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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Because we're "at war"

Much of the debate currently raging about George Bush's wiretapping excesses comes quickly around to the point that our nation is "at war." During "wartime," it is argued, the President has powers that he doesn't have when there is no "war" going on.

In the mindset of the last two millennia, these arguments have strong logical appeal, and lots of precedent. But given that a whole new brand of "warfare" has now been invented and executed repeatedly against our country, I'm wondering if the old "war emergency" logic is worth relying on.

Specifically, if we are to sacrifice civil liberties now, because it's "wartime," we have a right to know when, if ever, the "war" will be considered over. The President's constant references to a "war on terror" (a word he can hardly pronounce), and lately, to "victory" in that "war," beg the question of when "victory" will be achieved.

Will it be when angry Muslims no longer desire and plan to attack American civilians with suicide bombs on U.S. soil? Is that going to be our final "victory"?

If so, then let's face it, folks, we will be "at war" forever.

A different approach to the same issue is to ask, "war" against whom? Iraq? We've already stopped fighting the government of Iraq. Indeed, now we're fully supportive of that government. Against the rebels in Iraq? Can we be "at war" with those rebelling against another country? I suppose so. But when will our "victory" against that group come? Two years after the recent Iraqi elections? Two years after the last car bombing in Iraq? Five? Ten? Will we be forever "at war" until Iraq is permanently "in peace"?

Or is our "war" being waged against terrorists generally -- unnamed individuals and groups scattered throughout the globe, including on our own soil? Can we be "at war" with people whom we cannot even name?

Only Congress has the power to declare "war." Perhaps it's time for Congress to think about rescinding whatever declaration of "war" currently exists, if only for the purpose of salvaging the last bits of our privacy from a national government run amok. At the very least, Congress ought to consider setting some criteria for determining when the "war" will eventually be declared over, and the violations of people's privacy rights will cease.

In the meantime, the rest of us had better educate ourselves on the scope of, and justification for, the warrantless eavesdropping. There are some truly frightening propositions being floated out there right now by supporters of the intrusions. For example, two major apologists for allowing the Bush folks to monitor your e-mail and phone calls without a warrant made these arguments in the Times yesterday:

In an effort to control counterintelligence activities in the United States during the cold war, the surveillance act established a special court, known as the FISA court, with authority to issue wiretapping warrants. Instead of having to show that it has "probable cause" to believe criminal activity is taking place (which is required to obtain a warrant in an ordinary investigation), the government can get a warrant from the FISA court when there is probable cause to believe the target of surveillance is a foreign power or its agent.

Although the administration could have sought such warrants, it chose not to for good reasons. The procedures under the surveillance act are streamlined, but nevertheless involve a number of bureaucratic steps. Furthermore, the FISA court is not a rubber stamp and may well decline to issue warrants even when wartime necessity compels surveillance. More to the point, the surveillance act was designed for the intricate "spy versus spy" world of the cold war, where move and countermove could be counted in days and hours, rather than minutes and seconds. It was not drafted to deal with the collection of intelligence involving the enemy's military operations in wartime, when information must be put to immediate use.

Indeed, it is highly doubtful whether individuals involved in a conflict have any "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their communications, which is the touchstone of protection under both the Fourth Amendment and the surveillance act itself - any more than a tank commander has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his communications with his commanders on the battlefield. The same goes for noncombatants swept up in the hostilities.

Amazing, and chilling. FISA court procedures can be disregarded whenever the administration decides they are inconvenient, or simply bad policy. And if you turn out to be guilty of treason, you don't have any privacy rights -- therefore, no one has those rights if what the government is looking for is their conducting treasonous activities.

Can we expect the Supreme Court to cut through this fog and protect us against the eternal "wartime"? I'm looking at the roster: Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito... Never mind.

In their attack on our freedoms, the terrorists appear to have won. Of course, in the administration's view, we're all potential terrorists. Maybe that makes us all winners.

Comments (96)

I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the Supremes. Luttig, Limbaugh and Hannity's wet dream jurist, recently gave the Justice Department a bitch slap in the Padilla case accusing them of deliberately avoiding judicial review and basically saying "I can't wait until the Supremes get ahold of you." And neither can I. Here's hoping for a 9-0 ruling written by Scalia.

The FISA law was created to fight the Communists in our last war with no end. It was a good tool then. It's a good tool now.

Well let's see - whatever has been used has kept us safe since 9/11. I'm willing to risk the paranoia of the liberals for security of a nation.

The catch is who is in office - a President that takes the charge of security of a nation very seriously or someone like the Clintons - who have already illegally tapped millions of Americans as well has illegally used FBI files (ref. Hillary and travelgate) for their own personal goals.

I'm not at paranoia as liberals. If there is another attack I have a feeling the liberals and Democrats won't be elected to office for decades - everyone is fully aware of all the roadblocks they put up to destroy what protects us.

The FISA law was created to fight the Communists in our last war with no end. It was a good tool then. It's a good tool now.

Not good enough for W.

I'm willing to risk the paranoia of the liberals for security of a nation.

Spoken like Saddam Hussein himself.

JustaDog, you need to brush up on your history. By all impartial accounts, the Clinton administration was more respectful of individual rights than any other, especially where the NSA and FISA were concerned.
As to Jack's comments: of course our privacy rights are gone. After all, as it says in the NYT essay, we are all just "noncombatants swept up in the hostilities."
I was very encouraged by Luttig's recent opinion.

It's amazing to see these people defend the indefensible. What they're saying here is basically "it's better to ask forgiveness than permission". That's not an especially good ethical standard for our nation's chief executive office, and I'm astonished to think anyone is willing to go on record saying it is.

But maybe this reflexive defense is just a failure of imagination on the part of Mr. Bush's supporters. Allow me to present a little history that could have been:

"After a large explosion destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, President Clinton declared a war on domestic terrorism. In the course of prosecuting that war, he signed a secret executive order authorizing the NSA to conduct warrantless wiretaps within the United States. The target list included people and organizations associated with the bomber, plus people and organizations connected to those initial targets. This domestic spying came to light when, after sitting on the story for a year, the Wall Street Journal revealed that Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Associaton, was a target of warrantless surveillance due to numerous connections between his organization's membership and that of the Michigan Militia. The WSJ's anonymous source believed that many other members of the NRA have also been targets of warrantless surveillance, and that the target list may have extended to the Republican Party leadership. President Clinton confirmed that he had ordered this domestic spying, and that his authority to do so stemmed from Congress's resolution condemning the attack and demanding that those reposnsible be brought to justice."

Maybe that doesn't scare this president's supporters enough. After all, it didn't happen. So let me try just a little harder: "President Hillary Clinton." Y'all willing to let her use this very same executive power to continue the War on Terror come 2009? How about "President Howard Dean", or "President Al Sharpton"?

This nation's founders chose to check the power of the executive for sound reasons. Most of them knew that those reasons would remain valid in the face of any external threat. Terrorism changed nothing; al qeida can only take our lives. An unchecked president can do much, much worse.

Personally, I am getting damn sick and tired of both the Republicans and psuedo-Repubs blathering about how paranoid the Liberals and Dems are. Get a clue, people!

The Bush Administration has not done ONE DAMN THING in these past 6 years that has not been personally motivated. Do any of you actually think the “War on Terrorism” hasn’t been particularly beneficial to both generations of Bush, not to mention good ol’ Dick’s private interests?

I’ve said this before but I feel it bears repeating – Bush HAD to react to 9/11. To say otherwise is simply naïve. Any president, Republican, Liberal, Democrat, etc. would have had to make a firm choice that day (after reading a story to the elementary kids, of course). And, if the administration sincerely thought that the threat came from Hussein, then who’s to say the initial attack on Iraq was unwarranted, despite the fact there were no ties to 9/11 directly, that they knew who the culprit was at the time and decided to NOT go after him, used inaccurate intelligence to justify war, tried to lie about it then tried to brush it off…

The point is, while any active president during 9/11 had to do something, Bush did the wrong thing, followed by years of continuing to do the wrong thing, like the proverbial kid standing in your front yard with a baseball bat insisting he wasn’t the one that sent the ball flying through your patio window. The Clintons lied? Of course they did. One cannot assume any Commander in Chief will not distort the truth or out-and-out lie to get what they want. That’s life in politics. Nothing “Liberal” about it – just a fact of life.

As for the wiretapping – if the president can do it legally, then fine, there’s nothing to be done. If it’s illegal then he must realize he is NOT above the law. If it takes a few more bureaucratic steps to do it legally then take those steps. If you don’t want to, then either don’t do it or don’t get caught.

This blatherskite of “It makes us safer” is a crock, however. Jack’s right: how can you wage a war on am ambiguous mass of unidentifiable persons, many of which are not only on our soil already, but may not even be Muslim!

Why were we attacked in the first place? Is it because Osama just hated ud and wanted to call us out? No – it’s because America has a nasty habit of involving itself in civil wars in lands that hold interests for us. Did everyone forget that Bush Sr. SOLD ARMS TO HUSSEIN? To put it bluntly, in order to protect certain assets (oil) America chooses sides, arms them, possibly sends in supporting troops, then steps back. That’s why Osama hit us. That’s why the Middle-East hates us. Because we always chose to arm and support their enemies, whomever they may be.

You want a safer America? All we have to do is learn to keep our noses out of other countries’ affairs and stop fighting their enemies for them (or, at the least, stop providing weapons to a dictator then have the Next Generation wage war against them).

While Congress never declared war against the Barbary Pirates, it did authorize action. Note, however, that it did not delare war (or authorize action or whatever) against the concept of piracy.

Similary, Congress never declared war against the Afghanistan or Iraq, but did authorize action. Note, however, that it did not delare war (or authorize action or whatever) against the concept of terrorism.

I think that is the fatal flaw in the President's logic that we are "at war" with terrorists (whoever they are) or terrorism (whatever that is). The nations that have gone to war against concepts have tended to be on the wrong side of history and on the wrong side of morality.

Well let's see - whatever has been used has kept us safe since 9/11.

There's a difference between "not being directly attacked" and "being safe". I think it's optimistic (at best) to claim that we're really safe now.

And anyhow, can you really establish the direct cause and effect between "whatever has been used" (whatever that may be) and the lack of a major attack at home in the past 4+ years? I'm asking seriously, because if you can show that any of the methods the administration has been using has actually actively prevented another terrorist attack, you might have a point.

Yet your statement is awfully broad... you would apply a blanket endorsement of the efficacy of everything the administration has done. Surely it's possible that not every single thing the administration has done has directly contributed to security at home? And if so, then surely it is reasonable to evaluate individual policies and weigh the risk versus reward (assuming we can get accurate information about both the risks and rewards, that is!)

I'm willing to risk the paranoia of the liberals for security of a nation.

Fortunately it doesn't matter what you're willing to risk -- the Constitution trumps you. It even trumps the President (always, whomever that may be).

[A] President that takes the charge of security of a nation very seriously...

Unfortunately, earnestness is not sufficient (and whatever his faults, I do give GWB high marks for being earnest).

Competence is also wanted.

For the record, I am condoning nothing. However, I sincerely believe in order to make America safer against terrorism we have to take a serious look at why we were attacked in the first place. If it is a matter of behavior, then we need to alter that behavior.

If it is simply because an alien nation wants to wage war, that’s a different (and far more rare these days) issue to deal with.

The great tragedy is that conservatives, who’ve long spoken of curtailing governmental powers, fall all over themselves giving into this administration. President Bush has them acting like teenage girls with their first boyfriend. Everyone else can see he’s reckless, irresponsible, stupid, lazy, and mean, yet they rush to defend him: “But Mommy, he’s so cute and he told me he was a godly man!” What we have here is a bad case of conservative puppy love.

You want a safer America? All we have to do is learn to keep our noses out of other countries’ affairs and stop fighting their enemies for them (or, at the least, stop providing weapons to a dictator then have the Next Generation wage war against them).

Well then maybe little countries should quit asking us to!

And in the case of countries like Iraq, who ignore sanction after sanction for stupid crap they are doing (or not doing), and keep breaking rules drawn by the UN, maybe the UN needs to quit telling us we can.
(You are familiar with the UN right? You know, the entity created to eliminate wars?)

We have been the world's police force for a long time, and its because we are asked, and expected to help.

For the record, I am condoning nothing. However, I sincerely believe in order to make America safer against terrorism we have to take a serious look at why we were attacked in the first place. If it is a matter of behavior, then we need to alter that behavior.

Well, according to Al Qaida, we (westerners) are infidels and should die because we are not Muslim. Im guessing most people are not going to convert just to appease them.

Anyone who is not Muslim is a target, and always will be.

(You are familiar with the UN right? You know, the entity created to eliminate wars?)

The UN? The same UN that Bush went against in order to attack Iraq in the first place, putting us at greater risk and turning several “friendly” countries against us? Yeah, I heard of ‘em.

We have been the world's police force for a long time, and its because we are asked, and expected to help.

World Police? Please - we can't even police ourselves. The concept is so outrageously pompous, it drips of true Americanism.

Again - look at the reason we were attacked. Maybe it's time we learn to just say no and let the individual countries duke it out without our involvement.

If it escalates into a world threat, then we can become active.

With the UN's permission, of course.

An insightful little page, if y’all are interested:


PS: I don’t want to turn this into a Dems vs Them thread. No matter which batter is at the plate, there’s going to be fans and there’s going to be those calling out criticism – it’s all part of the game. We’re just the ones in the bleachers watching the blow-by-blow playoffs.

Hey bill,

Come on, let's have some new pejoratives, those you used are so tired. Your otherwise thoughtful comment was demeaned by your lack of initiative in "reaching out" for better name-calling terms.

Hey TTM,

I'm wringing my hands, you don't mention whether breathing is a behavior you're willing to alter to keep from being attacked again. It's wise to consider whether some of our country's policies may have contributed to the atmosphere in which our attackers were bred. But you need to draw a line and use common sense about what you're willing to give up to placate them.

We have two paradigms for dealing with an external threat: military power and criminal justice. (A third option, covert action, seems to be constrained by statute recently, although the constraints have not deterred the CIA from secret prisons, rendition, torture and the like.) Neither of the two main systems seems altogether appropriate for the kind of threat posed by terrorism. But it's worth noting that the military option clearly expands executive power and consolidates political support, while ensuring that a big part of federal expenditures directly benefits politcal supporters and contributors. It's not too cynical to conclude that these are major reasons for favoring military action over reliance on criminal justice. One difficulty is that much of what the military does pretty much precludes the use of the criminal justice system. Just look at Guantanamo, or the part we're allowed to see. How many prosecutions and convictions? None, and none are likely to happen. And what will be done with the people who are indefinitely detained? Unless they have the good fortune to have an influential country to advocate for them, they'll likely either rot there indefinitely or be released to become a potential threat to public safety somewhere in the world. But the worst thing about the use of the military option is that it really necessitates prosecuting a war somewhere, and the one chosen by Bush for whatever reason (we can all speculate about the real motivations for attacking Iraq since no compelling explanation has been given), the result is a squandering of financial and human resources and a resulting increase in the risk to public safety all over the world, not to mention unjustified loss of innocent life. A combination of criminal justice and intelligence-based covert operations would have been much cheaper and likely more effective, and would not have come with new restrictions on civil liberties at home which, as Jack points out (and as cannot be emphasized enough) represent a measure of defeat for the US in this "war".

I'm wringing my hands, you don't mention whether breathing is a behavior you're willing to alter to keep from being attacked again.


Although I genuinely accept that, in a time of war, certain liberties (which, let’s face it, many of us take for granted each and every day) may and will be compromised. Am I upset about the wiretapping? Not really, because I have nothing to hide. The fact that it was possibly done illegally is what bothers me.

The sad fact is, there is no way to make America, or any country, entirely safe. There will always be those who believe that violence is the only way to get yourself heard and they will use it to make their position known. I agree with Jack, “War on Terrorism” is not only a poor choice of words but entirely misleading.

What would I sacrifice in order to make my family and my country safe? Quite a bit, including several liberties. That is, if I had faith in my Commander-in-Chief (which I do not) and if I believed in what we were fighting for (which I do not).

Without those two keystones in place, I can support nothing this administration has to offer.

Will it be better in 2009? Maybe… maybe not. What’s for certain is the next president, Democrat or Republican, will have to clean up this mess; it’s simply not going away any time soon. What the current administration has done is back us into a corner from which there is no easy solution. We can’t pull out as that would be a signal to certain terrorists that they have won, and will pave the way for future attacks with a pre-conceived notion we will back down.

We can’t stay in Iraq because, simply, we’ve done all we can do there. We can move to Iran and start something there or we can wander back over to Afghanistan but we’ve already overstayed our (un)welcome in Iraq.

I am sincerely frightened of what the next administration, and we as Americans, has to face.

You know what they say – beware the light at the end of the tunnel – it’s probably an oncoming train.

"Anyone who is not Muslim is a target, and always will be."

So what?

Seriously. Even assuming that this oversimplification is entirely correct, so what? Christians have been similarly ruthless and expansionistic for a similar number of centuries, and better armed, organized, and motivated for most of that time. Yet their campaign to dominate the world has been a dismal failure... there are billions of non-Christian people. Why should we think that Muslims would be so much more effective that a few thousand of their most radical militants can knock over a superpower or destoy all "infidels"?

Big scary monsters!

(Mind you, I'm not picking on Christians because they're Christians, I'm simply citing them as an historical analogy of a very successful expansionist religion. No offense intended.)

Our nation is not seriously threatened by an organization that's probably smaller and poorer than Nike. Sure, they can kill several thousand of us and I'd certainly prefer to stop that. But only we have the power to destroy our own ideals in the pursuit of protection from an essentially minor threat.

If our lives are so valuable that we're willing to throw away the Constitution, maybe y'all will put all tobacco growers and merchants in jail without trial next week. They kill thousands of Americans with secondhand smoke each year, after all... far more than al qeida's fondest dream. But to do such a thing would be obviously absurd, right?

What we need to fear is fear itself. Get a grip already, and stop being terrorized.

You’re right, but it’s a great analogy. And isn’t that how it’s done? You repeat the talking points till people agree with you? (See 9/11-Saddam connection.) Seriously, aren’t you worried about the erosion of freedom in this country? Would you give(God forbid) Hillary these powers, which at one point included arresting any citizen, torturing them, and executing them all under the executive branch without any judicial or legislative restraint? Too bad the tired conservative line that the terrorists hate us for our freedoms, isn’t true. At this rate, they’d soon have no reason left.

Our nation is not seriously threatened by an organization that's probably smaller and poorer than Nike.

And I know K-Swiss is remaining neutral.

I wonder how many New Yorkers would agree that Osama Bin Laden and the acts that occurred on 9.11.01 were a "minor threat."

I mean it was only a couple thousand people afterall, right?

"Our nation is not seriously threatened by an organization that's probably smaller and poorer than Nike."

The truth of this statement has been driving me nuts for awhile. I fully understand the shocking nature of 9-11, but detach the emotional aspects of it and what we're left with is a lucky shot from a small band of modestly financed idiots who were able to exploit one of the many blind spots in our security armour (which, by the way are still wide open.)

The Bush administration's pr campaign has transformed the image of this group of cave dwellers into a vibrant, well-connected, insidiously intelligent killing machine. Ha! We could have wiped these guys out in Afghanistan if we'd used a quarter of the force we used in Iraq. But then again, if that'd happened, we wouldnt have an invisible enemy to scare the American public with, would we?

Fear is a very useful tool.


Please, I give up!!

Never mention the name Hillary in connection with the presidency again and I'll agree with anything you say!

You can have me arrested, tortured and executed (if the scary W doesn't do it first), just please, please, please!

Oh, where to turn, where to turn?

The UN? The same UN that Bush went against in order to attack Iraq in the first place, putting us at greater risk and turning several “friendly” countries against us? Yeah, I heard of ‘em.

Actually, if I remember correctly, the UN resolutions against Iraq stated that if Saddam did not comply, any member nation of the security council could use "whatever means necessary" to force compliance.

I saw the notion that we're all terrorists kicking around even before GW took the helm-with law enforcement types; it is used by apologists for existing orders to marginalize critics and reformers and can get pretty ludicrous. For example, in 2000, I represented a cat lady in Hillsboro who was neutering and finding homes for neighborhood strays in a city that had a 3-cat limit ordinace. We worked out an agreement with the city code enforcement and everything went fine for 5 years prior until she had a fight with a vindictive neigbor who decided to enforce the ordinance. We argued that the ordinace violated the cat lady's rights as a citizen cleaning up pre-existing nuisance conditions and had proponents of non-lethal cat control testify at the hearing. The hearings officer had apparently been told we were all terrorists because he made a statement to the effect that we he was surprised we weren't. Cat lady terrorists in tennis shoes: Monty Pythonesque:


I don't know about the inert part,

but the gas part certainly fits.

I'm sure it fits your political agenda to characterize Al Quaida as idiots and "cave dwellers" whom the Bush callously used for political gain but are you implying that "we" should have used more military force to "wipe those guys out"? Should we still?

Sorry, Mr. B, but maybe Argon's not a "hominem" (I'd use the proper case but that wouldn't be proper.)

Absolutely correct, Erik. Only a couple thousand dead, plus zillions in property and economic damage. They did that to us.

I'm not saying that's not bad. It was reprehensible, inhumane, vile, and any number of other synonyms for totally f---ed up. If they wanted to make the point that they could strike us at will, they could just as easily have crashed a FedEx cargo jet into the Statue of Liberty at night, costing only a dozen or so lives. Their choice of method and target was nothing short of evil.

But still, al qeida's attacks that day (plus all that came before and after) were not a major threat to our nation's survival... still less a threat to the survival of all American "infidels" as some here seem to fear. Supporters of this president make this out to be a life-or-death clash of cultures, but it's just not that serious.

Al qeida could (hypothetically) detonate a huge car bomb in a different major US city every day for a year and still come nowhere close to physically destroying our country, its people, or its infrastructure. That level of damage probably wouldn't even match the pace of rebuilding nor our birth rate.

Keep in mind that the Germans in WW2 actually increased their overall industrial capacity for years, even in the teeth of the Allies' massive aerial bombardment. I don't think anyone seriously believes al qeida could come anywhere close to that level of destruction, or that we as a nation are somehow incapable of dealing with adversity.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think it's okay for any bombs to go off in this country. I don't want anyone to die for politics, let alone me and mine. There are some appropriate security measures that can be and have been taken, and that's great.

But we don't need to set Ben Franklin spinning in his grave and set fire to the rule of law just because some jihadist says he wants to kill us. Ronald Reagan didn't support a ban on handguns even though some crazy guy shot him with one, because he thought it was against the Constitution's principles. (Say what you like about the wisdom of that, it was not a coward's choice.)

Let's show a little pluck and courage here. Shit happens, evil people will perpetrate evil acts, and life goes on. We don't need to throw out the Constitution in order to save it.

As long as there is one individual in existence with an agenda intended to promote their viewpoint at the expense of human life, we are all vulnerable to terrorism. Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, and all those willing to commit suicide to inflict random death as a cause to embrace, fit within this paradigm. Does a pre-emptive war on foreign soil insure that such individuals will be thwarted from acting on their whims? Nah, it just stirs more violence.
When viewed from an individualistic perspective, terrorism is unconfined to a particular religion, political view, or even a rational precept (let alone a particular Country). Those willing to take human life to further their personal, or collective agenda must be neutralized.
Neutralizing terrorists is a pervasive common cause for all human kind. We can all agree that no individual agenda is more important than allowing others to exist. Therefore, why not seek consensus to establish an international tribunal to prosecute individual terrorists and incarcerate them from society for life?
No death, no degradation of civil rights, just fighting terrorism at the individual level where it belongs. Instead we have fallen prey to the paranoia and vulnerability born of random violence, the precise aim of the terrorists.

You got it. I’ll only refer to her that way if it actually happens. To me the most outrageous power grab of the year wasn’t by W. anyway. It was that court in Connecticut that issued the eminent domain ruling. From now on a government body can seize your land based entirely on whether they feel the new owners would generate more tax revenue. Oh, by the way, the government body also decides how much taxes the new owners will pay. In short, homeowners only own their homes if they keep paying their property taxes, and if the government doesn’t decide to sell the land to someone else.
That is absolutely crazy. While we are arguing with each other over Christmas and Blue versus Red, the State has succeeded in ending private property. Of course, we can always trust them to do the right thing.


Please give us the correct equation for the relative values of human life v. your hyperbolic concept of "throwing out the Constitution".

You've obviously got some numbers in mind.

I'm sure we can count on you to sacrifice yourself, if necessary, so that Ben Franklin won't be "spinning in his grave"; but most people see the relative threats differently.

I'm sure, though, that you're right and we're all headed for the gulag. Liberal paranoia, indeed!


Good God, man!

Even without your abridging my rights to get it, you have my wholehearted agreement about "Kelo"

I'll shut up now.

"that court in Connecticut that issued the eminent domain ruling"
The eminent domain action was in Connecticut, for sure, but I think the United States Supreme Court is still in the District of Columbia.

Therefore, why not seek consensus to establish an international tribunal to prosecute individual terrorists and incarcerate them from society for life?

Never happen. You know why? Ideas like this:

I sincerely believe in order to make America safer against terrorism we have to take a serious look at why we were attacked in the first place. If it is a matter of behavior, then we need to alter that behavior.

Thats kinda like dealing with a bully who lives down the street. Every time you walk by his house on the way to school, he pounds you.
But instead of standing firm and defending yourself, you just choose another route to get to school. The bully won.

Not to mention the fact that terrorists have a history of doing nasty things to provoke governments into releasing their "brothers."


There is no equation. There never is when it comes to human life, which has a value not estimable in dollars or any other measure.

But I will go so far as to say that the Constitution enacts a structure of government that has served us well enough for a good long while. The president is not empowered to act outside of its mandate. If there is some new threat that demands the president have new powers outside the Constitution's framework, then by all means let's give it to him... just as soon as the Constitution is amended according to the rules the Constitution itself lays out governing amendments. If that process is too slow or too politically uncertain, that's just too damn bad.

No one in this country, most especially the president, is authorized to ignore the Constitution's checks and balances for any reason, including perceived threats to our very survival. That road might be paved with good intentions but still lead to a bad place.

"... most people see the relative threats differently."

That may be. It wouldn't be the first time that I didn't agree with "most people". Besides, "most people" are wrong a good bit of the time, so there's no reason "most people" shouldn't be wrong about this too.

"I'm sure, though, that you're right and we're all headed for the gulag. Liberal paranoia, indeed!"

Funny, I don't recall saying anything of the sort, nor anything that was especially liberal. I think maybe you should read a bit more carefully.

Allan L.,
My wording was poor. “The governmental taking of property from one private owner to give to another in furtherance of economic development constitutes a permissible "public use" under the Fifth Amendment. The Supreme Court of Connecticut affirmed.”
Then the Supreme Court of the United States backed this ridiculous decision up.

"I'm sure it fits your political agenda to characterize Al Quaida as idiots and 'cave dwellers' whom the Bush callously used for political gain but are you implying that 'we' should have used more military force to 'wipe those guys out'? Should we still?"

1. Not being a politician or in a position of power, I do not have a political agenda. I have a political view. And, no, they are not the same thing.

2. AQ are currently, literally, cave dwellers.

3. I am suggesting that wiping out AQ is not really this administration's concern. We could have done that already. And, yes, we should have done that when we had the chance.

4. Yes, Argon is a gas (and a forest, etc.)One that is used to create light. As in light bulbs. You know, that thing that pops up above your head when you get a good idea. Haven't really seen any in this administration over the years, so maybe you've forgotten what they look like.

If you’re for the war in Iraq, I’d avoid the “bully down the street” and other neighborhood imagery. This is how the preemptive war doctrine would sound on the block: “I believed my neighbor had, or was going to get, some weapons that he intended to use on me, so I broke into his house and killed him first.” If you did that in the neighborhood, they’d call it a crime, especially if it turned out your neighbor didn’t have the weapons and was not planning to attack you after all.

Jon--You've unwittingly made his point. The US is the bully in this arrangement (how a military and economic superpower could be bullied by a poor minority would be beyond me)--which is exactly how the radicals see it. They're tired of seeing fellow Muslims roll over, so they're fighting back the only way they feel they can. I think they're all nutbags, but to ignore where the rage is coming from is just plain stupid if you wish to cure the problem.

I agree with Alan about the wisdom in the Constitution. It's full of stuff to avoid government abuses that piss people off. People have always fought governments that piss them off. The President acts like the Constitution is a legal obstacle, but you can't get around it because it reflects human nature. When the President evesdrops, he undermines the peoples' consent to be governed. Wouldn't it be strange if that's what he wants?

Bill Macdonald:
I couldn't let the point pass about which court it was, since it makes such a difference in the effect of the decision. And, to pull us back to the original topic, let me just remind myself and others how much the new Chief Justice has deferred to the executive branch of the federal government on matters relating to privacy, civil liberties, and the like. New publications of Alito papers would put him in pretty much the same pigeonhole.
Allan L.


I guess you don't read all the comments on a post or you would have encountered "the paranoia of liberals" in the first few. But that's OK; you can admonish me if you like - irony was never my strong suit.

I was applying the phrase to your fevered view of the threats posed by the celebrated NSA wiretapping. (Hence the reference to the gulag - they're listening to us now)

Despite your disclaimers, I find your views extreme. Further, since it's "most people" who are threatened by possible strikes from AQ or others of their ilk, the issue is not whether they're right or wrong. The issue is whether they would consider reasonable your take on the relative threat to the Constitution. Other people's money is one thing - other people's lives are quite another.

If they're "right", the damage may be undone; If they're "wrong", they may be dead - which is a bad place.

Moving from the theoretical and to the practical here and now, eavesdropping on calls to or from overseas wherein terrorist activity is being planned infringes on your or my rights exactly how? In my mind's eye, it'd be a high crime and impeachable offense if Bush didn't have the NSA monitoring these calls. Better get back to the eggnog Jack, and leave the deep thinking to those equipped to do it.

Better get back to the eggnog Jack, and leave the deep thinking to those equipped to do it.

Enjoy your permanent banishment from this blog.

calls to or from overseas wherein terrorist activity is being planned

How do they know what's going to be discussed before the discussion takes place? It's just a guess at that point, and under the Bill of Rights, the guess has to be justified. That's why we have a FISA court.

If that's all he was doing, Jay, he would have had no problem going to the FISA court and I don't think folks would have had a problem with it. The fact he didn't go to court tells me he knew they wouldn't give him what he wanted because he wasn't just monitoring calls to and from overseas locations.

Add to this his current game of Hocus Pocus Corpus with Padilla (like McVeigh and Kaczynski before him, an American citizen), and our president is establishing a dangerous legal pattern.


Given that your comment was addressed to me and everything else in it responded to stuff that I said, it seemed obvious that you were calling me a paranoid liberal. Apparently I needed to advise you to write better, not read better. :-)

"... threats posed by the celebrated NSA wiretapping.

Sigh. As others have said, it's not the wiretapping that's the problem. The problem is that Congress created a very easy and sure way for the Executive to get a timely Judicial warrant to conduct the surveillance, but the executive branch chose to forgo warrants on the president's sole authority. This is an authority that the president does not have. There must be some sort of check on this sort of power, or pretty soon we'll get a president ordering a wiretap of the opposition party's offices.

Oh, wait... that happened already, didn't it? Isn't that why Congress created the FISA court in the first place?

Abuse of executive power is a problem larger than any particular administration. Any party that captures the White House will be tempted. What protects us all is the president's respect for the rule of law. If that respect and deference is lacking, all manner of nasty things could go on... and most likely, the victims of these potential abuses would never know they'd been had.

"The issue is whether they would consider reasonable your take on the relative threat to the Constitution."

Did I say mine was the only view? I'm not trying to tell people to see it my way. I'm trying to tell them that their fear of al qeida is probably overblown. Once people realize that they are far more likely to die from an auto accident than from terrorism, they might be empowered to make choices that more closely reflect the actual threats they face.

While most of the preceding posts have dealt with the NSA wiretapping fiasco, people seem to have lost the over-riding theme of Jack's most elegant commentary--that is, that the Bush administration is seeking to put is in a state of permanent war, much as described in Orwell's 1984.

Fortunately, I don't think the American public is buying it, but I wonder how far Cheney and Co. will go to sell it.

The Justice's have not said that Congress does not have the power to encroach into supposed Presidential prerogatives via legislation or by withholding appropriations. It is in the never-never-land of the political question doctrine and it is a truism that vacuums of authority seem to be filled by someone, even if by default.

I had thought that the bigger fear had been that Congress would -- in our framework-- become too overbearing upon the Presidency. Suppose Congress declared War On Blank (Mary Jane or whatever); and then the President said nope, not on my watch.

I don't think we can squeeze ego out of man. You just superimpose one ego against another in a sort of Hail Mary pass and hope that all will be well. Self-emasculation is not part of the formula.

Who's fault is it if Congress declares War on the Bill of Rights?

When drawing up sides on the topic of War on Terror, logic begs these two paralell questions:

January 8, 1984: President Lyndon Johnson declares War On Poverty during his State of the Union speech. Is it over & have we declared victory?

Since the 1960's the War On Drugs has been under stewardship and repeatedly acknowledged by both party administrations occupying the White House, trying to quell an estimated $400 billion industry worldwide. Is it over and have we declared victory?

oops, meant to say January 8 1964.

Need more of that Stumptown Coffee before posting.

I recently reread “1984” online and the parallels are so startling that I’m convinced it is used by President Bush’s handlers as a textbook for how to govern. The Clean Air Initiative and the Healthy Forests Initiative are classic examples of Orwellian doublespeak. How about the use of slogans? Orwell would have loved President Bush’s recent speech backdrop with the phrase “Plan For Victory” repeated over and over again, like the book’s “Ignorance Is Strength” or “War Is Peace.” Then there’s the Proles: the large underclass kept in line by appealing to their primitive form of patriotism and by offering them a chance to win the lottery. There is also a policy of torture, although our President uses secret prisons, instead of 1984’s building, entitled the Ministry of Love.
There was also one coincidence that stood out in the book. Orwell was describing a hopeless, party suck-up. One of those people who can’t wait to spout off about the glorious talking points of the day, with all his heart. Think Lars Larson. When the word comes down to defend Christmas, suddenly you’re a Bible-quoting Mother Theresa. I doubt if Lars’ old friends remember him being all that religious.
Anyway, the character in the book is referred to as one of the “drudges” the ruling party counts on. It gave a whole new meaning to the Drudge Report.

Interesting discussion, but I'm surprised no one has commented on the most elegant point made - Jack, your K-Swiss post was fantastic.



I was and am referring to your comments as those of a "paranoid liberal"; albeit a somewhat obtuse one. In fact, I'll add "dangerous" to my list of adjectives. As for advising me to "write better", these comments exist within a context, whether I type "Alan" at the top or not. In this milieu, writing "better" is a judgement call.

The "celebrated NSA wiretapping", despite your semantic side-step, is indeed the issue. It certainly is the action which precipitated your personal Constitutional crisis. If, of course, your concerns are based more on THIS president than ANY president, then your crisis is political; not to mention cynical.

Blithe assertions about the ease of use and timeliness of the FISA court, are self-serving and have been contended by presidents and their AG's and counsels for years before W. They conveniently ignore the subject of possible Congressional intrusion (e.g., creation of the FISA court) upon the Constitutional powers of the Executive Branch. These points have not yet been resolved by our favorite branch. As issues such as Jack's about the nature and definition of "war"and uses of new technology are still evolving, the likelihood is that resolution my take a while. Until then, a threat exists (and I'm not referring to auto accidents) and W is trying to respond in the best way he can.

If you doubt his sincerity, as you obviously doubt the relative severity of the threat from AQ, nothing I can say will change your mind. That's what it boils down to. It's just that a president doesn't have the luxury of dealing with a threat to the nation's security in the abstract in a blog (however wonderful the blog).

Finally, don't claim you're not trying to tell people to see it your way and then contradict yourself in the next sentence. With a very few exceptions, everyone here IS trying to tell people to see it their way - that's the point.

I think.


Just curious, what Constitutional powers of the Executive branch are intruded upon by the FISA court? Sounds like an interesting point to consider.

The system of checks and balances has always been a little rough around the edges and rarely entirely even; the Executive "contends" a great many things in order to retain (or expand) power for itself, as of course do the Legislative and Judicial branches. Ultimately, though, most of those issues are more or less settled via the Supreme Court (as regards Constitutional powers, anyhow) so it seems like judicial oversight of damn near everything (but especially the Executive) is de rigueur, hence a FISA court doesn't seem especially out of line no matter how it was created. But I'm open to other points of view.

As for doubting W's sincerity... I'd just like to interject (as I said earlier) that sincerity isn't really the issue. I'm sure you're familiar with where that proverbial road paved with good intentions leads... ;-)

By the way, while the point about auto accidents is a bit of a diversion, there is a particularly relevant aspect to it -- which is that it highlights the hypocrisy in all the hoopla about "what is a life worth" as justification for taking whatever actions the President deems necessary. If lives were what was really important, then objectively/numerically speaking there are far worse dangers to Americans than AQ or any other terrorist group, auto accidents being a prime example. Or how about a "War on Cancer" if we really want to save lives?

Ah, but auto accidents don't cause nearly the economic devastation that 9-11 did... so perhaps (one might conclude) it's not as important to save American lives as to protect American assets?

Just something to chew on.


Well, fair enough. I see your point, I think. If you sinceerely believe that Congress's creation of the FISA court in the first place represented a legislative intrusion into executive power, then there's not a heck of a lot of room for agreement between us. [shrug] I think you're wrong to trust all potential presidents with so much unchecked power, but you knew that. :-)

Given that disagreement, I'm downright delighted that you consider me "dangerous".

(By the way, I really should thank you for demonstrating so vividly that some supporters of this administration consider the excercize of free political speech to be dangerous. If I had said such a thing unsupported, it would have been just paranoid ravings. But to see you say it, well... how clear is that? Should I be expecting a warrantless wiretap soon to help expose all those tainted by my dangerous ideas?)

I’m going to add another reason I think blogs like this are worthwhile: They help you solidify your own views on a subject. Here is my conclusion on what I think is really happening: The Right Wing in this country has turned into wimps, sell-outs, and cowards. They would rather give up cherished American freedoms if it will increase their security. A lot of good people died fighting to get us those freedoms, and a lot more Americans died on distant shores to preserve them. Are we going to give up our rights to privacy, among other things, because of a terrorist group? “But what if a free society makes it easier to be attacked?” Well, that’s the price our parents and grandparents paid. Why should we get a pass? We’ve enjoyed our freedoms, and we shouldn’t surrender them, just because 9/11 made us scared. We should pass them on to the next generation, unblemished by this series of wretched Presidential power grabs. If the terrorists strike again, those Americans in the area should answer the call the best they can. Republicans delight in saying, “Freedom is not free” to defend the Iraq War. Well, that applies here as well. Stop wimping out.

Jack and Everyone,

I presume most of you have not worked for Federal government, so let me fill you in on a secret: nothing happens within minutes and seconds.

The argument that the Executive Branch needs to avoid "a number of bureaucratic steps," is laughable. Anyone who has worked in the spy/military comlex knows (1) the specific targeting proposal comes from below, and (2) the authorization comes from above. This process takes time and I know for a fact that the decision making process takes more time than it takes to go to the FISA court.

After 9/11 I attended a government intelligence law conference and I can represent that FISA warrants were handed out like candy the day the FBI brought the request to the court through the special prosecutor liaison at Dept of Justice.

As far as the Bill or Rights or Constitution argument, people need to be careful in presuming they have a right of privacy to email or cell phone conversations under the law. Appellate courts began limiting the rights of privacy in electronic communications long before 9/11. Nobody complained so long as it was a drug dealer looking for a "loop-hole" on appeal, but now that the net has been cast wider....well, as Niemoller supposedly said:

When they came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out


You're on the list with all the others.

You know who you are.

So do we ;-)

BTW; David, your comment raises a question;

Where do all the roads paved with BAD intentions lead?

Where do all the roads paved with BAD intentions lead?

Uh... I don't think it's a road... it's an AERIAL TRAM...

(Sorry, couldn't help pandering to the cliche du site... but I draw the line at inserting a [rim shot]...)

OK, but seriously... you and I both know that the proverb doesn't say that all roads paved with good intentions lead to hell... my point was that good intentions alone are no defense of or excuse for doing wrong. A person who means well when attempting to put out a kitchen grease fire with water can still do more harm than good, for example...


OK, but seriously... it was a joke, but I think you're on to something with the tram...

In the words of my favorite philosopher and deep thinker, Bill the Cat...


Reading Travis' post reminds me of the left's love affair with rediculous analogy's. What drivel...Instead of bitching about the interception of communications with terrorists or terrorist organizations and posting such drivel, one should be happy that the nation is doing something to prevent terrorist attack in the US. If we had taken such steps before 9/11, we may have been able to stop the deaths of so many innocent Americans. Remember that the Patriot act cured the problems caused by the liberals' halt to CIA and FBI interagency intelligence gathering. These idiots who fear the CIA more than whacko moslems remind me of a world turned upside down.
I could care less if some resident moslem is overheard talking about the price of camels in Egypt if it allows us to prevent one terrorist attack. IT is time the pinheads grew up. This is serious business and people are dying out there. One should ask the living victims of Islamo-terrorism how they feel about such monitoring.

Oh, sorry..I forgot the most whacko of all the responses: the terrorists can only kill us; it is far worse to have the government intercept certain communications.

Someone needs to get those oars back in the water. "Death before terrorist bugging" Is that the battle cry? How about..."Tapping my phone; I'd rather be killed"?

What a crock...

Mr. Wade-

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"-Patrick Henry, March 23, 1775.

"What country before ever existed a century & a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon & pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it's natural manure." -Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787.

Alas that your rants were not constructed so well as to merit any other reply. Do feel free to try better.

First, thank you, Alan DeWitt. Second, I believe we all will have a better chance of living long healthy lives, if we keep America free. Bad things happen to people in police states. Third, the reason we are the only surviving super-power is that the Soviet Union imploded economically, and that was because their system wasn’t based on freedom. We will hit our current debt ceiling of $8.184 trillion in less than 2 months. President Bush will probably double the debt to 10 trillion in his time in office. The Soviets had a disastrous war in Afghanistan that accelerated their demise, much as Iraq has hurt us. Plus, they tortured people in gulag prisons, much as we’ve done. The only thing that can keep us afloat is our freedom. Don’t give it away cheaply. Others paid a high price to give it to you.

Alan et al.,

Here's a take on the subject with excerpts from an interview with Professor Cass R. Sunstein of Chicago:


Just ignore, if you're able, the other stuff, and concentrate on the comments from "one of yours". It's refreshing (to me, at least) to read this from one who actually knows about the subject.

From the apologists for our current "government" in this thread (the late unmentionable j-bird, rickyragg and ron wade, in particular), all we get is bloviators proffering rants and insults. Can't anybody do a better job of defending what's being done in our name? Or is it utterly indefinsible?

One whack with the ruler, self-adminsitered, for indefensible slackness in proofreading.

The terrorists would have to be living in a hole for the past few years to think that their electronic communications aren't being monitored. Oh, wait...

Seriously, isn't anyone upset that the President's ultra-secret plan to avoid another terrorist attack is having hundreds of "intelligence" officers evesdrop on conversations? That's all he can come up with? That's the best use of resources? We're doomed with such a retarded strategy.


You'll note that the word "illegal" is only used four times* in this thread. As TTM said, "...if the president can do it legally, then fine, there’s nothing to be done. If it’s illegal then he must realize he is NOT above the law. If it takes a few more bureaucratic steps to do it legally then take those steps."

If the law allows the president to do this, as it may well do, then the matter will fade away. If not, it might bring down this president. Either way, I think it is right up against the line of acceptable presidential power.

The problem with secret warrantless searches, by the way, is simply that there is no dispassionate party looking over the executive's shoulder to confirm that the search is, in fact, a reasonable one. The NSA has a vast capacity for data gathering and mining. Should it be secretly turned to domestic dictatorial ends, it would be a terrible force indeed. I don't really fear, as some do, that this president is bent on seizing dictatorial power. Yet it is not unreasonable to think that some future president may be. Judicial oversight through the use of warrants is one good defense against such a thing ever occuring.

[*:] Six now.

Let's review what this President thinks he's allowed to do: Arrest citizens as enemy noncombatants, torture them, try them in executive tribunals, and execute them, all without judicial or congressional oversight. In short, President Bush decides what he is allowed to do. The real question is why we've given him a pass up till now. We shouldn't have to pay because George Bush didn't study the difference between a president and a dictator in school.

I've really enjoyed the back and forth in this thread about those who would accept the calculated risk of dieing in a terrorist attack in order to maintain their individual freedom, and those who would rather live in a ultra secure police state and accept the calculated risk of becoming falsly accused and locked up w/ no legal recourse. It's true that we will more likely die in an auto accident then end up in a plane piloted by crazed hijackers, and as long as we keep our heads low it's unlikely we'll find ourselves in a cement cell in Guantanamo. Freedom isn't free and as long as someone else is making the sacrifice to maintain it I'm okay even if you're f*****. For once I'm glad I'm not 18 but I do have a couple of boys though that will be in a shorter time then I care to think about and the conduct of this war and the very rapid slide into this Orwellian nightmare keeps me up at night (sometimes)worried about them not me. It's not so much where we are, but where we are going that scares me. I also remember that 'Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose' or something to that affect.

Two thoughts:

One, the words "data mining" were, I believe, used. This set up a HUGE red flag with me when I started thinking about how the government can gain a substantial amount of information from each of us simply by using the same data mining techniques used by spanners and hackers. To make matters worse, I am not entirely sure there is a law in place to stop such activities. Is this simply Liberal Paranoia or concept based on a viable hypothesis?

Secondly, as Hussein stands trial for his wartime (and peacetime) crimes, it has struck me that Bush has done very similar things -- granted, nowhere as offensive as Hussein & Sons' sprees but I am sure there are Iraqis and Iranians that may consider Bush's actions these past six years as criminal acts. If they were to raise charges, I am sure America would simply brush it off but still -- more paranoia?

It reminds me of a line from a U2 song. You become a monster so the monster will not break you

Has Bush become a monster to "protect America" or are we simply seeing two similar forces come to a head?

To echo Wallflower's post, I have a daughter that just turned fifteen. I was in the Army (during Desert Storm -- didn't go over, luckily) and her mother was in the Navy. She is currently in the Navy JROTC program and will, quite possibly, join the military service upon graduation of high school. Now, that's 3 years away-- normally I'd not be worried that much but now, with what's going on here and there, I sincerely doubt we'll be any closer to a resolution than we are now, or were on September 12, 2001.

I have to admit, I haven't read "1984" and now I am probably not going to; from what I can understand, everything to just too similar -- it would drive me nuts in no time.

Sadly, those of us with children reaching that age (who aren't millionaires, celebrities, or politicians) have to face the possibility that our children will be involved in this war, either by choice or by law.

Frankly, it scares the crap outta me!

On a lighter note, I just came across these "Most memorable Bushisms of 2005."

I thought some of you may enjoy.

"See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda," Bush said in explaining his communications strategy last May.

"I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" Bush asked in a note to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting in September.

"This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous. And having said that, all options are on the table," Bush said in Brussels last February.

"In terms of timetables, as quickly as possible – whatever that means," the president said of his timeframe for passing Social Security legislation in March.

"Those who enter the country illegally violate the law," Bush said in describing illegal immigrants in Tucson, Arizona, last month.

And, of course, leading them all was:

"Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job"

Regarding warcrimes, Congress ratified the UN treaty that essentially says that it's illegal for a country to attack another unless it's done in self-defense. An imminent WMD attack was the self-defense justification for invading Iraq. Since no WMD were found, maybe the President could argue that his suspicion of imminent attack was reasonable. But now, all this stuff has come out that he was planning to invade Iraq when he became President and that there was never any good reason to believe that Iraq was a threat. Thus, the President committed the supreme crime of aggression, and he and his group could be charged as war criminals. If Iraq falls into civil war, then I bet they will, in absentia, after 2008.


The distinction is, indeed, whether Bush's actions are "...right up against the line of acceptable presidential power" or over that line.

That's a legal question which will, no doubt, be resolved soon.

The "..acceptable..." part is where it gets tricky - there's a tipping point. Your definition of acceptable is personal - so is mine. I maintain that the tipping point for you and others here, (too numerous to mention, alas!) is adjustable according to which president is asserting this presidential power.

In other words, you dangerous fiend, although I tentatively accept your disclaimer about "...this president('s)..." ambitions, some others here show their true colors proudly.

P.S. When you find a dispassionate person, please give him or her a decent burial.

P.P.S. Please tell bill to stop flagellating the deceased equine.



It's not really all that adjustable in my view, although your speculation might be correct with regards to others here.

(At least if you're talking about party affilliation, anyway... the behavior of a particular occupant of the office obviously will enter into the picture. Yet even that is only a matter of degree. I think it is fair to say that, given the nature of the job and those who seek it, all presidents can be expected to push the limits of their power... some more than others. This one seems to be on the more pushy side.)

I'll be happy to criticize a liberal president for the same things if you'll just help elect one. Might I suggest Mr. Kucinich? :-)

Also, please keep in mind that whatever powers this president gets, all who follow are likely to have as well. That could mean Hillary Clinton, Pat Robertson, Vera Katz, or Bill McDonald. Ya just never know. I'm not willing to blindly trust all possible future presidents with more unchecked powers... the office is quite potent enough already.

(As for Mr. McDonald, I am not aware that I have any ability to restrain him... nor any desire to find out.)

I wonder how many of the "death before terrorist evesdropping" self-serving (patriots) have ever been in a war or faced death. My guess is none. If anyone who knows what it is like to fight a war would rather be killed than allow the government to intercept the subject communications, they need to check into the nearest funny farm.
The sad truth is that the left has had its hat handed to it so many times by this President that it has gone insane. The cries of "Hitler", "Nazi", "King", and "war criminal" evidence that there are far too many toys in the attic...

It is sad that grown (this is an assumption) men and women would feel so beaten down another that they simply cannot keep from sinking deeper and deeper into irrationality. As the President's ratings go higher and higher, as the democratic party continues to stick its foot in its mouth, the left lashes out. They fail to recognize that in doing so, they only invite further defeats. The President doesn't apologize. He goes on the offensive against the whacko left and asks the people what they would prefer. Would they prefer that he halt further terrorists attacks or fret and worry about intercepting a message intended for a terrorist's cook?

The people are speaking and, as usual, the hate Bush crowd is in the minority. You might want to consider that this is the reason the left cannot win elections anymore. The people of America support the death penalty; they support parental notification; they support a ban on certain late term abortions; they support welfare reform; they support tax cuts; they support an end to onerous restrictions on land use. Instead of learning from the voters, he left shakes its head and complains that the masses are simply too ignorant to understand what is best for them.
But I am afraid the constant beating has already taken its toll. As the country marches on behind its President and his conservative majority, we will hear more and more cries of hitler, nazi, war criminal, and dummy from what has become a diminishing minority of losers who can only gnash their teeth and bitch and moan as the world seems to pass the by. Ain't life grand?

"keep from sinking deeper and deeper into irrationality. As the President's ratings go higher and higher, "

Did I miss something? Latest I heard, his pools are still declining.

er... Polls are declining... who cares about his pools?

Ok, last post for the year... HAPPY NEW YEAR, Y'all!


I don't believe anyone in the executive branch said a WMD attack was "imminent." What Powell, Cheney, Rumsfield said was, in essence, "9/11 fundamentally changed the status quo; therefore, we can no longer trust Saddam's regime to manage his WMD arsenal." I don't necessarily disagree with that assessment.

On the "legality" of the war, your analysis, if accurate, would mean that President Clinton and the bulk of the NATO leadership from France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, and Netherlands would all be "war criminals" for their war of aggression on Serbia without a UN Security Council Resolution.

Yet, the bulk of the West feels the war was justified. So, is justification tantamount to legality in international conflict? If so, is the war in Iraq illegal (as compared to Kosovo)because it isn't justified?

I suspect the answer on legality and justification is the sum of a president's int'l and domestic credibility plus his ability to articulate a reason for the use of force.

IMHO the real question is: what would a different president have done to solve the Iraq problem given the premise a post 9/11 world could not tolerate the status quo in Iraq?

That speculative answer is necessary before we can understand the reasonableness or legality of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq.


I served in the Army for 14 yrs and I was deployed three times to the Middle East, most recently a year in Iraq during the invasion. I was in Baghdad in Apr 03 when it fell. I went on daily missions into every sector of Baghdad trying to do my job against the odds. Three of my friends are buried in Arlington, two of whom I had dinner with the night before they were blown to bits over Tikrit. My oldest son read the obituaries in the Stars and Stripes every morning before school....

Speaking for myself, I went to Iraq truly believing it was so my countrymen and countrywomen could walk free without looking over their shoulders in fear. I also went to Iraq so the Iraqis could enjoy the same potential for freedom if they so choose. Yet, I wake up many nights second-guessing myself.

But I never went to Iraq so my country could restrict the liberties of my fellow citizens without at least taking 5 minutes to get a warrant. And I can represent that my friends would probably find it equally reprehensible.

Alan, you dangerous, psychotic, partisan demon,

Will you guys please stop brandishing the "nuclear option" of Hillary as president (I can't even allow myself to think about Pres. Katz). This is supposed to be a civilized dialogue. ;-)

Other prezzes(!?!) of different political persuasions than W have made the same or very similar assertions of Executive power back in the last century (God - I'm old). We survived them unscathed (at least I did, except for the metal in my left knee).

You are a perfect example of the checks and balances inherent in the people, not the government, of this country. The people will be heard. Now more than ever. Ultimately, any governmental actions which contravene the will of the people seriously enough or for long enough will be redressed by them.

All the laws in the world don't equal the power of those who have known freedom and defended it for so long (relatively speaking).

Internal or external, we won't tolerate oppressors. We will throw them off at whatever the cost.

Trust us, trust yourself.

I think we've got the hang of it.

Have faith. (note the small "f")

This sermon brought to you by Bridgeport IPA.

Oh, yeah, Thos. Jefferson thought it the DUTY of all citizens to arm themselves - I wonder why?

Appearing in the same blog thread as you, is an honor. Thanks. --Bill McDonald

"This is supposed to be a civilized dialogue."

Just makin' sure you're scared of the right things. :-)

Just think what an honor it was to go to kindergarten with him!

(Turns out I know this particular Travis. Small world!)

Travis is a bright and thoughtful guy with better credentials to speak about the war than I'll ever have.

I feel rather sheepish about my last post; I should have slept on it. But thanks Bill.

Jack - Sometimes I feel more like a dolt who should have read Remarque more.

As far as Alan...well, out of a graduating class of 400+, he single-handedly had 80% of the collective brain power.

The question to Travis is: Would you prefer to be killed by terrorists or have communications between suspected terrorists intercepted without obtaining a warrant?

With respect to one's service record having anything to do with political acumen, they have no relationship whatsoever. I served in VN and learned virtually nothing about politics. I will endeavor to find a poll that asks current soldiers in Iraq if they mind the subject interceptions. Want to lay any bets? I remember wondering why we just didn't bomb North Vietnam back into the stone age or allow us to untie the hand they tied behind our backs. You may have seen things differently but the people I served with wanted to return home in one piece and didn't really care about how we obtained our intelligence.

Now which of the rest of this crowd was ever in combat? With so many ready to die because of a warrantless search, I am looking for heroes.

With respect to civil liberties, how many of you support the second amendment right of all law abiding citizens to own as many firearms as they wish? Or, to put it a different way, how many agree with the ACLU that there are only 9 amendments to the constitution?

How many support the right of a viable fetus to life?

How many support the right of an owner of timber land to log his timber without goverment interference?

How many support the right of the prospective father of a fetus to receive notification before the fetus is killed?

How many support partial birth abortion?

How many support the right of a public body to condemn private property for a private purpose?

Mr. Wade:

"With respect to one's service record having anything to do with political acumen, they have no relationship whatsoever."

So, what you're saying is that your earlier post (which implied that those of us who have not been in the line of fire have no room to speak) was complete crap? It's mighty kind of you to say so and save me the trouble... especially since the reasons for its crapitude are so many and various that I'd break the posting policy, if I haven't already, just telling you why.

(It's none of your business, but I'll tell you anyway: I thought about joining the Army back in 1988. I went so far as to visit the recruiting center over by Beaverton Mall and take an entrance exam. The recuiter liked my test scores, and told me I could ask for any job I wanted as soon as I'd lost 50 pounds. That was the end of that; physical fitness has never been my strong suit. I'm honestly not sure what I would have done had I physically qualified. Maybe I would have signed up, maybe not; maybe gone to Iraq, maybe stayed stateside. Who knows? In any case, it seems odd to chastise chicken-doves while giving the chicken-hawks a pass.)

Anyway, as I noted above your argument is complete crap in this case regardless of my choices. I don't need to see combat to know that it is terrible (although how terrible is surely beyond my ken), nor do I need to visit a war zone in order to prefer staying alive. I don't face your choice of allowing warrantless wiretaps or dying, because it is largely a false choice. I'm no hero, as you try to mockingly label me... I'm just not especially afraid of al qeida.

The 9/11/01 attacks killed just under 3,000 people. Auto accidents in 2001 killed just over 42,000 people in the US. Any rational person should be able to look at those numbers and realize that the worst al qeida can do to us (with conventional arms) is pretty lame. Even assuming that warrantless wiretaps stop a 9/11-sized terrorist attack each year, they would still save less lives than mandatory breathalyzer ignition interlocks in every vehicle in the US would save. (Drunk drivers killed over 7,000 in 2001.)

But that'd be too intrusive to our liberty, wouldn't it? And it hardly needs be said that you'd prefer not to intrude on our liberty enough to do anything about the 27,000 or so firearm deaths this country saw in 2001. (Over half of them self-inflicted. The source for most of my numbers above is here.)

Berate me for being willing to trade a bit of blood for liberty if you like. That's fair. Just keep in mind that I'm not alone in making such tradeoffs... the firearm liberty you advocate here represents a death toll at least five times larger than mine.

The rest of your rant is off-topic and again merits no reply. But there are two questions I can't resist asking: Why mock the ACLU when the NRA thinks there is only one amendment in the bill of rights? What good is the second amendment without the fourth?

Travis: Thanks for the compliment, but I think your estimate is *ahem* quite a bit too high. Let's call it good at "smarter than the average bear", shall we? :-)

Ron said, "The question to Travis is: Would you prefer to be killed by terrorists or have communications between suspected terrorists intercepted without obtaining a warrant?"

While we live in a digital world of 1s and 0s, life gives us more than two choices so I'm not limiting my answer to your parameters. If indeed the President thinks those are the only two options, we are in serious trouble as a society.

If the choice is, die or wiretap "suspected terrorists," then there would be probable cause to get a warrant. FISA courts, I believe, have a lower standard than probable cause, which is reasonable belief.

Wiretapping, by its very nature, is time consuming. There is no exigent emergency in wiretapping that would restrict time to the degree that someone else in the office couldn't get a warrant.

If time is really of the essence and people are in imminent danger, then I want them arrested, not spied on.

Let's cut to the chase here: In early 2003 the Bush administration used the NSA to spy on UN officials in America to monitor how they would vote on the UN resolution that paved the way for the Iraq War. President Bush was in the middle of a campaign to sell the war and needed political information. This was not a pressing National Security matter; Osama was not on the line. That makes the Abraham Lincoln exemption("Actions which otherwise would be unconstitutional, could become lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the Constitution and the Nation.") not apply. Nixon tried to use the same broad national security argument to violate the law. It didn't work, and his illegal wiretapping became one of the articles of impeachment.

MR. DeWitt: Instead of whimping out with the off topic remark, how about answering the remaining questions?

It appears that you don't have much use for the 2nd amendment. With respect to the NRA, it has taken stands for years that are consistent with a liberal interpetation of all 10 amendments. And you may want to note that it is the National RIFLE Association and that one might expect it to be more concerned with the second.

You also misunderstand the comments concerning prior military service or being in a position where death may be a real risk. This relates to the old saw about "athiests in foxholes". When people start saying they would prefer death to evesdropping, they are either lying or crazed. If you put a gun to their heads, they would, of course, ask where the headset is?

Although military service does not make one an expert on political or civil rights issues, it might help one realize that gaining intelligence by tapping someone's phone without a warrant is kosher when it is done in limited circumstances and saves lives.

With respect to choosing death over such evesdropping, I was not the one who made such statements and I take it that you agree that the posters who did are just blowing smoke.

You begin to lose it when you try to rationalize the dangers of terrorism. The argument that because highway accidents caused far more deaths than 9-11 is laughable. If you cannot see the difference between accidental death on the highway and murder of innocents, there isn't much anyone can do to return you to the real world. Your conclusion that terrorists can ONLY kill 3,000 of us at a time doesn't hunt. It is only a matter of time before terrorists will have nuclear and biological weapons at their disposal if they do not have them now. With Iran close to obtaining both delivery systems and warheads, you can bet you bibby that,unless we take military action, you will see the use of WMD within the near future. I mean nothing would give a mad moslem any greater joy than to kill hundreds of thousands of infidels including their favorite targets, women and children.
Which brings us to another question. Should the west use force to halt Iran's nuclear weapon construction? Assume for a minute that Mr A is actually as crazy as he appears to be.

Mr Wade,

Could you accept as true the notion that we are the sole World Superpower, at least for today?

Does that not imply that we are uniquely free from risk, risk to perpetuation of our society as a whole, from external military attack, let alone the lessor threat from the spastic attacks from governments that must necessarily maintain plausible deniability of responsibility?

Does that not imply then that we still retain an extraordinary luxury to preserve the full set of individual liberties that are etched into our psyche? To flip the argument over, suppose that we were number two, or three, or so on, would there ever be an opportunity for any country any where (in place or time), that could ever allow itself to experience the notion that individual rights must be preserved, as a primary premise for the formation of their collective decision-making body?

Be careful with hyperbole for it comes close to arguing that our experiment is itself based on an illogical basis, for the fear of others is too great a strain to allow for liberty, any where or any time.

(Just call me Spock, at least for the moment when I have had some sleep.)

"If you put a gun to their heads, they would, of course, ask where the headset is?"

Of course. Just as everyone who is skidding towards a traffic accident wishes they'd taken the bus that day. This is news?

"... the difference between accidental death on the highway and murder of innocents ..."

I can see the difference, but dead's dead. The difference only matters to the survivors and higher powers. For the most part, death by malice is scarier than death by random chance.

What I have tried (and possibly failed) to say is that this difference in the fear factor is a choice. We tend to fear terrorists out of all proportion to the damage they actually inflict. If we choose to do this, then the terrorists have succeeded in terrorizing us.

On the other hand, we each have the power to fear terrorists in the context of all the other threats to our lives. If we do this, we can choose to fear them only a tenth as much as we fear dying in an auto accident. (This may well be too rational for most people, but it's worth a shot.)

"Your conclusion that terrorists can ONLY kill 3,000 of us at a time doesn't hunt."

You're right. They've only killed 3,000 of us in one particular year, whereas we've lost 30,000 or more to auto accidents for 20 years running. The risk of death by terrorism is actually far, far smaller (compared to auto accidents) than I implied.

You're also right that NBC weapons have the potential to do far worse harm. (Which I previously acknowledged, but you ignored that.) Yet again, your fear is misplaced. Iran may aquire nuclear warheads and ICBMs, but North Korea has them. Their missles are estimated to have a range capable of hitting the west coast of the US.

Why are you worried about Iran? You've got far worse problems with an even nuttier regime! (Not to mention whoever mailed the anthrax letters.)

My contention is simply that if you look at the actual risks and choose a proportionate level of fear, you'll see that all the arguments of the form "wiretaps or death" are silly.

With that, I expect I'm done with this thread. It's been a nice lively discussion (including a banishment!) but I've said all here that's useful for me to say. See y'all on other threads.

Ron Wade is right.

The rest of you should count yourself lucky that Bush is exceeding your expectations for what is necessary or "legal" in terms of necessary infringements of our civil liberties. These tiny compromises are inconsequential compared to another 9/11.

Travis: I commend you for your service and your thoughtful comments. That said, you cannot speak for the majority of your brothers in arms.

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