Sunday, December 18, 2005

Guilty

Sounds like a confession to me.

Facing angry criticism and challenges to his authorityin Congress, President Bush on Saturday unapologetically defended his administration's right to conduct secret post-Sept. 11 spying in the United States as "critical to saving American lives."

Often appearing angry in an eight-minute address, the president made clear he has no intention of halting his authorizations of the monitoring activities and said public disclosure of the program by the news media had endangered Americans.

Since October 2001, the super-secret National Security Agency has eavesdropped on the international phone calls and e-mails of people inside the United States without court-approved warrants. Bush said steps like these would help fight terrorists like those who involved in the Sept. 11 plot.

"The activities I have authorized make it more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time," Bush said. "And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad."

The president had harsh words for those who revealed the program to the media, saying they acted improperly and illegally. The surveillance was first disclosed in Friday's New York Times. "As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have," Bush said. "The unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk."
One could say pretty much the same thing about outing an undercover CIA operative who tracked weapons proliferation. But on that issue, Bush isn't talking.

This is damage control, Bush/Rove style. When you're caught breaking the law, refusing to talk about it looks cowardly and makes people think the allegations are true. The CIA's secret prisons are a perfect example. And because that story broke so recently and the "no comments" the administration issued to try to deflect it were so ineffective, it was essential to go on the offensive over the NSA story. So the president admits it, justifies it and blames whoever talked about it for breaking the law. Never mind that the activities Bush said he authorized and plans to continue to authorize are illegal.

That's the mind of Karl Rove at work: When you're caught breaking the law, accuse your accuser of breaking the law and justify your behavior any way you can. In the Bush administration, that way is almost always through the use of fear (note the 9/11 reference in Bush's attempted justification).

That logic -- justifying illegal behavior because it might save lives -- might sound familar to you movie buffs, and I think I know why:

Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. ... You weep for Santiago, and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives.
It's not as ridiculous a comparison as it first appears, Bush with fictional Marine Col. Nathan Jessep. So what if Bush couldn't hack the Texas Air National Guard and Jessep commanded Marine forces at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba? Keep in mind how often and with what pleasure Bush refers to himself as a "wartime president," a title most presidents make every effort to avoid. And look at how both men don't feel restrained by the boundaries of the law, and their ability to justify their behavior, no matter how repugnant or illegal, and no matter how ridiculous the justification may sound to the rest of us.

Bush said his authority to approve what he called a "vital tool in our war against the terrorists" came from his constitutional powers as commander in
chief. He said that he has personally signed off on reauthorizations more than 30 times. James Bamford, author of two books on the NSA, said the program could
be problematic because it bypasses a special court set up by the 1978 Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Act to authorize eavesdropping on suspected terrorists.

"I didn't hear him specify any legal right, except his right as president, which in a democracy doesn't make much sense," Bamford said in an interview. "Today,what Bush said is he went around the law, which is a violation of the law — which is illegal."
Nah, I'm not buying it either.

Bush's willingness to publicly acknowledge a highly classified spying program was a stunning development for a president known to dislike disclosure of even the most mundane inner workings of his White House. Just a day earlier he had refused to talk about it.

So Bush scrapped the version of his weekly radio address that he had already taped — on the recent elections in Iraq — and delivered a live speech fromthe Roosevelt Room in which he lashed out at the senators blocking the Patriot Act as irresponsible and confirmed the NSA program.
That is stunning. What is Bush doing at the White House on a Saturday?

Government officials have refused to provide details,including defining the standards used to establish such a link or saying how many people are being
monitored.
Perhaps because "you can't handle the truth."

So if you're keeping score: After the existence of the CIA's secret prisons, the GOP called for an investigation of the leak instead of an investigation of the secret prisons. Now Bush is lashing out at the leaker of his domestic spying adventures. That the government is spying on its own citizens doesn't bother him. In fact, he said he authorized it and re-authorized it more than 30 times.

Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: (quietly) I did the job you sent me to do.
Kaffee: Did you order the code red?
Jessep: You're goddamn right I did!!
If anyone in Congress cares at all about the Constitution, maybe this will end for Bush the same way it did for Jessep:
"You're under arrest, you son of a bitch."

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