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The Asylum

Welcome to the Asylum. This is a site devoted to politics and current events in America, and around the globe. The THREE lunatics posting here are unabashed conservatives that go after the liberal lies and deceit prevalent in the debate of the day. We'd like to add that the views expressed here do not reflect the views of other inmates, nor were any inmates harmed in the creation of this site.

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Contrast Intelligence And Stupidity

I will let Thomas and Sabrina argue the nuances of law regarding the NSA program leak. I would rather present a contrast to the readers today. Below are excerpts from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Needless to say, you can guess which paper gets it, and which one is in the dark.

New York Times

After five years, we're used to President Bush throwing up false choices to defend his policies. Americans were told, after all, that there was a choice between invading Iraq and risking a terrorist nuclear attack. So it was not a surprise that Mr. Bush's Oval Office speech Sunday night and his news conference yesterday were thick with Orwellian constructions: the policy debate on Iraq is between those who support Mr. Bush and those who want to pull out right now, today; fighting terrorists in Iraq means we're not fighting them here.

But none of these phony choices were as absurd as the one Mr. Bush posed to justify his secret program of spying on Americans: save lives or follow the law.

Mr. Bush said he thwarted terrorist plots by allowing the National Security Agency to monitor Americans' international communications without a warrant. We don't know if that is true because the administration reverts to top-secret mode when pressed for details. But we can reach a conclusion about Mr. Bush's assertion that obeying a 27-year-old law prevents swift and decisive action in a high-tech era. It's a myth.

The 1978 law that regulates spying on Americans (remember Richard Nixon's enemies lists?) does require a warrant to conduct that sort of surveillance. It also created a special court that is capable of responding within hours to warrant requests. If that is not fast enough, the attorney general may authorize wiretaps and then seek a warrant within 72 hours.

Mr. Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales offered a whole bag of logical pretzels yesterday to justify flouting this law. Most bizarre was the assertion that Congress authorized the surveillance of American citizens when it approved the use of "all necessary and appropriate force" by the United States military to punish those responsible for the 9/11 attacks or who aided or harbored the terrorists. This came as a surprise to lawmakers, who thought they were voting for the invasion of Afghanistan and the capture of Osama bin Laden.

Citing Pres. Nixon was bad enough, but to twist the FISA law is way off base. The 1978 law does require a warrant when one is dealing with an American citizen. The warrantless searches conducted under this program was not done on American citizens; they were performed on foreign agents. And the amount of time in receiving requested warrants varies; some have come in hours, others in days.

The Times states that Pres. Bush (yes, he is the president so please drop the Mr.) and General Gonzales went around this law. On the contrary, they have abided by it fully. A review is required every 45 days. No such complaints arose during that time. Congress did authorize the use of "all necessary and appropriate force." That includes the president's ability to prosecute the war as the nation's commander-in-chief. If Congress believed that their resolution only applied to the military, that is their fault. When this nation engages in hostilities, the president's powers grow in scope; the nation is at war, and he has further duties to the nation that are not available during peacetime.

They also claim that the administration goes into "top-secret" mode when they are pressed for details. It is obvious to me, based on my limited knowledge regarding intelligence, that they understand or know little about the nature of "CLASSIFIED" material. They also fail to grasp the idea that the person who leaked this story did in fact commit a crime in revealing this secret program. "Secret" still carries weight for the government. In other words, we are not supposed to know. This is not because they are trying to pull one over on us, but because we do not wish to have our enemies know what measures are being taken to preven them from succeeding. It is obvious to those with a brain that the New York Times, if privy to such information, would have already splashed that across their front page. And there is no myth in his assertion that the law works too slow; FDR, Carter, and Clinton also agreed with that because they authorized it, too. Oh, and did I mention he followed the law, and it did save lives?

The Wall Street Journal

Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold wants to be President, and that's fair enough. By all means go for it in 2008. The same applies to Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican who's always on the Sunday shows fretting about the latest criticism of the Bush Administration's prosecution of the war on terror. But until you run nationwide and win, Senators, please stop stripping the Presidency of its Constitutional authority to defend America.

That is the real issue raised by the Beltway furor over last week's leak of National Security Agency wiretaps on international phone calls involving al Qaeda suspects. The usual assortment of Senators and media potentates is howling that the wiretaps are "illegal," done "in total secret," and threaten to bring us a long, dark night of fascism. "I believe it does violate the law," averred Mr. Feingold on CNN Sunday.

The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.

The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.

The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

On Sunday Mr. Graham opined that "I don't know of any legal basis to go around" FISA--which suggests that next time he should do his homework before he implies on national TV that a President is acting like a dictator. (Mr. Graham made his admission of ignorance on CBS's "Face the Nation," where he was representing the Republican point of view. Democrat Joe Biden was certain that laws had been broken, while the two journalists asking questions clearly had no idea what they were talking about. So much for enlightening television.)

The mere Constitution aside, the evidence is also abundant that the Administration was scrupulous in limiting the FISA exceptions. They applied only to calls involving al Qaeda suspects or those with terrorist ties. Far from being "secret," key Members of Congress were informed about them at least 12 times, President Bush said yesterday. The two district court judges who have presided over the FISA court since 9/11 also knew about them.

The Journal does a good job presenting not only the president's authority regarding the FISA law, but also points out that the courts have ineed weighed in on this matter. They are untied in stating that if this involves an American, you must obtain a warrant. If it is a foreign agent, one is not needed. That has been a mainstay of this law since it's inception.

And they go right to the heart of this debate. It does not revolve around whether the president violated the law or not; the Democrats believe they have themselves a "gotcha" moment. And they are banking on it despite how detrimental it could be to their party. In Thomas' post this evening, he pointed out that heading into an election season, running this sort of rhetoric, is not wise.

To begin with, like the Times, the Democrats are way off base on this one, and the pitcher is wearing them down with throws to the base to keep them there. The pitcher is representative of the alternative media that is already hammering away at the Democrats. They had to rely on a pinch-hitter like Sen. Rockefeller who brought out a letter today supposedly chastising the administration for this program, and emphasizing his reservations to it. He supposedly wrote this letter to the vice president a couple years ago. In it, he expresses his concerns to the program; blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Anyone who sees this letter as important is a fool. This letter is a cover your butt letter if ever I saw one.

This administration has a long record of expanding presidential powers in dangerous ways; the indefinite detention of "unlawful enemy combatants" comes to mind. So assurances that surveillance targets are carefully selected with reasonable cause don't comfort. In a democracy ruled by laws, investigators identify suspects and prosecutors obtain warrants for searches by showing reasonable cause to a judge, who decides if legal tests were met.

Another classless swipe from the Times above. Which reveals more on their lack of knowledge than anything else. The courts have held that yes, these people captured are in fact illegal. That meaning that they do not:

--Act, work, or conduct operations under any flag.

--Do not wear a uniform with a recognizable sigil on it.

--That no government will acknowledge these combatants fight for them.

All three must be met to classify these people as POWs under the Geneva Convention. The same applies to the military's laws regarding POWs. None of the people we have captured, thus far, have met the above criteria.

In the war on terror, the communications between terrorists in Frankfurt and agents in Florida are harder to track, and when we gather a lead the response often has to be immediate. As we learned on 9/11, acting with dispatch can be a matter of life and death. The information gathered in these wiretaps is not for criminal prosecution but solely to detect and deter future attacks. This is precisely the kind of contingency for which Presidential power and responsibility is designed.

What the critics in Congress seem to be proposing--to the extent they've even thought much about it--is the establishment of a new intelligence "wall" that would allow the NSA only to tap phones overseas while the FBI would tap them here. Terrorists aren't about to honor such a distinction. As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press," before 9/11 "our intelligence agencies looked out; our law enforcement agencies looked in. And people could--terrorists could--exploit the seam between them." The wiretaps are designed to close the seam.

I truly wish that the Times had more people that were not so dense. Unfortunately, that is not the case. For the Times it is much like the blind leading the blind. The Journal understands not only the severity of necessity in regard to this program, but fully comprehends the president's powers regarding this, how they are inherent within the Constitution, and that the use of force resolution triggered these powers.

I would suggest to the Times' editors that, next time, they do a bit of research regarding Constitutional powers rather than relying on the rhetoric of Congressmen who claim they were deceived.

The Bunny ;)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent blog. I've said this before, freedom of the press does not protect the NYT's and it's reporter from treason. The paper has crossed the line before and gotten away with it. Not this time. We will remember the republicans that won't support the President and they will hereafter be known as rino's and we will remember the democrats that do support him.

8:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The above post written by Rawriter

8:31 PM  

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