Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Game. Set.

I haven't said much about the whole NSA wiretapping thing here for a few reasons. First, I'm slightly tired of it. Second, at least 4 blogs I visit regularly discuss it with frequency, so if I want to head-butt a wall, I know where to go. Third, the legal issue is pretty clear, and pretty clearly defined (W broke the law unless the law can't apply to him). Fourth, I just get pissed off by the false characterization of my position as objectively pro-terrorist, or some such nonsense. It's ridiculous. It's mendacious, and it's whole purpose is to defect attention from the meritless arguments for legality. Finally, others are much better at taking blowtorches to the fatuous defenses being offered on a daily basis.

Glenn Greenwald, in particular, has made a habit of returning the administrations shots, with interest. Today he makes like Roger Federer on the latest talking points:

So as of June, 2002 -- many months after the FISA bypass program was ordered -- the DoJ official who was responsible for overseeing the FISA warrant program was not aware (at least when he submitted this Statement) of any difficulties in obtaining warrants under the FISA "probable cause" standard, and for that reason, the Administration would not even support DeWine's amendment. If - as the Administration is now claiming - they had such significant difficulties obtaining the warrants they wanted for eavesdropping that they had to go outside of FISA, surely Baker - who was in charge of obtaining those warrants - would have been aware of them. And, if the Administration was really having the problems under FISA, they would have supported DeWine's Amendment. But they didn't.

The second concern the Administration expressed with DeWine's amendment was that it was quite possibly unconstitutional:

The Department's Office of Legal Counsel is analyzing relevant Supreme Court precedent to determine whether a "reasonable suspicion" standard for electronic surveillance and physical searches would, in the FISA context, pass constitutional muster. The issue is not clear cut, and the review process must be thorough because of what is at stake, namely, our ability to conduct investigations that are vital to protecting national security. If we err in our analysis and courts were ultimately to find a "reasonable suspicion" standard unconstitutional, we could potentially put at risk ongoing investigations and prosecutions.

By that time, the Administration had already been engaging in eavesdropping outside of the parameters of FISA, and yet the DoJ itself was expressing serious doubts about the constitutionality of that eavesdropping and even warned that engaging in it might harm national security because it would jeopardize prosecutions against terrorists. Put another way, the DoJ was concerned that it might be unconstitutional to eavesdrop with a lower standard than probable cause even as the Administration was doing exactly that.

Emphasis mine. Read the whole thing if so inclined.

Update via Louise:

AG Gonzales gave a speech defending the NSA program at Georgetown law today. It did not go quite according to plan:

But as the attorney general tried to convey that the extraordinary circumstances of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks justified the program, the protesters turned to one of America's Founding Fathers for their rebuttal.

"Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither" -- a paraphrase of a quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin -- had been scrawled in capital letters on a sign that required four protesters to hold it up.

Gonzales didn't acknowledge the sign nor did he stop his speech as 22 protesters, including the four with the sign, stood with their backs to him during the address. Five protesters left the room during the speech.

Good on you, kids. (Photos via AP by way of Dependable Renegade.)

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