None of these quotes makes sense if the NSA program involved nothing more than an expansion of ordinary taps of specific individuals. After all, the FISA court would have approved taps of domestic-to-international calls as quickly and easily as they do with normal domestic wiretaps. What's more, Congress wouldn't have had any objection to supporting a routine program expansion; George Bush wouldn't have explained it with gobbledegook about the difference between monitoring and detecting; Jay Rockefeller wouldn't have been reminded of TIA; and the Times wouldn't have had any issues over divulging sensitive technology.
Yes, it occurred to me also -- looks like the NSA finally got all the kinks out of Echelon. And to the idea that all e-mails and websites are now being data-mined, I'd like to say I LOVE PRESIDENT BUSH AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AND JESUS.
Although it'd probably be best if I no longer e-mailed my mistress bragging that she must prepare for my "al-Zawahiri to stir insurgency in her Sunni Triangle of love" ... shit. Jesus Intelligent Design Moonbat. (Dammit, will somebody hack the algorithm so I know what the flagging ratios are?)
This really does explain everything. After all, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court is notoriously slutty in granting wiretap warrants retroactively. The Administration went to a helluva lot of effort and has brought an enormous shitstorm down on itself to slip a procedural roofie to the Paris Hilton of the Court system. Just pet the chihuhua and order another appletini and you'll get your warrant, for chrissake. The alternative is that the means by which they selected targets for the warrant, their probable cause, is something that'd make even the FISA court cough up a lung -- or even more validly, is some cutting edge piece of tech ass-kickery that we do NOT want people knowing we have.
And here we arrive at our problem. There are a million perfectly valid discussions we could be having about the nature of the Fourth Amendment in a digital age, how do we weigh the risk of another terrorist act against civil liberties ... all important issues we as a nation need to grapple with.
But instead, the Administration's arguing that none of that discussion is necessary -- that they are their own oversight. The President actually said, in the press conference when asked about "unchecked power": "There is the check of people being sworn to uphold the law, for starters." That fails the EEBC miserably. "Of course I'm not screwing around on you, honey. I took wedding vows." (The EEBC never lies, people. Trust the EEBC)
Instead of defending this from their proper Constitutional position as a co-equal branch of government -- an argument I would BUY, by the way -- they're basically saying that as long as the nation is at war the President has essentially unlimited powers. Seeing as the War on Terror (ugh) will be with us until the end of this century at least, that is a spectacularly crappy idea. You want Hillary Clinton to inherit that powerful a Presidency? Yeah, I didn't think so.
It is, even by the loosest standards, the exact opposite of how the Founding Fathers designed the system to work.
And then, when you layer on five years of:
-- the President whipping out 9/11 every five minutes for his own personal gain
-- the Administration lying about rendition and torture
-- the Administration lying about a Saddam/Osama connection (yes, Cheney is part of the Amdinistration)
-- the Administration bending and breaking habeus corpus
-- the Administration cooking the books on WMD intelligence*
-- the Administration treating Congress like a rubber stamp
-- the Administration constantly announcing big "terror arrests" that wind up dissolving in court
-- the Administration and its proxies accusing dissenters of treason
-- the widespread use of "national security letters" allowing the FBI to investigate you pretty much on a whim (it's not a warrant, you see, it's a letter)
-- the Administration shagging the post-war planning, and then spending three years telling us to shut up and cheer louder ...
... on top of that arrogance ... well, that's just insane. They haven't even decided exactly which argument justifies this within their own talking points. A humble, works-well-with-others Administration would worry me with the "Hey, we swore an oath, so you can trust us" bullshit. But an Administration that has had legal documents drawn up stating that the President has unlimited powers during war, and Congress can't interfere? Errr, not just "no". "Fuckno".
And so we have the little morality tale come to life, the George Who Cried Wolf. Because an argument can be made, a reasonable one (not one I agree with, but a reasonable one) about data mining in the fight against terrorism. Hell, I even agree you can't go spilling the details of the tech out everywhere; but in that case USE CONGRESS. Even appoint a completely confidential Congressional Oversight Committee to whatever SpiffyNewTech(tm) is out there and I'd sleep a little better at night. It is a representative democracy, after all. But by now the Administration has hooted and hollered and claimed so many ridiculous things are necessary for the WoT, and has called far too many reasonable people "paranoid" and "traitors", and made so many fanciful/worrisome claims about their Right to Power, that now every argument must pass through that lens of past behaviour.
A President regretfully announcing: yeah, he's run smack up against the Fourth Amendment, and we have a difficult discussion to have here as fellow citizens -- that's one thing. Stumbling around like a drunk screaming about traitors and mis-quoting the Constitution while your minions declare that you have unlimited powers during a "war" that will stretch into perpetuity is quite another.
* if you're one of the people who don't think the Administration tweaked the intelligence it presented, then, well, you and I live in entirely different worlds, and it's probably not worth sending me an angry e-mail. Just wave at me from Flatland and we'll move past each other into our alternate dimensions.