Free Markets, Free People

About Those Previously Condemned Wiretaps

No surprise to some, but a complete surprise to others I’m sure:

The Obama administration is again invoking government secrecy in defending the Bush administration’s wiretapping program, this time against a lawsuit by AT&T customers who claim federal agents illegally intercepted their phone calls and gained access to their records.

Disclosure of information sought by the customers, “which concerns how the United States seeks to detect and prevent terrorist attacks, would cause exceptionally grave harm to national security,” Justice Department lawyers said in papers filed Friday in San Francisco.

Kevin Bankston of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a lawyer for the customers, said Monday the filing was disappointing in light of the Obama presidential campaign’s “unceasing criticism of Bush-era secrecy and promise for more transparency.”

The promise of transparency has been the most consistent casualty of the Obama administration. No bills thus far have been posted on the web 5 days prior to signing. The Treasury Department refuses to disclose how TARP money has been spent. And now this – something, as the EFF points out, which was unceasingly criticized by candidate Obama when the Bush administration was in power.

Now, that said, perhaps what the Obama Justice Department has discovered is argument the Bush administration was making at the time were valid. The case in question is an extension of the September case:

Like the earlier suit, the September case relies on a former AT&T technician’s declaration that he saw equipment installed at the company’s San Francisco office to allow NSA agents to copy all incoming e-mails. The plaintiffs’ lawyers say the declaration, and public statements by government officials, revealed a “dragnet” surveillance program that indiscriminately scooped up messages and customer records.

The Justice Department said Friday that government agents monitored only communications in which “a participant was reasonably believed to be associated with al Qaeda or an affiliated terrorist organization.” But proving that the surveillance program did not sweep in ordinary phone customers would require “disclosure of highly classified NSA intelligence sources and methods,” the department said.

It would appear the Obama Justice Department has examined the case and the evidence and, amazingly, has come to the conclusion that what the Bush administration claimed – that the taps were aimed only at al Qaeda and/or affiliated organizations – was correct, and is now defending that. They’ve also concluded that disclosure of the information involved in the case would be harmful to national security.

What I now wonder is if “secrecy” suddenly is ok? And since it is the Obama administration – the increasingly opaque Obama administration – saying the taps were used only on bad guys, are they now ok? And will that be enough to mollify those on the left who were so outraged when the Bush administration was accused of doing all of this?

And finally, I wonder if the NYT will devote the time and space to this defense of what it termed “illegal wiretapping” in the past as it did when it surfaced during the Bush administration?

~McQ

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28 Responses to About Those Previously Condemned Wiretaps

  • Don’t worry about it: I’m SURE that the ACLU as well as our resident libs will be angry – VERY angry – when they read about this.

    / sarc

    The fact of the matter is that, unfortunately, we MUST take steps to gather intelligence against our enemies (and potential enemies, for that matter).  The fact that they may use means of communication, such a mail, telephones, cel phones, etc, that are also used by innocent civilians, should NOT stop us in our efforts.  What it DOES require is good oversight to ensure that the programs are not used for nefarious purposes.

    I trusted Bush and his administration to be diligent and honest in this regard.  I don’t especially trust TAO.

  • And will that be enough to mollify those on the left who were so outraged when the Bush administration was accused of doing all of this? And finally, I wonder if the NYT will devote the time and space to this defense of what it termed “illegal wiretapping” in the past as it did when it surfaced during the Bush administration?

    Again, that presupposes that the “outrage” was actually principled as opposed to simply cheaply political.

    We all know better here.

  • And finally, I wonder if the NYT will devote the time and space to this defense of what it termed “illegal wiretapping” in the past as it did when it surfaced during the Bush administration?

    Since I don’t wish to die, I’m not holding my breath.

    • I threw up a little in my mouth when I read that drivel from the NYT.  “Horrors”?  “Clearly illegal”?  “Just short of murder”?

      Unless somebody can find evidence that doesn’t rely on (A) AQ prisoners’ testimony or (B) the voices in some liberal’s head that we have done more to AQ prisoners than we routinely do to members of our own Armed Services in SERE and similar training, I’m not buying into the whole “torture” thing.

      I will also predict that, despite the promises and rhetoric, TAO quietly continues what Bush (snarl!) was doing.  If we get attacked again, then I pity the suspect we get our hands on, ‘cuz I suspect that TAO will overreact and have somebody go after him with a blowtorch and a pair of pliers.

  • “We’ve always been at war with Eastasia.”

  • It would appear the Obama Justice Department has examined the case and the evidence and, amazingly, has come to the conclusion that what the Bush administration claimed – that the taps were aimed only at al Qaeda and/or affiliated organizations

    Or, one might conclude that the Obama administration has taken a shine to this juicy, unchecked expansion of executive authority. Just like the damned dirty hippies <a href=”http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-US%3Aofficial&q=fisa+%22bad+precedent%22&btnG=Search”>said it would</a>.

    What it DOES require is good oversight to ensure that the programs are not used for nefarious purposes.

    Yes, indeedy. Too bad most were too busy wrestling the “soft on terror” strawman to notice when oversight – good, bad or indifferent – was completely eliminated.

    • Or, one might conclude that the Obama administration has taken a shine to this juicy, unchecked expansion of executive authority.

      An easy conclusion.

      Nevermind the lamentations from some on the Left during the Bush administration’s unprecedented expansion of the federal government’s powers over it’s peoples, the ice under the water for some of us was the threat that future administrations would have these powers to wield for generations to come.

      While some of you (I’m talking to you, docjim505) were foolishly assuring us that Bush was justly using these powers to protect Americans, some of us were repeatedly warning you that your unwisely trusted Republican politicians wouldn’t be in power forever, and that future pols would use this to whatever advantage they see fit, either justly, or unjustly.

      That’s why I laughed hysterically when I read conservatives claim that Batman was a neocon.

      Forget the fact that Batman is always just, forget that Batman is fiction, didn’t they realize that Bush, unlike Batman, is term limited.  And that the “Joker” as they might imagine him, would eventually take the reigns of the federal government.  Bush as Batman was a joke itself, although I can imagine Cheney – an ultra wealthy man with an underground lair – at least making the casting call.

      Maybe next time, when conservatives have a delusional notion that their man is a super hero, they’ll think twice about affording such powers to the government, knowing that a Joker, or a Penguin, or even a Mr. Freeze might just take office.

      I doubt it though.

      Cheers.

      • It would help if everyone here was on board with the “it’s all okay because Bush won’t take advantage” story.

        There were a LOT of people here that objected for exactly the same reasons you outlined.  Let’s not get all Bush blamey though if the next administration decides to out-Bush Bush, shall we?   
        It’s NOT supposed to be okay that Bush’s administration allowed this, and let’s not forget the election of the Annointed One was supposed to UNDO the evil, bad, awful things Bush did, not give them an excuse to continue doing them. 
        Place the blame where it belongs, the guys who open the door may have been WRONG to do so, but the next administration can close that door rather than exploit it, if it’s really a problem. 

        You guys are finding a way to blame Bush for continued excesses of the next administration, which promised us hope, and change, and NOT the same old same old same old. 

        What happened?  We’re not supposed to have to excuse Obama for acting like Bush, yet that’s all I’ve seen for the last week when the Obama administration continues to do things the Bushies did. 
        So instead of admitting Bush might have done some things right which the next administration finally acknowledges, what I see is people blaming BUSH for the NEW administration doing the bad things Bush did.    Jesus, grow up and admit the CURRENT administration has responsibilities for what it does.

        • It would help if everyone here was on board with the “it’s all okay because Bush won’t take advantage” story.

          It would help if I actually claimed that, “everyone here was on board with the “it’s all okay because Bush won’t take advantage” story.”
          But I didn’t.  But you don’t have to look very far to find it, though.  Just scroll up to docjim’s “I’s alright when Bush does it, but not Obama.”

          There were a LOT of people here that objected for exactly the same reasons you outlined.  Let’s not get all Bush blamey though if the next administration decides to out-Bush Bush, shall we?

          How is Obama out-Bushing Bush?  There is no evidence that Obama is doing anything more than Bush did.

          It’s NOT supposed to be okay that Bush’s administration allowed this, and let’s not forget the election of the Annointed One was supposed to UNDO the evil, bad, awful things Bush did, not give them an excuse to continue doing them.

          And that’s the point I’m making, isn’t it looker?  That no matter what politicians say, there’s always the danger that they will abuse these government powers.

          Place the blame where it belongs, the guys who open the door may have been WRONG to do so, but the next administration can close that door rather than exploit it, if it’s really a problem. 
          You guys are finding a way to blame Bush for continued excesses of the next administration, which promised us hope, and change, and NOT the same old same old same old.

          Who are “you guys”?  Who is avoiding blame? 

          Me!?!
          Explain yourself.

          Jesus, grow up and admit the CURRENT administration has responsibilities for what it does.

          Please, save it looker.  Save your own immature posturing for the Erbish-docjimish dolts and their partisan rationalizing.
          Well, we know you’ll dish it out for the Erbs.  But for the docjims and their, “I trusted Bush with these powers, not so much Obama.”  … Not so much, eh looker?

          Bush opened the door, and Obama is walking right though it.
          Obama is certainly not blameless, but my point is that its not just the wailing of the Left that should be noted, but also those who should have been watching the store who let Bush open wide the door.

          Cheers.

          • My point is lost perhaps – you’re less concerned with the fact that we were promised a change, than in being able to point out you were ‘right’ about warning us.   In your first text, and in parts of your second “Bush opened wide the door” (who are you blaming there?), appear to  ignore the fact that you’re being right appears to almost absolve the current administration, because it was Bush’s administration that gave this one the key.
            The issue for me is why is THIS administration carrying on with it?  Why aren’t they taking the opportunity to do away with it?   

            Now, admittedly, I KNOW why, because it’s a very rare government, of either stripe, that relinquishes power, and I understand that IS part of your point. 
            I can’t resist the urge to poke at the idea that this administration was supposed to be different.

            “How is Obama out-Bushing Bush?  There is no evidence that Obama is doing anything more than Bush did.” – shoot, I don’t know, by even ACTING like Bush, I’d think he was out-Bushing him, he’s supposed to be on the other end of the spectrum, that’s what we were sold.  Do I think Obama should do away with ALL policies that Bush had just to be contrary, no, not really, but like I said…I can’t resist, he was supposed to be different.

            “Who are “you guys”?  Who is avoiding blame?”

            I don’t know, you tell me, “Bush opened the Door…:Bush open wide the door” vs Obama is not blameless?    You’re still blaming Bush for what Obama’s doing in my book.

            “And that’s the point I’m making, isn’t it looker?  That no matter what politicians say, there’s always the danger that they will abuse these government powers.”
            You were warning us about how it could be abused, are you trying to say that the Obama administration is the one you FEARED would abuse it?  We all knew Bush, or the Republicans, were not forever.    We knew that in 2006, remember, the Republicans lost their control of Congress in the mid-terms.
            Frankly I think people mumbled that a lot of the time only because that was a good argument that would find traction here.  Hell, if the Republicans were going to be replaced WHO ELSE would replace them but the Democrats? 

            “But for the docjims and their, “I trusted Bush with these powers, not so much Obama.”  … Not so much, eh looker?”
            How shall I put it Pogue?  That I’ll ally with guys who are closer to my view than ones who aren’t?
            That to some extent I echo Docjims view on that, that I really DID trust Bush more than I trust Obama?
            Is that a big surprise yet?

            My point is I’m already tired of hearing how Obama continuing on policies the left found questionable under Bush are only to be expected, NOW, because, well, BUSH did it first.  Bush “opened the door”, Bush “gave them the key”. 

            “Jesus, grow up and admit the CURRENT administration has responsibilities for what it does.
            Hence this comment.  Obama carrying on with these policies is no one’s fault but Obama’s.  Any evil from it stems from OBAMA continuing to employ it because…surprise, Bush is no longer in power.
            So any bad that comes out of it is now, and will be until he leaves office, Obama’s fault.  Nothing to do with who opened the door, who handed who the key, blah blah blah.

          • I can’t resist the urge to poke at the idea that this administration was supposed to be different.

            Then poke till your blow your wad, man.  But don’t poke at me, I don’t swing that way.

            I don’t know, you tell me, “Bush opened the Door…:Bush open wide the door” vs Obama is not blameless?    You’re still blaming Bush for what Obama’s doing in my book.

            WTF, dude?  Did you miss this, “Obama is certainly not blameless.”  I mean, goddamn man, I specifically stated that Obama isn’t blameless.  There is no “vs.”  You’re just too horny to poke something I guess.  Blaming both Bush and Obama are not mutally exclusive.

            “But for the docjims and their, “I trusted Bush with these powers, not so much Obama.”  … Not so much, eh looker?”
            How shall I put it Pogue?  That I’ll ally with guys who are closer to my view than ones who aren’t?

            Then quit lecturing me about avoiding blame.  It’s quite clear, beyond this thread, that you and most here at QandO are more than willing to keep your powder dry against others that what you scream, “There were a LOT of people here that objected for exactly the same reasons you outlined.”  Yet you fire away at others you percieve having more than the acceptable ammount of disagreements.

            The balls on you for accusing me of avoiding blame.

            That to some extent I echo Docjims view on that, that I really DID trust Bush more than I trust Obama?
            Is that a big surprise yet?

            Actually I am, first you scream, “There were a LOT of people here that objected for exactly the same reasons you outlined.”  Only now to say that you were just fine with Bush having these powers.  But not so much Obama.
            Well, after thinking about it… maybe only just a little bit surprised.

            Cheers.

        • One more thing,looker.

          We’re not supposed to have to excuse Obama for acting like Bush, yet that’s all I’ve seen for the last week when the Obama administration continues to do things the Bushies did.

          I mean other than Erb, where is it that “all I’ve seen for the last week when the Obama administration continues to do things the Bushies did.”

          I’m sure they’re out there, but after perusing all of the Lefty blogs that I usually look at, I haven’t seen it.  I would like to read them.  Would you kindly link them for me please?

          Cheers.

          • Why sure, it was the last couple days, right here on this very site…let me find some to satisfy your curiosity.  It wasn’t even Erbie I don’t think, more like Pedro the illegal stockbroker or TomD, but I don’t recall which (or even if it WAS one of them).

            But the excuse makin is a happenin, that’s for sure.  It’s STILL Bush’s fault from what I can see.

          • Nope, can’t seem to get the link right – so..
            try looking at
            More Extensive Executive Power Proposed By Congress
            It was old Pedro –
            pedro the illegal alien says:
            April 6, 2009 at 05:45
            “wrong as usual senor bruce, we will all be some kind of ticked off if this ever became law.  you should at least credit the bush administration for opening these doors in the first place.”
            Yeah, the left will be mad about all this but it’s Bush’s fault.
             
            Did I need more than one?  I can’t really think of another (except for Scott, and we’ve already disqualified him) , and being as you’re the second one I can document (again, cept for Scott of course)  I just thought I’d express my frustration about it to you and all.

          • I see.

            It’s Pedro, Erb, and maybe TomD, but we’re not sure…  Okay then.  If that’s “all you’ve seen.”

            FWIW, I did find this from your favorite sock puppet.

            But wait, we’re waiting for the NYT, right?

            It’s the silence that is deafening, right? … Right?
            I understand.  I can totally relate to that.  After being an avid reader of QandO for several years, I’m quite familiar with the concept of “The silence is deafening.”

            And you help that understanding, looker.  Quite ably, I might add.

            Cheers.

  • Syncs up with the comment yesterday that Obama might be using this stuff, but BUSH!!!!! opened the door to it!  yeah yeah! 

    If it’s abused, it’s Bush’s fault.

  • I picked the wrong day to give up amphetamines…

  • It does seem like Obama is being pragmatic.  Obviously, transparency sounds good in a campaign, and he may believe in it, but once you’re President you have to make the best call for the country, even if it isn’t what was promised in a campaign.  That’s what every President learns.  It also appears he’s making decisions based on analysis and facts, not ideology.  That’s good too.

    • So, now please go back and retract all the crap you said about Bush, because if Obama is doing these things and NOW it’s pragmatic and not ideological, it was EXACTLY the same thing when Bush did it.  You can’t have it both ways.

    • Interesting. So it is better for the country that the citizens not have a chance to read and make specific and knowledgeable comments on legislation to their representatives before it is inflicted upon them. Then again, why should the citizens know more about legislation than the legislators.

  • Once you have a signals intelligence operation as large as the NSA, of course you have an unlimited opportunity for abuse. I’m sure that we would have to turn to fictional extrapolations to begin to even grasp the extent to which operations like that can look into your life, let alone your personal communications. And on any practical level, I don’t believe that the mechanisms in place to stop abuse could stop serious abuse, but I’ll never find out if I’m right because no one is going to let me examine the protocols involved closely enough to really understand how it all works.

    So, why do we even have NSA, and do we need it? (I use “we” here as a pronoun for the U.S.) I would say that on balance it would be too dangerous not to have it. It exists in the first place because of the Cold War and the Soviets and the KGB, which had a huge head start as an intelligence operation on American intelligence.

    As a tool in counter-asymmetrical warfare the NSA-level signals intelligence faces a real challenge and meets a real need, but there are complications, of course.

    The Executive branch has dual responsibilities that look somewhat alike in the context of counter-asymmetrical warfare, but are different. The first of these is to oversee national defense, with the commander-in-chief responsibilities running through the defense and national security apparatus; the second is to be the chief law enforcement officer, which runs through the Justice Department.

    National security wiretaps, in their purest form (i.e., protecting the nation against attack) are part of the first responsibility, and don’t really require that the Executive go through the criminal justice rituals. There is crosstalk between the two functions, especially where a national security interest in certain individuals becomes a criminal prosecution. It’s in criminal prosecution where the Constitutional protections kick in because that’s when the government is accusing you and putting you on trial for a crime. That’s also when the government has to be careful about how it obtains evidence.

    Back on the pure national security side it’s about stopping attacks, not about prosecution. So, on that score criminal prosecution is a secondary consideration. But in the transition from one to the other is where the conflicts and confusions arise. They are separate issues, but because there is no “pure” way to handle a national security “criminal” (someone trying to effect an attack on the U.S.), other than “battlefield” justice, the lawyers will swim to the bait every time.

    Lastly, the fear that “Americans are being spyed on” is one of those things that is probably statistically insignificant while at the same time theoretically daunting and even sickening. In the paradigm that we know, I don’t think it’s a problem. But in the marketplace of historical paradigms related to such capabilities, there’s reason to be daunted and sickened by it, knowing that the paradigm in this country could change for the worse.

    I’m certain that it’s an essential national security capability. I’m certain that there has been abuse. I’m certain that it’s dangerous. The medicine can be worse than the disease, but then you don’t really want the disease that it’s meant to fight either. So, they can tap my phone if they promise me that they will stop one nuclear attack in my lifetime.  

    • That to some extent I echo Docjims view on that, that I really DID trust Bush more than I trust Obama?
      Is that a big surprise yet?”

      “Actually I am, first you scream, “There were a LOT of people here that objected for exactly the same reasons you outlined.”  Only now to say that you were just fine with Bush having these powers.  But not so much Obama.
      Well, after thinking about it… maybe only just a little bit surprised.”

      Sure, saying I trusted Bush more than Obama is exactly like saying  “I’m fine with Bush having these powers”.
      As you said – You’re just too horny to poke something I guess.
      Must be in the air today.

      I don’t always disagree with you Pogue, sometimes I agree completely, sometimes I even say so!
      You just stepped on my “Bush’s Fault” trip wire and set off the blast.

  • Whups – heh….

  • Ah, Pogey-bait returns.

    PogeyWhile some of you (I’m talking to you, docjim505) were foolishly assuring us that Bush was justly using these powers to protect Americans, some of us were repeatedly warning you that your unwisely trusted Republican politicians wouldn’t be in power forever, and that future pols would use this to whatever advantage they see fit, either justly, or unjustly.

    For the benefit of those who can’t comprehend simple English (I’m writing to you, Pogey), I am and always have been quite aware of the possibility of abuse of the powers of the government (and not just regarding the Patriot Act).  I think that my initial post above makes this pretty clear:

    Me – The fact of the matter is that, unfortunately, we MUST take steps to gather intelligence against our enemies (and potential enemies, for that matter).  The fact that they may use means of communication, such a mail, telephones, cel phones, etc, that are also used by innocent civilians, should NOT stop us in our efforts.  What it DOES require is good oversight to ensure that the programs are not used for nefarious purposes. [emphasis added - dj505]

    The problem here is that, as I would expect in a lib, your brain doesn’t work well.  You start with the assumption that Bush (snarl!) abused his powers under the Patriot Act, something for which there is no evidence outside the voices in your head (do go back an read the article cited by McQ, will you?  Or, better still, get somebody who isn’t a retard and has a lot of patience to read it and try to explain it to you.  What may possibly sink in is that Bush DIDN’T abuse the Patriot Act, and even your messiah’s DoJ is arguing that as a basis for continuing the program).  You use this assumption as a basis for hectoring those of us who support the Patriot Act AND preening because, unlike us, YOU were smart enough to KNOW that some other president might abuse it.

    Not that it really matters, but before Ed Morrissey went over to Hot Air, I commented quite a bit on his blog Captain’s Quarters about my fears if the Hildabeast (at that time, the presumptive candidate for the party of trash and morons) had Patriot Act powers under her evil control.  Unfortunately, I realize that one can’t give powers willy-nilly to the government depending on who occupies the White House.  I also recognize terrorism as a serious threat to our national security, and that requires the government to have far-reaching powers to protect us.  Power is always subject to abuse, whether it be using the FBI to wiretap political opponents, the IRS to audit political opponents, or Congress to tax political opponents.  The Founding Fathers recognized this and did what they could to prevent it by designing the “checks and balances” system into our Constitution, limiting the powers of the federal government to a short list of “enumerated powers”, having an independent judiciary, and trial by jury.  They also instituted the electoral college in the belief that electors would be smarter than the populace and not put (for example) a thuggish “community organizer” in the most powerful office in the world.

    Well, even Washington, Madison, Hamilton, and the rest had their bad days.  You can’t make any system foolproof, because fools are so ingenius.