Jonathan Alter proves that there’s still a free press.
President Bush came out swinging on Snoopgateâ€”he made it seem as if those who didnâ€™t agree with him wanted to leave us vulnerable to Al Qaedaâ€”but it will not work. Weâ€™re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. …
… I learned this week that on December 6, Bush summoned Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and executive editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office in a futile attempt to talk them out of running the story. The Times will not comment on the meeting,
but one can only imagine the presidentâ€™s desperation.
Thirdparty at Kos has some questions about this meeting, here. Alter continues:
The problem was not that the disclosures would compromise national security, as Bush claimed at his press conference.
I heard several cable television commenters make this same point throughout the day … we have not been told how the NSA snooping is taking place, only that it is. And certainly terrorists communicating with people inside the U.S. must have realized the feds would likely monitor their emails and phone calls. So how in the world has national security been compromised?
No, Bush was desperate to keep the Times from running this important storyâ€”which the paper had already inexplicably held for a yearâ€”because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker. He insists he had â€œlegal authority derived from the Constitution and congressional resolution authorizing force.â€ But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post 9/11 congressional resolution authorizing â€œall necessary forceâ€ in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.
The question is clear: Are we or are we not at war with the terrorists?
It’s not a declared war, nor a war of limited duration, which makes extraconstitutional “war powers” of the president problematic. Never before has Article II Section II been interpreted to mean that the President can grab more power for himself whenever he wants for as long as he wants because he thinks it’s necessary for national security. During times of invasion or other emergencies the president temporarily may act without consent of Congress. And, yes, Lincoln and FDR both took on expanded “war powers” during the Civil War and World War II. But the “war on terror” could last generations, and it’s so hazily defined that we cannot agree among ourselves who we are fighting or what “victory” will look like. For these reasons Bush must be held in tighter check than Lincoln or FDR, neither of whom overreached nearly as much as Bush has.
While jihadist cells are constantly spying to find chinks in Americaâ€™s infrastructure, President Bushâ€™s critics are concerned about how America is watching the terrorists. So far, I havenâ€™t heard a critic asking who are we watching?
Actually, a lot of us have asked who the NSA is watching. And a lot of us suspect it isn’t just alleged terrorists.
And here comes the Big Daddy of straw men:
Or anyone requesting an update as to how many terrorists are within the U.S. So, in sum, they want the government to â€œcatchâ€ the terrorists but not to â€œwatchâ€ them. I must admit that if the 9/11 Commission was right on target regarding some fellow Americans; it is about â€œlack of imagination.â€ For till further notice, I am not able to figure out how the U.S. can catch the jihadist terrorists if it doesnâ€™t monitor them.
See, nobody is saying we shouldn’t conduct surveillance. We are saying the surveillance must be conducted within constitutional parameters, and so far the President and his crew have not shown one good reason why they had to go outside FISA to snoop on Americans.
And how can the defense and security institutions monitor an enemy in a state of war, if it provides them with the knowledge and the technology it is using.
But that hasn’t happened. I haven’t seen a single news story that provides information about what technology is being used or how the surveillance is being conducted.
I think this story is going to be with us for a while. Fasten your seatbelts.