Friday, December 30, 2005

The Justice Department Plumbing Service

I'm sure that when they finish investigating who revealed the illegal spying program, the Justice Department will get right on investigating the actual illegal spying program.

The Justice Department has opened an investigation into the leak of classified information about President Bush's secret domestic spying program, Justice officials said Friday.

The officials, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the probe, said the inquiry will focus on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Revelation of the secret spying program unleashed a firestorm of criticism of the administration. Some critics accused the president of breaking the law by authorizing intercepts of conversations — without prior court approval or oversight — of people inside the United States and abroad who had suspected ties to al-Qaida or its affiliates.

The surveillance program, which Bush acknowledged authorizing, bypassed a nearly 30-year-old secret court established to oversee highly sensitive investigations involving espionage and terrorism.
When you're bypassing a secret court that will rubber-stamp any request you make -- since 1979, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved 18,742 applications and rejected four (thanks Josh), you're either intent on breaking the law or you object to any checks on your authority whatsoever.

And instead of investigating that, Justice is looking into who revealed the program.

This ridiculous probe is an obvious attempt by the Bush administration to chill the climate for potential future leakers. It used to be that the threat of character assassination at the hands of Karl Rove was enough to keep administration critics quiet. But the damage the administration suffered over the lack of WMDs in Iraq, the lack of an exit strategy in Iraq, the Downing Street Memo, prisoner abuse at Abu Grahib and Gitmo, extraordinary rendition, the revelation that Bush had to be talked out of bombing al-Jazeera (a third time), Bush's horribly glib response to a question about the number of Iraqis killed in his war of choice, out-of-control deficits, Dick Cheney, the failed attempt to destroy Social Security, the total failure that was the response to Hurricane Katrina, the interminable vacations, the shameless exploitation of Terry Schiavo, the lack of armor for military vehicles in a war zone, tax cuts for the rich, "Mission Accomplished," the refusal to meet with gold-star mother Cindy Sheehan while she camped in a ditch on the side of a road leading to his "ranch," the Harriet Miers nomination, the verbal attacks on John Murtha, the opposition to John McCain's anti-torture amendment, the revelation of secret CIA prisons and the indictment of Scooter Libby in the Valerie Plame leak investigation have emboldened administration opponents. It's time for the Bushies to go on offense.

Let's not confuse the Plame leak investigation with this new leak investigation. In the former case, what was revealed was the name of an undercover CIA operative who specialized in weapons proliferation. Outing her did nothing but punish a critic of the administration and, because identifying her made it impossible for her to do her job, cost this country an expert in an area key to national security. To knowingly reveal the identity of an undercover agent is illegal.

That is, the leak itself is a crime.

In the Justice Department's new project, what was revealed was that the Bush administration has been spying on people inside the United States without bothering to get warrants from a secret court that's all too happy to hand them out.

That is, the leak uncovered a crime.

See the difference? Could you explain it to Alberto Gonzales?


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