If you have "no place to go," come here!

WaPo rewrites history of warrantless surveillance, ignores Constitutional crisis, as Bush claims that finally he'll obey the law

WaPo stenographer Dan Eggen's front page "story" on Bush's illegal and unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program--Bush agrees to obey the law! Film at 11!--is the most appalling insult to what remains of the good name of American journalism since The Newspaper of Record (not!) suppressed its own scoop on the program to help Bush win the 2004 election.

And since Bush's illegal and unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program is at the dark heart of the Republican project to replace Constitutional government with authoritarian rule--both in the fact of surveilling everyone including Aunt Molly and the theory of the "inherent authority" that purports to justify it--Eggen's distortions and omissions have the effect of preventing the resolution of the Constitutional crisis provoked by Bush's tyrannical seizure of power (Federalist 47).

The key facts to remember--all of which Stenographer Eggen distorts or omits--are these: Judge Anna Diggs Taylor, in ACLU vs. NSA, ruled that Bush committed over thirty felonies in the course of his illegal and unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program. Under FISA, Bush should have gotten a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which very, very rarely turned requests. Instead, Bush, using sweeping claims for the power of the executive (that's the unconstitutional part) ignored FISA and didn't get warrants from the court (that's the illegal part). This from the party that chanted "rule of law" in unison while impeaching Clinton over a blowjob. Beyond disgusting.

OK, now let's look at the narrative that WaPo's stenographer, Dan Eggen, constructed.

Secret Court to Govern Wiretapping Plan

Wrong. The Secret Court always governed the plan. That's what Judge Taylor's ruling--and the plain language of the law--both say. "To govern" implies the opposite--and rewrites history to omit the key fact: Bush's lawbreaking.

But that's only the beginning:

The Justice Department announced today that the National Security Agency's controversial warrantless surveillance program has been placed under the authority of a secret surveillance court, marking an abrupt change in approach by the Bush administration after more than a year of heated debate.

Wrong. Note the passive voice: "has been placed." Again, the "controversial" (under Judge Taylor's ruling, illegal and unconstitutional) warrantless surveillance program was always "placed" under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and FISA. The only news here is that Bush has agreed to obey the law. And that is exactly the key fact that stenographer Egger omits. tell me again why we have the First Amendment?

In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said that orders issued on Jan. 10 by an unidentified judge puts the NSA program under the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret panel that oversees most intelligence surveillance in the United States.

Wrong. Egger's vile teabagging omits, again, the key fact of Judge Taylor's decision. Why the Bush administration agreed to follow orders issued by an "unidentified judge"--if indeed Bush's bumboy Gonzales is telling the truth in his letter--as opposed to following the clear mandate of the published opinion by Judge Taylor, is the real story here, which of course Stenographer Egger simply omits.

Gonzales also wrote that the current NSA program will effectively be abandoned after its current authorization expires in favor of the new approach.

Wrong. What the Fuck does "effectively be abandoned" mean? And what on earth does "current authorization" mean? The program's illegal; how on earth could it be authorized? Oh, and when, exactly, does the "current authorization" expire?

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, President Bush [purportedly] authorized the NSA to monitor telephone calls and e-mail between the United States and overseas if one party to the communication was believed to be linked to al-Qaeda or related groups.

Note, as has not been noted in the coverage of this story by our famously free press from the very beginning, that email, unlike voice, is not a point to point medium, such that one "end" can be foreign, and one domestic, with one line in between. Email composed of "packets," which, having been diassembled at the sender's computer, go their separate ways through networks all over the world, and are reassembled at the recipient's computer. The key question, then, is this: If a single packet in an email goes outside the US, is it then foreign email? If so, then all email is effectively under surveillance. Does Stenographer Dan address this question? Of course not.

The program did not require any court oversight...

Wrong. FISA required oversight. Bush broke the law. And Judge Taylor's decision confirms this. But Egger, throughout the story, completely omits any mention of Judge Taylor's decision.

... prompting widespread objections from privacy advocates and many legal experts [including a District Court judge, omitted by Stenographer Egger] after the program was first revealed in news reports in December 2005. Bush and his aides strongly defended the legality and efficacy of the NSA spying initiative, which they dubbed the "Terrorist Surveillance Program."

What a classic example of he-said, she-said "balanced journalism. ['Scuse me while I hurl.] "Balanced," of course, only through systematic distortion and omission.

Gonzales also said that the administration has been exploring ways to seek approval from the surveillance court for nearly two years, but that "it took considerable time and work to develop" an approach that "would have the speed and agility necessary to protect the nation from al-Qaeda."

Wrong. Unbelievably All too believably, Eggers simply repeats a Gonzales talking point--without any attempt at balance. In fact, there was no reason whatever, other than the administration's desire to abolish the Constitutional roles of the legislature and the judiciary, for "two years" of "effort." FISA explicitly allowed for surveillance to be performed, and a retroactive warrant sought after a 15-day grace period. And over the course of its entire history, the FISA court only turned down a handful of requests. So there is no additional need for speed or agility (however those slippery terms may be defined.) And if Stenographer Egger had wanted to get any insight into how Bush played fast and loose with those well-crafted procedures, he could have interviewed the judge who resigned from the Court because of what Bush was doing to it. Of course, stenographers don't do interviews. What was I thinking?

"No, no, no, no, no. No. No.," Snow said when asked if it was tied to federal court action. "As a matter of fact, it may be interesting to to see how it plays out in federal courts, but no, this is not a response . . . this has been going on for two years."

Indeed, no. You would think that Pony Blow's mention of "federal court action" would offer Egger the perfect opportunity to mention an already published opinion on this very program (Judge Anna Diggs Taylor in ACLU vs NSA) but n-o-o-o-o. Is this because Egger is a stenographer instead of a reporter? Or is it because Taylor is from Detroit, Black, and a woman, and therefore not sunk to the eyeballs in the Beltway cesspool?

Well, now we get all the quotes from the various parties. Yawn. Not only am I tired, reading through this crap is like being hit on the side off the head with a bag of wet sand. If not worse.

Bush broke the law with his illegal and unconstitutional warrantless surveillance program. Because the country has yet to hold Bush accountable, we are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis.

WaPo, in the person of stenographer Egger, is helping Bush get away with it, and working to resolve the crisis in Bush's favor, by destroying the rule of law and Constitutional government. Egger should be fired, and WaPo's editors should hang their heads in shame.

NOTE Here is the archive of stories in Bush's warrantless surveillance program.

NOTE The essential and excellent Glenn Greenwald has more and more.

UPDATE Even the good guys are getting this story wrong.

UPDATE Welcome, Nation readers.

No votes yet


amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

Justice Department lawyers defied President Bush over secret surveillance—but not for the reasons you might think.

It is one of the darkly iconic scenes of the Bush Administration. In March 2004, two of the president's most senior advisers rushed to a Washington hospital room where they confronted a bedridden John Ashcroft. White House chief of staff Andy Card and counsel Alberto Gonzales pressured the attorney general to renew a massive domestic-spying program that would lapse in a matter of days. But others hurried to the hospital room, too. Ashcroft's deputy, James Comey, later joined by FBI Director Robert Mueller, stood over Ashcroft's bed to make sure the White House aides didn't coax their drugged and bleary colleague into signing something unwittingly. ...

Two knowledgeable sources tell NEWSWEEK that the clash erupted over a part of Bush's espionage program that had nothing to do with the wiretapping of individual suspects. Rather, Comey and others threatened to resign because of the vast and indiscriminate collection of communications data. These sources, who asked not to be named discussing intelligence matters, describe a system in which the National Security Agency, with cooperation from some of the country's largest telecommunications companies, was able to vacuum up the records of calls and e-mails of tens of millions of average Americans between September 2001 and March 2004. The program's classified code name was "Stellar Wind," though when officials needed to refer to it on the phone, they called it "SW." (The NSA says it has "no information or comment"; a Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment.)

The NSA's powerful computers became vast storehouses of "metadata." ...

This updated version of events helps explain exactly what motivated stalwart Republican lawyers like Comey to defy their Republican president. The Justice lawyers were not fuming about an Orwellian invasion of the privacy of American citizens. Though all the rebellious lawyers agreed that the program was illegal, some favored its goals while others questioned its efficacy. "At the end of the day, the dispute was a legal one, not a policy one," says one participant. "It was about upholding the rule of law, not about what was appropriate from a civil-libertarian standpoint or any other standpoint."

One of the most consequential government rebellions in memory may be regarded as an act of heroism by civil libertarians. But the rebels were conservatives who might have been willing to—and in some cases did—approve policies that would not sit well with many Americans. They just weren't willing to break the law. ...

amberglow's picture
Submitted by amberglow on

... Vice President Cheney tells ABC’s Jonathan Karl that the president-elect has “a pretty good team” on national security ...

and from Politico --

Vice President Dick Cheney said Monday that President-elect Barack Obama will “appreciate” the expansions of executive power achieved during the Bush administration and is unlikely to cede authority back to Congress.

... Cheney also said that he doubts Obama will close the detention facilities in Guantanamo Bay, despite campaign promises to do so. ...