Friday, August 03, 2007

Boy Cries Wolf & Other Neocon Fairy Tales

Update: Bush rammed it through by threatening veto of the Democrats' compromise bill. Moral of the story, we guess: nasty little GOP fellows such as themselves get their way. For now.
Bumpersticker Wisdom of the Day: I love my country. It's my government I fear.
* * *
The boy-cries-wolf meme should have reached terminal exhaustion & death where Bushco is concerned, & especially regarding justification for secret spying programs, but we see in the news today where Democrats are still terrifed of being tarred & feathered with the “soft on terrorism” brush ~ so much so that the very Democratic Congresspeople who a few days ago, openly derided Bush’s play for more secret spying powers, are now working feverishly with him on a plan that would permit him greater latitude, albeit a supposedly “temporary” one.

Bush wailed & moaned that they had to do something before they recessed for the summer, & they’re obliging him.
It’s been difficult to piece the entire story together, because, as usual, Bush & his allies bleat, gripe & blow hot air, pursuing their familiar old disinformation campaigns with great vigor, while simultaneously hiding the ball where real facts of the situation are concerned (“state secrets,” doncha know).

So it’s taken some time from Bush’s radio address last Saturday wherein he first publically pushed for an “updated” Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which is administered by a secret FISA court whose rulings are also secret ~ the same court he scorned on completely bogus arguments for at least 4 & perhaps 6 long years, & still, mind you, reserves the “right” to ignore anytime he so chooses & so revert to completely unauthorized spying with no oversight whatsoever ~
~ for the press to unearth something like a coherent story. Why all the fuss now?

Turns out that the LA Times first learned that the super-secret FISA court issued a ruling that something Bushco was doing wasn’t legal. We aren’t permitted to know what, exactly, but the papers and the ACLU seem to think it has something to do with “spying on terrorists” somehow involving spying on Americans (which is not supposed to happen absent probable cause & a warrant). One has to wonder whether the controversial data-mining program that ‘Berto didn’t want to reveal back in the day & over which he nearly got hoisted on his own sneaky-slimy petard the other day before Congress has something to do with it.

“[Republican] Boehner's remarks suggest that the [FISA court’s] ruling imposed new restrictions on the National Security Agency's ability to intercept communications that are between people overseas but that ‘transit’ U.S. data networks operated by Internet service providers and telecommunications companies.
“But other officials said the ruling's reach was broader, affecting cases ‘where one end is foreign and you don't know where the other is’ — meaning warrants would be required even when it was unclear whether communications were crossing the United States or involved a person in the United States.
“One official said the issue centered on a ruling in which a FISA court judge rejected a government application for a ‘basket warrant’ — a term that refers to court approval for surveillance activity encompassing multiple targets, rather than warrants issued on a case-by-case basis for surveillance of specific terrorism suspects.
"’One FISA judge approved this, and then a second FISA judge didn't,’ the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the activities of the FISA court are classified.
“The precise effect of the ruling is unclear, but a second official said that it ‘reduced the amount of intelligence we were collecting’ on overseas terrorism suspects.
“National Intelligence Director J. Michael McConnell has called attention to the issue in public testimony, telling a Senate committee May 1 that U.S. spy agencies are ‘actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting’ because of legal obstacles. But he has refused to identify the cause or nature of that intelligence gap.
“The recent FISA court ruling was a blow to the Bush administration, which had bypassed the court when it launched the NSA program in 2001. The White House moved it back under the FISA court's supervision last year after Democrats won control of Congress and appeared poised to challenge the constitutionality of a program that monitored U.S. residents' communications without warrants.
“Democrats have proposed a temporary fix that would give the FISA court new authority to grant court orders covering ‘certain aggregated foreign collection while protecting rights and privacy of U.S. persons.’
“But the Bush administration has pushed for broader language eliminating any requirement for a court order in cases where the target is ‘reasonably believed to be outside of the United States.’ Instead, the attorney general would have power to authorize NSA surveillance of foreign targets and to compel Internet and telecommunications companies in the United States to comply with requests for data or access to the communications flowing through their networks.
“That provision has prompted significant resistance from Democrats, many of whom have been calling for the resignation of Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales over allegations that he misled Congress or lied to lawmakers in testimony about NSA surveillance activities.
“In an apparent concession to those concerns, the White House modified its proposal late Wednesday to include the national intelligence director in the approval process and to allow the FISA court to review certain activities.”,1,1851437.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&track=crosspromo

A lot of things in this Bush-cries-wolf (*again*) tale just don’t add up:

1. Bush seems to be a pathological liar (WMD’s, al-Queda in Iraq, biological warfare mobile labs, the Administration’s ferocious treatment of anyone who dared call them on the overhyped “danger” Iraq really posed & other miscellanous nefarious deeds). Has Congress forgotten that?

2. We’ve seen several renewed efforts to “rehabilitate” the war & revive fear of terrorists on several fronts ~ Michael Chertoff’s “gut feeling” that the evil demon terrorists are planning another attack on U.S. soil, a happy-news editorial in the New York Times from two long-time hawks who journeyed to Iraq & pretended to have become recently convinced that the surge is working.

3. The FISA court purportedly made the ruling Bushco says it can’t live with 3-4 months ago. What accounts for the delay in bringing the matter to Congress’ attention if it was so terribly urgent? Is this another “Patriot Act” maneuver whereby Congress is forced to deal with the issues in such a short period time they don’t even have time to review the proposed law?

4. Historically, the FISA court has really never significantly disagreed with anything Bushco wanted to do. The same LA Times article reported:

“Public records show that the court rejects few of the government's requests: In 2005, for example, it approved 2,072 applications and denied none; in 2006 it approved 2,176 and denied, in part, one.”

Your Demon’s guess is that the data-mining programs have heretofore been treated (as ‘Berto’s fine distinction the other day would have it) a program not under the purview of FISA, for the very reason that FISA, which hardly ever disapproves anything Bush does, actually did disapprove in a “test run” of the program past them. To me, that says it has to be something highly, overtly legally dubious.

Shame on the Democrats who let Bush get away with this bullshit (*once again*!) Aren’t they supposed to be shutting down the manipulative faux-terror machine that is Bushco crying wolf, & incidentally successfully driving the Democrats’ behavior on insufficient information for fear of being called “soft on terror?”

Bushco successfully reframes the debate again. Worse, it’s a painfully, transparently obvious ploy. Just as Democrats were beginning to fruitfully address some domestic issues, they let themselves be derailed by a manufactured crisis & find themselves jumping through Bushco hoops.

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