Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bush-Gonzales Illegal Wiretaps Grounds for Impeachment

Imagine an event that looks like that above where an official is to be asked about the use of U.S. Homeland Security resources being used to silence dissent.

We are tracking people for what?


Faced with reports that the Bush Administration, based solely upon George Bush’s personal authority, has been using the National Security Agency (NSA) to electronically eavesdrop on Americans within the United States in direct violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), Bush claims that his actions are perfectly legal because as President and commander in chief, he can violate the law at his discretion and still be acting legally. He can do as he pleases, will continue to do so, and neither Congress nor the courts have any say in the matter. In other words, it’s his royal prerogative.

Passed in 1978 after the US Senate’s Church Committee investigation into the Nixon administration’s widespread abuse of U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on the anti-Vietnam war movement and other political dissidents, FISA expressly made it a crime for government officials "acting under color of law" to engage in electronic eavesdropping "other than pursuant to statute."

Getting a warrant under FISA is so quick and easy it's virtually pro forma. Instead of having to apply to a federal court, intelligence officials can get a surveillance warrant from a FISA court judge in a totally secret proceeding. They need not show "probable cause" to believe a crime is being committed but only a "reason to believe" that there might be a threat to national security, and the judge has almost no authority to reject the government's request for a warrant unless the government's request are extraordinarily unrelated, even tenuously, to national security. The court can issue a warrant in minutes; it even allows the government to go ahead and start its wiretap, then seek a retroactive warrant up 72 hours later; even longer during wartime. Since it’s inception 1979, it has declined to issue warrants only four times out of the 18,747 times the government has sought one.

Why would the President deliberately circumvent such a compliant court that was already so eager to grant him domestic surveillance warrants? As FISA warrant applications and the results of his warrantless NSA spying are secret, we can only extrapolate from his other domestic spying activities with the FBI and the Pentagon.

Two years ago, the New York Times reported that the administration is using the FBI to "collect extensive information on the tactics, training and organization of antiwar demonstrators." Then, just a few months ago, the Times reported that the FBI "has collected at least 3,500 pages of internal documents in the last several years on a handful of civil rights and antiwar protest groups." Since 9/11, the FBI has amassed 1,173 pages on the American Civil Liberties Union, the leading critic of the Bush administration's curtailment of Constitutionally protected civil liberties, and 2,383 pages on Greenpeace, a group that has vocally opposed the Bush administration's environmental policies. Other targets of the FBI have been the American Indian Movement of Colorado, Food Not Bombs, a group that provides free vegetarian food to hungry people and protests war and poverty, and United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of more than 1,000 antiwar groups.

A couple of weeks ago NBC News obtained a 400-page Pentagon document outlining the Bush administration's surveillance of anti-war peace groups. Two years ago, under the direction of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the Iraq War, the Department of Defense directed a little known agency, the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), to “establish and maintain a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of Defense.” CIFA in turn collects Threat and Local Observation Notice (TALON) reports; “non-validated domestic threat information” from military units throughout the United States that are collected and retained in a CIFA database. Among the highlights of the CIFA documents procured by NBC, in one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period, a Society of Friends meeting house in Lake Worth, Florida, where a small group of peace activists were planning a peaceful protest of military recruiting at local high schools, was infiltrated and labeled a “threat” by the U.S. military.

None of these organizations can even remotely be associated with Al Queda. Indeed, their only demonstrable commonality is their political opposition to the Bush administration. One can only conclude that George Bush evaded FISA because he was ordering surveillance operations that were so outrageous, and to put it in Constitutional terms, so "unreasonable" that even a FISA court would have rejected them; spying not on foreign terrorists to protect America from attack, but spying on American citizens lawfully exercising their Constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom to peaceably assemble, and freedom to petition their government for redress of grievances; Americans he considers his enemies.

Article 2 of the three Articles of Impeachment against Richard Nixon alleged that Nixon committed a crime “by directing or authorizing [intelligence] agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office.” There is now sufficient evidence that George Bush is doing precisely the same thing, for essentially the same reason. It’s well past time for Congress to act, and stop obsequiously abdicating its Constitutional authority and responsibility while it still has some to exercise.

"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
William Pitt, 1783

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”
Benjamin Franklin

"You don't get everything you want. A dictatorship would be a lot easier."
George Bush, Governing Magazine, July 1998

“If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator."
George Bush, CNN, Dec. 18, 2000

Of course with this administration's secrecy, expect some serious stone walling!

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