Bush isn't "lying", he's just "reporting his personal opinions of the reality he interprets to the best of his recall"
I’m scanning the news headlines this morning when I see a link entitled Bush renames ‘spying’. Being a writer, I’m fascinated by language, and being a reader of George Orwell, I’m nervously anticipating Bush’s latest attempt to out double-speak the master:
WASHINGTON – President Bush heads to the National Security Agency on Wednesday for another speech defending his controversial spying program, one that he insists should be called a “terrorist surveillance program” — not domestic spying without a warrant.
Nice. Nothing like adding a few syllables to obfuscate the issue. It’s not a crime if you re-define it, eh, George? Officer, I’m not a bank robber, I’m a non-traditional cash extraction specialist.
The White House says the program is not domestic spying, since one end of the phone call or e-mail is always outside the United States. A better term, the president said Monday, would be the “terrorist surveillance program.”
Hmm. Assume, for the moment, that they are sure that one side of the call or e-mail is outside of the United States, a dubious claim in the Internet era (my PC’s IP address and my cell phone number are the same in Bangladesh as in Beaverton, and regardless of where I’m physically located, I could route the data in such a way that you’d think I was in Boise, Boston, or Bhopal). That would mean, wouldn’t it, that one side of the call or e-mail is INSIDE the United States, correct? And that call or e-mail is being placed to an American citizen inside the United States, no?
Let’s also drink the kool-aid and assume that they are absolutely positive the call is coming from a known al Qaeda operative to a citizen within the United States. Because we know for a fact that the terrorist watch lists are 100% accurate and nobody at the NSA ever makes the mistake of confusing Ali Ahmed the terrorist with Ali Ahmed the father of the local 7-Eleven clerk who remained back in the homeland.
AbuGhraibo Quaintzalez is just one of the many spinmeisters out on the road for the “We’ll Do What We Want, Punks, Or Al Qaeda’s Gonna Git Ya!” Tour. He spoke at Georgetown University Law School:
During his remarks in a packed law school lecture room at Georgetown, the attorney general also said the legal standard the administration uses in deciding whether to carry out surveillance on people with suspected al-Qaida ties is equivalent to the standard required for complying with the Fourth Amendment, which bans unreasonable searches and seizures.
The reasonable basis standard, said Gonzales, “is essentially the same as the traditional Fourth Amendment probable cause standard.”
Oh, yeah, I forgot. Quaintzalez has been reading the Constitution with the George W. Bush Between-The-Lines™ Translator again, which makes the invisible portions of speeches and documents visible in a red italic font:
The right of the people who the president decides aren’t terrorists to be secure in their persons (except for their wombs), houses, papers, and effects (which can’t possibly include cell calls and e-mail, since this was written in 1789), against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, unless there are drugs or terrorism involved, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause or reasonable basis or a really good hunch, supported by the president’s oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched (e.g., “cyberspace”), and the persons (e.g., “Americans”) or things (e.g., “whatever”) to be seized.
Quaintzalez and Bush want to scare us again with the spectre of al Qaeda. They only want to spy on the terrorists and the Americans who might want to help them. They’ve got to have this freedom to get more information to prevent another 9/11, because the pre-9/11 information that there were Arab Muslim youth learning to fly planes but not land them, a PDB that said “Bin Laden Determined To Attack Within the United States”, a previous attack in 1993 on the World Trade Center, numerous war game scenarios where terrorists fly airliners into buildings, standard operating procedure to scramble fighter jets for uncommunicative planes off course (see: late golfer Payne Stewart), and intercepted terrorist chatter from 9/10 saying “tommorrow is the day” that didn’t get translated until 9/12 because we don’t have enough Arabic and Farsi translators (because we had to get rid of the gay ones) wasn’t enough for them to prevent the first 9/11. The solution to the inability to process data is to collect even more data.
The problem here, and most Americans know it in their gut, is that we have laws set up for just this kind of “ticking bomb” scenario. There is a FISA court that is virtually a rubber-stamp on executive requests for wiretapping warrants. He can even wiretap surreptitiously and request the permission three days after the fact. And he has a Congress that gave him just about all the authority he ever wanted by supporting the USA unPATRIOTic ACT nearly unanimously.
In other words, had Bush gone to Congress or the FISA court and said, “I want to wiretap these Americans because they’re talking to al Qaeda,” he almost certainly would have been given that latitude. And, almost certainly, most Americans would’ve supported that move.
That’s why this is a public relations disaster for the Republicans. Even Americans who don’t follow politics or get the nuances of 4th Amendment law understand basic fairness and rule of law. It’s like when a co-worker steals a diet soda from the 12-pack you’ve put in the company fridge. You’d gladly have just given him the diet soda if he’d only asked for it. The fact that he went behind your back to steal it and thought you’d never notice is what gets you angry, not the loss of the diet soda.
But Bush didn’t bother asking. Why? Is the FISA court too much bother? No. Would Congress, the FISA court, or American public opinion rebuffed his attempt? No. So the only logical reason I can come up with is that Bush wanted to do some spying that he knew the Congress, FISA court, or Americans would never approve of. Like spying on Quaker peace groups or political opponents or prominent journalists.
“We did go to certain members of the congressional leadership a year and a half ago,” Gonzales said on CBS’s “The Early Show.”
“It’s amazing that people say to me, ‘Well, he’s just breaking the law.’ If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?” said Bush.
If by “briefing”, you mean “telling certain select members of the Intelligence Committee what you’re going to do, regardless of what any fancy lawyers or congressmen or courts think or the Constitution says, and knowing they can’t talk to anyone else about it because of their national security clearance.”
Bush, Cheney, Quaintzalez, and all the rest are in full campaign mode (the one thing the Bush Administration does quite well) to sell this domestic spying. And I predict they’ll get away with it, too. People will soon be soothed by the “oh, it’s not me they’re spying on” mantra and those who are not soothed will find legal recourse impossible in the Roberts/Scalia/Thomas/Alito court.
Worst of all, they will continue to employ the Magic Tiger Rock™ logic to justify their action no matter what happens. (The Magic Tiger Rock™ theory goes like this: I have this magic rock that keeps tigers away. But there are no tigers in Oregon! See, it works!) They’ll say, as Cheney has, “if we had this kind of power of surveillance in 2001, we might have
prevented 9/11,” and the scared sheeple will gladly hand over more of their liberty for the illusion of security. If al Qaeda doesn’t attack, they can say, “see, it works!” If al Qaeda does attack, they can say, “see, you civil liberties types let another 9/11 happen; we need more power!”
Orwell was right; he was just premature. We have a president who declares war on terrorists because on 9/11 they declared war on us, but when we capture them, they are not prisoners of war. We are a country that tortures those captured but it’s not really torture because the Attorney General says so. We spy on our own citizens, restrict our citizens’ free speech, lock citizens up without charges, acccess to counsel, or communication with the outside world because terrorists want to destroy our freedoms. We’re dedicated to fighting terrorism, so we ignore the pursuit of its leader in favor of creating a new recruiting ground for his followers. We support the troops by extending their tours way beyond their contract, not properly equipping them, slashing their benefits, and sending too few of them to get the job done and replenishing their ranks with the lowest percentile of recruits. We fight to plant the seed of democracy — the idea that will of the people should decide — by invading and occupying them against their will. We have a president who fights for a culture of life so that every woman’s fetus will come to term (pregnant Iraqi women attending a wedding party that’s accidentally bombed need not apply). We have an administration that ran on the platform that Bush will keep you safer than the other guy (poor black residents of New Orleans and West Virginia miners need not apply). I haven’t written so much irony since I last described the molecular makeup of the dumbbells at the gym.
It’s amazing to me how much we’ve learned about the criminal misdeeds of BushCo, yet how little outrage there is about them. As long as there is a new season of “24” to watch, cheap Big Macs to eat, and gas doesn’t get too outrageous, most people just don’t care. I’ve always maintained that people and systems are loathe to change until the need for change becomes unbearable (think, for example, of the many consumer safety measures that are easily implemented, but only enacted after somebody dies). Unfortunately, I think that by the time things get bad enough here that average people figure out what has happened, it will be too late to do anything about it.
Fortunately, I have no kids, so I don’t have to worry about the future they’ll inherit. Our government has czars, the administration has its own apparatchiks, the Republican Party is turning into the politburo, we’re mired in a guerilla war in southwest Asia that is draining our treasury with no end in sight, we’re spying on our own citizens, and we’re operating a foreign policy where our political ideology will be forced upon one country against its will and the rest will fall like dominoes. All we need is Bush to start banging his shoe on a podium and the transformation will be complete.