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The opinions and interests of a husband, analyst and Iraq war veteran.


Saturday, December 17, 2005

"NY Times to American People: Stick It! We don't care about winning your little war. We're bringing down a Republican here, see?"

All day yesterday I was so sputtering angry over this terror-enabling piece in the New York Times that none my response made it out of draft stage.

"Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts"

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Months after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. [...] 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.

But "concern" for privacy trumps "concern" for remaining attack free since 9/11.

What the agency calls a "special collection program" began soon after the Sept. 11 attacks, as it looked for new tools to attack terrorism. The program accelerated in early 2002 after the Central Intelligence Agency started capturing top Qaeda operatives overseas, including Abu Zubaydah, who was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. The C.I.A. seized the terrorists' computers, cellphones and personal phone directories, said the officials familiar with the program. The N.S.A. surveillance was intended to exploit those numbers and addresses as quickly as possible...

Did it work? Well, have there been any domestic attacks the last five years? Any thwarted? Forget for the moment the imprudence of publishing this story, shouldn't the headline read, "Bush Lets NSA Run With Successful Secret Progam"?

Bush answers this outrageous article during today's radio address:

In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.

This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies. Yesterday the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports, after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, and endangers our country.

As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist 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.

The authorization I gave the National Security Agency after September the 11th helped address that problem in a way that is fully consistent with my constitutional responsibilities and authorities. The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time. And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

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.

The NSA's activities under this authorization are thoroughly reviewed by the Justice Department and NSA's top legal officials, including NSA's general counsel and inspector general. Leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it. Intelligence officials involved in this activity also receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.

This authorization is a vital tool in our war against the terrorists. It is critical to saving American lives. The American people expect me to do everything in my power under our laws and Constitution to protect them and their civil liberties. And that is exactly what I will continue to do, so long as I'm the President of the United States.

Here he addresses every one my own objections with the NYT article.

1 - It used to be a vital and successful secret program but will be less successful now. Thanks NYT!

2 - The program is subject to periodic review. This would seem pretty important to me, and the Pres puts it into graf number two. The NYT puts this little tidbit at the end of the article.

3 - The progam may be vital, but not at the expense of our liberties garanteed by the constitution. Bush is plainspoken that he knows and will faithfully execute his responsabilities, while the NYT stuggles mightily to suggest the opposite.

4 - The release of this information is highly illegal in peacetime, let alone at war. Bush doesn't mention any investigation forthcoming, but if outing CIA desk jockey Valerie Plame is worth a multimillion dollar, two years and counting special investigation, how is this worth anything less?

(via: the corner)

UPDATE: Upon rereading I have amended my wording above. The sentence that used to begin "Forget for the moment the illegality of publishing.." now reads "Forget for the moment the imprudence of publishing..." As much as it galls me, the editors at the New York Times are not legally culpable for running with this story. Stupidly arrogant certainly, but not culpable.

Michelle and Jeff have great roundups and analysis, btw.

(Via Michelle) From a statement by Executive Editor Bill Keller:
"[...] A year ago, when this information first became known to Times reporters, the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country's security. Officials also assured senior editors of the Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time.


"... in the course of subsequent reporting we satisfied ourselves that we could write about this program -- withholding a number of technical details -- in a way that would not expose any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record."

[Emphases mine] Of course, the law breaking stool pigeons you anonymously cite aren't permitted to talk about methods or capabilities even if they ARE "already on the public record," you nincompoop! You made the right decision a year ago in heeding the administration's advice. Yesterday, instead of reminding the leakers of their duty, you chose to make up your own national security policy out of whole cloth. Your new rule ("We only print frontpage stories on secret programs after readacting all but the secrets already leaked!") weakens the, you know, actual national security policy that's in place protecting your arrogant ass!

The gall!

And from a comment left at Jeff's by reader Steve:

...I believe that the majority of those on the left and a good number of libertarians believe, quite simply, that we aren’t at war; or that if we are, it’s “war” instead of war, and besides, it was based on lies so it really isn’t a war. Also: Halliburton. And anyway, we started it.

With that as an assumption, they then act in ways that are utterly baffling to those of us who believe we are in a war that has many fronts, not all of which are physical.

If you begin with the assumption that, say, the New York Times thinks the war on terror and the war in Iraq are just a bunch of bullshit, then this kind of reporting makes complete and perfect sense.

That must be it. They undermine our efforts because after all it's only Chimpy McHalliburton's bullshit, illegal war for oil, so, ya'know, fuck it!

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