Saturday, December 17, 2005

Michael: Monitoring the Homeland

I've been following the President's secret authorization of domestic spying by the NSA under National Security letters unauthorized by a FISA court. I think it is too early to tell whether there is a scandal here or not. It's best not to cry wolf unless your're sure that you're not just looking at a mangy dog.

It is not clear, at least to me, how long these taps continued (the statute only authorizes short-term taps without a warrant in time of war) and whether they were focused on legitimate intelligence targets. These facts will be determinative in finding out if the President and others in the Administration may have committed a crime by their admitted actions. In the big leagues of national politics, there is no distinction between committing actions near the edge of legality with a letter from your staff lawyers in you pocket saying you are justified and willfully committing criminal acts; either way you're fucked.

One thing is certain. Unless the President discloses the names of those monitored to a independent and reliable third party, such as a judge, or a pre-cleared member of another branch of government not totally controlled by the GOP, such a few minority members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, we will never know if these people are sufficiently connected to terrorist activity or espionage to justify the President's actions.

I will predict now, based on the abuse of informational control this Administration has already indulged in, that such disclosure will not be forthcoming to either the courts, or when the Senate opens an investigation: and that WILL be a scandal.

Of course, this is a separate issue from the NYT's cowardice in holding the story for a year and thereby helping Chimpy scrape his way into a second term. This is a degree of accomodation that would make a Patpong whore blush. The incalcuable harm of 'four more years' may with justice be laid at the feet of the craven editorial staff of the Grey Lady who made this gutless call.


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