Monday, January 02, 2006

Limits ... and sanity

Because George Bush has been hammering the words "legal" and "limited" like protruding nails in his daily defense of the illegal NSA wiretapping program he approved, I thought it would be useful to link to this, from John Dean, who knows a little something about the Nixon administration:

There can be no serious question that warrantless wiretapping, in violation of the law, is impeachable. After all, Nixon was charged in Article II of his bill of impeachment with illegal wiretapping for what he, too, claimed were national security reasons.

Indeed, here, Bush may have outdone Nixon: Nixon's illegal surveillance was limited; Bush's, it is developing, may be extraordinarily broad in scope. First reports indicated that NSA was only monitoring foreign calls, originating either in the USA or abroad, and that no more than 500 calls were being covered at any given time. But later reports have suggested that NSA is "data mining" literally millions of calls - and has been given access by the telecommunications companies to "switching" stations through which foreign communications traffic flows.

In sum, this is big-time, Big Brother electronic surveillance.
So when Bush says that the program was "limited," he's, um, what's the word? Oh yes, lying.

OK, maybe that's a little harsh. But even the most charitable Bush defender would have to concede that the veracity of Bush's explanation, as usual, "depends on what the meaning of ______ is." Last time the adminstration played semantic games to sidestep its utterly unjustifiable behavior, the word in the blank was "torture." This time, the blank is filled with the word "limited."
limĀ·it n. 1. The point, edge, or line beyond which something cannot or may not proceed.
That's the definition the administration is counting on you to have in mind. But another definition is:
The greatest or least amount, number, or extent allowed or possible.
That definition gives the administration a lot more leeway. Using that definition, the administration could truthfully say that the wiretapping program is limited -- to the number of calls we can eavesdrop on, given the number of agents working on the program, or perhaps limited to the number of international calls made and received in the United States every day.

So perhaps Bush isn't lying, technically, when he says the program is "limited." But what does your bullshit meter read when he says it?

And for those who would argue, like Bush, that the program is an important part of preventing another attack, I refer you back to Dean:

Bush's unauthorized surveillance, in particular, seems very likely to be ineffective. According to experts with whom I have spoken, Bush's approach is like hunting for the proverbial needle in the haystack. As sophisticated as NSA's data mining equipment may be, it cannot, for example, crack codes it does not recognize. So the terrorist communicating in code may escape detection, even if data mining does reach him.

In short, Bush is hoping to get lucky.
This isn't about fighting terror. This is about power. This is about "I'm the president, and I'm going to do whatever the fuck I please, and no stupid law or court or Congress is going to stop me."

This is about the abuse of power, and is why Bush should be impeached.

Albert Eistein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing again and expecting a different result." Given Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld's proximity to Richard Nixon, maybe this is really about insanity.

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