), and declared that anyone opposing the war would be tried and punished under martial law in military courts. Thank heaven that George Bush isn't as radical as Abraham Lincoln was when he signed that proclamation in September 1862. Or as radical as FDR was in interning Japanese citizens in World War II.
Second, the price of inaction in the war against terrorists is too high. We know, from Mansour Ijaz's accounts and from the admissions Clinton national security adviser Sandy Berger has made in several interviews, that the Clinton administration turned down Sudan's repeated 1996 offers of bin Laden on a silver platter because its lawyers didn't believe we had enough evidence to indict him in a U.S. court. Instead of telling the lawyers to find a way to put OBL out of business, the Clintons took the easy way out their lawyers had provided and let bin Laden get away. Now, we have a president who apparently tells his lawyers what Andrew Carnegie once told his.
In what may be an apocryphal story, 19th century industrial baron Carnegie, in a long meeting with his planning staff, endured a few "you can't do that" objections from a new lawyer. Carnegie took the young man into the hall and fed him a dose of reality: "Young man, I don't pay you to tell me what I can't do. I pay you to tell me how I can do what I want to do." And that sums up President Bush's approach to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
FISA requires that intelligence gathering regarding conversations to which "U.S. persons" are a party can only be done pursuant to a search warrant issued (usually in secret) by the special FISA court, made up of sitting U.S. district court judges and located in the Department of Justice building in Washington.
Second, the FISA court issues warrants based on findings of probable cause, like other U.S. courts issuing criminal search warrants. There are too many situations -- like the one we were in before 9-11 -- in which too many possible terrorists are talking to each other and their helpers to sort them out one by one and get individual warrants. Which is why the law, and the regulations that implement it, allow the Attorney General to bypass the FISA court.
The regulations implementing FISA clarify the law's exceptions to the requirements for a FISA court warrant. U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive, dated July 27, 1993, is the primary regulation governing NSA's operations. It is a secret document. (We at TAS, unlike the NYT, never, ever, disclose government secrets that may damage national security. What follows is taken from a declassified version obtained from an open source.)
Under Section 4 of USSID 18, communications which are known to be to or from U.S. Persons can't be intentionally intercepted without: (a) the approval of the FISA court is obtained; OR (b) the approval of the Attorney General of the United States with respect to "communications to or from US Persons outside the United States...international communications" and other categories of communications including for the purpose of collecting "significant foreign intelligence information."
USSID 18 goes on to allow NSA to gather intelligence about a U.S. person outside the United States even without Attorney General sanction in emergencies "when securing the approval of the Attorney General is not practical because...the time required to obtain such approval would result in the loss of significant foreign intelligence and would cause substantial harm to national security."
So FISA itself and USSID 18 provide a lot of swinging room for what the president ordered. If the people subjected to the intelligence gathering weren't "U.S. persons," if Attorney General Gonzales made certain findings (which he did, according to several accounts) and if the NSA went ahead because it reasonably believed it would lose significant foreign intelligence if it held its hand, the operation is legal. Period. Everyone who is ranting and raving about illegality has neither the facts (most of which we don't know) or the law and regulations (which weigh heavily in favor of legality) on their side.
In his Saturday radio address, the president said that the NSA program he authorized has been reviewed over and over, and reauthorized by him more than three dozen times:
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland. During each assessment, previous activities under the authorization are reviewed. The review includes approval by our nation's top legal officials, including the Attorney General and the Counsel to the President. I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the September the 11th attacks, and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al Qaeda and related groups.
Illegal? I don't think so. A good idea? No, a great idea. Many of the congressional Dems whining the loudest about the president breaking the law (such as Sen. Carl Levin, ranking Dem on the Armed Services Committee) were almost certainly among those who were briefed repeatedly on the program since it began in 2001. In short, the Dems' objections are as hollow as the people shouting them to the television cameras. Let Congress ask its questions, and answer some as well. (Such as why weren't they concerned about this when they were briefed on it four years ago?) But let the intelligence be gathered.
America has lived in the shadow of 9-11 for more than four years. Everyone expects more terrorist attacks on our shores, but none has yet occurred. One reason for that is probably the NSA domestic intelligence gathering program.
We can do a lot, and must do it all. Spying on aliens and some "U.S. persons" here in accordance with the law, asking our allies to spy on Americans overseas, sharing intelligence gathered abroad with law enforcement authorities here, and much more. Our Constitution and laws set broad bounds for intelligence gathering. We should do everything within those bounds. Everything.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Yesterday, the leader of the major American opposition party called the war in Iraq "unwinnable", compared the supposed scandal over intelligence -- the same intel that Congress had seen since the Clinton administration -- with Watergate, and issued a demand that Bush immediately withdraw half of the forces in Iraq -- and yet the major newspapers could not be bothered to write their own articles about the story or include it in their print versions today. Neither the NY Times nor the Washington Post gave any kind of comprehensive report to Howard Dean's shrieking for retreat and surrender, nor to his ridiculous notion of how to fight against Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as told to WOAI radio in San Antonio:
Saying the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," Democratic National Chairman Howard Dean predicted today that the Democratic Party will come together on a proposal to withdraw National Guard and Reserve troops immediately, and all US forces within two years. ...
"I think we need a strategic redeployment over a period of two years," Dean said. "Bring the 80,000 National Guard and Reserve troops home immediately. They don't belong in a conflict like this anyway. We ought to have a redeployment to Afghanistan of 20,000 troops, we don't have enough troops to do the job there and its a place where we are welcome. And we need a force in the Middle East, not in Iraq but in a friendly neighboring country to fight (terrorist leader Musab) Zarqawi, who came to Iraq after this invasion. We've got to get the target off the backs of American troops.
Dean didn't specify which country the US forces would deploy to, but he said he would like to see the entire process completed within two years. He said the Democrat proposal is not a 'withdrawal,' but rather a 'strategic redeployment' of U.S. forces.
First, from these comments Dean makes clear that he has no idea of the difference between a strategic redeployment and running away. The former refers to a rearrangement of tactical positioning, including tactical retreat in some cases, in order to regain the initiative for a bigger push later on. "Redeployment" by disengagement with no intent to return to the battlefield has another term in military parlance: full retreat. Dean also exposes his utter lack of comprehension of the situation in Southwest Asia when he suggests that we can easily find a "friendly nation" to host 80,000 American troops while our country lacks the political will to allow them to fight. Exactly who will want to board Americans when the terrorists come after us in our new bivouac? And would Dean and the Democrats allow them to fight then, or will they claim that we're still the root cause of the terrorist activity and give up the Middle East altogether?
Dr. Dean, which country would sign up for that duty? The only nations large enough to host 80,000 American troops would be Turkey (which won't do it), Kuwait (which is on the wrong side of Iraq to easily address the issues in the west and center of Iraq), and Saudi Arabia (which is where we supposedly offended the Islamofascists initially).
Most laughably, the leader of the Democrats and the man responsible for coordinating their electoral efforts then claims that by pulling American troops out of Iraq and outside of the range of Zarqawi, we'll be better prepared to fight the insurgents -- even though we will no longer have assets on the ground gathering intelligence and conducting the kinds of patrols necessary to find and engage the enemy on our terms. Instead, Zarqawi will simply start taking over towns like Falluja and Ramadi all over again and operating in the open to spread his lunatic Islamofascism across central Iraq.
The embarassment of Dean's military analysis would make clear that the Democrats have no business conducting foreign affairs and national security for the US in this age of Islamofascist terrorism. That's why the newspapers buried Dean's comments on their web sites. They had plenty of time to write their own copy, or at least to include the AP story in their print edition. However, the NYT and the Washington Post obviously hope that Dean's comments get quickly forgotten. (The Los Angeles Times doesn't bother to mention it at all, despite the longer lead time for their newspaper.)
Perhaps this comes as no surprise -- it doesn't surprise me -- but the national media has long since decided it needs to downplay Dean if the Democrats are to survive 2006. The Democrats still haven't gotten the same message.
The Right-Wing Attack Machine is at it again. Over the weekend, esteemed Senator, decorated war hero, and rightful inhabitant of the White House, John Fitzgerald Kerry spoke candidly on Face the Nation about the hopeless quagmire in Iraq, and why our troops are such heartless bastards.
“There is no reason, Bob, that young American soldiers need to be going into the homes of Iraqis in the dead of night, terrorizing kids and children, you know, women, breaking sort of the customs of the -- of -- of -- of -- historical customs, religious customs, whether you like it or not. Iraqis should be doing that.”
It’s all pretty cut and dry, and certainly nothing we haven’t heard from other Democrat leaders and high-ranking members of Al-Qaeda for months now. But before the program was even over, the right-wing blogosphere exploded with typical hate-filled bile, ignoring the crux of the interview to dwell on one or two little lines that were spoken completely off the cuff and shouldn’t be taken literally. Chickenhawk Hannity, Fatty McFatso, and Fraulein “Hooray for Internment Camps” Malkin all got their digs in, resorting to the same old playbook they’ve been using for years. By constantly spinning the senator’s nuanced statements to mean what he actually says, the fascists of conservative punditry intend to "Murtha” Sen. Kerry by forcing him to be held accountable for every tidbit of wisdom that spews forth from his stately blowhole. But John Kerry won’t be bullied. Anyone doubting his authority on the quagmire in Iraq need only remember that Rush Limbaugh had anal cysts in 1965.
Despite what republican radio hacks want us to believe, Sen. Kerry is absolutely correct: the U.S. government is indeed ordering jackbooted squads of armed goons to bust down the doors of private residences and terrorize women and children – actions that are entirely inexcusable unless done to reunite nice little Cuban boys with their loving Uncle Fidel. During these nightly raids, Muslim customs such as the ceremonial greasing of the sacred yak are completely ignored, and large collections of priceless weaponry and improvised explosives are confiscated without recompense. But perhaps out of his unwavering reverence for our brave soldiers who are merely unwitting pawns in Bush’s war games, John Kerry did not expand on all the details of our military’s campaign of terror against the innocent children of Iraq.
In addition to their barbaric stormtrooper tactics, U.S troops have been waging a highly documented guerilla war on the children of Iraq for some time. Inhuman atrocities are committed on a day-to-day basis with the full awareness of officers at all levels of command. Large numbers of soldiers have been known to descend on small Iraqi villages like packs of wild dogs, forcing unsuspecting children to wear second hand or off-the-rack clothing in a fashion reminiscent of Jingus K-mart. Many children are subjected to bizarre medical experiments and given mysterious injections. Countless more suffer unexplainable weight gain and, in rare circumstances, borderline chubbiness.
The coalition forces want desperately to paint a rosy picture of their horrifying activities. As these staged photographs suggest, many children laugh and sing at the arrival of troops, perhaps out of fear for what might befall them should they express the true, unbridled hatred that most Iraqis and half the population of Massachusetts have for our military. But as soon as the cameras are off, the innocent laughter turns to blood-curdling screams as the unsuspecting children are herded into small, non-descript buildings, where they are held against their will for several hours a day and brainwashed with pro-western propaganda. As helpless parents look on, crayons and construction paper are shoved into the tiny hands of their crying sons and daughters, who are forced to produce variety of arts and crafts with virtually no pay or health benefits. Finally, once the tots have been thoroughly “re-educated”, they are hastily ground up and fed to blacks in New Orleans.
It’s enough to make anyone sick to their stomach, but John Kerry has seen it all before. He fought to bring an end to similar atrocities in Southeast Asia, and in return for his patriotism he was assailed by GOP attack dogs like the Hateboat Haters of Hate, a group of Bush lackeys who claimed to have served with Kerry in Vietnam yet never once sat on his lap and called him “Daddy”. John Kerry volunteered for four years in the military so he could spend the next forty attacking it with impunity, and he won’t be intimidated by those who “had better things to do” than hook cell phones up to human genitals and turn up the power when their country called.