Thursday, December 22, 2005

Do They Love This?

This may seem like only the latest in a long string of bad stories for the Bush Administration, but isn't it really something else?

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, the President authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to undertake a completely secret and completely illegal program of wiretapping and eavesdropping on Americans thought by the NSA to have some connection with terrorism.

Legal mechanisms have been available for decades to allow this sort of thing, but the President took it upon himself to decide that these mechanisms (involving the issuance of a warrant by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court -- one which can be obtained rapidly and almost completely without fear of denial) were too unwieldy and could be ignored on the basis of an expansive (and, of course, secret and internal) reading of the Congressional mandate to combat terrorism.

The New York Times actually sat on this story for a year before publishing, and its Publisher and Editor were called in for a face-to-face with Bush at which he requested that they continue that censorship. In the end they did publish the story and the President's response, typically, was to castigate the paper and the unknown functionary who leaked the story.

Quite beyond the continuing story of arrogance and incompetence, though, this latest installment has to beg the question: what is it that we're doing here?

Leaving aside the stunning unreadiness that Katrina brought into sharp relief (not to mention the horribly frightening readiness report issued by the 9/11 commission earlier this month), what does it say when the ultimate answer to Islamofascism is to ignore the very Constitution the President swears to protect and defend? What does it say when the Vice-President, who took the very same oath, claims that only such lawless disregard for civil liberties could have prevented 9/11 (discounting, of course, the possibility that paying attention to their own intelligence briefs might have helped).

In his first address to Congress following the attacks, the President said, "Why do they hate us? ... They hate our freedoms." If their attacks resulted in rapid and secret federal government overrides of our 4th amendment rights, does that please them? If they hate our freedoms, do they love that our reaction to their attacks is to immediately start throwing those freedoms out the window?


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