Apparently, the Constitution Is a Suicide Pact

Whenever Bush administration officials have claimed that releasing information would harm national security, I always assumed they meant that the information would be useful to our enemies—that it would help terrorists plan attacks or avoid detection. To be sure, that argument was not always plausible. In the case of the NSA's warrantless surveillance of Americans' international communications, for example, the idea that Al Qaeda operatives did not realize their phone calls and email might be monitored until The New York Times started talking about it, or that it mattered to them whether such eavesdropping was done with or without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, seems pretty silly. And given the long history of using classification not only to protect the country from attack but to protect presidents from embarrassment and inconvenience, such arguments may be insincere as well. But ostensibly, I thought, the rationale for secrecy was that certain information had to be kept from the public so it could be kept from our enemies.

Evidently, that is not necessarily the argument. A recent interview with Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, suggests that the administration also feels duty-bound to withhold information when it might be useful to critics who oppose President Bush's anti-terrorism policies, since those policies are necessary to protect national security. But the very same information can—indeed, should—be released at a more opportune time, when it will help the president pursue his policies. Thus McConnell confirms something the administration has long insisted it could not safely discuss: that telecommunications companies helped the NSA conduct its warrantless surveillance. Although that much may have seemed obvious, the Justice Department has tried to stop lawsuits against the cooperating carriers by arguing that even acknowledging their help would endanger national security. But now that Bush wants Congress to give the companies retroactive immunity from liability for aiding and abetting illegal snooping, McConnell is suddenly more forthcoming:

"Under the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us, because if you're going to get access, you've got to have a partner," Mr. McConnell said....

Mr. McConnell said those suits were a driving force in the administration's efforts to include in this month's wiretapping legislation immunity for telecommunications partners. "If you play out the suits at the value they're claimed," he said, "it would bankrupt these companies."

Congress agreed to give immunity to telecommunications partners in the measure , but refused to make it retroactive.

McConnell does trot out the lame argument that talking about warrantless surveillance directly helps terrorists by giving them information they would not otherwise have (emphasis added):

Mr. McConnell, who took over as the country's top intelligence official in February, warned that the public discussion generated by the Congressional debate over the wiretapping bill threatened national security because it would alert terrorists to American surveillance methods.

"Now part of this is a classified world," he said in the interview. "The fact we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die."

Asked whether he was saying the news media coverage and the public debate in Congress meant that "some Americans are going to die," he replied: "That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public."

What a load of crap. How does requiring a secret court's approval for eavesdropping on Americans—or not requiring it, which is what Congress decided to do—alert terrorists to American surveillance methods? It's pretty clear McConnell's real concern is that debating this issue endangers national security because it threatens to prevent the president from doing whatever he thinks is necessary to fight terrorism. Hence Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, is not at all exaggerating when he observes, "He's basically saying that democracy is going to kill Americans." And not just democracy, but constitutional government of any kind, since anything that interferes with the president's unilateral decisions with respect to national security (which is whatever he says it is) is going to kill Americans too.

This argument, I think, is completely sincere, which is what makes it so scary.

Addendum: The full transcript of the interview, which was conducted by The El Paso Times, is available here.

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  • ||

    Remember, "give me liberty or give me death" is liberal sedition.

  • ||

    The first rule of Fright Club is--you do not talk about Fright Club. The second rule of Fright Club is--you DO NOT talk about Fright Club.

  • ||

    The fact that Bush and Co. do these things isn't half as appalling as Congress/Courts/Constituents letting them get away with it.

    Loki this is depressing. I need a drink.

  • ||

    ...you know, until I wrote that, the irony of the administration getting prefab sycophants from an institution called "Patrick Henry College" hadn't even occurred to me.

  • TallDave||

    "for example, the idea that Al Qaeda operatives did not realize their phone calls and email might be monitored until The New York Times started talking about it, or that it mattered to them whether such eavesdropping was done with or without the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, seems pretty silly."

    These people live in caves and want the rest of the world to return to the 7th century. They aren't exactly technophilic rocket scientists; they're deadly because they're willing to strap on bombs, not because they're tactical geniuses. Yes, blaring out the details of surveillance programs on the front pages of major programs helps the relatively clueless terrorists escape detection.

    Criminals as a whole are pretty dumb. Police are always doing things like fake boat giveaways to get them to come in and be arrested. I doubt LEO would be too happy with front-page exposure of programs like that, despite the fact more clever criminals are obviously going to avoid them anyway.

  • ||

    Here we go again.. "If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison

  • ||

    These people live in caves and want the rest of the world to return to the 7th century. They aren't exactly technophilic rocket scientists; they're deadly because they're willing to strap on bombs, not because they're tactical geniuses. Yes, blaring out the details of surveillance programs on the front pages of major programs helps the relatively clueless terrorists escape detection.

    Are you trying to say that the Times delivers to caves? To be read by illiterates?

  • TallDave||

    s/b "major newspapers" above, sorry.

    "But the very same information can-indeed, should-be released at a more opportune time, when it will help the president pursue his policies. "

    It's hard not to be sympathetic to that pov when the CIA/NYT axis seems to feel it's their duty to leak anything that might hurt the admin, regardless of how it affects national security. A lot of this stuff went back to the Clinton admin, yet only became "the public sacred right to know" when the Bushitler Gestapo was behind it.

  • ||

    Disgusting. Let the marketplace hand the execution orders to these quisling telecom companies!

    Anyone know which companies didn't comply? Cuz I might have to switch carriers.

  • TallDave||

    HJ,

    I'm saying it's a hell of a lot easier to figure out something when it's on the front page of the NYT.

  • ||

    I'll go ahead and say it, TallDave,

    it was wrong under Clinton, it's still wrong under Bush. And if it was happening under Clinton, then all of Bush's "we need these new tools for a new kind of war" talk is bullshit, because it was happening prior to 9/11.

  • Timothy||

    You must go through a lot of diapers, Dave, pissing in your pants as much as you seem to.

    Terrorists? Not that deadly. For serious, I'm more likely to be killed walking to lunch, or getting struck by lightning. You know, I used to wet the bed too, but then I realized I was making a mistake, a big mistake, and supporting a bunch of fuckwits who will more than gladly take my liberty, treat me like a criminal, tell me that it's for my own protection, and tell me not to worry because they pinky-swear to only spy on the nasty brown illiterates who ZOMG COULD KILL US ALL WITH BUCKET-ENRICHED URANIUM!!!!!!!one1111ONE!!!!!!

    Yeah, okay, dudes with bombs who'd like to kill me are kinda scary and all but let's not kid ourselves about their ability to do so. I'd like to put it in Scarlett Johansson, but I'm not going to kid myself about my ability to seduce her and neither should we let a bunch of cave-dwelling illiterates with uranium buckets scare us.

  • TallDave||

    RC,

    Well, at least you're consistent.

    I agree in principle that this stuff is scary and should be avoided if possible, but with 3000 people dead I find it hard to oppose warrantless wiretaps being used for national security reasons. My only beef is when they start using this stuff for more mundane things like the misbegotten "war on drugs."

  • TallDave||

    Tim,

    You're right, I'm just a bedwetter. Terrorists are no big deal. Why, tens of thousands die in car accidents!

    Let's wait until AQ is killing more Americans than cars. That's the only sensible thing to do.

  • ||

    I'm saying it's a hell of a lot easier to figure out something when it's on the front page of the NYT.

    How did you know about "fake boat giveaways", and do the police still use these scams?

  • Syloson of Samos||

    TallDave,

    These people live in caves and want the rest of the world to return to the 7th century. They aren't exactly technophilic rocket scientists...

    Actually, a number of them are. Now, maybe the "muscle" isn't, but there is a core cadre of them which are quite intelligent, highly educated, etc. Indeed, isn't that one of the reasons why many are concerned about their possible use of WMDs?

  • ||

    Jacob:

    What a load of crap. How does requiring a secret court's approval for eavesdropping on Americans-or not requiring it, which is what Congress decided to do-alert terrorists to American surveillance methods?

    Jacob Sullum for Supreme Court!

    And not just democracy, but constitutional government of any kind, since anything that interferes with the president's unilateral decisions with respect to national security (which is whatever he says it is) is going to kill Americans too.

    These expanded powers are manifestly unconstitutional and they also loom as tools to repress dissent. I remember when Clinton got caught with the FBI files on 500 Republican contributors-He mumbled something about an "ongoing terrorist investigation"...

  • Syloson of Samos||

    TallDave,

    I would note that those three thousand people died as a result of a fairly sophisticated attack.

    Honestly, the terrorists can't be super badass, etc. folks who are an existential threat while being primitives who can't figure out that they are being monitored at the same time.

  • ||

    What Andy quoted:

    "If tyranny and oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy." - James Madison

    Nice call, Andy!

  • ||

    Asked whether he was saying the news media coverage and the public debate in Congress meant that "some Americans are going to die," he replied: "That's what I mean. Because we have made it so public."

    And to think that these people were unsuccessful in their efforts to export democracy.

    One of the characteristics of a totalitarian state is the merging of the state with the party. One side of this is turning government entities that are supposed to be nonpartisan, like prosecuting attornies, into partisan operatives using their government functions to advance the party's power. The flip side is to define arguments against the party, its policies, or its personnel as attacks on the state or nation itself.

  • TallDave||

    Sylson,

    A few, maybe. The majority aren't.

    They're not the KGB; they're not likely to have a detailed organizational understading of how wiretap procedures work -- unless somebody does them the favor of making it a years-long national debate.

    Also, the bedwetting argment works both ways. "Oooh, I'm so scared the big bad government is going to wiretap terrorists! My liberty is under siege! Time to hide under the bed! Oh no it's wet under here!"

  • ||

    Al Qaeda members do not "live in caves," TallDave. Osama bin Laden is the college-educated son of a Saudi construction magnate. Mohammed Atta had a master's degree in urban planning. They film themselves in caves because, as every Muslim would recognize, the Koran describes Mohammed as receiving the word of God in a cave.

    If these people are barbarians who live in caves, why are they sending emails and running web sites?

  • ||

    Talldave,

    The bedwetting argument doesn't really work both ways - one side is saying "Oh No! I'm so afraid of terrorists that I'll give the federal government whatever power and discretion it needs to stop it, without any checks on effectiveness of the measures it takes"
    while the other side says
    "Oh no! My jackass compatriots are giving the federal government any power it wants and legitimizing its violations of the Constitution."

    One is pee-pee pants, the other is defiant.

  • ||

    A few, maybe. The majority aren't.

    OK. The ones who are covertly utilizing email, web sites, and satellite phones are smart enough to know that those things might be monitored. That's why they throw away the satellite phones and talk in code when they use them.

  • ||

    Fascinating. So TallDave is saying these folks are dumb criminals living in caves, and yet we can monitor their communications with warrantless wiretaps. A month ago I drove 10 miles into the Cascades and couldn't get a damned cell signal to save my soul. They obviously know something I don't.

  • Syloson of Samos||

    TallDave,

    A few, maybe.

    Oh now it is a few.

    Anyway, the majority don't have to be. It is only required of the planners of operations, etc. (just as it would be in a specialized organization).

    ...they're not likely to have a detailed organizational understading of how wiretap procedures work -- -- unless somebody does them the favor of making it a years-long national debate.

    And is that what has been revealed? Proof of such would be appreciated.

  • ||

    oi, but we're piling on Talldave, which I will now abbreviate as TD. TD, when do you think the temporary wartime measure of domestic "wide net" wiretapping should stop? Or should it become a new permanent part of the government to protect us from terrorism?

    I think that your fears about such programs being used to prosecute crimes like drug dealing, prostitution, and gambling will become harsh reality rather soon. After all, RICO is only used to go after the mob, right?

  • Episiarch||

    I swear, part of these massive power-grabs are purely ass-covering politics. Bush is desperate for any tools possible to prevent an attack, because if one occurs, the Democrats will be shrieking for his head. On the flip side, he asks for more and more powers because if the Democrats deny him them, and an attack occurs, the Republicans can go insane placing the blame on the "obstructionist" Democrats.

    Then the Democrats, realizing that if they DO block his more outrageous power-grabs, and an attack occurs, they will get blamed, allow certain things to pass so they can't be blamed.

    So in other words, our liberties circle down the drain as these scumfuck politicians play their little power games and ass-covering stunts.

    Washington should be sealed off with a plastic bubble, random weapons issued, and the politicians have to kill each other off until only one remains Battle Royale-style. The winner gets to be the Undersecretary of Education.

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    They're not the KGB; they're not likely to have a detailed organizational understading of how wiretap procedures work -- unless somebody does them the favor of making it a years-long national debate.

    The notion that if you're plotting terror, some government might try to listen to your communications does not require a "detailed [understanding]". You're really arguing this never occurred to them before?

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    The Democrats voted against the wiretap.

    88% against, 12% for.

    It only passed because the Republicans voted for it nearly unanimously.

  • ||

    It's a good thing that no major TV network is unpatriotic enough to produce a show scamming perverts. Child molesters might never be caught if they knew they were chatting with cops.

  • Episiarch||

    joe, fine, but they voted for the Patriot Act, the war, and many other things. Yes, they do try and block some stuff but that's not because they are principled. It's because if they didn't block some stuff their base would kill them. They're just walking their political knife-edge to stay in power.

    I cannot understand how you, or anyone, could possibly believe that one political party is somehow more pricipled than another. They are all power-hungry scum.

  • ||

    "Now part of this is a classified world," he said in the interview. "The fact we're doing it this way means that some Americans are going to die."



    If that's the case, then I hope this asshole is one of 'em.

  • ||

    Episiarch,

    USA PATRIOT Act, yes. Only Russ Feingold voted against that in the Senate, and the numbers were equally lopsided in the House.

    The War, no. Senate Democrats were split roughly evenly, House Democrats voted against it by a lopsided majorty. Among all Congressional Democrats, the AUMF lost by 58%-42%.

    I don't believe that the Democrats in Congress are any more principled than the Republicans. In fact, all in all, they are probably less so. Many, many Republicans strike me as absolutely sincere in their contempt for gay people, for example.

    But in a democracy, the power-hunger of politicians is subsumed to the will of their constituents. I don't favor Democratic majorities because I think they're better or more principled people, but because their desire for power, and the basis of that power in the satisfaction of Democratic voters, will keep them from embarking on the atrocities and pratfalls so beloved among Republicans.

    Expecting principle from professional politicians has nothing to do with it.

  • ||

    McConnell has a point - democracies don't keep secrets as well as dictatorships. There weren't even accurate maps of the Soviet Union available if we'd ever tried to invade them, while the Red Army could have just stopped at any gas station in America to find exactly the maps they needed. So it goes.

    OTOH, democracy gives us quite a few advantages. We can good cop-bad cop our opponents like nobody's business. We can be much more flexible, flip-flopping around as it suits our interests where dictatorships remain locked into failing policies. We put a vastly superior caliber of soldier on the line, one who can think for himself, solve problems, and react to unforseen or novel situations.

    Maybe serving a democratic society does impose limitations on our military, foreign service, and intelligence community's ability to act; those limitations don't even begin to rival the advantages.

  • ||

    We can good cop-bad cop our opponents like nobody's business. We can be much more flexible, flip-flopping around as it suits our interests...

    Kinda like when Eddie Griffin schooled DJ Qualls in The New Guy to act the crazy motherfucker so all the other cats wouldn't mess with you.

  • Fluffy||

    "I doubt LEO would be too happy with front-page exposure of programs like that, despite the fact more clever criminals are obviously going to avoid them anyway."

    Who cares if they would be happy about it? The question is whether they have the moral or legal authority to STOP it.

    The bottom line is that for the consent of the people to their government to mean anything, there can be no element of that government the people aren't allowed to know about. That means if people want to run for office on the basis of opposing your national security initiatives and playing up their negative aspects, they get to do it. And if you try to keep things secret so that this can't be done, you have subverted the Constitution.

  • ||

    joe:

    The Democrats voted against the wiretap.
    88% against, 12% for. It only passed because the Republicans voted for it nearly unanimously.



    In so many areas I can point to the Republicans in congress (certainly not so much the Bush administration) and say that they're far more libertarian than the Dems. But on this one, I'm really pissed at my party. I'm serious.

    joe, can you provide link with a breakdown of the vote so I can see who else on my team voted the right way besides Ron Paul?

  • ||

    Never forget, 20 years from now we'll learn that, whatever they admit to doing today will probably only be about 1/3 (or less) of what they're actually doing. Looking back they'll mutter some platitudes about "justified", "had no choice", "dangerous times", etc. and promise it can never happen again in those future enlightened times.

  • robc||

    joe,

    And to think that these people were unsuccessful in their efforts to export democracy.

    Unsuccessful? Iraq has had elections and everything. It is at least as democratic as Venezuela, to pick a "random" example.

    What they failed at is exporting liberty. [Insert tool rant here]

  • Trollaphile||

    Is there a praticular adult diaper brand you bepublicans all use? I am looking for some new investments.

    Bin Laden did live in a cave, but it was by choice.

  • ||

    Rick,

    Sorry, I don't have a link, and the Wikipedia page links to the Senate bill while discussing the House vote.

    If you want to search, it's called the "Keep American Safe Act," the Senate version weas S1927, and it passed the Senate on August 1.

    robc,

    Iraq doesn't have open and fair elections. It's in the middle of a civil war, and people are being slaughtered by the thousands for their political activity.

    You can keep misstating my arguments if you like, but I'm just going to ignore you.

  • DannyK||

    There was an argument floating around that McConnell and many others in the security bureaucracy have conflicts of interest here, since they are advocating for retroactive immunity for companies they have, or may in the future, do business with as consultants, employees, etc.

    In other words, the regulatory capture of DHS by the wiretapping industry is complete!

  • robc||

    joe,

    Freedom House rankings had Iraq's Political Rights as a 7 (worst ranking) prior to the war. Its now up to a 6!
    Okay, I expected a 5 when I looked.

    Venezuala under Chavez has gone down to a 4, which is still better than Iraq but going the wrong way. Venezuela scored a 1 in Political Rights as recently as 1991 and was still a 2 when Hugo got elected.

    Im not willing to call a Freedom House PR score of 4 or 6 a democracy.

  • robc||

    Unless I cant read (which is a possibility), Iraq should be a 5 in PR, based on the subscores on Freedom house's website. They score a 14/40 (7/12 in electoral process; 6/16 in political pluralism & participation; 1/12 in government function). 12 to 17 is a 5. Not sure where the difference comes in.

    Venezuela, btw, is an 8-8-4 in those subcats. The biggest difference is their government actually functions somewhat.

  • ||

    "Iraq has had elections and everything. It is at least as democratic as Venezuela, to pick a "random" example."

    The question of whether democracies should be allowed to vote themselves out of existence is an old one--In this case, I'm not so sure that what they voted in was a democracy.

    It isn't a democracy in my book 'til the parties in power have taken their places with the loyal opposition--at least once.

    ...I'm trying to imagine Sadr taking his place with the loyal opposition, and I just can't. Maybe he'll surprise us all, but I doubt it.

  • ||

    """It's hard not to be sympathetic to that pov when the CIA/NYT axis seems to feel it's their duty to leak anything that might hurt the admin, regardless of how it affects national security."""

    Funny that you don't fault the White House/NYT Axis. Judith Miller didn't do jail time to protect a member of the CIA. Uh, what was that guys job again? Oh yeah, Chief of staff for the Vice-President of the United States. If you're really concerned about leaks, the first place to look is the White House. It's been that way for a long time.

    """Maybe serving a democratic society does impose limitations on our military, foreign service, and intelligence community's ability to act; those limitations don't even begin to rival the advantages."""

    Well said.

  • ||

    """since they are advocating for retroactive immunity for companies they have..."""

    Wouldn't that fall under post ex facto?

    If they passes a law if might cover future acts but I'm pretty sure that the concept of forbiding post ex facto laws was to prevent past crimes from becoming non-crimes at the stroke of a pen.

  • ||

    "Maybe serving a democratic society does impose limitations on our military, foreign service, and intelligence community's ability to act; those limitations don't even begin to rival the advantages."

    Here's a question for you, joe. If the United States wasn't a democracy, would we still be in Iraq?

    Military leaders are sometimes constrained on the aggressive side by public opinion, but sometimes, it looks like military leaders are constrained in terms of a withdrawal by public opinion too.

    I'll leave the question of whether we would have invaded Iraq if we weren't a democracy alone for now... Without civilian leadership, might we not have already left Iraq?

    Might we have left Vietnam sooner than we did?

  • Wandering Minstrel||

    [singing softly] cuz tramps like us. Baby we were born to run...[fade away]

  • ||

    If the Constitution is a suicide pact, and the President has sworn to uphold the contitution, is he in violation of his oath?

  • ||

    al Qaeda is finished in Iraq. Their strategy to forment civil war has failed. Provence after provence, neighborhood after neighborhood, they have alianated their former allies with their brutality and fundamentalism. Now that Sunnis are fighting the same enemy, there is a chance the shiites will stop the tit for tat bloodshed that has plagued the country. If we can keep the radical, Iranian backed Sadrists from fucking it up, reconciliation may become a real possibility.

  • ||

    robc,

    A 4 is troubling, no question. In case it hasn't been made clear enough already, I am concerned about the future of democracy in Venezuela. I wrote yesterday about how I wish we hadn't screwed up by backing that coup, because it has harmed the prospects for democracy there.

    But a 4 isn't undemocratic, either. Venezuela is in a situation where things could go either way.

  • ||

    So basically, James Ard, they're just a few dead-enders?

    BTW, the Anbar tribes are not "the Sunnis."

  • ||

    Joe, according to Steven Hurst of the AP: "The Sunni uprising against al-Qaida began spontaniously earlier this year in Anbar Provence, once a bastion of the Sunni insurgency... Has spread to Diyala provence and some Bagdhad neighborhoods". Hold on as long as you can, joe, but you are going to be wrong in the end.

  • ||

    James Ard,

    What, exactly, that has happened in the last five years makes you so fucking arrogantly certain about your ability to predict how events are going to turn out in Iraq?

    Have you been right about a single disputed analysis? Even one?

  • ||

    james ard | May 11, 2004, 6:21am | #

    Get out now? Insanity! The current strife is nothing but an effort, by us, to release some pressure before the power transfer. Hopefully, Sadr will be defrocked,Faluja calmed and the abuse case forgotten by T-day.


    Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat.

  • ||

    Two out of three ain't bad.

  • ||

    Again? That trick never works!

  • ||

    The Constitution isn't a suicide pact. It's just, you know, a little cutting.

  • ||

    You still don't get it, James. It's August 2007, and you still don't get the disconnect between tactical accomplishments on the battlefield and the advancement of our strategic goals.

    You listed those three accomplishments as things that were going to help bring us victory, to produce the Iraq that this war was meant to produce. But in reality, even when such successes come to pass, we just keep getting farther and farther away, because the tactical successes the military keeps accomplishing have nothing to do with making that Iraq more of a possibility, while they're continued presence (and Bush's insistence on an oil law that gives huge concessions to western companies) makes it impossible for that political process to happen.

    That's why you can't see Carl Levin or Barack Obama's statements acknowledging the tactical successes but proclaiming the surge a failure as anything but doublespeak. That's why you were disappointed that the temporary pacification of Falluja didn't accomplish anything. Or the killing of Zarqawi. Or, hell, the capture of Saddam.

    It all goes back to "There are no good targets in Afghanistan. There are lots of good targets in Iraq." You people simply do not understand the strategic challenge we face in the post-9/11 world. You just like to cheer rah rah rah when American troop formations take an objective.

  • ||

    Here's the President stating the strategic goals of the surge when he announced it:

    When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace - and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.

    It's good that some Iraqi Sunnis are turning against al Qaeda. Supporting local anti-jihadist efforts, like we did in Afghanistan and the Phillipines, is what should have been doing all along.

    But that has nothing whatsoever to do with anything this surge was supposed to accomplish. It's the same bait-and-switch as pretending that we didn't invade Iraq to prevent them from using WMDs: unable to accomplish their stated goals, because their stated goals are based on wishful thinking and ignorance, war supporters just look at whatever battlefield success the military has, and declare THAT to be the goals we were aiming to accomplish.

  • Anonymo the Anonymous||

    If they passes a law if might cover future acts but I'm pretty sure that the concept of forbiding post ex facto laws was to prevent past crimes from becoming non-crimes at the stroke of a pen.

    I thought the concept, at least the more important focus of the ban on ex post facto laws, was the opposite: to prevent legislators from prohibiting something you already did, which was legal at the time, and then arresting you for your past action. Not saying it doesn't apply to what you're talking about, but I always heard it the other way around.

  • ||

    Maybe serving a democratic society does impose limitations on our military, foreign service, and intelligence community's ability to act; those limitations don't even begin to rival the advantages.

    Democracies do very well when fighting for thier survival, because the legitimacy of the political system results in the dedication of enormous resources toward the war effort. Democracies are lousy at dirty little wars that help prop up the elites, as people do not fall in line behind the effort.

    Bush has not asked for significant sacrifice from the public at large - no taxes, no draft, no new energy policy - nothing. I suspect this is because the public will not be willing to sacrifice for his nasty adventure, and facing a definitive rejection of the war he would be left without any remaining justification for staying in Iraq.

    But of course, it is now the public's fault for failing to provide the sort of support Bush has not not dared to ask for.

  • ||

    Well put.

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