courtesy of Media Matters.
This afternoon on CNN, Bob Novak did a farewell interview with Wolf Blitzer to commemorate the end of his 25-year career with the network (before he heads over to the more comfortable surroundings of Fox News). In the interview, Novak revealed that he had better pre-war intel sources on Iraq than President Bush did:
NOVAK: I said several times on this network that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
BLITZER: How did you know that and the President of the United States, Vice President of the United States were convinced that there were?
NOVAK: Because my sources. I don’t run my own CIA. My sources didn’t think there were — in the military, people I trusted. And the indication of the inspectors indicated there was no weapons.
Where was the leak when we really needed it?
UPDATE: Crooks & Liars has the video.
On September 17, 2001, President Bush visited the Islamic Center of Washington, D.C., to declare that Muslims “share the same values of respect and dignity and human worth. … They love America just as much as I do.” But the actions Bush took in the days shortly after 9/11 sent a clear signal that his administration viewed those who stood with him in the Islamic Center as national security threats, not as individuals who shared American values.
U.S. News revealed that, in the days after 9/11, Bush ordered that “over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques” be secretly monitored for radiation levels without warrants or court orders.
Reacting to the story, the right-wing blog Real Clear Politics posted the following misguided commentary:
This is insane. Can we not settle the legality of these types of programs in private? … As with the NSA case, the leakers should be rounded up and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
In fact, federal officials involved with the program did try to settle the issue of the program’s legality in private, but the Bush administration (as it typically does) resorted to fear and intimidation to stifle dissent. Here’s what U.S. News reported:
Two individuals, who declined to be named because the program is highly classified, spoke to U.S. News because of their concerns about the legality of the program. … “A lot of us thought it was questionable, but people who complained nearly lost their jobs. We were told it was perfectly legal.”
The right-wing anger here is misdirected. It is the Bush administration that took actions contrary to the law and has thus made this an issue. In fact, the whistleblowers and U.S. News were careful to omit “sensitive methods” that would compromise the procedural operations of the program.
It’s also ironic that Real Clear Politics now wants to employ the power of the law to round up and prosecute leakers — unless of course the leaker is the deputy White House chief of staff and the substance of the leak involves an undercover CIA agent’s identity.
“be immune from being sued on claims of ordering illegal wiretaps.”
U.S. News reports that the Bush administration “since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities.” No search warrants or court orders were ever obtained.
Today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced the administration would withdraw two combat brigades from Iraq – approximately 7,000 troops. Rumsfeld disingenuously claimed that the pullout was a result of improving conditions on the ground. “[F]orce level decisions are condition-based and will continue to be condition-based. They’ll have been and will continue to be determined by assessment of Iraq’s progress,” Rumsfeld said. Since the largely peaceful elections on December 15th (peaceful because insurgents observed a truce that allowed Iraqis to go to the polls), the violence on the ground has escalated to pre-election levels:
“A soldier was killed by a bomb Thursday while on patrol in Baghdad, the military said. Violence around the country, including a suicide car bombing, left more than a dozen people dead, including six police officers, authorities said.” [LAT, 12/23/05]
“Guerrillas stormed an Iraqi army post on Friday [near Adhaim, north of Baghdad], killing 10 soldiers and wounding 20″¦in the bloodiest attack since last week’s parliamentary election.” [Reuters, 12/23/05]
“Violence has once again risen following a period of quiet around the election, for which a huge security clampdown was imposed.” [AFP, 12/20/05]
“[Vice President Cheney's visit to Iraq] came as insurgents broke the relative calm since the national election on Thursday with a string of attacks in central and northern Iraq that left at least nine people dead.” [NYT, 12/19/05]
“Gunmen killed two relatives of a senior Kurdish official and 17 others died in a string of attacks overnight and on Sunday, piercing three days of relative calm that followed the country’s first election for a full-term parliament.” [AP, 12/18/05]
While Rumsfeld’s announcement of a pullout appears to be in line with the goals of Rep. John Murtha and other critics of the Bush strategy, there is one key difference. The Bush Administration wants the American public to believe that the pullout is a validation of a successful strategy. In contrast, Murtha has said a pullout is necessary because “our current policy is creating as many or more terrorists than it is eliminating. It is simply not working.“
In order to fix the Bush administration’s failed strategy in Iraq, it’s important that the administration speak honestly about why it is beginning to pullout.
The Department of Justice has released a memo defending President Bush’s warrantless domestic spying argument. There are two main arguments:
1) Any limitations FISA places on the President’s authority to issue warrantless domestic searches are unconstitutional, and
2) Congress gave the President authority to issue warrantless domestic searches
It doesn’t seem like the DOJ has their heart in the first argument. They devote just two paragraphs out of a five page memo to this point. Most of that space is filled by caselaw decided before FISA even became law, making it largely irrelevant since FISA speaks directly to warrantless spying on Americans and declares it illegal.
Like other defenders of the President’s program, they place considerable emphasis on a 2002 decision by the FISA Court of Appeals. There are two important things to remember about that case:
- The FISA appeals court explicitly says it’s not addressing the issue (“It was incumbent upon the [Truong] court, therefore, to determine the boundaries of that constitutional authority [to conduct warrantless searches]…The question before us is the reverse…”)
- The FISA appeals court acknowledges the cases it mentions were decided before FISA and didn’t consider the statute (“We reiterate that Truong dealt with a pre-FISA surveillance…it had no occasion to consider the application of the statute…”)
In other words, there is a reason that the DOJ is giving short shrift to this argument. There is little evidence to substantiate it.
The rest of the memo is devoted to arguing that the 9/18/01 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) against al-Qaeda authorized the President’s actions. This argument doesn’t hold water either:
1. The administration tried to get language inserted into the AUMF that would have authorized them to take actions “in the United States.” They failed. [Tom Daschle, 12/23/05]
2. Federal law says that “exclusive means” to conduct electronic surveillance is FISA and Title III (which governs the use of wiretaps by law enforcement). Relying on the AUMF, the administration concedes that neither of those two statutes were used. Federal law says that any surveillance that is not conducted under those two statues is illegal. [18 U.S.C. 2551(2)(f); 50 U.S.C. 1809(a)]
3. FISA has a limited exception that allows warrantless domestic wiretaps after a war is declared, but it only lasts 15 days. The Bush administration program has been going on for more than four years. [50 U.S.C. 1811]
The Justice Department advances two theories about why Bush’s warrantless domestic surveillance program was legal and both of them fail. The truth is simple: the program was illegal because it violated federal criminal law.
In a 1985 memo, Alito recommended to the solicitor general that the government “should make clear that we disagree with Roe v. Wade and would welcome the opportunity to brief the issue of whether, and if so to what extent, that decision should be overruled.”
broad powers under the 9/11 War Authorization, writes former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. “Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote, the administration sought to add the words ‘in the United States and’ after ‘appropriate force’ in the agreed-upon text. This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas — where we all understood he wanted authority to act — but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.”