Monday, April 14, 2008

Bushco Last Days To-Do List, Above The Law (Still)

Ill: Micah Ian Wright/Propaganda Remix

with permission

Eye in the Sky
Several recent newsbits caught your Demon's attention this past week, and before we all yawn and go back to worrying about other things, I'd like to take the opportunity to reflect upon the damage wrought by Bushco on our civil liberties here at home in the name of "fighting terrorism."
This past Saturday Bushco sprang on Congress the news that it's pushing ahead with a new domestic spying program ~ a "National Operations Application" office that has to do with satellite technology.
This despite the fact that Congress thought it had determined to hold the program in abeyance. Bushco apparently got around the inconvenience posed by the recalcitrance of a co-equal Constitutional governmental body by classifying the program's funding sources and its size. Voila! It's invisible to us all!
Likewise, nobody knows what legal vetting the program has undergone (if any~given Bushco's track record so far in legal matters where civil liberties and human rights are concerned, your Demon is inclined, with good reason, to speculate that it's the same BushState version of "l'etat, c'est moi " school of imperial "make it happen" legal reasoning that also produced the infamous John Yoo-David Addington "torture is not torture until organ failure or death" memos, now disavowed, we're led to believe.)

"The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

"Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

"Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.

"'There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans,' Chertoff wrote [the Chairs] of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.
'I think we've fully addressed anybody's concerns' Chertoff added in remarks last week to bloggers. 'I think the way is now clear to stand it up and go warm on it.'

"His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office as part of its counterterrorism efforts. The administration in May 2007 gave DHS authority to coordinate requests for satellite imagery, radar, electronic-signal information, chemical detection and other monitoring capabilities that have been used for decades within U.S. borders for mapping and disaster response.

"But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses.

"Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate.

"'I have had a firsthand experience with the trust-me theory of law from this administration,' said Harman, citing the 2005 disclosure of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, which included warrantless eavesdropping on calls and e-mails between people in the United States and overseas. 'I won't make the same mistake. . . . I want to see the legal underpinnings for the whole program.'

"[Congressman] Thompson called DHS's release Thursday of the office's procedures and a civil liberties impact assessment 'a good start.' But, he said, 'We still don't know whether the NAO will pass constitutional muster since no legal framework has been provided.'

"DHS officials said the demands are unwarranted. 'The legal framework that governs the National Applications Office . . . is reflected in the Constitution, the U.S. Code and all other U.S. laws,' said DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner. She said its operations will be subject to 'robust,' structured legal scrutiny by multiple agencies."

And if you believe that, or the fact that the spying/monitoring will be limited to innocuous civil warning sytems applications to which nobody can really object, I have a bridge for sale. See me later.

I suspect that what they're really talking about here, though the WaPo doesn't come out and say it, is domestic spying via MILITARY satellite, anytime, anywhere, and fuck quaint old-fashioned notions such as "probable cause." It's a brave new BushWorld we live in now.

I've said it before and I'll say it again ~ 911 is the best thing that ever happened to the disingenuous warmongering neocons ~ it has made their careers and provided the perfect cover to revive and relive some of this nation's sorriest historical moments since J. Edgar Hoover's most paranoid fantasies of Commie infiltration and nationwide panic. Bushco exploited a nation's legitimate fears to subvert the authority we surrendered ~ and now we can't seem to get it back. We were led to believe that internal spying could only be for our own good, and reassured us all that our civil liberties would remain inviolate and intact.

Nixonian Revival ~ Spying on Domestic "Enemies"

In 2004 Salon ran an article titled, "Outlawing Dissent," documenting the resurrection of domestic spying on peaceful anti-war dissidents, and the FBI's use of local undercover cops to infiltrate and, on some occasions, try to provoke group members into acting in a way that could have resulted in violence. The article handily recaps some history that bears remarking:
"In the early 1970s, after the exposure of COINTELPRO, a program of widespread FBI surveillance and sabotage of political dissidents, reforms were put in place to prevent the government from spying on political groups when there was no suspicion of criminal activity. But once again, protesters throughout America are being watched, often by police who are supposed to be investigating terrorism. Civil disobedience, seen during peaceful times as the honorable legacy of heroes like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., is being treated as terrorism's cousin, and the government claims to be justified in infiltrating any meeting where it's even discussed. It's too early to tell if America is entering a repeat of the COINTELPRO era. But Jeffrey Fogel, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Law in Manhattan, says, 'There are certainly enough warning signs out there that we may be.'
"COINTELPRO's abuses came to light in 1971, when a group of activists calling themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into an FBI office in Media, Penn., and stole several hundred pages of files.
"In his recent history of COINTELPRO, 'There's Something Happening Here: The New Left, the Klan and FBI Counterintelligence,' David Cunningham writes, 'These files provided the first public disclosure of a range of Bureau activities against targets such as the Black Panther Party, the Venceremos Brigade, the Philadelphia Labor Committee, Students for a Democratic Society, and college students with 'revolutionary' leanings.'

"Eventually, damaging revelations about COINTELPRO led the FBI to adopt reforms designed to prevent a repeat of Hoover's excesses. Attorney General Edward Levi laid out a set of standards for FBI domestic surveillance. 'These so-called Levi Guidelines clearly laid out the criteria required for initiated investigations, establishing a standard of suspected criminal conduct, meaning activity (rather than merely ideas or writings, which had been adequate cause for targeting groups and individuals as subversive during the COINTELPRO era),' Cunningham writes. 'The guidelines also stipulated as acceptable only particular investigative techniques, making it considerably more difficult to initiate intrusive forms of surveillance.'
"The Levi guidelines didn't end all political spying -- in the 1980s, the FBI targeted the Committee in Solidarity With the People of El Salvador, or CISPES. As the ACLU reports, 'Strong evidence suggests that CISPES was targeted for investigation because of its ideological opposition to then-President Reagan's already controversial foreign policy in Latin America. The FBI persisted in an intensive six-month investigation of CISPES in which it often reported the group's activities to the Department of Justice in a prejudicial and biased manner.' Yet most civil libertarians believe that even if the rules were occasionally broken, they still worked to protect First Amendment rights.

"Contrary to the claims made by defenders of Bush administration policies, the Levi guidelines would not have impeded an investigation of al-Qaida. As Cunningham points out, cases 'with suspected ties to 'foreign powers' were not subject to this criminal standard.' Nevertheless, after Sept. 11, Attorney General John Ashcroft issued new rules gutting the Levi guidelines. Thanks to Ashcroft, FBI agents are now allowed to monitor public meetings even if they don't have any reason to suspect that there's any criminal activity being committed or planned.

"'Now, that means if there is a rally of people who are criticizing the United States and its policies and saying that the United States will someday perhaps be destroyed because of that, the FBI agent can go and listen to what's being said,' Ashcroft told CNN's Larry King in May of 2002. In other words, merely arguing that U.S. policies may result in the country's destruction justifies FBI snooping. This gives the FBI investigative license far beyond even that it enjoyed during the COINTELPRO period, let alone under the Levi Guidelines."
The aforementioned John Yoo took it still a giant leap further in the very-recently revealed memo in which he advised the White House that the 4th Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure doesn't apply when a brave boy President takes it into his head to conduct "domestic military operations ~ a position Mukasey has disavowed, for now. (Glenn Greenwald on John Yoo's War Crimes:
It's not like we weren't warned. For example, last year the ACLU called for a moratorium on the use of military spy satellites trained on our own population:



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