Monday, January 23, 2006

Excuse me? MBA?

Bush's defense of his domestic spying program is starting to annoy me.

Gonzales pulled out the old canard about Congress explicitly authorizing domestic spying with its authorization to use military force. This is complete nonsense; listening to phone conversations is not the use of military force. The authorization to use force does allow the President to do certain things (for example, the courts agreed that the ability to use force includes the ability to take captives) that are obvious requirements for the use of force, but methods of spying are not part and parcel of use of force.

That the President would conduct spying is a given; the techniques, however, still have to follow the law.

But then Gonzales made a claim that just made me want to (metaphorically) smack him upside the head. (For a transcript of the interview, you can go to Power Line.)

GONZALES: Larry, whenever you involve another branch of government in an activity regarding electronic surveillance, inherently it's going to result in some cases in delay. Perhaps in straightforward cases we can get authority relatively quickly but not all of these cases are straightforward and it's very, very important that the president has the agility and the speed to gather up electronic surveillance of individuals that may be in contact with the enemy.

Well, see, George W. Bush has an MBA from Harvard Business School. We're supposed to believe he hasn't been able to find a way to eliminate that delay in over four years? And if a Harvard MBA graduate can't figure out how to do this, he couldn't build a solid case for Congress to request a change in the law?

I mean, think about how valuable this program is, at least according to his current hype. If it was truly this necessary, and had so many safeguards for civil liberties, it should have been a cinch to get Congress to authorize it, when he's had four years to build a case for it.

I mean, he's got his MBA, right? From Harvard Business School, right? He's not the idiot that some folks like to portray him as. This is not only something a President ought to be able to do, it's something he's been specifically taught to do, something he should be able to do better than 90+% of the people in this nation.

No... re-read Gonzales' quote, and let just a touch of cynicism color your thinking. What Gonzales is saying is that sometimes, going to the court would result in a refusal, because the government doesn't want to wait - emphasize that word, that's how they make it an issue of "speed" and "agility" - until they have probable cause that would stand up in court.

Which means that the Bush administration is spying on people without having probable cause for a tap. If all they're doing is tracking people who are speaking to known members of Al Qaeda, well, that's probable cause right there. They could get the court to authorize that. That's the whole point of roving wiretaps, as written into the mis-named "Patriot" act. You can tap someone who is a known affiliate of Al Qaeda, no matter who they're talking to, what phone they're using, etc.. That wouldn't cause a delay with the FISA courts

Since they acknowledge there would be a delay, it means that there's problems that they're not telling us about... and I hope the Congressional hearings find out what those problems are.

For the record, before the Bushies try to make this something it isn't: I support the President's right to conduct surveillance, within the law, with proper oversight and authorization. He should act within the law, not claim a tenuous Constitutional right to ignore it.

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