ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Are We At War?

It seems that this is a point that is in dispute by many on the Left. While they may pay lipservice to the War On Terror, they laugh at its implications... Yes, perhaps it should have been called the War on Islamofascism, but I think that the nuanced position of the administration (that we're against radical Islam that seeks to destroy the west through terrorist means and establish a caliphate) would be lost on the Muslim world (who would see such language as War On Islam). And there's little doubt that the New York Times would paint the same picture as Al Jazeera - inciting the entire Muslim world against us.

Anyway, as Jeff Goldstein points out in this EXCELLENT POST, the answer to this question will likely have an impact on your perception on Bush's super-secret NSA wiretaps of foreign terrorists.

If you think the "War On Terror" is primarily one for law enforcement (local, state, federal, and Interpol (LOL!)), then it's likely that you view terrorists as criminal suspects, requiring Miranda rights and protections against overzealous prosecution (such as viewing the capture of John Walker Lindh in Afghanistan as being a case of entrapment - ie but for the US becoming involved in Afghanistan, li'l Johnny wouldn't have raised arms against the US).

Jeff's post at Protein Wisdom is great and is a must read:

As Dale Franks argues in his rebuttal of fellow QandA contributor Jon Henke:
Where the problem would come in—and I think it’s the only area that would be problematic—would be if the president was conducting the warrantless surveillance of citizens who could not, in fact, be shown to have contact with hostile foreign powers. Or, conversely, if these surveillance wiretaps were to be introduced as evicence in a criminal proceeding. In that case, I think the warrantless wiretaps would certainly have to be thrown out.

Absent that, it seems to me that the relevant case law, while not precisely on point, gives the president an excellent argument in support of his actions to conduct such surveillance, purely for intelligence-gathering purposes.

On several fronts, then, the legal question is murky (and the paradigm you choose will affect the degree of murkiness you see)—but there should be no doubt that, wherever you come down on that front, simply that there is a compelling legal argument to be made on the President’s behalf, coupled with the fact that he acted on the advise of counsel, engaged in 45 day oversight reviews with the FISA Court, and briefed congressional leaders, will be enough to militate in the President’s favor. When all the facts come out, the Dems will look either weak or confused—and worst of all, they will have tied themselves, in the public mind, to the leakers.

Which is why today we are seeing such a furious attempt to paint the leakers as “truth tellers” combatting the excesses of a rogue administration.

But it won’t fly. And once again, the Democratic leadership has painted itself into an undesireable corner. Should they press the issue, things will only get worse, I predict—unless, of course, the Administration truly was misusing the surveillance for unrelated domestic purposes, an idea that depends on a wide ranging conspiracy that only takes place in the minds of the most feverishly deluded anti-Bush progressives.

While the Dems and their propaganda arm call for the impeachment of the President (and incorrectly and prejudicially refer to the President's order as "illegal"), it's unlikely that the public will call for Bush's head because he sought out information which has prevented terrorist attacks in the past four years.

If you wrote this up as an episode of 24, the West Wing, or even Commander-In-Chief for cying out loud, I think the public would be rooting for the President, not the yapping Dems. And that, my friends, is all you need to know about the political implications of this story. Bush holding up pictures of radical, Islamofascists caught or killed in this War On Terror because of information from these NSA intercepts vs. Reid calling for their civil liberties under a Constitution (which the terrorists view as evil incarnate) to be extended to them.

See Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute and Michelle Malkin for more.

Also see some excellent research by Kevin Alyward over at Wizbang:
In the far corners of the Internet, the NSA's domestic spying capability is hardly news. In one section in a rambling history of the program the applicability of FISA is discussed.
Within the United States, FISA still leaves the NSA free to pull into its massive vacuum cleaner every telephone call and message entering, leaving, OR TRANSITING the country.

By carefully inserting the words "by the National Security Agency" into the FISA legislation, the NSA has skillfully excluded from the coverage of the FISA statute as well as the surveillance court all interceptions received from the British GCHQ or any other non-NSA source.

Thus it is possible for GCHQ to monitor the necessary domestic circuits and pass them on to the NSA through the UKUSA Agreement, giving them impunity to target and watch-list Americans.

While there may be debate about whether or not such spying is appropriate, it appears that the US government (and it's allies) have specifically built a system designed to give them the capability to do this type of surveillance, and apparently to do so legally.
The wisdom of a "black" operations like this (which dates back to the 1940's) is up for debate, but trying to spin it as an invention of the Bush administration, or their use of it as "unprecedented" doesn't jibe with history.
Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler