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« Quotational Therapy: Part 71 -- The Late Sir John Cowperthwaite | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 261 -- Out-Of-Control Government Spending. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 260 -- Listening In On Terrorists.

Domestic Surveillance... OF TERRORISTS-

The media have desperately, concertedly, and sometimes hysterically attempted to make "domestic spying" a negative issue for the Bush administration. Trust me, this is a winning issue for the administration. And a huge loser for Democrats. Nonetheless, the establishment media have done their very best to frame the issue in a favorable light for Democrats.

Some results from an MRC study:

Civil Liberties:

Reporters most often framed the story as about government infringing on “civil liberties” (the focus of 29 stories, or 42%), followed by concerns the President was going beyond his constitutional powers (19 stories, or 26%). In contrast, the NSA program’s role in the war on terror was the focus of just seven stories (10%).

Bush-Bashing Experts:

The networks ran soundbites from 56 experts, including legal experts, authors and security/wiretapping experts. (This excludes partisan actors such as President Bush or Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, a prominent critic of the NSA program.) More than half of those (30, or 56%) condemned the ethics or legality of the NSA program, compared with just four (7%) who found the program justified, an eight-to-one disparity.

Everybody Is a Target:

Reporters offered their own description of who was targeted by the NSA surveillance program 134 times, just under twice per story. Only about a sixth of these descriptions (21, or 16%) stated that the government was focused on persons contacting suspected terrorists (12) or the suspected terrorists themselves (9)....

But most journalists portrayed the NSA as casting a wide net, targeting “Americans” or “U.S. citizens” (53, or 40%), or used terms such as “domestic” or “communications inside the U.S.” (60, or 45%).


Meanwhile, only a handful of stories included any mention of just how the heck the information got out in the first place:

Only five network stories focused on the leak investigation, most describing it as an act of retribution from an angry Bush administration.

Worth paying attention to?


Media Research Center.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Pro football's popularity.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 February 2006 09:55 PM


So in your worldview, respective pundit and sound bite counts are more important than the underlying legal analysis?

Perhaps the imbalance reflects the fact there is practically no one outside of the Administration who endorses the Administration's judicial reasoning.

Posted by: KipEsquire at February 6, 2006 11:18 PM

This is clearly on solid legal ground. These were not calls simultaneously beginning and ending within the United States, but rather calls either originating or being placed to the phones of know terrorists or Al Qaeda members overseas.

Hypothetically, we catch a call on June 15, 2001 between say Mohhamed Atta and someone associated with OBL. That prevents 9-11. Is that justified?What if we had the ability to listen in to that call and didn't and let 9-11 happen because of the "civil liberties" of folks making calls between here and know terror suspect's numbers in Afghanistan?

That is what the program is. And in the wake of 9-11 the single biggest problem was lack of intelligence. Now we are saying that calls from people within the US to known terror suspects overseas should not be monitored? The information is not being used for "Domestic Law Enforcement", but rather for gathering military intelligence during War Time. This may alienate the ACLU anti-Bush crowd, but the net is that most Americans listen to the Democrats saying we should not be listening to the phone calls of terrorists and go "What the F are they smoking?"

This again, just like Alito, is the Democratic Party pandering to the money bags like Soros and the ACLU instead of looking out for the best interests of the country. And again, it is a move sharply to the left in search of short term political points with the far left as the expense of the safety and security of our nation. And they crucified Bush for not doing enough to stop 9-11, but tear down a program that is just plain common freakin' sense? This further damages their credibility to protect America and win the WOT. And as good as the economy is doing, the WOT is again going to be a primary issue in 2006 and 2008.

Posted by: Justin B at February 7, 2006 01:26 AM

There are lots of con law professors outside of the administration that support the White House view that this surveillance program is legal.

Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago, who is a real legal heavyweight, and a liberal, supports the administration's view, for example.

It is simply an extension of the President's wartime powers (and yes, we are legally at war).

How incongruous it would be to state that the president can send cruise missiles into caves to kill terrorists, but cannot listen to their phone calls.

I hope the MSM keeps characterizing this as something it clearly is not - 'domestic' wiretapping of Bush's goofy political enemies in the U.S. Those folks get almost as little sympathy as AQ does. If the Dems run on this issue this fall, they are gonna get smacked around.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 7, 2006 04:51 AM

George Bush could eat babies and you people would make excuses for him.

January 29, 2006
NYTimes Editorial
Spies, Lies and Wiretaps
A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the
9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.

Sept. 11 could have been prevented. This is breathtakingly cynical. The nation's guardians did not miss the 9/11 plot because it takes a few hours to get a warrant to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail messages. They missed the plot because they were not looking. The same officials who now say 9/11 could have been prevented said at the time that no one could possibly have foreseen the attacks. We keep hoping that Mr. Bush will finally lay down the bloody banner of 9/11, but Karl Rove, who emerged from hiding recently to talk about domestic spying, made it clear that will not happen — because the White House thinks it can make Democrats look as though they do not want to defend America. "President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing — and that nothing prevented American intelligence from listening to a call from Al Qaeda to the United States, or a call from the United States to Al Qaeda, before Sept. 11, 2001, or since.
The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act simply required the government to obey the Constitution in doing so. And FISA was amended after 9/11 to make the job much easier.

Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I.
officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief"
and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.

The rules needed to be changed. In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional.
Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.

So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr.
Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.

War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.

The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.

Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place.
Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

Posted by: thomas at February 7, 2006 09:47 AM

Thomas! Where have you been? All of this wingnut rhetoric over the past half week has gone unrefuted by you!

After this NSA stuff comes and goes, what will be the next big thing to bring down Bush?


Posted by: Hoodlumman at February 7, 2006 11:25 AM

Well Valerie Plame couldn't bring him down . . .
the Downing Street Memo didn't destroy Bush . . .
the Texas Air National Guard memos didn't make him lose the election . . .
Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, renditioning prisoners to foreign countries, none of these issues wrecked Bush . . .

Either Bush is indestructable, or . . . these stories were all vastly overhyped by a partisan media.

And people like Thomas, as if on cue, fall hook, line and sinker for every little piece of bait put out there.

Posted by: Ken McCracken at February 7, 2006 11:35 AM

Unless the alQaeda operatives are American Citizens? These individuals are not protected by the Constitution. The President is Commander in Chief and in times of War the President doesn't need permission after the declaration of War. Consulting members of Congress or the Senate to make treaties is necessary for the President to advise by two thirds of the Senate concuring! The President has the power to fill up vacancies during the recess of the Senate by granting commissions.
Our Constitution provides it's CITIZENS the Right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
In times of War the President has the power to protect the Citizens of the USA from foreigners inside our country on suspicion of threats!
Foreigners DO NOT enjoy the same protection under the Constitution that it's CITIZENS enjoy!

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 7, 2006 12:43 PM

The President did not do anything illegal.

Posted by: Zsa Zsa at February 7, 2006 12:49 PM

kind of busy the last few days and far too busy chasing around a two year old on weekends to sit in front of a computer. Nice to recieve such a warm welcome.

Plame, Hmm Scooter Libby was indicted, i think that is a pretty good hit personally. Of course most people are too busy watching american idol to realize who he is or what his role in the invasion of iraq was, but I will personally be quite happy to see him behind bars. i doubt he will rat anyone out, so we will have to see if Rove get's nailed too but I would be surprised, but the investigation is still open. Tom Delay will soon be indicted on Federal charges to join his state indictment. I might even go visit him in jail. After all I did promise to be there for his eventual embarrassing downfall. Like to see how the abramoff indictments are timed in relation to the mid terms.

Downing Street Memo. hard to explain really for me. Of the small % of people who follow the news I guess it didn't surprise the people who already knew the administration lied and it didn't surprise the people to whom George could kill a virgin every full moon and it would matter.

Here is a good list of the criminals.


Funny, not one indictment for lying about cheating on their wife. Crazy that.

Posted by: thomas at February 7, 2006 03:11 PM

Funny, not one indictment for lying about cheating on their wife. Crazy that.
I can appreciate snark but lying about cheating on your wife is only really bad if you're under oath - but you know that. If you lie under oath, Thomas, you go to jail. Crazy that.

I also love irony so it isn't lost on the fact that of the greatest group of unrelenting pessimists (leftards), they are always extremely optimistic about anything that could be damaging to the current administration.

Crazy that.

Posted by: Hoodlumman at February 7, 2006 03:40 PM

Why aren't ANY OF THOSE COUNTLESS AMERICANS that were spied upon coming forward or suing? Where are the lawsuits from those spied upon? Who exactly are these people that were spied upon?

If these people are prosecuted for crimes uncovered through illegal surveilance, they will have their day in court and be acquitted. Otherwise, the government conducts searches all day long and it is up to the defendants when criminally charged to simply point out that there was not sufficient reasonable cause to investigate them for other crimes.

Last I heard, the NSA was not a law enforcement agency. This is not domestic law enforcement, but domestic intelligence gathering during wartime. And the President has vast Constitutional powers in the manner that he prosecutes a war as opposed to limited powers delegated to the Executive branch for law enforcement. When the FBI and Justice start charging folks for other activities that are uncovered during illegal surveilance, then the program details will start coming out.

Posted by: Justin B at February 7, 2006 08:57 PM

"Why aren't ANY OF THOSE COUNTLESS AMERICANS that were spied upon coming forward or suing? Where are the lawsuits from those spied upon? Who exactly are these people that were spied upon?"

That is an easy one. The administration is not saying who was being spied upon.

Posted by: thomas at February 8, 2006 07:56 AM

February 8, 2006
Republican Who Oversees N.S.A. Calls for Wiretap Inquiry
WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.

Ms. Wilson, who was a National Security Council aide in the administration of President Bush's father, is the first Republican on either the House's Intelligence Committee or the Senate's to call for a full Congressional investigation into the program, in which the N.S.A. has been eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of people inside the United States believed to have links with terrorists.

The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities. Many Republicans have strongly backed President Bush's power to use every tool at his disposal to fight terrorism, but 4 of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns about the program at a hearing where Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Monday.

A growing number of Republicans have called in recent days for Congress to consider amending federal wiretap law to address the constitutional issues raised by the N.S.A. operation.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he considered some of the administration's legal justifications for the program "dangerous" in their implications, and he told Mr. Gonzales that he wanted to work on new legislation that would help those tracking terrorism "know what they can and can't do."

But the administration has said repeatedly since the program was disclosed in December that it considers further legislation unnecessary, believing that the president already has the legal authority to authorize the operation.

Vice President Dick Cheney reasserted that position Tuesday in an interview on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

Members of Congress "have the right and the responsibility to suggest whatever they want to suggest" about changing wiretap law, Mr. Cheney said. But "we have all the legal authority we need" already, he said, and a public debate over changes in the law could alert Al Qaeda to tactics used by American intelligence officials.

"It's important for us, if we're going to proceed legislatively, to keep in mind there's a price to be paid for that, and it might well in fact do irreparable damage to our capacity to collect information," Mr. Cheney said.

The administration, backed by Republican leaders in both houses, has also resisted calls for inquiries by either Congress or an independent investigator.

As for the politics, some Republicans say they are concerned that prolonged public scrutiny of the surveillance program could prove a distraction in this year's midterm Congressional elections, and the administration has worked to contain any damage by aggressively defending the legality of the operation. It has also limited its Congressional briefings on the program's operational details to the so-called Gang of Eight — each party's leaders in the Senate and the House and on the two intelligence committees — and has agreed to full committee briefings only on the legal justifications for the operation, without discussing in detail how the N.S.A. conducts it.

Ms. Wilson said in the interview Tuesday that she considered the limited Congressional briefings to be "increasingly untenable" because they left most lawmakers knowing little about the program. She said the House Intelligence Committee needed to conduct a "painstaking" review, including not only classified briefings but also access to internal documents and staff interviews with N.S.A. aides and intelligence officials.

Ms. Wilson, a former Air Force officer who is the only female veteran currently in Congress, has butted up against the administration previously over controversial policy issues, including Medicare and troop strength in Iraq. She said she realized that publicizing her concerns over the surveillance program could harm her relations with the administration. "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that," she said.

Asked whether the White House was concerned about support for the program among Republicans, Dana Perino, a presidential spokeswoman, said: "The terrorist surveillance program is critical to the safety and protection of all Americans, and we will continue to work with Congress. The attorney general testified at length yesterday, and he will return to Capitol Hill twice more before the week ends."

Aides to Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who as chairman of the full House Intelligence Committee is one of the eight lawmakers briefed on the operations of the program, said he could not be reached for comment on whether he would be open to a full inquiry.

Mr. Hoekstra has been a strong defender of the program and has expressed no intention thus far to initiate a full review. In two recent letters to the Congressional Research Service, he criticized reports by the agency that raised questions about the legal foundations of the N.S.A. program and the limited briefings given to Congress. He said in one letter that it was "unwise at best and reckless at worst" for the agency to prepare a report on classified matters that it knew little about.

But two leading Democratic members of the intelligence committees, Representative Jane Harman and Senator Dianne Feinstein, both of California, wrote a letter of their own Tuesday defending the nonpartisan research service's reports on the surveillance program and other issues, saying its work had been "very helpful" in view of what they deemed the minimal information provided by the administration.

Posted by: thomas at February 8, 2006 11:56 AM