Democracies Die Behind Closed Doors

THE action today is the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the NSA spy program. For live-blogging and breaking updates, see Glenn Greenwald and ReddHedd at firedoglake.

I have only a brief window of blogging time until later today, but I do want to call your attention to today’s Bob Herbert column, which you can read online at True Blue Liberal.

The big problem related to this program, as far as the administration is concerned, is not its metastasizing threat to constitutional government, the rule of law, the privacy of innocent Americans, the venerable system of checks and balances, and the American way of life as we’ve known it.

No, the big problem for Bush & Co. — the thing that makes the president and his apologists apoplectic — is the mere fact that this domestic spying program has come to light. Investigations are under way to determine who might have leaked information about the supersecret program to The New York Times, which disclosed its existence, and others.

This is not a time for Congress or the media to bow before the intimidation tactics of a bullying administration. This is a time to heed the words of a federal judge named Damon Keith, who reminded us back in 2002 that “democracies die behind closed doors.”

Later in this very excellent column that you should read all the way through, Herbert says,

The president would have you believe that the warrantless N.S.A. spy program is a very limited operation, narrowly focused on international communications involving “people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations.”

If that were true, there would be no reason not to get a warrant from the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The most logical reason for not getting a warrant is that the president’s intelligence acolytes, who behave as though they graduated from the Laurel and Hardy school of data mining, have not been able to demonstrate that the people being spied upon are connected to Al Qaeda or any other terror organization.

Herbert goes on to remind us that the volume of data dumped on the FBI for follow-up was worse than worthless. It wasted time that might have been used in actual investigation of terrorists.

David Stout at the New York Times describes the testimony of Attorney General Gonzales, who was allowed to testify without being under oath:

The panel’s chairman, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said federal law prohibits “any electronic surveillance without a court order.”

And Senator Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, the committee’s ranking Democrat and, like Mr. Specter, a former prosecutor, said Mr. Gonzales’s assertions were not supported by history.

“Congress has given the president authority to monitor Al Qaeda messages legally, with checks to guard against abuses when Americans’ conversations and e-mails are being monitored,” Mr. Leahy said. “But instead of doing what the president has the authority to do legally, he’s decided to do it illegally, without safeguards.”

… “Mr. Attorney General,” Senator Leahy said at one point, “I’m getting the impression this administration picks and chooses what it’s subject to.”

13 thoughts on “Democracies Die Behind Closed Doors

  1. Neat, tidy package this perpetual war and executive powers in war time, What would the boy, and amurka, do if he had a real war to fight?

  2. The only possible explanation that I can conceive is that Bush is spying on his domestic poltical opponents. Can anybody offer a better explanation? The terrorist bullshit can be seen on it’s face as nonsense.

  3. Swami, i agree…but I am not inclined to believe it ended there…Something Linsey Graham said struck me as almost proof of what I have been thinking,,,He refered to “5th column movement” which is, he said, Americans who sympathize with terroists….he went on to say every war has them…

    Bush is a paranoid case, because he is up to so many seedy things he probably figures he has reason to be concerned.Everything must be highly controlled to avoid getting caught, if one thread unravels it could all come apart ..He cannot trust the public.We are all potential “5th column movements”….

    I was glad to hear Biden touch, ever so lightly ,on the question of why theses so called terrorists are not being arrested, rather then being wiretapped,,,the fact he let the issue slide without a clear cut answer was bullshit,, but maybe it will inspire others to ask the question of themselves.

    Feingold was correct about the Bush administration being sooooo pre- 1776 mentality …that was a statement WORTH repeating

  4. Without an objective reality based media and without the votes to perform real oversight, what can we do? This is just another part of the envelope pushing ,precedent craving, bushco machine grabbing power and evidently not planning to ever relinquish it. How do we reach the masses with the questions that need to be asked: do you want an unaccountable dictatorship, endless war, government in your business, corporate controlled congress etc ? How do we ask the republicans: how much will you be complicit with or do you plan to never be held accountable?I ask can the democrats buy infomercial time to educate the public? All we have is the 2006 elections, we cannot take 3 more years of this.

  5. Ah, now it’s clear why Gonzales did all that smiling yesterday. He knows fascist Karl has all those Repug senators by the balls. They’ve all gotten the word: Step one inch out of line, guys, and you will be on the LIST.

    Which will mean no more big $$$$, no more face time with the Preznit, and you might even find yourself framed as soft on terra. In this country, that’s the kiss of death.

    He’s smiling, too, because he knows that the Democrats are too busy pissing their pants and covering their asses to mount any serious challenge, no matter WHAT laws Preznit and his fascist gang decide to break.

    Karl is is fabulous form these days, no matter what that special prosecutor is doing with his Plame grand jury. Karl saw Hillary’s face when Bush alluded to Bill during SOTU. Karl also heard Jon Stewart say “That look is where a boner goes to die.”

    But Karl just smiles, ‘cuz his boner is still riding high. So grab your ankles, boys & girls. The fun has just begun.

  6. Maha – it’s debatable, but isn’t the spelling ‘murica? Regardless, this is an issue that is spinning away from the Dems, as they failed to follow up on the revealed facts, which lead people to believe the snooping program was more about politics that security.

    Also – the media is grading Gonz on a curve – they are cutting him some slack. His asnwers were elliptical and he should have been called on it.

  7. I agree with Herbert that it is exposure that most threatens the Bush & Co.

    To date, the Bush administration and the Delay-organized/entrenched Congress have used Capitol Hill as though they were kids in a game of ‘king of the hill’. Using their ‘hill’ positions and everyone’s tax dollars that flow up there, they have been busy gifting themselves and their lobbying friends in the military-industrial sector, as well as the pharmaceutical, insurance and energy-oil sectors.

    Those who try to storm and restore the ‘hill’ to its proper place as ‘our federal government’ are labeled ‘unpatriotic’.

    With the thieving that has been going on through corruption, it is a given that we cannot trust this hilltop gang with anything they say about ‘domestic spying.’

  8. I should add that the way the twit filter works is that the filtered poster will see his comment as if it were posted, and I will see his comment from an administrative page, but nobody else sees the comment unless I approve it. If a twit-filtered poster continues to try to post and becomes a nuisance, I put him on automatic ban. I don’t like to do that because the auto ban filter might also filter out something that’s not objectionable. But it has been done.

  9. Why is it permissable for Bush to use 9/11 as a propaganda venue, while the neocons and their supporters condemn the democrats who were present at Coretta Scott King’s funeral to castigate the
    “man” who would have served to deny the very civil rights of the King family , indeed of us all ? Bush would have done well to avoid his own presence at a venue that silently but effectively shows his own hypocrisy, incompetency and insensitivity. However, if you listen to the right wingers, Bush was showing his “leadership” skills Whatever……
    As for any dems, seems to me the righties have their history a bit flanged….I guess they don’t consider the foxies, Michelle Mulkin ( I guess who has forgotten that she too is an immigrant like many of us0 Anne Coulter (sic)(need I say more ??/).

Comments are closed.