Wednesday, January 04, 2006

If we could do what we could already do we would have changed everything

Cheney thinks Americans are stupid.
Another vital step the president took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. There are no communications more important to the safety of the United States than those related to Al Qaida that have one end in the United States...

The authorization the president made after September 11th helped address that problem in a manner that is fully consistent with the constitutional responsibilities and legal authority of the president and with the civil liberties of the American people.
I know this has been broken down before, but let's do this very carefully once again.

The NSA has always had the authority to intercept "terrorist-linked international communications." Period. First the president has extreme leeway to intercept the communications of foreign nationals and there are even ways he could tap the phones of Americans. It just couldn't be done on a whim. You either had to be able to prove to the FISA court why you wanted to intercept those communications. You could even start the taps and get the court's approval three days later, a fact which destroys Bush's argument that he authorized the warrantless wiretapping of phones because of the requirement of speed.

Also, Republicans who are suggesting that the disclosure of this issue somehow aids terrorists is bullshit. For example, here's Bush last month.
"As a result our enemies have learned information they should not have, and the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies, [and] endangers our country," Bush said.

The president has also described the leak as "shameful," saying the program's disclosure gives terrorists the upper hand.
But look: Terrorists could easily have looked up the rules of secret wiretaps long ago and found that their conversations could be recorded without their knowledge. Yes, if one of those people was an American citizen then a court order would be required, but it would be a court order they would never know about.

In other words, there's absolutely no change to what terrorists know about their phone calls. They may or not be secretly tapped, so there's no way they now have "the upper hand."

Bush's argument is ludicrous and his authorization was illegal.

And there's the rub. The DOJ has decided to look into this wiretap business, but there's no way that anyone can honestly argue that that Bush's order is A) legal and B) constitutional. Therefore, those of us who know what it's like to take an oath to defend this country know that almost all of them include a requirement of the person swearing to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic" to "bear true faith and allegiance to the same" and to "obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States" and those appointed over them. Anyone who has taken this oath and then released this information should not have any problem arguing in a court of law that the president had given an unlawful, unconstitutional order and, therefore, the requirement to keep silent about it due to its classification status was null and void.

As the New York Times has suggested, this leaker isn't criminal but a hero.

(I shouldn't even have to mention the fact that this wasn't for "reasons of national security, specifically designated by a United States Government Agency for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution"—as the law which covers disclosure of classified information requires. As I've already shown, the knowledge of Bush's decision does nothing to damage national security. This law was considered "secret" not because of national security but because Bush wanted to break the law in the shadows. Could the president, say, sign a secret order to kill an American citizen, stamp CLASSIFIED on the top and then prosecute the person who told the press about it? I sincerely doubt it and this is only different in illegality by a matter of degrees.)

I know a lot of this has been said before in other places, but we just have to keep breaking this down for Republicans, who are obviously too scared to defend the rights of Americans. We can't let the fact that whatever remains of their logic is running down the legs of their overtaxed desk chairs cost our country its principles.


Blogger california_reality_check said...

"Revealing classified information is illegal": Exposing a crime is not illegal. Taping is illegal. They must be impeached before they destroy our country.

8:45 AM  
Blogger Philo said...

Great post Terry, it's good to have you back from the holidays. I've posted an extension to your post at my blog The Baltimore Group.

Progressive bloggers need to keep hammering away at the GOP talking point of spying in the name of national security. Their argument simply doesn't hold water, as you've pointed out. We have to be hear to stand up for the principles of liberty that Patrick Henry was prepared to die for. Our values transcend our passing sense of security and we cannot be governed by fear.

1:20 PM  

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