the blog of DC Drinking Liberally
Last month I posted a comment on Balloon Juice mocking the way right-wing bloggers and commenters were pushing two contradictory arguments about the USA Today story on the NSA’s database of phone calls:
Old news. Nothing to see here. This sort of thing has been going on forever, and we’ve always known it was happening. Anyone with half a brain knew the NSA was doing this. In fact, it’s practically the definition of what they’re supposed to be doing. No one would expect them not to be doing it.
Oh, and USA Today and the other media outlets reporting the story are traitors. Those so-called journalists should be hanged for endangering the country by revealing important secrets to our enemies — things our enemies had no way of knowing and could never have guessed.
I said in a later comment that unfortunately I hadn’t been able to find the two arguments being made at the same time.
Now, thanks to the uproar in the right-wing blogs about the Bush administration sifting through millions of banking transactions, I have an example. Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters manages to get the two inconsistent arguments into a single sentence (emphasis added):
Excuse me, but no one voted to put Bill Keller in charge of our national security, and the laws covering classification of materials does not have an option for journalists to invalidate their clearance level. The continuing arrogance of Keller and his two reporters has damaged our national security, and in this case on a ridiculously laughable story that tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know in concept. They keep pretending to offer news to their readers, but instead all they do is blow our national-security programs for profit.
Apparently it’s difficult for Bush supporters to grasp, but if these are perfectly normal, legal government operations that everyone already knows about, then clearly the terrorists already know about them and have taken what steps they can to evade detection. If that’s true, how does publishing the stories help the terrorists or otherwise endanger national security?
And if the operations are violating the law, isn’t it the job of journalists to inform the American people of that? Besides, do terrorists really care whether their actions are being monitored legally or illegally? They know the monitoring is happening, and they don’t care whether those spying on them have a warrant or are otherwise subject to oversight to prevent abuse.
Tonight at a special event hosted jointly by the Wednesday and Thursday chapters of DC Drinking Liberally, blogger and author Glenn Greenwald(who’s in town for the Take Back America conference) will be reading from and signing his book How Would a Patriot Act?: Defending American Values from a President Run Amok.
Happy hour starts at 6:30 tonight (Wednesday, June 14) at Mark & Orlando’s, 2020 P Street NW (Dupont Circle Metro). Glenn will speak at 7:30, but get there early, since space is limited. The book will be available for $12.
Monday, April 10th, A National Day of Action Rally for Immigrant Rights! When: 3pm - March from Malcolm X Park (16th and Euclid Streets, NW) to the Washington Monument, 4pm - Rally at the Washington Monument. With some 75 cities holding marches and rallies, this may be the biggest day of demonstrations in more than a century. Virginia, Maryland, D.C. will rally at the Washington Monument. Order of the day: American flags and white T-shirts (to show the rally is peaceful — wear them over whatever is keeping you warm). Directed against draconian divide-and-conquer legislation passed in the house (HR 4437) and for progressive immigration reform (such as McCain-Kennedy). This is an issue that touches everybody in America, and the sea of faces at the rallies should show a wide range of solidarity. For more info, national and local: www.April10.org or www.cirnow.org. Info - Caroline Stuart, (202) 467-2457 or firstname.lastname@example.org
There are several political blogs I read regularly that I haven’t added to the blog roll here because they don’t fit under the heading “liberal blogs” (I guess I should reorganize). The most recent one I’ve found is Unclaimed Territory by Glenn Greenwald. It would be particularly bad to list Greenwald as a liberal blogger because one of his recent themes has been the way Bush supporters label anyone disagreeing with Bush as “liberal”.
The controversy over the port deal has many interesting facets, but Greenwald points out one that ties it together with the issue of illegal spying by the NSA (an issue that’s probably much more important) and exposes a glaring contradiction in the positions of most Republicans in Congress:
It is really quite astounding to watch Congressional Republicans fall all over themselves advocating legislation, on the grounds of national security, to force the President to reverse his decision about who is going to operate our ports. Many of these same Republicans have been defending Bush’s violations of FISA on the ground that Congress lacks constitutional authority to restrict or regulate the President’s Article II power to act unilaterally with regard to matters of national security.
In a followup post he suggests that this contradiction opens up the perfect opportunity to pressure Congress on illegal spying:
The principal argument which has been invoked by the President’s apologists for suppressing investigations — namely, that we should blindly trust the President on national security matters and that Congress has no business investigating the President’s decisions concerning the “war on terror”– is entirely obviated by the port controversy. In response to demands for an NSA investigation, it will now ring intuitively false for any Republican Senator to claim that Congress has no role to play, or that the Administration should be trusted with no oversight, when it comes to making decisions about how to defend the nation.
I’m going to continue reading Greenwald regularly, and I recommend you do too.
Today is the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Franklin. One of his most quoted statements (at least it’s probably his) is particularly appropriate nowadays:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Of course Bush supporters claim that the liberty we’re giving up isn’t all that essential, but the real reason Franklin’s caution doesn’t exactly apply is that we’re not even getting temporary safety. We’re trading liberty for the illusion of safety. For an example, see the latest New York Times article about the administration’s illegal eavesdropping:
In the anxious months after the Sept. 11 attacks, the National Security Agency began sending a steady stream of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses and names to the F.B.I. in search of terrorists. The stream soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.
But virtually all of them, current and former officials say, led to dead ends or innocent Americans. […]
“We’d chase a number, find it’s a schoolteacher with no indication they’ve ever been involved in international terrorism — case closed,” said one former F.B.I. official, who was aware of the program and the data it generated for the bureau. “After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration.”
The most important point about the eavesdropping program is that it’s illegal and an example of unchecked presidential power, since Congress prohibited such warrantless investigations. But it is worth noting that, as this story indicates, the program doesn’t even appear to have been effective in the goal of making us safer from terrorists.
[Update] Moved the text of the original post here. :)
Al Gore threw down a gauntlet today.
Not some little leather glove with a long cuff like you’d see at a Rennaissance festival.
A real gauntlet.One of the big ugly bastards that jousters wore on the off hand, a thick leather glove that only existed to protect your skin from the fully articulated steel fingers, thumb, and wrist. A heavy plate that covered the back of your hand, and the thick armor to protect your lower forearm. You know. The kind of gauntlet that if you got hit in the face with it, your dentist would have a religious experience.
Got the point across? Good. Now we’ll set the scene. But first, grab a cup of coffee… this is a long one, and well worth your undivided attention.
Al Gore is speaking at noon Monday, January 16 (MLK Day), at DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D Street NW, on “Unchecked Presidential Power”:
The speech will specifically point to domestic wiretapping and torture as examples of the Administration’s assertion of executive power in disregard of Congress and the courts.
The speech is sponsored by the Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society. See libertyspeeches.org for more information and to reserve free tickets (which will go fast).
While I was killing time last night before I had to leave to catch the bus, I found something y’all definitely need to see, if you haven’t already:
The Bush administration requested, and Congress rejected, war-making authority “in the United States” in negotiations over the joint resolution passed days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to an opinion article by former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) in today’s Washington Post.
Daschle’s disclosure challenges a central legal argument offered by the White House in defense of the National Security Agency’s warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. It suggests that Congress refused explicitly to grant authority that the Bush administration now asserts is implicit in the resolution.
You don’t say!!
“Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words ‘in the United States and’ after ‘appropriate force’ in the agreed-upon text,” Daschle wrote. “This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas — where we all understood he wanted authority to act — but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.”
Daschle wrote that Congress also rejected draft language from the White House that would have authorized the use of force to “deter and pre-empt any future acts of terrorism or aggression against the United States,” not only against those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
I’m assuming that “suggests” is shorthand for “makes it glaringly obvious.”
Now what were you saying about that authorization, Mr. President?
Gary Farber at Amygdala takes the early lead in the contest for best post title of 2006. Read.
You may remember John Ashcroft from such remarks as
To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty; my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists — for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.
But in the good old days, when there was a Democrat in the White House, Ashcroft used to worry a lot about government intrusion into our communications:
There is a concern that the Internet could be used to commit crimes and that advanced encryption could disguise such activity. However, we do not provide the government with phone jacks outside our homes for unlimited wiretaps. Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web?
The protections of the Fourth Amendment are clear. The right to protection from unlawful searches is an indivisible American value. Two hundred years of court decisions have stood in defense of this fundamental right. The state’s interest in effective crime-fighting should never vitiate the citizens’ Bill of Rights.
Maybe there was still a little bit of the old Ashcroft left when Bush’s people came to him in the hospital to get his blessing on their illegal use of the NSA to spy on Americans.
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