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The Coup Started Before September 11, 2001

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message Rowan Wolf       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   1 comment

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For some it is no surprise that the illegal surveillance of U.S. citizens began prior to September 2001. The Bush administration went into office with the plan to "transform" the power of the president with its attempts to implement the "unitary executive." It was clear from the start with the refusal to release past presidential records as required by law, and then the refusal to obey a court order to release information regarding Cheney's energy "advisors." The statement from former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio that Qwest had denied an NSA order for calling records in February 2001 has opened a door on the lie. President Bush and his administration have pressed continuously for "expedited" and "expanded" surveillance powers. It is clear at this point that the surveillance ordered by Bush via the NSA without FISA warrants was illegal. So too, did the companies who complied with the NSA orders break the law. That is why retrospective immunity is included in currently proposed legislation. However, the repeated public reason for the necessity of such abridgement of existing law and Constitutional protections has been the events of September 11, 2001. Bush and company have argued repeatedly that they need these expanded powers in order to ensure national security, and as an effective tool in the "war on terrorism." Repeated thousands of times in hundreds of appearances, we have heard September 11. If that was the impetus, then why was the administration violating the law in February 2001 - six months prior to September 11? I can feel the spin coming that the administration took seriously the threat of Al Qaida that was at the forefront of Clinton's exiting warnings. However, they couldn't say anything about it in all this time, and all the questions and hearings, because it would pose a threat to "national security." To place this in perspective, the February 2001 date means that one month after entering office, Bush had found the FISA laws and the Constitution to be burdensome. One is left to assume that the implementation of the overthrow of the government was started almost immediately upon Bush taking the oath of office. This too is no surprise given the overlap between the Bush administration and the Project for a New American Century. John Conyers (D-Michigan), who is the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee, is following up on the claims of Nacchio with requests to the Justice Department and Mike McConnell (head of the NSA) for release of information relating to the NSA surveillance orders. Another Congressional request for information has brought for letters from AT&T and Verizon regarding NSA surveillance requests in 2005. The response from the telecom giants shows significant requests (88,000 for Verizon alone), but the White House has told the telecoms to not respond to Congressional demands for information citing "national security" (see previous link). Meanwhile, the FCC has also refused to investigate the scope and timing of the information provided by the telecom companies - also citing national security. Related to, but separate from the telecom response to NSA and FBI requests is the FBI running National Security Letters (NSLs) for the Pentagon. This from Agence French Presse:
The Pentagon has misled Congress and the US public by conniving with the FBI to obtain hundreds of financial, telephone and Internet records without court approval, civil-rights campaigners said Sunday.
This information gotten by the ACLU shows that the Pentagon has moved well outside the scope of its powers by engaging in domestic spying. Such activity would likely fall afoul of the Posse Comitatus Act:
... generally prohibits Federal military personnel and units of the United States National Guard under Federal authority from acting in a law enforcement capacity within the United States, except where expressly authorized by the Constitution or Congress. The Posse Comitatus Act and the Insurrection Act substantially limit the powers of the Federal government to use the military for law enforcement.
So that blows a huge hole in Dick Cheney's defense of the Department of Defense engaging in domestic surveillance and intelligence gathering:
Vice President Dick Cheney has defended the practice as a "perfectly legitimate activity" used to investigate possible acts of terrorism and espionage.
Just more trivia to add to the ever-growing list of abuses and illegalities engaged in by the Bush administration. Abuses for which, apparently, they will never be held accountable. But for those of you who think those of us concerned about these issues are "partisan" or "paranoid," guess what? The next president (who may well be a Democrat) gets to inherit the "Unitary Executive" with all the extensions of power and surveillance and no oversight or accountability either. Personally, I find no comfort in that thought - nor in the ongoing dismantling of our Constitution. Note: Nacchio is serving a six year prison term for insider trading. The information was part of recently unsealed testimony in his case. He stated that Qwest refused to comply with the NSA requests, and was retaliated against with the loss of contracts from the NSA.

 

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Rowan Wolf is an activist and sociologist living in Oregon. She is the founder and principle author of Uncommon Thought Journal, and Editor in Chief of Cyrano's Journal Today.

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