Thursday, May 11, 2006

case in point: both cases; both points

(I posted this as an addendum to an earlier post over at capitoilette, but I feel so strongly about this, I’m going to add it here as a stand alone.)

The splash headline on AOL’s “welcome” page today is “Bush Denies Breaking Law.” For those that need a little hand-holding on this, that’s the President’s name and law-breaking in the same sentence. Further, the denial is messy:

"Our intelligence activities strictly target al-Qaida and their known affiliates," Bush said. "We are not mining or trolling through the personal lives of innocent Americans."

That’s completely untrue—on two counts. By definition, if you want to log every phone call made in the US, then intelligence activity is not strictly targeting al Qaeda, and, again, by definition, looking for patterns in records of all calls and e-mails is both mining and trolling. In addition, as georgia10 has noted, Bush’s “explanation” directly contradicts Gen. Hayden’s own stated goals for the program:

I have met personally with prominent corporate executive officers. . . . And last week we cemented a deal with another corporate giant to jointly develop a system to mine data that helps us learn about our targets.

Still, the Democratic leadership is having trouble getting upset about this. Raw Story reports that 72 members of the House have filed amicus briefs in two federal courts challenging the legality of the NSA’s warrantless eavesdropping. The briefs emphasize that Congress never authorized such behavior. And yet, neither Minority leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) nor whip Steny Hoyer (MD) has joined the brief. (hat tip: nowheredesign) Is Rep. Pelosi afraid that Tim Russert will once again call standing up for the laws of the land “payback?”

And speaking of laws, let’s not forget that once again, no matter what Bush “denies,” the law has been broken. How do we know? Qwest Communications has refused to participate in this program. As Glenn Greenwald quotes from deep in the USA Today article:

Unable to get comfortable with what NSA was proposing, Qwest's lawyers asked NSA to take its proposal to the FISA court. According to the sources, the agency refused.

The NSA's explanation did little to satisfy Qwest's lawyers. "They told (Qwest) they didn't want to do that because FISA might not agree with them," one person recalled. For similar reasons, this person said, NSA rejected Qwest's suggestion of getting a letter of authorization from the U.S. attorney general's office. A second person confirmed this version of events.

Now, if Quest has the guts to stand up for congressionally mandated oversight, why doesn’t Congress? And if AOL can associate the President with breaking the law, why can’t the Democrats?


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