Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Kristolizing the Issue

This NSA domestic spying thing is really something. I can't tell if it's going the usual way of Bush scandals (i.e., nowhere, followed by bashing of those who raised it in the first place) or if it's getting big. I can tell you that I don't like William Kristol, who has a moderately odious op-ed in the Post today. Here's a sampling:
A U.S. president has just received word that American counterterrorist operatives have captured a senior al Qaeda operative in Pakistan. Among his possessions are a couple of cell phones -- phones that contain several American phone numbers. In the wake of Sept. 11, 2001, what's a president to do?
If the president were taking the advice offered by some politicians and pundits in recent days, he would order the attorney general to go to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. . . . But the attorney general might have to tell the president he might well not be able to get that warrant. FISA requires the attorney general to convince the panel that there is "probable cause to believe" that the target of the surveillance is an agent of a foreign power or a terrorist. Yet where is the evidence to support such a finding? Who knows why the person seized in Pakistan was calling these people? Even terrorists make innocent calls and have relationships with folks who are not themselves terrorists.
The hypothetical attorney general to this hypothetical president is a hypothetical idiot. Remember, this "24"-esque scenario is playing out in the post-9/11 world. Is there any question that the FISA court would approve tapping those phone lines? As Jonathan Alter explains, the threshold for obtaining a FISA wiretap is very low, and the application can even be filed after the tapping has begun. (If I didn't know better, I'd say that congress designed FISA to be an effective tool for national security.) Back to Kristol:
Consider the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, the French Moroccan who came to the FBI's attention before Sept. 11.
Wait a second. Kristol wants us to get all frothy about this hypothetical post-9/11 security scare, and his real-world parallel is from pre-9/11? That don't work, buddy. Kristol goes on to do more time flip-flopping and suggests that if federal agents had felt empowered to spy on Moussaoui they might have prevented 9/11.

Once again, a conservative criticizes the government for having a pre-9/11 mindset when it was, uh, pre-9/11.


Tokyo Joe said...

I am amazingly "unsettled" about giving the govt this type of free reign over civil liberties and freedoms, but I heard something on the morning radio that made me pause every so slightly. It was a quote fromm Cheney where he mentioned that it "was no accident" that the US has been free from terrorist attacks since 9/11. There is something to be said for that. However, I don't believe that this particular "tool" is going to be the keystone upon which the war on terrorism is going to rest. I thinnk it follows the same way of thinking as the fact that we haven't had any tiger attacks since I've had my magic stone (which I'm willing to sell to the highest bidder).

Otto Man said...

Cheney's line struck me differently, more as a note of desperation. The country had no foreign terrorist attacks in eight years after the *first* World Trade Center bombings, so does that mean we were twice as safe then? By his logic, yes.

There's something big going on here. Under FISA, there was no need for this sort of thing to do what the president has claimed it was for.

This president never admits a mistake or fesses up to anything. For him to come out and confess to what is clearly illegal suggests to me that there's something HUGELY illegal going on behind it.

S.W. Anderson said...

Cheney. Ah yes, almost midway into a year in which attacks against our troops in Iraq escalated about sevenfold, Cheney summarily dismissed the insurgency as being in its "final throes."

If the man didn't have bad judgment he wouldn't have any judgment at all.

Kristol is carrying water for Bush & Co. I've heard him do analysis of this kind of thing on the tube. It usually evokes memories of Maxwell Smart.

What really gets off with me when these crackpot crusaders and their apologists and cheerleaders in Congress bloviate about security is this little unattended detail: An estimated 3 million people come into our country illegally every year. No scrutiny at all. If the next Mohamed Atta isn't already in our midst, it's only because he hasn't chosen to come.

And why is this little detail so unattended? It's because business interests that bankroll the GOP, the right-wing noise machine and Bush campaigns want to keep growing the supply of dirt-cheap, no-questions-asked labor. And so, for ideological reasons, does Bush.

But there's reportedly also this: He sees a steady influx of Mexican workers as having the bonus of bringing into U.S. society millions of strongly churchgoing Catholic, pro-life, strong-family types.

What I would really like to know is, after all the warnings others have uttered and written about this ongoing, glaring vulnerability, is Bush so dense he still doesn't get it? Or, is he such an ideological dipstick that he thinks it's worth it, even if a few terrorists do get in unobserved?

Thrillhous said...

I hear you, TJ. The whole national security thing does give me pause; what if they really did thwart some big attack, but they couldn't tell us b/c it would give away too much intel?

Great call on the magic stone reference. I was thinking about that too.

You guys see that a FISA judge resigned in protest? I'm with Otto; something big is going on here.