Category Archives: Intelligence

Why FISA Is Such a Bad Idea

 “Because I say so,” said the Red King.
For years I’ve been following and writing about the absurd paucity of evidence the Bush Administration considers sufficient to lock your ass up indefinitely. Ashcroft was forced to try two of his Gitmo defendants in Germany in front of a court not made up of Bush loyalists or conservative ideologues, andn the judge demanded access to the proof Ashcroft’s DoJ insisted was too sensitive to be made public. When the dossier was opened anyway, despite their protests, there was nothing in it but raw data – unsubstantiated romors, gossip, innuendo. What Ashcroft was protecting wasn’t sensitive information but his own butt, which has come to be known as a standard trait for Bushies.
Now the same damn thing has been repeated under Michael Mukasey.

In the first case to review the government’s secret evidence for holding a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a federal appeals court found that accusations against a Muslim from western China held for more than six years were based on bare and unverifiable claims. The unclassified parts of the decision were released on Monday.

With some derision for the Bush administration’s arguments, a three-judge panel said the government contended that its accusations against the detainee should be accepted as true because they had been repeated in at least three secret documents.
The court compared that to the absurd declaration of a character in the Lewis Carroll poem “The Hunting of the Snark”: “I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”
 

 

This Administration appears to lie about everything, even the evidence – or lack of it – that it claims justifies holding men and even children in prisons withiout trial for 6 years. Like Ashcroft in Germany, the Bush Administration wasn’t refusing them their day in court because they were dangerous but because Bush didn'[t want us to know they weren’t, that the whole detainee thing had been a bust from the git-go. So why in heaven’s name should we believe them when they claim yet another detainee ought to be killed because he was behind the attack on the Cole?

 

 

A Pentagon official announced war crimes charges Monday against a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, suspected of helping to plan the attack on the Navy destroyer Cole in 2000 that killed 17 American sailors.

 

Military prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against the detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi who has long been described by American officials as Al Qaeda’s operations chief in the Persian Gulf and the primary planner of the October 2000 attack on the Cole.

Mr. Nashiri is one of three detainees who the C.I.A. has acknowledged were subjected to waterboarding, the interrogation technique that simulates drowning. Mr. Nashiri was interrogated in the agency’s secret prisons before he was transferred to Guantánamo in 2006.

(emphasis added)

There hasn’t been a shred of evidence, ever, that Nashiri weas guilty of anything except by the Bush Administration’s unsupported word for it – a word that is worth less than nothing considering its total lack of credibility. Yet the Bush lawyers are demanding the death penalty. For war crimes. Talk about the pot and the kettle.

If one word of that so-called “evidence” came from Nashiri’s being tortured, then legally it has to be thrown out. A co-erced confession IS NOT ADMISSIBLE, not in a civilian court. Maybe in the Kangaroo tribunals the Bushies have dreamed up, but nowhere else in the civilized world. If that’s how they came by it, it’s hopelessly tainted and so is their whole case. Not that they seem to care. They’re going ahead with the trial despite the CIA’s admission, and after all, what do they really have to fear in the way of consequences? Not much, it seems.

A federal appeals court on Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by a Syrian-born Canadian man who had accused the United States of violating the law and his civil rights after he was detained at Kennedy Airport and sent to Syria under what he claims was an act of “extraordinary rendition.”

The man, Maher Arar, tried to win civil damages from United States officials in his suit, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that because he was never technically inside the United States, his claims could not be heard in the federal courts.

 

 

 

While stating that “threats to the nation’s security do not allow us to jettison principles of ‘simple justice and fair dealing,’ ” the majority opinion ruled nonetheless that Mr. Arar, who had been seized as he tried to change planes at Kennedy Airport while flying back to Canada from Switzerland, had no federal standing in his case and that the government did not violate the Torture Victim Protection Act by sending him abroad.

I can hear Lil Dick and Dave Addington chuckling over it now. They got away with it again – on a technicality. They arranged to keep their bloody hands clean even though they arranged for an innocent man to be tortured because technically he wasn’t in the US at the time theyn had him picked up. Giggle giggle. What fun. Put it over on us again, didn’t you?

FISA should never be passed if for no other reason than because the govt can’t be trusted to look at any interests but its own or nopt use its power – whatever powers we give it – to get what it wants. Our experience with Bush proves it’s a HORRENDOUSLY BAD IDEA TO GIVE ANY PRESIDENT THAT KIND OF POWER.

So why is our Democratic Congress giving it to them? Hmm?

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Dump the Dems 6: The Fisa Betrayal

This has been a week of disappointment for those who still believe Democrats are substantially different from Republicans and Obama is the most different of all. The passage in the House, by a Democratic majority, of the abominable FISA Act gutting the Fourth Amendment right to privacy while pretending to protect it, followed by Barack Obama’s unprincipled acceptance of such a bill for political purposes, has sent shock waves through the progressive community. They’re still reeling from it in a sense, so maybe it isn’t fair to expect them to come to terms with the betrayal so soon. OTOH, given a little time to get used to it, they’ll probably start finding excuses to justify it and that’s not good. It will simply postpone the day of reckoning and we can’t afford any more blindness.

I have to wonder how much more it’s going to take for people to make the final leap from the earnestness of rationalization to the realization that there’s nothing to rationalize. Glenn Greenwald and dKos’ Hunter are both skirting the edge of that realization but can’t yet bring themselves to accept it, probably because they don’t want to know how bad our position as citizens really is after two Bush terms and two years of a Democratic Congress acting like Republicans in everything but name. Greenwald:

What the Democratic leadership is saying is quite clear: we will continue to trample on the Constitution and support endless expansions of the surveillance state because that is how we’ll win in swing districts and expand our Congressional majority…. The only objective of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer is to have a 50-seat majority rather than a 35-seat majority, and if enabling the Bush administration’s lawbreaking and demolishing core constitutional protections can assist somewhat with that goal, then that it what they will do. That’s what they are saying all but explicitly here.

 This is the standard rap and it comes from GOP TP’s as old as Reagan: the Democrats are opportunists who revere polls, believe in nothing and will do anything to win. The other usual memes have to do with Democratic incompetence and/or cowardice, but Hunter comes as close to dispensing with these excuses as any prog I’ve read yet.

 [T]his one was an absolute no-brainer, the one thing that the Democrats, no matter how stunningly incompetent, humiliatingly ineffective or bafflingly capitulating they may be, could manage to win simply by sitting on their damn hands. But no; it took serious work to lose on this one. Serious, burning-the-midnight-oil work to manage to quite so cravenly negate their own oversight duties.

And that is why this will not be forgotten anytime soon. A caucus willing to go to these lengths to satisfy the illegalities of the Bush administration is not one that can easily be defended. It is understandable that it would take a great deal of courage to enforce Congressional subpoenas. We can understand that voting against funding for the war could be risky, if we were to presume that Bush would simply keep the troops in the Iraqi desert to rot regardless of funding.

But this one? This petty, stinking issue of granting retroactive immunity to companies that violated the law, such that they need not even say how they violated the law, or when they violated the law, or how often, or against who, and the whole thing started before 9/11 so it is clear that terrorism wasn’t even a prime factor for doing it — that whole mess is now absolved, no lawsuits, no discovery, no evidence allowed to be presented?

No, that one is indefensible. It is indefensible because it requires not just passive acceptance of a corrupt administration performing illegal acts, but legislators actively condoning those acts with the stroke of a pen. The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes, then absolving them; there should be nothing but contempt for such acts.

(emphasis added)

 

 Hunter realizes that they worked at it, realizes the lengths the Dem leadership went to suborn its own party’s representatives, and dismisses the whole idea of “passive acceptance”, yet he focuses on the indefensible nature of the betrayal rather than the reason for it. Maybe he’ll get to that later.

Indeed, it is indefensible on its face, a decision for which there is and can be no excuse or acceptable rationalization. The Democrats openly and shamelessly sold us down the river. The question is, as always, why? Is it cowardice? opportunism? mere election strategy?

I should think if that’s all it was it would be bad enough but Hunter has his finger on what I’ve been saying for some time when he writes, “The Democrats are determined to set themselves as partners in committing crimes.” Yes, Hunter. I know. They are. Two months ago I wrote in “Dump the Dems 5“:

 

At some point, if you don’t draw a line in the sand and declare “this far but no further” you become a dictator-enabler, an anti-democrat. A Traitor. You may hem and haw and delay until the question is no longer debatable, but when that moment is reached you MUST stand and fight or be accounted a coward, a sell-out, a Traitor to democracy. If you do not, then you and your party – the party that goes along with you – MUST be rejected by democrats because you have betrayed everything they stand for and allied yourself with monarchists who want to return kings to their thrones and send the people packing back to the fetid serfdom from which they emerged 250 years ago.

One CANNOT be a democrat – or a Democrat – if one believes in or supports or aids the reinstitution of monarchy. That ought to be self-explanatory. That it isn’t any more is one of the great sadnesses of Bush’s sad reign.

Call it a prediction if you like. I knew the leadership would get FISA passed despite the numbers of ordinary Democrats who were against it because the leadership are all in the DLC/BD Alliance and the Alliance believes in modern conservative ideals like the restoration of a monarchy – or at least monarchic powers – in America. As Hunter clearly now understands, this was no accident. It was deliberate. It was design.

The Democrats aren’t pretending to be like the Pubs to get elected. They are like the Pubs. They’re under the thumb of a minority of conservative Dems who are, like the Likkud in Israel, warping the party to suit themselves and their conservative agenda. Like conservatives everywhere, they don’t care what the people want, they don’t care what the polls say, and they don’t give a rat’s ass what the majority in their own party thinks. Like Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi, they’re going to do what they damn well please and if the membership doesn’t like it, fuck em.

And like the Pubs, these are no longer people liberals and progressives can compromise with. The FISA bill proves it. They will simply adopt the Republican trick of claiming a compromise when what they’ve really done is craft the right-wing conservative agreement the conservative minority demands. Whether you take Greenwald’s position or mine, the antidote to this poison is the same: either defeat the BD’s or treat the whole party as if they were Pubs and fight them.

Bremer and De-Ba’athification

In examining the little contretemps between a Bush trying to slide out from under direct responsibility for the single worst decision in the whole Iraq mess and a Bremer determined not to play fall-guy for a president who didn’t think twice about throwing him under the bus to save his own precious neck, Fred Kaplan at Slate isn’t as forgetful about Chalabi’s early role as Blumenthal, but he does miss Chalabi’s later role and, for some reason, comes over all coy about assigning the decision to Cheney even though the evidence is right under his nose.

Bremer is right about one thing: It wasn’t him. Though he wouldn’t be so self-demeaning as to admit it, he was a mere errand boy on this point. He arrived in Baghdad on May 14, 2003. The next day, he released CPA Order No. 1, barring members of the Baath Party from all but the lowliest government posts. The next day, he issued CPA Order No. 2, disbanding the Iraqi army.

In his memoir, published last year, Bremer wrote that he was handed the orders—and told to announce them as soon as possible—by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy. “We’ve got to show all the Iraqis that we’re serious about building a new Iraq,” Feith reportedly told him. “And that means that Saddam’s instruments of repression have no role in that new nation.”

Bremer’s version rings true, and if it is then the orders came from Cheney. Period. Feith was L’il Dick’s boy and wouldn’t have dared make a move like that without the Veep told him to. Maybe Kaplan has some doubts about Bremer’s tale, but he doesn’t say what they are.

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Bush and WMDs

Memories in America, trained by tv, are remarkably short even when they belong to otherwise intelligent reporters. Two recent articles – one by Sidney Blumenthal in Salon, the other by Fred Kaplan in Slate, both usually reliable – made it clear to me that we need to go back over some fundamental history of the Second Gulf War, key elements of which both seem to have forgotten or lost track of. We’ve covered this ground already but it was several years ago, so it bears repeating.

If you ask, “Why is it important to go through all this again? And why are these picayune details significant anyway?” The answer is, “Because we need to get it into our heads once and for all that conservatives are naive, gullible children, easily led over cliffs by anyone who feeds them what they want to hear.” The real story of the twisted intelligence that led to the SGW and idiotic decisions like de-Ba’athification isn’t just about arrogance, incompetence, and ignorance. It’s also – and crucially – about misplaced trust and a dangerously juvenile credulity that allows conservatives to believe demonstrably false ideas and foist them on the rest of us just because those ideas are appealingly melodramatic.

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Authoritarian Democrats 3: Questions and Excuses

Evidence of Democratic skullduggery continues to pile up. In Category 1 is a raft of folks wondering why their safe-seat Dem Rep voted for the FISA bill, and in Category 2 is a different raft unimpressed by Democratic explanations of how they were conned by McConnell.

Two quick examples of the former:

New Rep Tim Walz, D-MN, just elected, disappointed some of his staunchest supporters by voting for FISA. Mark Gisleson, Minneapolis blogger of Norwegianity, isn’t happy.

Walz’s vote hurt, and hurt a lot. For the life of me I don’t know how a high school teacher can forget the Constitution so quickly. I think his former students should form a posse and kick his ass the next time he comes home to remind him why they sent him to D.C. The FISA renewal was a huge mistake and without a doubt the most dickheaded vote Walz has cast since going to Washington.

Maryland Democratic activist Stephanie Dray is baffled and “appalled” by Rep Barbara Mikulski’s vote.

I’ve come to this conclusion because she didn’t have to vote this way. Maryand is in no danger of turning into a Red State any time soon. We just came off an election and there’s plenty of time before the next one, even if this would have been a controversial vote. Senator Barb is an institution in this state–there’s really no chance that she’s going to lose her job. So one can only conclude that she voted this way because she believed it was the right thing to do.

And as a Democrat who cares more about civil liberties than welfare checks, this has me appalled.

If Mikulski felt comfortable throwing the Constitution aside in the genuine belief “it was the right thing to do”, we’ve already got a problem. But let’s take it at face value. The next question is: What on earth would make her think that? The answer to that question brings us to the second raft.

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Maybe the Dems Want Authoritarian Powers

Digby is befuddled by the Democrats’ race to authorize more wiretapping power to a patently untrustworthy administration.

Let’s set aside the idea that “trusting” the Bush administration with warrantless wiretaps is like trusting your four year old with a zippo lighter, what kind of bucket-of-lukewarm-spit kind of politics is this? What are they afraid of, that the Bush administration will blame them if a terrorist attack occurs and they didn’t approve another blank check? Guess what? It wouldn’t matter if the Democrats named Bush king with the power to draw and quarter hippies and Muslims on the white house lawn, they will still blame the Democrats if there is another terrorist attack.

I do not know what this latest program is, but whatever it is, it needs to be approved by somebody other than the White House. I’m sorry, but that should be non-negotiable. Dick Cheney has delegated to himself virtually limitless power and he is borderline insane. The executive branch cannot be trusted with additional power of any kind. They have quite enough, thank you.

(emphasis in the original)

Avedon Carol writes at Eschaton (where she was sitting in for Atrios) wondering about lambert’s question at corrente: why aren’t the Dems explicitly condemning the Bush Admin’s anti-Constitutionality and promising to restore the rights Bushies have stolen from us?

The Democrats are under tremendous pressure from the right-wing spinnners on The Hill and their media handmaidens to ignore these important issues. They’re going to ask them about haircuts and cleavage.
So, when we have a chance to get them to talk about important questions, we’d damn well better take it.
We have to push back. That’s what democracy is all about: We have to tell them what we want – and when they are running for office, we have to ask them how they plan to give us what we want.

eRobin at Fact-esque, who was, as usual, ahead of everybody, wrote last week:

I want all the presidential candidates  to, at every opportunity, condemn specific steps this president has taken to undermine the Constitution and to pledge to reverse them ALL on his/her first day in office. I am vastly more concerned with their reluctance to do that than I am even with BushCo’s persistence on his unconstitutional path. (from BushCo I worry that we’ll get another 9/11) The damage he’s done can be contained not only by impeachment (which would be my first choice in a reasonable world but is not in this one) but also by immediate repudiation of what he’s done over the last two terms by whoever gets elected to succeed him.

Putting these two concerns together raises a disturbing question, and since it seems to be my function to think the unthinkable and verbalize the thoughts no one else wants to admit having, I will do my duty and turn over the rock.

The Democrats, like everyone else in the known world, are assuming that the White House will belong to them in ’09. Given the Pubs’ apparent determination to self-destruct by strenuously opposing a withdrawal from Iraq and obstructing legislation everybody wants, like the SCHIP expansion, even as they demand more debt-borrowing to finance energy companies, it’s entirely possible that for once they’re right. So:

Is it conceivable that Democrats are reluctant to explicitly condemn the unConstitutional powers assumed by our imperial president because at some level they themselves wants access to at least some of those powers when they gain control again?

The answer, I’m afraid, is Yes.

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DNI McConnell Wants Expansion of Overseas Eavesdropping Program

Some days one wonders if these people have any sense at all – if they ever did.

Despite serious questions about the Bush Administration’s routine violations of FISA and the legality of their wiretapping programs in general, Adm Mike McConnell, who took over as Bush’s Director of National Intelligence just this past February, has, incredibly, sent a letter to Democratic Bush-Buddy Sylvester Reyes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee asking for permission to intercept overseas messages between “terrorists”.

Citing a “period of heightened threat” to the U.S. homeland, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell asked Congress to “act immediately” to make changes in current law to permit the interception of messages between terrorist targets overseas, which he said now requires burdensome court orders.

In a July 25 letter made public yesterday, McConnell told the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.), that he hopes Congress “will be able to act immediately . . . to provide the legislative changes needed to protect the nation in this period of heightened threat.”

At issue is a package of changes that the Bush administration wants in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to facilitate the continuation of its terrorist surveillance program. Congress has delayed amending the program pending further study.

Stepping up the pressure on lawmakers after the recently released terrorist threat assessment, McConnell said that “clarifications are urgently needed” in the law to enable the use of “our capabilities to collect foreign intelligence about foreign targets overseas without requirements imposed by an out-of-date FISA statute.”

He added, “As the head of our nation’s intelligence community, I am obligated to provide warning of threats of terrorist activity, and I have deep concern about the current threat situation.”

The underlying question hinges on modern technology: When communications between one foreign-located source and another foreign-located source travel through a U.S.-located terminal or switch, can they be intercepted without a warrant?

For those of you not intelligence experts, a little background:

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