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February 07, 2006

The Book that Explains the NSA Wiretapping . . .

and the reasons to for impeachment and what's going on in these Senate Hearings.  James Risen's book “The State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration” is one of the early “historical” looks at what demons this administration has let loose.   The NYT has a veview that is itself long.  But it’s critical to understanding the nature of this presidency and our times.

Here’s the first paragraph in Thomas Powers’ NYT review:

The challenges posed to American democracy by secrecy and by unchecked presidential power are the two great themes running through the history of the Iraq war. How long the war will last, who will "win," and what it will do to the political landscape of the Middle East will not be obvious for years to come, but the answers to those questions cannot alter the character of what happened at the outset. Put plainly, the President decided to attack Iraq, he brushed caution and objection aside, and Congress, the press, and the people, with very few exceptions, stepped back out of the way and let him do it.

And this is the reason the Administration is so concerned about these current Senate hearings on the wiretaping:

If the Constitution forbids a president anything it forbids war on his say-so, and if it insists on anything it insists that presidents are not above the law. In plain terms this means that presidents cannot enact laws on their own, or ignore laws that have been enacted by Congress. . . . The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 is such a law; it was enacted to end years of routine wiretapping of American citizens who had attracted official attention by opposing the war in Vietnam. The express purpose of the act was to limit what presidents could ask intelligence organizations to do.

The author goes on:

We are living with the consequences of the inability to say no to the President's war of choice with Iraq, and we shall soon see how the Congress and the courts will respond to the latest challenge from the White House—the claim by President Bush that he has the right to ignore FISA's prohibition of government intrusion on the private communications of Americans without a court order, and his repeated statements that he intends to go right on doing it.

And Powers says that the biggest thing in Risen’s book is this NSA eavesdropping program now being investigated in these Hearings.  Risen claims:

that the President authorized the NSA not only to eavesdrop on Americans without seeking court orders, but to listen in a new way, by intercepting a large volume of communications among categories of people, and then analyzing or "mining" the data in those calls for suspicious patterns that might offer "potential evidence of terrorist activity."

Powers himself is willing to go farther than Risen did in his book.  After discussing the very broad and apparently nearly useless wiretapping effort, Powers says,

So why did the administration continue this lumbering effort for three years? Outsiders sometimes find it tempting to dismiss such wheel-spinning as bureaucratic silliness, but I believe that the Judiciary Committee will find, if it is willing to persist, that within the large pointless program there exists a small, sharply focused program that delivers something the White House really wants. This it will never confess willingly.

This then is what all that “ducking and bobbing”, as Senator Charles Schumer called what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was doing, is all about.  This is why Rove is resorting to arm-twisting measures to keep the Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee in line.  This is clearly an impeachable offense, potentially easier to understand than any of the other possible impeachable offenses of this presidency.  Whether it becomes an impeachment is clearly up to the Republicans.  Just one Republican asking for an independent prosecutor would tip it I think.  Any takers?

Posted by Lynn Allen on February 7, 2006 at 11:57 AM in National and International Politics | Permalink

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Also See:

The Puzzle Palace: Inside America's Most Secret Intelligence Organization
by James Bamford

ISBN:0140067485
Publication Date: September 1983

Posted by: Andrew Brewer | Feb 7, 2006 9:07:41 PM

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