Terrorism

What a Difference Two Weeks Make

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Yesterday the House and Senate both approved a 15-day extension of the Protect America Act, which was scheduled to expire on Friday, to allow time for further debate, mainly about whether to grant retroactive immunity to the telecommunications carriers that assisted the NSA with its illegal surveillance of international communications involving people in the U.S. The White House, after threatening to veto a one-month extension of the law, which amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), has indicated it will go along with the shorter extension. This is the latest in a series of Bush administration reversals and self-contradictions regarding FISA.

After The New York Times revealed the existence of the NSA's warrantless surveillance program in December 2005, the administration said the program was perfectly legal. It also said it had to break the law, and continue breaking it for years, because complying with FISA would have made it impossible to stop terrorist attacks and because Congress would not have agreed to change the law (although it already had done so on more than one occasion). Then, in January 2007, the administration announced that it had found a way to do the impossible: comply with FISA and still conduct the surveillance necessary to fight terrorism. Later that year, it said that what had been impossible and then briefly possible was now impossible again, supposedly because of a secret court ruling finding that FISA requires a warrant to monitor foreign-to-foreign telephone calls and email messages if they happen to pass through U.S. switches, routers, or servers.

Last summer, when the administration asked Congress to fix FISA (something it supposedly had assumed Congress would never do), the bill it demanded not only addressed this technical problem; it also allowed warrantless surveillance of communications between people in the U.S. and people in other countries, as long as the people in foreign countries were said to be the targets. That authority, the administration insisted, was absolutely essential to national security, and even pausing to debate the issue meant that "Americans are going to die." Every day that U.S. intelligence agencies went without this power was a day on which Americans were needlessly exposed to the risk of a catastrophic terrorist attack. Terrified at that prospect (or terrified at being portrayed as insufficiently concerned about that prospect), Congress complied, but it put a six-month limit on the Protect America Act so the issue could be revisited in a less panicky climate.

With the expiration date approaching, the Democrats proposed another temporary extension, but the president said he'd veto any bill that did not make the FISA amendments permanent and add retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that had collaborated in the administration's end run around the statute. So even though the administration portrayed Congress as unforgivably reckless for taking time to consider whether the new surveillance powers were necessary and appropriate, Bush was willing to let them lapse just to show how serious he was about protecting us from terrorism. But now he has changed his mind again, seeing the merits of a temporary extension. If the president and his men can't even get their public story about warrantless surveillance straight, how can we trust them to secretly exercise the unilateral powers they are seeking?

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  1. we can’t.

  2. Why do Democrats let the administration off the hook for EVERYTHING?! It’s not even good politics. It actually makes them less likely to retain their new seats. I don’t get it.

    They should just do whatever is opposite of what he wants. That’s worth a few votes in November, right?

  3. I suspect the administration wants as much power as it can get, and the best cover story for these power grabs changes every time. So, it’s not that they’re really changing their mind, so much as the best cover story in the situation changes.

    Now, the fact that they don’t put any effort into reconciling these cover stories is disturbing. The fact that they don’t appear to have to is even more disturbing.

  4. So even though the administration portrayed Congress as unforgivably reckless for taking time to consider whether the new surveillance powers were necessary and appropriate, Bush was willing to let them lapse just to show how serious he was about protecting us from terrorism.

    Heh. That’ll learn ’em. Sort of gives the lie to Bush’s claims of necessity and his “reckless” criticism, as if it were in doubt. But what is worse, the buffoonery of the administration’s position(s) or, once again, the inability of the Democrats to “Just Say No” as it were?

  5. If the president and his men can’t even get their public story about warrantless surveillance straight, how can we trust them to secretly exercise the unilateral powers they are seeking?

    By getting the right people in charge. Oh, heard a superintendent of public schools (somewhere, california?) this morning on NPR saying that NCLB just needs to be fixed and properly funded…

  6. Why do we need to snoop Canada to Canada calls? (The vast majority of the calls routed through the US.) If there’s any indication they’re terrorist related, the FISA warrant process was still available.

    I don’t get why Reid didn’t take the lazy way out and put the House version to an up or down vote. Doesn’t include amnesty or blanket warrants.

  7. It also said it had to break the law, and continue breaking it for years, because complying with FISA would have made it impossible to stop terrorist attacks and because Congress would not have agreed to change the law (although it already had done so on more than one occasion).

    For all you legal beagles out there,I’m not arguing for impeachment, but is this not an impeachable offense?

  8. Just so I’m clear, this is the post-9/11 electronic monitoring that the adminstration began in the Spring of 2001, right?

  9. , but is this not an impeachable offense?

    I believe that the president need not break a law for impeachment, he need only be impeached for a breach of ethics.

  10. joe,

    To be more precise, about four weeks after inauguration day, actually.

  11. joe

    Shhh! The time machine in Area 51 is a secret!

  12. Why do Democrats let the administration off the hook for EVERYTHING?! It’s not even good politics. It actually makes them less likely to retain their new seats. I don’t get it.

    Because, as of late January next year, one of their own will likely be the one who gets to trample all over our constitutional rights for the next four years. Neither party minds intrusive government, so long as they are the one doing the intruding.

  13. …how can we trust them to secretly exercise the unilateral powers they are seeking?

    What jimmydageek said … we cant.

    Nick | January 30, 2008, 2:15pm | #
    Why do Democrats let the administration off the hook for EVERYTHING?!

    crimethink | January 30, 2008, 2:16pm | #
    I suspect the administration wants as much power as it can get, and the best cover story for these power grabs changes every time.

    Couldn’t be because they expect to be the administration too someday (soon?) – wanting as much power as much as the other guys.

    …naaah, not the Demlicans,or am I thinking of the Republocrats… oh never mind!

    (wanders off to shovel snow out of the driveway)

    p.s. I’m convinced it is Canadian snow. Thank (insert the [capitalized] Word for the Supernatural Being you may or may not believe in) Congress complied, but it put a six-month limit on the Protect America Act so the issue could be revisited in a less panicky climate. Everytime it snows Canadian stuff, I panic. Six months from now the climate will be summer and I won’t have to panic until at least November 08 (Which it looks like I’ll be doing anyway, whether it snows or not – yikes!)

    p.p.s. see Chris0 2:42 pm – re power-tripping administrations!

  14. When the Democratic Congress forced Nixon to end the Vietnam War, their position was vastly more popular than his. Nonetheless, they were effectively painted as “soft on defense” and “soft on communism” after that vote, despite its popularity at the time.

    A lot of baby-boom-era Democrats believe that allowing for such framing will hurt them long-term, even as the polls show, as they did in the mid-70s, that their anti-war stance was the more popular.

    Now, I personally think that they learned the wrong lessons from that period. It wasn’t ended the war or resisting the wartime president that was their undoing, but culture war stuff. But you can see how older Democrats, especially those from red states, can be overly-skittish, if that’s their frame of reference.

  15. Careful joe, you’re out on the thin ice. It’s still January you know.

  16. ChrisO nailed it.

  17. joe, I’d tend to agree with you if I thought for a second they were thinking that far back in their decision making. They didn’t really think they won control of Congress because everyone wanted universal health care did they? They knew they got elected to end the war, right? So why not end it? They would be seen as doing what they were told for a change and that would help them in the next one or two election cycles. They could use the “we ended the bad war you started” line for a good while.

    I think they cared more about their personal earmarks and spending bills than about ending the war. The fact that they added all kinds of junk to the war spending bill proved that. That just made them even more despised. Bad politicians, that’s all I can say.

    Aside from the obvious fact I would want all libertarians in office, realistically I’m hoping for a Democrat in the White House to piss off the Republicans and the GOP to retake at least one of the houses of Congress to show the Democrats they blew it and they deserve to lose seats because of it.

    And for the umpteenth time does anyone know what country I can move to and be free for Pete’s sake? I’m getting to the point where I may have to live without Sunday Ticket.

  18. Nick,

    They knew they got elected to end the war, right? So why not end it? What are you, kidding me? What did I JUST WRITE? Something about ending the Vietnam War being the more popular position, too.

    Politics these days is more about framing what kind of person you are than being on the right side of issues, because the country is so closely divided on the issues. The 10-20% minority faction of the Democratic Party that keeps caving to Bush is afraid that even a popular anti-war vote will allow the Republicans to frame them as unpatriotic cowards – you know, like they were so-framed for 35 years, before the Iraq War went south.

  19. When the Democratic Congress forced Nixon to end the Vietnam War, their position was vastly more popular than his. Nonetheless, they were effectively painted as “soft on defense” and “soft on communism” after that vote, despite its popularity at the time.

    Interesting theory. I’ve always believed that Nixon & Co. knew full well how unpopular the war was and were looking for a way to gradually ramp it down. Which they did. In that sense, I don’t really think it was Congress who “forced” Nixon to end the war.

    The strategy was quite cynical, actually. By 1971, there were very few U.S. combat troops left in Vietnam, even as our forces were engaging in massive bombing campaigns and dragging Cambodia and Laos into the war. But with few boots on the ground, “the silent majority” didn’t have to be confronted with large numbers of bodybags coming home. The peaceniks obviously went apeshit, but that was a political plus for Nixon, who knew his constituency quite well.

    Your point is well-taken on the “soft on defense” point, however, and that has persisted right up to this day. But I think Democrats brought that on themselves just as much or more than Nixon did, simply because there was a fringe of the Democrats that loudly seemed to identify more with the foreign Commies than they did with their fellow Americans. And I don’t think that “John Lennon Democrats” will be able to capture a majority of American opinion anytime soon, even with the unpopularity of the Iraq war.

  20. While it is easy to just take shots at this administration, I can certainly see why the following section from FISA is confusing and would be subject to varying legal opinions:

    Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that-
    (A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at-
    (i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
    (ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801 (a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title;

    I do not know how the data is gathered, but it is easy to construct cases where the necessity of a warrant is unclear. The example Jacob gives is one of many:

    …supposedly because of a secret court ruling finding that FISA requires a warrant to monitor foreign-to-foreign telephone calls and email messages if they happen to pass through U.S. switches, routers, or servers.

    I would expect different lawyers and judges to come to different conclusions. A competent telecom person could come up with all kinds of other variations where the law is unclear. To make life harder on the administration, how data is gathered is classified (for good reasons), so they cannot make any kind of public case.

  21. they were effectively painted as “soft on defense” and “soft on communism” after that vote, despite its popularity at the time.

    Joe, that was largely their own fault. There’s no reason why a Democrat can’t be against this war and still be “strong on defense”. There are plenty of “hawkish” libertarians who are, for example, against this war.

  22. joe, I can read and I also wrote to you that I didn’t believe for a second they were thinking about the defeat 35 years ago. They are only concerned with themselves. They are bad politicians if they can’t turn everything the Republicans did to them against the Republicans. Most Americans in the middle, the ones that count on election day, understand the administration and GOP Congress lied, lied, lied. If the Democrats can’t capitalize on that, they suck at what they do and they didn’t deserve to get elected in 2006. I hope they get kicked right back out as a result. They are not just soft on defense. They are soft on everything which is why a weakened Bush still pushes them around like a schoolyard bully. If they want to be seen as tough, they need to stand up to him. If they are simply afraid, as you suggest, they don’t deserve their position. Do you agree?

  23. even as our forces were engaging in massive bombing campaigns and dragging Cambodia and Laos into the war.

    I believe that “our forces” didn’t drag anyone into the war. The NVA and the VC were using Cambodia and Laos as transport conduits and staging grounds, so if anyone brought the war to those countries, it was the North Vietnamese.

    So anyhow, what was the body count in South Vietnam after we pulled out?

  24. And regarding amnesty, the FISA laws says:

    (4) With respect to electronic surveillance authorized by this subsection, the Attorney General may direct a specified communication common carrier to-
    (A) furnish all information, facilities, or technical assistance necessary to accomplish the electronic surveillance in such a manner as will protect its secrecy and produce a minimum of interference with the services that such carrier is providing its customers;

    If a company was directed by the attorney general to provide information under FISA, it seems reasonable, to me anyway, that the company be protected from a law that was ambiguous.

  25. ChrisO,

    Well, I was talking about public politics and perception. Regardless of what was actually happening behind the scenes, that’s how the politics played out.

    Paul,

    I largely agree – at this point especially, being against the war need not result in someone being seen as soft on defense. Look at John Murtha. I think the Baby Boom Democrats who buy into that theory are working off an outdated script.

  26. Nick,

    joe, I can read and I also wrote to you that I didn’t believe for a second they were thinking about the defeat 35 years ago. They are only concerned with themselves. They ar afraid of it happening again – afraid that a repeat of those events will hurt them today, and tomorrow.

    I’m not endorsing this opinion – I think it’s been pretty thoroughly put to be by people like John Murtha, Jim Webb, and Joe Sestak. I’m just explaining it.

  27. Old Habits die hard, Nick.

    Imagine a politician born in 1950. He’s in college beween 68 and 72. He sees the Democrats take up the anti-war position, followed almost immediately by losing their two-generation-old national majority. Ronald Reagan kicks their butts with the “Bear in the Woods” ad.

    The world actually did work that way from the time the guy became politically aware, until well into his 50s. Of course perception is going lag among such people.

  28. “I’m not endorsing this opinion….I’m just explaining it.” Then you better get on the horn to Harry and Nancy and tell them it ain’t working. They’re leaders right? Time to lead…and convince.

  29. How could anyone be against the Protect America act?? Don’t you want to protect America!?!?!

  30. Nancy’s ok. She whipped her chambing into opposing the Iraq AUMF by a large margin. She passed a FISA bill with no immunity.

    It’s the pro-lifer from a red state who’s still terrified the Republicans will call him “soft.” Who’s dumbass idea was it to put someone like that in the leadership?

  31. er, chamber. Nanch Pelosi whipped her chamber.

    I’ll be in my bunk.

  32. Paul: I suspect the drive for amnesty relates to the Ashcroft/Comey hospital episode, following which there was a period without Attorney General certification.

  33. When John freakin Ashcroft won’t sign off on your program, you might want to step back and say to yourself: perhaps I’m going too far.

  34. If a company was directed by the attorney general to provide information under FISA, it seems reasonable, to me anyway, that the company be protected from a law that was ambiguous.

    I’d be more sympathetic to that if it was shown that the companies in question exhausted all legal options to protect their customer’s privacy before agreeing to comply. If they just rolled over for the administration than I see no reason to offer them anything. If the law is that ambiguous then they had a duty to their customers to interpret it in their favor and fight it as far as possible in the courts.

  35. Joe:

    Well, I was talking about public politics and perception. Regardless of what was actually happening behind the scenes, that’s how the politics played out.

    My point, perhaps not clear enough, was that Nixon’s strategy helped created that public perception. By removing most of the troops from the field during 1970-71, he painted the Democrats into the same corner as the peaceniks if they wanted to draw a distinction with him. The McGovernites fell right into his trap and created such a strong image of “spinelessness” that Reagan was able to capitalize on it for many years thereafter on a wide array of foreign-policy topics. Public perceptions don’t just happen.

    There may be a lesson to be had here, especially for a cynical Nixonian like Hillary. If you eliminate Middle America’s reasons for objecting to the Iraq war (body bags), you won’t suffer much when the war goes south. The public perception by the far left is of minor consequence if you capture the middle, which Nixon did very effectively, as evidenced by the 1972 race. It’s cynical as hell, but the Clintons strike me that way.

    Expect “Iraqization” to start next year unless McCain wins. And who knows, he might be enough of a shrewd operator to adopt such a strategy himself.

  36. I don’t want any iPod Nanos.

  37. Christopher Hitchens, who telephones a lot of contacts in the Middle East, was a (is?) a plaintiff in an ACLU lawsuit against the NSA/telecoms. He hit the nail on the head when he said (a la
    ChrisO’s 2:42 p.m. comment) that once these unconstitutional operations are in place, they never go away — no matter who is in power.

    We all know that a terrorist attack of some kind is inevitable sometime in the future. And if the target is selected thoughtfully (such as a Little League game in De Moines or an NFL game with its comforting security-theater pat-downs of fans), it would shut down the entire country. Every American would be paranoid about being killed by a terrorist, and every politician would be happy to pander to that paranoia by eradicating his rights.

    One more thing: The folks spewing this securi-babble never explain why extra-legal surveillance measures are necessary. Won’t legal means do?

    I’m waiting for a politician to stand up and say, “It’s time to stop trying to prevent a terrorist attack that happened six years ago and give the people their rights back.” I’m going to inhale deeply and hold my breath now ?

    Oh, Brian. I think there were some telecoms that refused to participate in the program. Alltel, maybe?

  38. Ron Paul on the Protect America Act, FYI:

    “Mr. Speaker I rise in opposition to the extension of the Protect America Act of 2007 because the underlying legislation violates the US Constitution.

    “The misnamed Protect America Act allows the US government to monitor telephone calls and other electronic communications of American citizens without a warrant. This clearly violates the Fourth Amendment, which states:

    “‘The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.'”

  39. I think the subtext of the story here (the inconsistency) is that it’s actually a non-issue, security wise, but rather is simply something the Admin can use as a political volleyball to keep forcing the democrats to be the “THEY ARENT PROTECTING YOUR CHILDREN FROM TEH TERRISTS”-PARTY

    Seriously. From what I’ve heard, the millions we’ve spent and reams of communications intercepted, the whole thing hasnt been particularly valuable in terms of actionable intelligence.we’ve The trolling approach has never been as cost effective as targeted research. In the analytical community, there’s a expression for this called “Boiling the ocean”… i.e. to catch a fish. It’s not the most efficient approach.

    In this case, neither efficient or legal. It is sorta like the rationale for a Space Missile Shield… even though there’s basically 1/10000th of a chance we’re going to get into an intercontinental ballistic conflict (compared to say 1980), the idea that NOT having a shield leaves us “in danger” is very persuasive.

    Next, we need to surround our coastlines with sharknets. The Children! Anti shark-net people are selling out the future.

  40. Oh, Brian. I think there were some telecoms that refused to participate in the program. Alltel, maybe?

    Qwest for sure. I hadn’t heard about Alltel.

  41. de stijl:

    Right. QWest. (Must be the word “West.” Westernerns are libertarians.)

    The three major perps, to my recollection, are Verizon, Bell South and AT&T (using that trick new technology to keep all the better tabs on us).

  42. “Ronald Reagan kicks their butts with the “Bear in the Woods” ad.”

    They should have responded with a “Pope Wearing a Funny Hat” ad.

  43. –Gilmore is right about this. We are effectively trading away our civil liberties for…absolutely nothing.

    –And Richard, I have my doubts about further large-scale terrorist attacks on U.S. soil anytime soon, at least by Islamists. It seems to me that al Qaeda has moved on from that approach and now is focusing on acquiring power in Pakistan (which is certainly worth worrying about). I can’t base this on anything concrete, but it’s worth remembering that 9/11 was a massive failure for al Qaeda, simply because it took a huge effort, did not result in the hoped-for “Islamic awakening,” and cost them their safe haven. Contrary to the neocon spewings, Salafists aren’t some sort of turban-wearing sharks who kill for no reason. Their goal is Islamic power. That’s not to say that isolated Islamist nutjobs won’t try to attack U.S. targets, but I doubt they’re capable of pulling off major attacks and certainly don’t require us to flush the Constitution down the toilet.

    One of the most insidious aspects of the entire FISA regime is that no one outside a few people in the U.S. intelligence community knows what is really happening. For all we know, such misuse of intelligence capabilities has been going on for decades. Why should we assume that previous administrations have been more observant of our First and Fourth Amendment rights? I see no reason to believe that.

    Modern communications technology makes it easier for Uncle Sam to spy on you, but what you do really think the NSA has been up to for all these years. They have their own restricted freeway exit off the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, ferchrissake! 🙂

    Government secrecy is one of the biggest enemies of liberty, and no amount of creative lawyering can change that.

  44. ChrisO:

    Thanks for the analysis.

    9/11 suceeded beyond Osama’s wildest dreams, I think. I was thinking about (but did not convey the idea) that a single small attack — killing a few people who thought they were safe — would give the fear-mongers even more license to usurp our rights. Remember that two snipers virtually shut down metro-D.C.

    People’s fears are based on the consequences of a terrorist act, not the remote probabilty of their being a victim of one.

  45. Richard
    9/11 suceeded beyond Osama’s wildest dreams, I think.

    In a sense you and chrisO both are right.

    Osama didnt get the play he’d thought as far as invigorating arab-wide revolt…but the idea of ‘poking the tiger with a stick’, and getting the US to overreact tremendously to our own detriment…well that part he’s cashed in on. Not in Afghanistan, but in iraq. Bet he didnt see that coming.

  46. “With the expiration date approaching, the Democrats proposed another temporary extension, but the president said he’d veto any bill that did not make the FISA amendments permanent and add retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that had collaborated in the administration’s end run around the statute.”

    Sounds good to me. Pass the bill and let him veto it.

  47. getting the US to overreact tremendously to our own detriment…well that part he’s cashed in on.

    Well, yes and no. Certainly much of the “domestic security” dumbshow since 9/11 has been to our detriment, but I don’t think it has benefitted AQ or its fellow travellers on the Islamist fringe, really.

  48. I see nothing to turn back the tide of electronic surveillance. The technology is getting better and cheaper. It’s not a very distant future where the cops can point a gunish looking device at a crowd and record every person there. Thanks in part to your soon to be RFID enabled drivers license. The same technology that stores will use to inventory their shelves will one day inventory groups of people. If you’re not carrying your ID, the integrated advance radar system will point you out and you will be arrested for having no ID. The data collected, people, place, activity, and whatever other data elements will be recorded in a database for future reference. The kick is none of this is unconstitutional. A person in a public place has no expectation of privacy, the same will not be said about the public servant doing the public job at the public location.

    It should be known that the RFID technology is not the real problem, it’s the databases that will end privacy. As someone for DHS was pitching a few weeks ago. There is a new definition of privacy, it’s about keeping your information secure. The days of keeping your information to yourself is already mostly phased out. Soon every little electronic transaction will be easily accessed by LEO no warrant needed. It will be as simple as a Google search.

    The only presidental candidate that’s concerned is called names and only gets a few percent of the vote. America is ready for Big Brother.

  49. R C Dean | January 30, 2008, 5:24pm | #
    getting the US to overreact tremendously to our own detriment…well that part he’s cashed in on.

    Well, yes and no. Certainly much of the “domestic security” dumbshow since 9/11 has been to our detriment, but I don’t think it has benefitted AQ or its fellow travellers on the Islamist fringe, really.

    I dont disagree. But I wasnt talking about the domestic stuff, but the international overreaction, and the negative impact on our relationships with allies, as well as revealing the weakness in our force projection approaches.

    I mean, Iraq is a trillion $ down the tubes. FRom that POV alone, yes it doesnt ‘help’ them, but has certainly caused us to hurt ourselves.

  50. “””Well, yes and no. Certainly much of the “domestic security” dumbshow since 9/11 has been to our detriment, but I don’t think it has benefitted AQ or its fellow travellers on the Islamist fringe, really.”””

    Depends on what you would say benefits AQ. If AQ wants to alienate us from our freedoms and rights, then the dumbshow is working great for them. They may not benefit personally, but we are moving closer to their vision of America not the founding fathers. This is a win for them.

  51. 9/11 suceeded beyond Osama’s wildest dreams, I think. I was thinking about (but did not convey the idea) that a single small attack — killing a few people who thought they were safe — would give the fear-mongers even more license to usurp our rights. Remember that two snipers virtually shut down metro-D.C.

    In a tactical sense, you could say the attack was wildly successful. I don’t think the original goal was to bring the buildings down entirely. But in a strategic sense, I do believe they were a failure. The “U.S. overreaction” theory is plausible, I suppose, but probably presupposes knowledge of what was to come. Heretofore, our reaction to al Qaeda provocations had been feeble, and I suspect bin Laden believed that we would do more of the same and be exposed as a Helpless Giant.

    In that vein, the more straightforward explanation is that bin Laden believed 9/11 would serve, among other things, as a rallying cry for Muslims to throw off their secular “oppressors.” Sounds a bit naive, I guess, but he sees himself as a revolutionary. Later attacks in Europe were clearly aimed at motivating European Muslims, but those also don’t seem to have had much success and have dropped off.

    Al Qaeda showed an opportunistic streak in creating an Iraqi group, but I believe their main goal is taking over Pakistan. Who needs suitcase nukes when you can get real ones?

    Whatever the case, I don’t see either party going to the trouble to disassemble an overbearing security apparatus. If anything, their pacifist facade and control of Congress makes the Democrats more likely to be able to get away with expanding the FISA regime if they win the White House.

  52. “””I mean, Iraq is a trillion $ down the tubes. FRom that POV alone, yes it doesnt ‘help’ them, but has certainly caused us to hurt ourselves.”””

    And we are not done. My America’s ready for Big Brother statment is premature. But those who desire Big Brother and those do not, may one day trigger another civil war. OBL would be pleased.

  53. “””If anything, their pacifist facade and control of Congress makes the Democrats more likely to be able to get away with expanding the FISA regime if they win the White House.”””

    I agree.

    My guess it that it will be something like, we can fix Social Security and Medicare, but everyone will need these new hi-tech ID cards.

  54. Depends on what you would say benefits AQ. If AQ wants to alienate us from our freedoms and rights, then the dumbshow is working great for them. They may not benefit personally, but we are moving closer to their vision of America not the founding fathers. This is a win for them.

    I don’t think they really care much about subverting our form of government. Their long-term objective is a pan-Islamic state. To the degree that paranoia in the U.S. makes us less likely to counter that objective, that’s fine with them. But a more hardened, authoritarian USA doesn’t necessarily further that goal.

    Lot of speculation on my part, I’ll admit.

  55. The only presidental candidate that’s concerned is called names and only gets a few percent of the vote.

    A FEW percent? I wish!

  56. Bin Laden spoke and wrote quite openly about his desire to get us bogged down in an occupation, where we could be demoralized, like the mujahadeen did in Afghanistan.

    He didn’t seem to envision that it would happen in Iraq, though.

  57. If you’re not carrying your ID, the integrated advance radar system will point you out and you will be arrested for having no ID.

    Well, they’ll try.

  58. But those who desire Big Brother and those do not, may one day trigger another civil war.

    95% of the voting populace indicates that they want Big Brother, only it has to be their Big Brother and not the other guys.

    At this point its not whether we get Big Brother, its what party he comes from. The electorate has almost zero-desire for a non-authoritarian candidate. People want someone to protect them, make sure their kids are safe, care for the old people, help sick people, stop the foreigners, stop greedy corporations, and to protect American businesses.

    Americans have decided almost unanimously that they do not want to do these things as individuals, they want to government to do it for them. Welcome to the future of America.

  59. ChrisO | January 30, 2008, 5:58pm | #

    Lot of speculation on my part, I’ll admit

    You should watch those “frontline: Al queda files” pieces

    his intentions were pretty well documented. His primary motive was to get the US to get out of saudi arabia, stop influencing the region, and provoke revolt among the arab masses against both secularist collaborative dictatorships like Egypt, Syria, the monarchy in Saudi arabia, secular stalinist dictator in Iraq, etc, and form some arab mono-nation that would crush israel and then… something. I think crushing israel was as far as he got.

    Anyhoo. That may just be what he said in his videos. Maybe he’s just a sulahaddin-reenactor, with a lot of friends who want to blow themselves up for some reason.

  60. oh, and what joe said here = joe | January 30, 2008, 6:00pm | #

    that too

  61. His primary motive was to get the US to get out of saudi arabia, stop influencing the region, and provoke revolt among the arab masses against both secularist collaborative dictatorships like Egypt, Syria, the monarchy in Saudi arabia, secular stalinist dictator in Iraq, etc, and form some arab mono-nation that would crush israel and then… something. I think crushing israel was as far as he got.

    I would say he’s 0 for, what, 7? And the whole homeland security fiasco in this country has neither helped nor hurt.

    Bin Laden spoke and wrote quite openly about his desire to get us bogged down in an occupation, where we could be demoralized, like the mujahadeen did in Afghanistan.

    This one has yet to be resolved, of course, but given the high reenlistment rates among units serving in Iraq, the army certainly isn’t being demoralized by what his crew has been able to accomplish.

  62. What do the people who are against this bill want to happen?

    The federal government effectively has an outstanding warrant to monitor the communications of foreign nationals operating on foreign soil. This has not been considered a violation of the constitution. Do you want the government to have to take out a warrant for every foreign national they wish to put under surveillance? If so, does you want the government to have to take out separate warrants for every person who communicates with the one under surveillance. Is that a even a requirement for wiretapping warrants in domestic criminal investigations?

    Let’s stipulate that the government is required to get a separate warrent. How does that work? The government may have no idea who the person on the other end of the line is and the only evidence for justifying a warrent against them may be what’s in the communication being monitored. So the government has to monitor the communication to find evidence to justify monitoring the communication? How does that make sense? What is supposed to happen when the government finds no evidence to justify a warrant? The government agants cannot unhear/unsee the communication. Are they supposed to be punished for this? How is that just? I really cannot see how the FISA court proceedings can be for anything but for show if the government is free to monitor the communications of foreigners and foreign soil, as they have no control over who that person is communicating with and where they are.

    Again, what do you want to see happen?

  63. They army’s personnel are real pros, RC, and aren’t about to leave their comrades in the lurch, but the army was never his target. Policymakers were his target. The American public is his target.

    And that’s ten yards and loss of down for claiming the desire to serve one’s country as a vote for the Republican Party’s foreign policy platform.

  64. “””What do the people who are against this bill want to happen?”””

    1. We expect the government to follow the Constitution.

    2. If they say it’s for foreign agents, it must exclude American citizen.

    3. If an American is involved, see #1

    4. No mission creep. If it’s for terrorism, then that’s only where it should be used.
    Is asking the government to follow laws of the land too much?

    I have no problem with the surveillance of foreign agents if it can be done without spying on American citizens. If not, I expect the government to follow the Constituition. Which most involved have sworn to uphold. If they violate their oath or the Constitution, I expect them to be punished.

  65. Except it is unclear that this is a constitutional violation.

    As far as I can see, an American citizen has no legitimate expectation to not have communications with legal targets of government surveillance monitored. The fact that you could not give much of an answer to the practical problems of how to monitor foriegn agents without monitoring their American contacts shows that effect would be to make foreign surveillance impossible.

  66. For someone who claims it’s “unclear” you seem to argue “its clear

    It is possible. Once an American is discovered to be involved, they just need to present this to a judge, which is usually a phone call away. FISA allows you to spy while awaiting for the warrant approval. The system to protect Americans was already in place, albeit not a great one.

    This administration wants, what was know prior to the American Revolution as, “Writs of Assistance”, which was a self written warrant. There was NO third party involved. An agent of the British government could write their own warrants as they desired. The 4th amendment was intended to ban the use of self written warrant

  67. “””As far as I can see, an American citizen has no legitimate expectation to not have communications with legal targets of government surveillance monitored.”””

    For example, A terrorist dials your number by accident. If the terrorist is being watched, I’ll agree they don’t need a warrant to cover the receiver of the call. However, the government doesn’t want it to stop their, They want the ability to now monitor your phone calls without a warrant. Now that’s a problem. If they wish to extend the surveillance to your phone, they should get a warrant.

    The form of communication back in the early American days was by paper. They had no idea that communications would be electronic. But they did intend for you to keep your communications away from government without a warrant.

  68. “””The fact that you could not give much of an answer to the practical problems of how to monitor foriegn agents without monitoring their American contacts shows that effect would be to make foreign surveillance impossible.”””

    I’m glad you think that the lack of me answering a question means soooooo much.

  69. If they broke no laws, they need no immunity.

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