Saturday, December 17, 2005

Big Wiretapping Controversy in America Too!

he WASHINGTON POST carried a front page article Friday saying Bush Authorized Domestic Spying
President Bush signed a secret order in 2002 authorizing the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on U.S. citizens and foreign nationals in the United States, despite previous legal prohibitions against such domestic spying, sources with knowledge of the program said last night.

The super-secretive NSA, which has generally been barred from domestic spying except in narrow circumstances involving foreign nationals, has monitored the e-mail, telephone calls and other communications of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of people under the program, the New York Times disclosed last night.

The aim of the program was to rapidly monitor the phone calls and other communications of people in the United States believed to have contact with suspected associates of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups overseas, according to two former senior administration officials. Authorities, including a former NSA director, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, were worried that vital information could be lost in the time it took to secure a warrant from a special surveillance court, sources said.

But the program's ramifications also prompted concerns from some quarters, including Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (W.Va.), the ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee, and the presiding judge of the surveillance court, which oversees lawful domestic spying, according to the Times.

The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

The White House made no comment last night. A senior official reached by telephone said the issue was too sensitive to talk about. None of several press officers responded to telephone or e-mail messages.
ALL OF AMERICAN BLOGGERDOM will probably weigh in on this story before it's over (which actually broke in the New York Times in a bylined front page article by JAMES RISEN and Eric Lichtblau earlier Friday). This issue might take some time to work itself out, from the sound of Main Stream Media reporting on it, and the vociferousness of the initial salvoes being fired off into the atmosphere. In a sign that the Main Stream Media in America is finally "getting it" about the power of the bloggers, the NEW YORK TIMES Gets Strong Blog Response to Holding, and Running, Domestic Spying Story--As Keller Offers Explanation -- (via Editor and Publisher) --
NEW YORK The New York Times’ revelation on Friday of a presidential order signed in 2002 allowing the National Security Agency to spy on hundreds of people inside the U.S.—and the newspaper’s decision to hold off on the report for a year at the request of the White House--has inspired a wide reaction, including at the paper’s Web site itself.

For one of the first, if not the first, time with a major story, the Times has included a prominent link right under a bombshell story that takes readers to a variety of postings by bloggers. The Washington Post online has been carrying blog reactions for some time.

The bloggers who get links at the Times today include conservatives Glenn Reynolds (“a major shift in U.S. surveillance policies”), Hindrocket of Powerline and Michelle Malkin (she denounces the “civil liberties Chicken Littles” at the paper), as well as a sampling of liberals. The paper does not link to Matt Drudge, who today has been accusing the paper of only publishing the story now because co-author James Risen has a book on this general subject coming out soon.
Indeed, MICHELLE MALKIN is madder than RED HELL at the New York Times for breaking such a "treasonous" story. She does some high wattage ranting and reporting of other people's opinions, foibles and scoops and colorizes MATT DRUDGE who believes the New York Times released the story in order to plug a new book just published.

MEMEORANDUM has the best coverage of reporting and commentary from the Main Stream Media and Bloggerdom commentary on this developing story. The usual PALEOLIBERAL vs. NEOCONSERVATIVE rift has opened up like the Grand Canyon in the various positions, which may harden as this gets confounded with the whole, "What do we do about Iraq?" dilemma that will consume America FOR DECADES TO COME.

STOP THE ACLU also has a great roundup of opinion and commentary from all around Bloggerdom.

DAILY KOS has a roundup from a different Corral in the evolving showdown. (OK?)

For the careful and reflective in Bloggerdom, who've learned to control their passions and illusions about having a "worldwide" audience, I offer the humble reflections that Philippine Commentary has done on an issue that involves our deepest held principles of HUMAN LIBERTY AND FREEDOM wrapped up in an apparent conundrum with equally deep principles of NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENSE. The realities of recent political history have forced such reflections upon us all. Reflections that have come from the gruelling GLORIAGATE controversy that has consumed the Philippines for the last six months. The exact situations are very different and its adjudication will take different courses in the two countries. But I think the general principles of Democracy, Liberty and National Security are all the same, and so the debate there will take on a very familiar complexion and complexity as it evolves. We have had a HEAD START on American Bloggerdom on the issue, having lived through Gloriagate of the last 6 months. Recently these weighty issues and principles have been considered in these recent essays at Philippine Commentary:

The Right to Privacy and the Public's Right to Know

Dilemma of the Poisoned Fruits

Fingerprinting the Human Voice

Was the Adam and Eve of All Tapes Digital?

Long Live the Anti-Wiretapping Law!

Fourteen Soldiers Are Hostages of ISAFP

Stunning Break in Gloriagate Case

Also, NATIONAL SECURITY in a different time and a different war was recently contemplated here in

The Day After Pearl Harbor

It looks like I shall have occassion to return to more focussed considerations of America now, (the land of my birth and Anglospheric being) and her painful dilemmas, which are apparently the same on the Continent as in the Archipelago, and bear the same grave consequences for Liberty and Security.

In a related story, GLENN REYNOLDS of Instapundint, thinks it was a good decision for Congress not to reauthorize the U.S. Patriot Act --
I think this is a good decision. While my earlier fears about the Patriot Act haven't really been borne out, my earlier instinct that this was a bureaucratic wish-list masquerading as antiterrorism seems to have been well-founded. Are these things necessary? I don't know, but the proponents of the bill haven't met their burden of proof.
He quotes ORIN KERR to put this in perspective --
For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it's not immediately obvious to me whether we'll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire.
PAJAMAS MEDIA (of which Instapundit is a big part) puts it a lil differently -- DEMS WHACK PATRIOT ACT.




Yes and No. But it will take some time to explain...with Christmas coming too!


(0700) THE POLITICAL ANIMAL, Kevin Drum, has a legal and moral point or two about those similarities and differences as found in US legislation and case history (eg Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) that may have stunning relevance to the CONFUSED Archiplago residents caught up in the mental maze of Gloriagate, more relevance perhaps than to their kith and kin on the American Continent. Check it out! It's same beautiful TIGHTROPE ACT that Senator Lorenzo Tanada walked with the Philippines' 1965 Anti Wire Tapping Law, Republic Act 4200! and its seminal idea: The line between the Right to Privacy and the Public's Right to Know, is the line against self-incrimination, except in cases of offenses against national security such as treason, espionage, etc. Whether or not any case so qualifies, is what the "Court Orders" and its exceptions are all about!

Filipinos will find the following quote from above article to be full of amazing resonances with the particulars of Gloriagate. I don't know if the claims in it about Pres. George W. Bush are true, but read it with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in mind. --
WASHINGTON MONTHLY (Dec. 16, 2005) Kevin Drum Guest Hilzoy: "...This is against the law. I have put references to the relevant statute below the fold; the brief version is: the law forbids warrantless surveillance of US citizens, and it provides procedures to be followed in emergencies that do not leave enough time for federal agents to get a warrant. If the NY Times report is correct, the government did not follow these procedures. It therefore acted illegally.

Bush's order is arguably unconstitutional as well: it seems to violate the fourth amendment, and it certainly violates the requirement (Article II, sec. 3) that the President "shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed."

I am normally extremely wary of talking about impeachment. I think that impeachment is a trauma for the country, and that it should only be considered in extreme cases. Moreover, I think that the fact that Clinton was impeached raises the bar as far as impeaching Bush: two traumas in a row is really not good for the country, and even though my reluctance to go through a second impeachment benefits the very Republicans who needlessly inflicted the first on us, I don't care. It's bad for the country, and that matters most.

But I have a high bar, not a nonexistent one. And for a President to order violations of the law meets my criteria for impeachment. This is exactly what got Nixon in trouble: he ordered his subordinates to obstruct justice. To the extent that the two cases differ, the differences make what Bush did worse: after all, it's not as though warrants are hard to get, or the law makes no provision for emergencies. Bush could have followed the law had he wanted to. He chose to set it aside.

And this is something that no American should tolerate. We claim to have a government of laws, not of men. That claim means nothing if we are not prepared to act when a President (or anyone else) places himself above the law. If the New York Times report is true, then Bush should be impeached.

President Bush will have ample defenders, but I wonder how the Malacanang Palace will duck this UNCONSCIOUS but DIRECT indictment of what has allegedly transpired in the Archipelago?

I can't see any very compelling reason to bypass the courts here, especially given that warrants in these cases are almost always granted. Which makes me wonder what's up.
(1100) MSNBC has coverage of White House and US Congressional reactions to the published news stories.

(1300) The point raised by Glenn Reynolds about there being no problem usually in getting Court Orders and Warrants for covert surveillance seems to be confirmed in this further report from WAR AND PIECE quoting Erick Umansky --
that he's just spoken to NSA expert James "Bamford, who says that in the FISA court's 20 year history it has only rejected one warrant request. That was then kicked up to a FISA appeals court (the only time that court has ever convened) and that court in turn approved the request... In other words, what was the point in avoiding the courts?
NEW YORK TIMES DOT COM has a really good roundup of the most thoughtful COMMENTARY on a controversy that may last for a while now looking at the battlements and signal flares going up. Lots of the serious players in Bloggerdom are there today.

(1545) The CORNER AT NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE has by far the most intelligent, comprehensive, informative and varied commentary. Go there and learn a lot.

(2000) YAHOO NEWS carries this Associated Press dispatch in which a "senior intelligence analyst" talking on condition of anonymity, talked about the covert operation --
a senior intelligence official told The Associated Press that the eavesdropping was narrowly designed to go after possible terrorist threats in the United States.

The official said that, since October 2001, the program has been renewed more than three dozen times. Each time, the White House counsel and the attorney general certified the lawfulness of the program, the official said. Bush then signed the authorizations.

During the reviews, government officials have also provided a fresh assessment of the terrorist threat, showing that there is a catastrophic risk to the country or government, the official said.

"Only if those conditions apply do we even begin to think about this," he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the intelligence operation.

"The president has authorized NSA to fully use its resources — let me underscore this now — consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution to defend the United States and its citizens," the official said, adding that congressional leaders have also been briefed more than a dozen times.

Considering the subject matter, I am going to let Rizalist cross post this item over at that new-fangled place -- THE ARCHIPELAGO CALLED EARTH.


Rizalist said...

A warm Welcome Traveler.
Welcome to the Archipelago where wiretapping is election by other means, they say. But do you know what's going on in America? Share it!

Anonymous said...

By Michelle Malkin · December 16, 2005 10:35 AM

Michelle is a Filipina if I recall
I think she should talk to the small one bout the sky is falling

mark said...

hey Riz,

Sorry about not answering your question at Robb's blog - he apparently had some tech problems because when I returned today his post was down. It's back up in revised form but I still can't access the comments.

Amadeo said...

Extension of the Patriot Act is again encountering rought sailing in the Senate and this privacy rights issue is in the front burners.

Even the current consensus on the issue of "torture" - its meaning and interpretation, leaves many open-ended questions.

Amadeo said...

Nice work on the round-up type of blogging, especially on US issues and citing many sites with divergent views.

Even a very far-left DailyKos has been thrown into the mix.

Hopefully, more of our compatriots will pick up on the issues discussed and visit the various sites.

Rizalist said...

Welcome Amadeo. The Ignatian Perspective is always welcome!

It is amazing how this story just kicked up out of nowhere.

Lots of people are complaining -- i think rightly -- about the New York Times' timing , i.e., right after the Iraqi national elections. Which has been a luminous spot in the news about Iraq lately.

AmericanPainter said...

I supppose Benjamin Franklin would be called all sort of things today but I like many of his sayings. one which seems appropriate today is:
"Those who would give up essential freedom for a little security, deserve neither freedom or security."

Having said that, I'll return to my easel, painting beautiful scenes that refresh the mind!

Rizalist said...

Hi there Mark! Yeah it must have something to with that TYPEPAD MELTDOWN they are talking about on Memeorandum Tech and MIT Blogdex.


Welcome back by the way.

Rizalist said...

Honestly AP I don't know quite what to make of the events over there. (You know of course I have strong opinions about what happened here.) But can you share some of your thoughts and interpretations on what's happening? Do you think ordinary folks will ignore it as they do here?

AmericanPainter said...

I doubt that it will fly as well there. As you know, Americans are far from ever being placid about very much of anything.

President Bush has seemingly lost much of his credibility that he enjoyed after 9/11 and with American's built in fear of Government, I think changes are on the horizon.

Rizalist said...

AP--The Strange thing about it all is even the Glenn Reynolds the Instapundit (no liberal he) said it was UNNECESSARY for the govt to avoid getting a Court Order. Apparently the FISA Court has granted every request during the last 20 years, except one, which it also granted upoon immediate appeal!

AmericanPainter said...

Glenn Reynolds is very correct, the courts are very predisposed to granting EVERY warrant request. Another important factor is that the warrants were issued in secrecy making it extra strange as to why the Administration would deem it necessary to avoid the courts seeking warrants.

It really leads one to the conclusion that they planned on actions that even the courts would not approve. Spying without just cause comes to mind but it may have been even worse.

Hang on to your hat, there will be much more to come out of this and it’s already beginning to smell worse than a wet market!

Rizalist said...

WHAT might come out AP? T

he New York times is being accused of "treason" in such places as the Anti Idiotarian Rottweiller (admittedly a very partisan site) AND Michelle Malkin, our famous KABABAYAN says even worse things, of them, even insulting the CHICKENS along the way. The paper claims to have held on to the story for a YEAR, at the request of the administration when they asked for confirmation of its claims. By the way there is a great comment thread at National Review ONline on all this.

AmericanPainter said...

I think most Americans I certainly do) believe that a publication such as the New York Times has a duty and responsibility to report when the Government has given itself the right to violate the citizen’s right to privacy. My only question is what powerful influence did the Government exert to keep the story quiet for a year.
It seems stupid to me that there would be anyone to suggest that the Times should be punished. The Times report left out important parts of the story, working in cooperation with the Government, before publication.
If in act it took the Justice Department office that processes FISA requests, the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR), over 6 months to get a standard FISA request approved. They should have repaired the system, not wreck our civil rights.
I’m certain that the WHOLE story will come out very soon and most Americans are going to be VERY unhappy about it. A free Nation can only go so far in the name of security and it sems this time like the Government has gone too far!

Rizalist said...

You're beginning to sound like Rizalist AP! I wonder you know, why no one makes a fuss around here about the fact that the Garci Tapes exist, they are claimed to be wiretapped, yet no one asks to see the Court Order warranting their existence. Or failing to find that, to wonder who is guilty of apparent crimes against national security. Do you think there is a blindness to this in the Garci case that will be revealed by considering the same principles in America's new controversy?

Amadeo said...

If we are to take a page out of the Plame affair, it is the clear denounciation that any such leak, whether big or petty, should be prosecuted and punished.

Powerline then asks the question re the New York Times story which originated from a leak within the organization.

Shouldn't those leakers be exposed and prosecuted?

And what about the role of the NyT in maikng public the leak?

Rizalist said...

Is it a leak? As AP points out they held it for a year at the admin's request. Then there is the possibility that they are not leakers at all, but whistleblowers, IF the wiretapping operation was in fact unlawful. One complexity is that the requirement of a Court ORder is not absolute. There are emergency situations and specific other requirements in such special cases.

1700 Am off to a Christmas Party FOLKS.
But MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME here at Philippine Commentary (Just don't make a MESS Karl! He he.)

(and should any of the fair sex arrive to test their mettle, please behave accordingly Gallaunts!)

Back later late. They are all asleep upon the Continent anyway, save for the odd blogger or two...

AmericanPainter said...

Well the Philippines is a whole different smoke. The wrong things are made sensational to the point of nausea. There is too much conjecture and everyone seems to think they already know most of the answers, so why bother with fact gathering? This controversy has been beaten to death and going nowhere fast. The entire matter is a sad circus!

There aren’t enough people alarmed and no one is asking the right question which is: Why was there a wiretapping in the first place? What was the motive behind it all? What, if anything, was gained?

Get the answers to these questions and everything else will fall into place.

Just as in the American controversy, it must be learned WHY the government circumvented the courts.

But there is another factor which looms large in the Philippines when it comes to getting the answers needed in the instant case, and that is CORRUPTION. Why do you think the Senators have not pushed the ISAFP hard as they might for the answers which everyone knows that they alone hold.

Elementary my dear Watson, Those same Senators are afraid (or know) that they themselves may have been wiretapped and they don’t want their CD’s being sold in Quiapo for P10.

AmericanPainter said...

In a stinging defeat for President Bush, Senate Democrats blocked passage Friday of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home, depicting the measure as a threat to the constitutional liberties of innocent Americans.

The act was already in trouble and the current controversial authorization by President Bush to permit wiretaps without court order seems to have furthered it’s defeat.

I noticed that Senator John Sunnu, Democrat from New Hampshire quoted one of my Benjamin Franklin favorites on the Senate floor. "Those that would give up essential liberty in pursuit of a little temporary security deserve neither liberty nor security."


Rizalist said...

AP -- I don't know enough yet about the events in the US to really make a firm call on most of it. I'm learning from Gloriagate that this area of the Law can only be navigated like a tightrope.

Regarding the Garci Tapes, my attitude now is that I don't hear anything they are talking about, but I am convinced about who is on the tape. The mere existence of the tapes with the PResident's voice is evidence of wrong doing -- either by an illegal wiretapping done to watch Garci,or done by the Opposition in a studio after bugging snippets of the conversation (less likely to me, but possible). Either way there has been a massive breach in National Security and to me, frankly, that is more important than how the elections were conducted, which I would call "normal" anyway. But the physical existence of the Garci conversations are undeniable. They cry out for common sense, as much as Justice. It is the Commmander in Cbief after all that has been bugged or framed. Either way, its not even about the elections.

But the principles involved are the same in both countries, only the circumstances, motives, etc. probably differ. We shall have to watch and wait on developments.



Have been re-reading your arguments on the wiretapping (Garci on tape, Gloria on tape, Bunye's tapes, etc.) and the more I think through them, the more I'm convinced that NOTHING is being done because the people in the administration are the culprits.

I say and ask myself the following: To my understanding, the DOJ is the branch of government that's suppose to file charges against the so-called enemies of the State or against anyone that poses a threat to the security, stability or anyone that is suspected of having committed a crime against the State and crimes of this nature includes wiretapping government officials, Gloria included...

NOW tell me, what is the DOJ doing about the crime of illegal wiretapping and the criminals behind it?

NOTHING! And this in spite of the fact that no less than the State's so-called chief executive was alleged to have been illegaly wiretapped and no less than a COMELEC official himself declares nationawide that he was a victim of illegal wiretapping, and to we must not forget that no less than the Press Secretary himself dramatically exposed the crime of illegal wiretapping with evidences!

It's the DOJ's task, duty, job to examine, investigate, etc. all these allegations. BUT WHY ISN'T Gonzales doing anything. Ok, I accept that he is a moron but there must be other reasons.

Could it be that the DOJ Chief is not doing anything about it because there may well be truth in the fact that Gloria is not alien to the wiretapping at all, hence Garci, the stool pidgeon is being told to ask the SC to refuse the tapes as evidence?

No matter how many times we turn around the question, no matter what they do in the Legislature, it seems that neither the justice department nor the government solicitors are prepared to file charges if only to set an official investigation, inquiry in motion - they could very well file charges against "x" BUT NOT, Gonzales won't do anything because the results might bommerang, bang in the middle of Malacanang!

You are absolutely right, DJB! Attack the wiretapping angle and we may just uncover a can of government worms, which hopefully will splash right on Gloria's face!

Rizalist said...


The alleged wiretapping was an entirely separate crime from the alleged voterigging. In some ways it was a bigger crime because it addresses a central isues of national security: the integrity of the armed forces, and the chain of command, and the security of the Commander in Chief. I am actually not sure where the trail might lead from ISAFP. We cannot assume it was the President who ordered the taps herself. Maybe it was a "smart supporter" of hers, or someone closer!

RE: DOJ -- It was by making the same observation you have made -- that only the guilty party would not want to dig into the details of how the Garci recordings came to be -- that I realized how important the wiretapping angle really is.

One mistake the Opposition has made has been to see RA4200 as the enemy. This was wrong. It has all the weapons Tanada built into it to ensure that BOTH private rights and national security can be protected and preserved.

Bernardo F. Ronquillo said...

Lest we forget I wish one and all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Before these problems overwhelm us let us draw strength from our Filipino heritage and culture. The bayanihan spirit can and will pull us through. Let us not put ourselves down. Mahusay ang Pinoy. Matapang. Matatag. Mapagtagumpay. May pananalig sa Dios. Sa Paskong darating tayo nang magkapitkamay at magdiwang. Magwawagi ang Filipino.

Anonymous said...

Visted archipelago called earth
left a comment if it is the permanent site

since the date of this blog is the latest

I guess this is still the spot

again Happy Holidays to all!

I also left a greeting on that site...

Rizalist said...

Yeah, Archipelago Called Earth will be for "short" posts of less interest maybe to Phiilppine readers. I might put a lot of science and tech related stuff there too. The concept is still evolving, thanks KARL. Your always welcome both place.

Anonymous said...

Rizalist sice am interested in techie and science too
will probably vist both sites
God Bless

Rizalist said...

KARL:Hehe...wait till you see what I've got on the STAR OF BETHLEHEM coming up very soooon!