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Weaving the "Why?" Strands: The Bushevik Tapestry

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Message Bernard Weiner
OK, let's try to puzzle out together some recent political events. The unifying thread will appear; it always does because it's always there, even if sometimes out of conscious reach.

1. Why would the Bush Administration deliberately break the law by engaging in electronic surveillance of Americans without getting the required court warrants?

Since the rubber-stamp FISA court had turned down only five applications for domestic spying warrants out of about 15,000 since its inception in 1979, why wouldn't the Bush Administration automatically go to it for the required warrants? One implication, certainly, is that even the amenable FISA court might rebel when it found out the true motives and scope of the ongoing domestic spying, for, you see, Bush's order to NSA to engage in massive communication surveillance preceded 9/11. See "Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9/11" ( ) and "How Cheney Used the NSA for Domestic Spying Prior to 9/11
( ) .

The Busheviks say they decided not to use FISA because the government needs the speed and flexibility to move quickly, and agents can't keep running to the secret court each time. But the law has a built-in proviso that permits NSA to move quickly in an emergency and fill out the required paperwork later, within three days.

The technology is now much more advanced that it was in the old "wire-tapping" days, when police agencies wanted to listen in on someone's bedroom or office phone. Now humongous computer banks do data-mining of millions of phone calls (land-line, cell, satellite) and email messages to and from Americans; they sweep up, and government agents check out, masses of "suspects," based on words or patterns unearthed by the data-mining programs. Of course, the vast majority of those "clues" turn out to be worthless; see "Spy Agency Data After Sept. 11 Led F.B.I. to Dead Ends"
( ). Yet, regardless of that reality and the invasion of ordinary citizens' privacy, the Bush Administration continues the massive intercepts, and apparently will be proudly citing this "national-security" program for the coming midterm elections.

Rather than stay within the law by going to Congress and saying "Look, the technology now requires blanket court warrants, so please amend the FISA bill," the Bush Administration simply chose to ignore all attempts to remain legal. They deliberately did not go to go to FISA court for permission, or to Congress for rewriting the authorization bill -- and they did (and are still doing) everything possible to keep the issue from going into the federal courts. In deepest secrecy, they made themselves the law and simply carried on, all the while trying to get into place their Federalist Society-type judges, who would rule in favor of the President, always.

The Bush Bunker crew wants the freedom desired by all authoritarian leaders: to act on their own, free of restraints, especially those coming from the courts or legislature. Arrogant and insecure, they need to know what everyone is thinking and doing, as a means of enhancing and protecting their political power. If they accidentally wind up getting some actionable intelligence about foreign terrorists, all the better.

So the short answer to the question as to why they Bush Administration broke the law is that they felt they could get away with this top-secret snooping on American citizens without anyone ever finding out. Once the word leaked about what they actually were doing, they hauled out the cockamamie "unitary executive" theory that asserts the President can violate whatever laws he wants, whenever he wants to, because he's "commander-in-chief" during "wartime." (The "war," never declared by Congress, is Bush's "war on terrorism," which, we're told, will last forever. Dictatorship for perpetuity.)

The Bush Administration utilized the same theory to justify Bush's authorization of torture of prisoners in U.S. care. And, as political insurance, it added one more rationale for the NSA spying: With a major leap in interpretation, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, for decades a Bush toady, claims that the post-9/11 resolution authorizing Bush to use "force" against al Qaida provides even more justification to monitor U.S. citizens' communications. Even if this interpretation were correct -- and most legal scholars think the opposite -- this war-authorization rationale does not explain away the pre-9/11 surveillance of American citizens.

If I'm correct here, the reason the Bushies are fighting so hard to keep anyone, including the FISA judges, from learning more about the real reason for their massive domestic surveillance is that outsiders might discover that it has less to do with foreign terrorists and more to do with collecting info on their political enemies and thus creating conditions for more firm control of the American populace in general.


2. Why the new "Bin Laden audiotape" now, warning of a coming attack on the U.S.?

The CIA, rather than independent experts (as was the case in years past), announced that this audiotape was indeed made by bin Laden. Most of the CIA's "recalcitrant" analysts and agents were purged last year by Bush's hand-picked new director, Porter Goss, another malleable Bush loyalist. Should one automatically trust the CIA's claim that this is an authentic bin Laden tape?

The timing of its release is unusually convenient for the Administration, when Bush's favorable numbers are plummeting and so many scandals are exploding into public consciousness that impeachment possibilities are being mentioned -- even by Republicans! Let us not forget that just before the 2004 election, another such audiotape alleged to be from bin Laden appeared, and was believed to have helped Bush in the balloting.

If the Bush Administration takes seriously this Osama bin Laden threat to attack America again, why has the color-coded threat-level not been raised? Remember Tom Ridge admitting ( ), after he left the directorship of the Homeland Security Department, that his White House superiors sent him out to issue "terror-threat" warnings, with little or no evidence to back them up; the clear implication is that political reasons were at play whenever Bush's numbers started to tank or a new scandal erupted.

But even if the new "bin Laden tape" is genuine, it would merely demonstrate that both religious/political extremists require each other, for their own ends. In this theory, Bush needs bin Laden as the terrorist boogeyman, to increase the fear quotient in the American citizenry and thus permit his Administration to bend and twist the Constititution to aid his own political agenda. And bin Laden needs Bush as the Western imperialist boogeyman, for recruitment purposes and for solidfying the growing anti-American sentiment in the Islamic world and his leading role in that revolt.

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Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
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