Monthly Archives: December 2005

New Year’s Resolutions For America

With some shameful borrowing from around the blogosphere, plus some of mine own, here’s the list of New Year’s Resolutions for the entire American citizenry:

  1. Become intelligent-thinking during political campaigns so as not to be deceived by jingoistic and meaningless phrases such as "Compassionate Conservativism," "I’m an outsider," and "Mission Accomplished"
  2. Learn to distinguish between facts and opinions (including, "expert opinions")
  3. Demand that leaders ask sacrifices in difficult times of all people as equally as possible.
  4. When hearing a talking point, try to get past who is saying it, and instead, consider what is being said.  The medium isn’t the message — the message is the message.
  5. Stop dumbing down or "religionifying" debate in society on issues important to our nation. Gay marriage, security, tax fairness, and choice come to mind.
  6. Also, if something is bogus, call it bogus.  For example, intelligent design isn’t science, and we don’t have to call it "science" (or change the meaning of "science") in order to be "fair and balanced".  After calling it bogus, say why, with specific evidence.
  7. Don’t call something a war if it is not a war.  Don’t call something a threat if it is not a threat.  I’m talking about militarily, as well as culturally.
  8. Stop giving a damn who’s sleeping with whom, and what they’re doing when they’re doing it.
  9. Understand that there are people who have different viewpoints and lifestyles and religious preferences than you, and that the mere existance of such people does not in any way pose a threat to how you live your life.
  10. If you want to talk about winning the war in Iraq, explain what the victory conditions are.  What does "winning" look like?  If you can’t or won’t meet that prerequisite, then get off your soapbox and shut up.
  11. Being famous doesn’t make you better equipped to be a leader, nor does it make your opinions more newsworthy than anybody else’s.
  12. Listen to people you disagree with.  In other words, if you want to know what a "typical liberal" thinks or wants, then listen to a "typical liberal" — not Rush Limbaugh.
  13. Check your source’s sources.  If you are too lazy and/or don’t have the time, that’s cool — but then don’t opine on the subject until you are better informed.

John Avarosis Is Thinking Today

You can read his post here, or my summary below.

John points out that proponents of intelligent design argue that, even if ID is flawed, schools should "teach the controversy".  And to do that, they argue, schools need to inform students as to what intelligent design actually is.  "Give the students all the arguments for Darwinism and intelligent design, and let them make up their own minds" — that’s the battle cry.

Now as an aside, my point is that good sceince isn’t determined by a popularity contest among sixth graders.   But that’s a digression.

John takes that logic and rhetorically asks, "By the reasoning, shouldn’t children be urged to read Why Heather Has Two Mommies and other gay tolerance books that the religious right has sought to ban from schools?"  After all, if we are going to "teach the controversy" about the origins of life*, then why not "teach the controversy" regarding alternate lifestyles**?

*  Not really a controversy from a scientific standpoint, but a manufactured one

**  A real controversy, although it really shouldn’t be in this day and age

It’s Not Really A “Ceiling” If You Can Raise It At Will


Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said yesterday that the United States could be unable to pay its bills in early 2006 unless Congress raises the government’s borrowing authority, which is now capped at $8.18 trillion.

The last time Congress agreed to boost the debt limit was in November 2004 — from $7.38 trillion to the current $8.18 trillion. The government’s statutory borrowing authority was also pushed up in 2002 and 2003.

Snow’s letter did not say how much of a boost to the current debt limit the department would like to see this time.

Instead, Snow implored, "I am writing to request that Congress raise the statutory debt limit as soon as possible."

Republicans control the Congress and the White House.  Republicans.  You know, the party that supposedly is the "fiscally responsible" one?  Don’t talk to me about "tax and spend" Democrats anymore.  We cut the deficit and created a surplus.  Republicans are just borrow and spend.

Speaking Of Whistleblowers…

Craig Murray was once Britain’s Ambassador to the Central Asian Republic of Uzbekistan.  At the time, he objected — loudly — to the U.S. use of "extraordinary rendition" (and Britain’s complicity in it).  Specifically, Iraqi and Afghani war detainees were transferred by the Americans and Brits to Uzbek security forces, who extracted "torture-tainted" information.

No longer serving in the British government, Murray holds documents which show Britain’s involvement in extraordinary rendition practices.  Sensing the political ramifications (the Brits deny they use torture, too), the Foreign Office demanded that Murray send those documents back, and sought a court order to block their publication.

Sorry, chaps.  You’re too late.  Murray posted the documents on his blog today.

Here’s an example from the "Murray Torture Memos", and a good example of why torture doesn’t work.

At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family’s links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.

We should remember in all this that Uzbekistan is the last ember of the Stalinist Soviet regime, a fact which is apparently lost on Bush apologists, who love to praise Bush for his "moral clarity".

One More For The Road

Zeta_1As you probably know, there were so many hurricanes and tropical storms this year that the National Weather Service used up all of its pre-selected names and had to go to Greek names (Tropical Storm Alpha, Hurricane Beta, etc.).

Mother Nature’s still at it though, and is determined to eat her way through the Greek alphabet before the year’s end. 

Looks like she made it, too.  And just under the wire.  Here’s the link to today’s advisory about Tropical Storm Zeta (pictured right).

UPDATE:  Okay, maybe I’m wrong.  I think they skipped from Epsilon to Zeta.  Cheaters.

Cry Me A River

Leash1Reuters is reporting that Lynndie England, the U.S. soldier incarcerated for abusing detainees in Iraq (pictured right), was badly burnt in a prison kitchen accident.

Terrie England, Lynndie’s mother was very upset.

England works in the prison’s kitchen, where she suffered second- and possibly third-degree burns from being splattered with grease over her chest as she removed chickens from a tall oven, her mother, Terrie England, said in an interview.

"She was in severe pain," she said of the December 14 incident. "Everybody in the prison heard the scream."

Terrie England, who is caring for England’s infant during her incarceration, faulted prison officials for not giving better treatment during a visit to the emergency room.

"They gave her nothing," she said. "When this happened I was furious. … To think they give you nothing for pain."

Irony’s a bitch, ain’t it, Mrs. England?

On The Leap Second

Yes, we’re getting an extra second this year, or . . . um . . . next year.  Well, in between years.  Or something.

Today, Steve Martin (yes, that one), speaking in the voice of Bill O’Reilly, reacts to the leap second:

“Look, look, look, look. A leap second is a denial of everything American, of everything good, of everything moral. They’re saying we need this seconds because the earth rotates on its axis and revolves around the earth, well this is the no spin zone. So we don’t need a leap second…."

“Please, don’t let these Darwinian leap-seconders, who believe that the planets revolve around the sun, who believe that rocks are sedimentary, igneous and stalactites, who are innocent dim-wit believers in a faith bordering on hating everything religious like trees and fruitcake, yet, who don’t believe in John 7:12:45:67:89, have their say.

“But you know what I love? Dialogue. Rational dialogue which allows me to say that aliens from a Iraqi loving planet want to abolish Christmas by adding a leap second to the Darwinian anti-God year. Dialogue is what keeps the American system God-loving and anti non-God. It also keeps the anti-God loving non-Iraqi loving insurgent deniers able to voice their hideous so-called opinions over the American loving tolerant airways. And now let’s take some calls.”

The Religious Wars Get Fashionable

Truereligionheaderf_1 Two stories:

(1)  "Devilish" Jeans A Hot Seller In Sweden

Cheap Monday jeans are a hot commodity among young Swedes thanks to their trendy tight fit and low price, even if a few buyers are turned off by the logo: a skull with a cross turned upside down on its forehead.

Logo designer Bjorn Atldax says he’s not just trying for an antiestablishment vibe.

"It is an active statement against Christianity," Atldax told The Associated Press. "I’m not a Satanist myself, but I have a great dislike for organized religion."

(2)  In God We Dress

This frigid evening in mid-September, a store in Town Center called the Standard Style Boutique is supposed to secure citywide Cosmo-like credibility by nailing its first fashion show. Flumiani and his partners in the store have bet their fashion reputations on the idea that deep-pocketed nightlifers will finally grasp the allure of high-priced clothing. Flumiani wants to launch that revolution, but time is running out.

…In Kansas City, Flumiani has partnered with the Baldwins on a gamble that they could incite a similar reformation here. The team started with the Standard in Kansas. Next fall, they plan to launch their own Standard-affiliated label. Their vision is a brand made for celebrities and those who want to dress like them. Their dream is to convince change-resistant shoppers of the Midwest that their next must-have is a pair of $200 jeans from the Standard.

The catch is that they’ll promote the Standard with Christian values in an industry known for selling with skin. The models have realistic waistlines. They’re sober. And, with a standing-room-only crowd waiting inside Blonde, the novices are nervous. His new cropped pants resemble ravaged capris that might be good for river wading.

Pass the popcorn.

Wrong Investigation

The Justice Department is starting an investigation into the leak about the secret illegal NSA wiretaps.

Once again, the investigation isn’t about the wiretaps themselves, but about the leaking of the fact of the wiretaps to the press.  You know …trying to determine who the whistleblower is.


This is all a nice segue to a guest post at Bradblog by Sibel Edmonds.  Ms. Edmonds was terminated from the FBI after reporting security breaches, cover-up, and blocking of intelligence with national security implications.  Now, she’s the Director of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, and her thoughts begin as follows:

Without whistleblowers the public would never know of the many abuses of constitutional rights by the government. Whistleblowers, Truth Tellers, are responsible for the disclosure that President George W. Bush ordered unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens. These constitutional lifeguards take their patriotic oaths to heart and soul: Rather than complying with classification and secrecy orders designed to protect officials engaging in criminal conduct, whistleblowers chose to risk their livelihoods and the wrath of their agencies to get the truth out. But will they be listened to by those who are charged with accountability?

Read the whole thing.

I expect there will be a lot of comparisons in the weeks and months to come between the leak of classified information in L’Affaire Plame compared to the leak of classified information in L’Affaire NSA Wiretaps. 

Hopefully, I’m not stating the obvious, but there certainly is a salient difference between the two: the classified information exposed in the former (Valerie Plame’s CIA status) was not illegal, but the classified information in the latter (the extrajudicial NSA wiretaps) was. 

Legally-speaking, I am not sure (yet) if the federal statutes care about the res of what is leaked.  Covert means covert, regardless of whether the subject matter is covertly legal or covertly illegal.

But politically-speaking, exposing secret illegalities of the intelligence community is far more culpable then exposing the secret status of CIA members as a means to cause embarrassment to political opponents.

In any event, it will be interesting to watch Bush apologists twist and argue that the "rule of law" is important when it comes to the leak of the NSA wiretaps, but not when it comes to the actual NSA wiretaps themselves.  That’s a pretty tough tightrope act.

Vote Early And Often

World O’Crap started off with something like thirty "candidates", and through voting, it has whittled the pack down to five.

The election?  The "Ultimate Wingnut of 2005".  They are John Hindricket (of Powerline), Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Pastor J. Grant Swank, Jr., and Dr. Mike S. Adams, Ph.D.

You can read samples of their work, and vote, here.

Forever Stupid

From conservative Powerline blogger Paul Miregoff’s post "Forever Young":

Vietnam and Watergate are seminal events for almost all liberals my age. Vietnam taught them to distrust the use of force by our military, and to despise leaders who aggressively use military force in the name of the national interest. Watergate confirmed that a leader who projects military force overseas for that purpose can be expected to usurp power at home.

These "lessons" were rejected by most baby-boomers even at the time of Vietnam and Watergate. And despite the dominance of Vietnam and Watergate-obsessed boomers in academia, subsequent generations have found the lessons even less worth learning.

Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.

Interestingly, Paul does not explain exactly why he rejects those lessons.  He just does.  Apparently, it is delusion-based, as evidenced by his next paragraph:

The Democratic party, however, has not just learned the lessons, it has internalized them. And to its great detriment. The electoral tide turned against the Democrats during the Vietnam era, and hasn’t turned back. One can argue that the Vietnam/Watergate syndrome — fear of the exercise of American power based on profound distrust of our military, our government, and our motives — is the main cause of the decline of the Democrats.

I don’t know exactly what data points Paul is employing here.  Sure Bush was elected President twice, but barely both times (and it’s still questionable as to the first time).  Prior to that there was eight years of Clinton.  "Electoral tide" that "hasn’t turned back"??  This strikes me as typical conservative if-I-say-it-then-it-must-be-true reasoning.

Paul also ignores the rise in libertarianism, a movement based on "profound distrust" of government.  While that movement hasn’t inured to the benefit of Democrats, it hasn’t helped mainstream conservatism either.

Many liberals seem not to dispute this. In fact, they acknowledge the "failure" of most Americans to embrace "harsh truths," and see this as further evidence that something is wrong with our country ("what’s wrong with Kansas?").

The book is called What’s The Matter With Kansas, and it’s not a book wherein liberals say something is "wrong" with the country — it’s about how conservatives have successfully caused people to vote against their own self-interest.  Conservatives are able to do this by, in part, spreading false information much like Paul’s own post.

Paul says later:

But the Democrats (Hillary Clinton aside) are psychologically incapable, after so long in the wildnerness, of "letting the game come to them." Or perhaps they understand that Iraq is not Vietnam. Thus, they overreach — being too quick to compare Iraq to Vietnam, to eager to insist that we are failing there, and too quick to cry foul over domestic spying that targets mass murderers, not Larry O’Brien and Daniel Ellsberg. And the public recoils.

"Public", to Paul, apparently means "me, the people I associate with, and the people I see on Fox News".  Paul, have you read the public opinion polls lately?  Or, like, ever?

This Is Just Plain Mean

Some college-age guys pull a fast one on their friend.  They TIVO the winning lottery numbers announcement from the week before.  They then buy  a lottery ticket for the next drawing with those old winning numbers.  On the day of the drawing, they tell a friend (the "victim") to come over, and — oh, yeah — buy a couple of lottery tickets on the way.  When the victim arrives, they surruptitiously switch their ticket with one of the victim’s tickets that he just bought. 

Then they all sit down to watch the "winning lottery numbers" being announced "live".

And it’s all caught on film.

Valerie Plame Is Outted Again

The Washington couple at the heart of the CIA leak investigation had their cover blown by their small son as they tried to sneak away on vacation on Thursday.

The former spy, who just retired from the agency, and the diplomat have been at the center of a CIA leak scandal that has reached into the White House.

They said they were headed to an undisclosed vacation location with their twins but stopped for a brief interview inside the airport terminal.

"My daddy’s famous, my mommy’s a secret spy," declared the 5-year-old of his parents, former diplomat Joe Wilson and retired CIA operative Valerie Plame.

D’oh!  [Source]

Woman Marries Dolphin

But don’t worry, moral evangelists.  Even though the dolphin’s name is Cindy, he’s a dude.

Kot_aAnd so on Wednesday afternoon, the thrilled bride, wearing a white dress, walked down the dock before hundreds of astounded visitors and kneeled down before her groom, who was waiting in the water.

Cindy, escorted by his fellow best-men dolphins, swam over to Tendler and she hugged him, whispered sweet nothings in his ear, and kissed him in front of the cheering crowd.

After the ceremony was sealed with some mackerels, Tendler was tossed into the water by her friends so that she could swim with her new husband.

"I’m the happiest girl on earth," the bride said as she chocked back tears of emotion. "I made a dream come true, and I am not a pervert," she stressed.


Conservatism And Anti-Intellectualism

I have been only marginally following the debate between Matt Yglesius and The Corner Kids.  Tom Hilton summarizes:

Our story so far: Jeffrey Hart writes a piece in the Wall Street Journal about the state of modern conservatism (short version: Burke good, DeLay bad–hard to argue with that) in which he makes this observation:

The most recent change occurred in 1964, when its center of gravity shifted to the South and the Sunbelt, now the solid base of "Republicanism." The consequences of that profound shift are evident, especially with respect to prudence, education, intellect and high culture.

This cheeses off the Cornerites, who call it regional prejudice but are really upset because they think Hart is saying they aren’t innelekshuls.

Matt Yglesias (the one who writes for Tapped, not the other two) defends Hart’s regionalist observation, then goes on to say

this is clearly entangled with the rise of a kind of populist anti-intellectualism as an increasingly prominent strain of American conservatism and that, in turn, is a non-trivial break with the past, albeit a break that’s been useful to conservatism’s electoral success.

Matt is clearly right in my view, although — as Hilton notes — the conservative populist anti-intellectualism movement has been around for a long time.  And I honestly cannot get my head around it.   I don’t care what your political persuasion is — do you really want a President who is not among the best and brightest that your party can offer? 

Why do people want a President who is nothing more than an amiable Joe Schmoes who they can go out an have a beer with?  Is being folksy and "one of the guys" an important part of the skill set needed to be leader of the free world (not to mention, as conservatives often do, the Commander-in-Chief)?

You know what happens when we have a "nice guy" as President, who surrounds himself with yes-men who are equally contemptuous of government and education?  We get an inept government.  We get Katrina-like responses.  We get people who disdain and thwart uniquely American concepts like "checks and balances".  We get deficit spending.  As Hilton notes:

For more than 50 years the Republicans have campaigned on anti-intellectualism, courting the massive bloc of voters too insecure to want a president any smarter than they are.

True, and we all pay for it.

The Truth Is Out There

070705unusualcrafttUFO Casebook’s Best UFO Photographs of 2005

Although Puerto Rico seemed to have a lot of sightings this year (or so it seems), the image at the right was taken in July in Modesto, California:

I took this picture tonight at dusk. At around 8:50 I noticed some kind of craft toward my left that appeared from behind a tree that is in our front yard. I rapidly rotated my camera on its mount and took one picture. There were several brilliant lights that surrounded this craft. It was impossible to make out the shape of the craft because the lights were so brilliant. The lights did not strobe or flash like a normal aircraft array would. Each light glowed with the same intensity and color as a sodium-vapor type street lamp.

If this is a UFO, I think one of its tail-lights (or headlights?) is out.  Am I right?

RELATED:  Speaking of end-of-2005 lists, Jeff Jarvis has a few thoughts:

Gawd, I hate the end of the year. I’d list the top 10 reasons why I hate the end of the year. But I have only one reason: End-of-the-year lists. I hate ‘em.


The hot Christmas present this year was, as expected, a Video iPod.  It looks like someone at Walmart in Hawaii knew this, and played a little prank:

If you got a Video iPod for the holidays this year, you should be thanking your lucky stars it didn’t come from the Hawaiian Keeaumoku Wal-Wart. Rachel Cambra, a mom and an employee of that Wal-Mart store, gave her son a Christmas gift which she believed to be a Video iPod she had put on layaway. But when the big moment arrived on Christmas morning and the present was ripped open, there was no iPod to be found. Just a wrapped-up piece of meat. Yes, I said meat. Not sure what kind of meat, but the fact that it was wrapped made it a little more palatable. Wal-Mart promises to replace the iPod as soon as possible and Apple doesn’t seem to have a comment.

True or urban legend?  Decide for yourself.

Do These People Vote?

I’m constantly amazed by the incredible ignorance of a relatively large segment of Americans:

Forty-one percent (41%) of U.S. adults believe that Saddam Hussein had "strong links to Al Qaeda."

Twenty-two percent (22%) of adults believe that Saddam Hussein "helped plan and support the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11."

Twenty-six percent (26%) of adults believe that Iraq "had weapons of mass destruction when the U.S. invaded."

Twenty-four percent (24%) of all adults believe that "several of the hijackers who attacked the United States on September 11 were Iraqis."

Granted, these numbers are an improvement from less than a year ago (when, for example, 47% of those surveyed thought that Saddam helped plan 9/11 — something even the Bush Administration never claimed).  But still, one wonders exactly what is going on with these people.  I mean, we knew as early as September 12, 2001 that none of the hijackers were Iraqi… and one-fourth of the U.S. population thinks otherwise?

And you can’t really blame the media for this one — even Fox News (by and large) gets this basic information correct.

RELATED:  In another survey, 33% of Americans want to see Bush on "Survivor."

Visit The NSA Website; Get A Cookie

Seems like the NSA was doing more than monitoring phone calls:

The National Security Agency’s Internet site has been placing files on visitors’ computers that can track their Web surfing activity despite strict federal rules banning most of them.

These files, known as "cookies," disappeared after a privacy activist complained and The Associated Press made inquiries this week, and agency officials acknowledged Wednesday they had made a mistake. Nonetheless, the issue raises questions about privacy at a spy agency already on the defensive amid reports of a secretive eavesdropping program in the United States.

"Considering the surveillance power the NSA has, cookies are not exactly a major concern," said Ari Schwartz, associate director at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a privacy advocacy group in Washington, D.C. "But it does show a general lack of understanding about privacy rules when they are not even following the government’s very basic rules for Web privacy."

Until Tuesday, the NSA site created two cookie files that do not expire until 2035 — likely beyond the life of any computer in use today.

In the interest of full disclosure, I believe that my website also gives your computer a "cookie".  The cookie "remembers" where you are when you stop the Live Webcam slideshow in the righthand column (assuming that you stop the slideshow), so that the next time you visit the website, it is on that particular image.  That’s all it does.

And your bank account numbers.  It copies those, too.

Just kidding.

Plugging Back In

There’s no point in trying to catch up with a world that keeps on spinning while you take the holidays to be with family.  However, had I been around, I would have liked to comment on a thing or two.  They are, in no particular order…

Schiavelli(1)  Vincent Schiavelli (pictured left) died.  I always liked him.  A good character actor.  Good in Ghost as the crazy ghost in the subway.  Good in Cuckoo’s Nest, too.

(2)  Emily Mark informs me that she’s Not Afraid Of Anything (mp3 – will open a new window; even on a fast connection, it will take several minutes to load and play)

(3)  Wiretapping the UN Security Council?  I guess the "we only tap terrorists" excuse isn’t going to hold much water.

(4)  I photoblogged my car trip home for the holidays.  I’ve deleted those posts now, since they were not very interesting.  Blogger Jeremy Hermanns, however, had quite a different commuting experience yesterday, and he photoblogged it as it happened: Alaska Flight 536 – Rapid De-pressurization and Panic at 30k Feet.  And apparently, Alaska Airlines people are "anonymously" pestering him about his post.

(5)  The mainstream media — Newsweek — goes to #1 lefty blogger Markos Moulitsas Zúniga (of Daily Kos) for some handicapping on the 2006 election races.

(6)  From yesterday’s press gaggle:

Good morning. Let me update you on the President’s schedule. Yesterday, after arriving, he went out and did some cutting and clearing brush, and then was at his home on the ranch. And this morning he had his normal intelligence briefings, and he was out this morning clearing some brush and is right now — or has just recently concluded a bicycle ride and he’ll be spending the rest of the day at home with his wife and mother-in-law.

Is it just me or does Bush’s ranch have an awful lot of brush?  I mean, that’s all he does out there is "clear brush".  Frankly, I think "clearing brush" must be a euphemism for something else, but I’ll let someone with a cleaner mind determine what it really means.

(7)  Conservative blogger Captain Ed rates "The Worst Ten Americans Of All Time".  With the exception of #10 (Jimmy Carter), he’s not off the mark.  My only quibble would be the order.  His posts are here (8 through 10), here (5 through 7), here (2 through 4) and here (#1 on the list – J. Edgar Hoover)

(8)  Lizard Queen is blogging again.

(9)  John Hindrocket at conservative blog Powerline:

[T]he [Washington] Post’s reporters are part of a lavishly funded and monolithic media effort to misreport the Iraq war for the purpose of bringing down the Bush administration.

Really?  That’s funny.  WaPo endorsed the war.  Here’s an excerpt from a February 5, 2003 editorial:

[T]he United States should lead a force to remove Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship and locate and destroy its chemical and biological weapons and its nuclear program. The Iraqi regime poses a threat not just to the United States but to global order.

Once again proving that Time’s 2004 Blog Of The Year is a joke.

(10)  With all due respect, Pope Benedict, they’re really not.

(11)  Did you know… that women outnumber men in colleges now, and the number of white men attending college is experiencing a rather dramatic dropoff?  It’s true.

(12)  Conservative bloggers are making much of this Rasmussen Poll:

Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans say they are following the NSA story somewhat or very closely.

Just 26% believe President Bush is the first to authorize a program like the one currently in the news. Forty-eight percent (48%) say he is not while 26% are not sure.

I don’t doubt the results, and to a large extent, I am among those who think we should be listening on the conversations of terrorist suspects.  But that’s not what the kerfuffle is about.  The issue is whether the President can order the government do so without a warrant and expressly against statutes written by Congress.  Rasmussen should go back and ask the same people whether or not they think the President break the law whenever he wants to.

Kaus at the Huffington Post says pretty much the same thing:

If the polling question asked was "do you think that the government should be able to listen secretly to any international phone calls to the United States that it wants to on the approval of a shift supervisor at the National Security Agency without a warrant or any court or legislative supervision whatsoever," the numbers would be very different.

By the way, many in the US intelligence agencies think Bush’s tactics hurt them (and by extension, us) in the long run.

Something else needs to be said.  Evidence obtained through these NSA wiretaps are inadmissible in court.  So how can we "bring these terrorists to justice" (to quote Bush)?

(13)  ALICUBlog provides a laugh:


"I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you."

HAW HAW HAW! AW HAW HAW HAW HAW! Thassa good one! Yee-haaa!


"I’m from the government, and I’m here to spy on you and perhaps indefinitely detain you without charges."

That sounds reasonable.

Fredsigned_1 (14)  The "Time To Make The Donuts" actor (pictured, right) is dead, too.

(15)  The Fighting Dem phenomenon continues to grow.

More than 30 Iraq and Persian Gulf War veterans have entered congressional races across the country as Democrats, hoping to capitalize on their military experience to topple the incumbent Republican majority […]

On Dec. 20, Fawcett and Winter joined 35 Democratic veterans running for Congress at a strategy session in Washington, D.C.

The veterans voted on a name for their emerging caucuslike campaign coalition: Veterans for a Secure America. They also agreed that their military backgrounds should be promoted as credentials for leadership across the full spectrum of public policy, said Fawcett, an Air Force veteran of the 1991 Gulf War who has taught at the Air Force Academy and now works as a consultant to Northern Command in Colorado Springs.

The group will reconvene in Washington in February to respond to President Bush’s State of the Union address in a news conference on the steps of the Capitol, Winter said. An attorney and the former president of the grassroots liberal organizing group Be The Change, Winter spent 10 peacetime years in the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Thirty-five Gulf and Iraqi War veterans running for office; and only one Republican.

(16)  Life is not going to be as funny anymore: Dave Barry to stop writing his weekly column.

(17)  The War on Christmas is over.  Treaty signed on Island of Misfit Toys (so says INDC Journal):


The Meme Of Four

Everybody’s doing it (like here and here and here), so I’ll join in:

Four jobs you’ve had in your life: Drummer with a troupe of singing waiters, short order cook, agent for playrights, attorney

Four movies you could watch over and over: Hmmmmm.  Heaven (Diane Keaton’s documentary, sort of), Dr. Strangelove, The Bandwagon,  and Run Lola Run.  Of course, if you ask me this tomorrow, I might have an entirely different answer.

Four places you’ve lived: Omaha, NE; Concord, NH; Brooklyn, NY; Pfafftown, NC

Four TV shows you love to watch: The Daily Show, The Office, The Simpsons, American Experience

Four places you’ve been on vacation: Moscow, Rome, Paris, Outer Banks

Four websites you visit daily: Memeorandum, Boing Boing, Think Progress, Legal Fiction

Four of your favorite foods: Pancakes, Chocolate Mousse, Chicken Cordon Bleu, Really Good Omelette

Four places you’d rather be: Faro (Portugal) at sunset; Front seats on Fenway’s first baseline at the World Series, New England in the autumn, With you (right now)

Four albums you can’t live without: Albums?  They still make those?

25 Dumbest Quotes of 2005


25) "I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can’t play, you know, hide the salami, or whatever it’s called." –Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, urging President Bush to make public Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers’s White House records, Oct. 5, 2005 (Source) (Read more stupid Dean quotes)

24) "If I would do another ‘Terminator’ movie I would have Terminator travel back in time and tell Arnold not to have a special election." –California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, after all four of his ballot initiatives were roundly defeated in the special election he called, Nov 10, 2005 (Source) (Read more stupid Schwarzenegger quotes)

23) "Get some devastation in the back." –Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, to a staff photographer as he posed for a photo op while visiting tsunami-ravaged Sri Lanka, Jan. 6, 2005 (Source)

22) "I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn’t work." –President Bush, after being thwarted by locked doors when he tried to exit a news conference in Beijing in the face of hostile questioning from reporters, Nov. 20, 2005 (Source) (Read more about Bush’s door gaffe)

21) "I am not going to give you a number for it because it’s not my business to do intelligent work." –Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked to estimate the number of Iraqi insurgents while testifying before Congress, Feb. 16, 2005 (Source) (Read more Rumsfeldisms)

20) "I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." –Vice President Dick Cheney, on the Iraq insurgency, June 20, 2005 (Source) (Read more stupid Cheney quotes)

19) "You think people can work all day and then pick up their kids at child care or wherever and get home and still manage to sandwich in an eight-hour vote? Well Republicans, I guess can do that. Because a lot of them have never made an honest living in their lives." –Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean, speaking at the Campaign for America’s Future annual gathering, June 3, 2005 (Source)

18) "I do know that it’s true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down." –Bill Bennett, former Education Secretary and author of "The Book of Virtues," Sept. 28, 2005 (Source)

17) "You know, I don’t know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we’re trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It’s a whole lot cheaper than starting a war." –Pat Robertson, calling for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Aug. 22, 2005 (Source) (Read more stupid Pat Robertson Quotes)

16) "If Al Qaeda comes in here and blows you up, we’re not going to do anything about it. We’re going to say, look, every other place in America is off limits to you, except San Francisco. You want to blow up the Coit Tower? Go ahead.’" –FOX News Channel’s Bill O’Reilly, after San Francisco voted to ban military recruiters from city schools, Nov. 8, 2005 (Source) (Read more stupid Bill O’Reilly quotes)

15) "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office. She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli." –Sen. Bill Frist, diagnosing Terri Schiavo’s condition during a speech on the Senate floor, March 17, 2005 [The autopsy later revealed she was blind.] (Source)

14) "You simply get chills every time you see these poor individuals…many of these people, almost all of them that we see are so poor and they are so black, and this is going to raise lots of questions for people who are watching this story unfold." –CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, on New Orleans’ hurricane evacuees, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

13) "If you’ll look at my lovely FEMA attire you’ll really vomit. I am a fashion god… Anything specific I need to do or tweak? Do you know of anyone who dog-sits? … Can I quit now? Can I come home? … I’m trapped now, please rescue me." –Ex-FEMA Director Michael Brown, in various emails to colleagues and friends in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (Source) (Read more about Brownie’s idiotic emails)

12) "If one person criticizes [the local authorities’ relief efforts] or says one more thing, including the president of the United States, he will hear from me. One more word about it after this show airs, and I…I might likely have to punch him, literally." –Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), "This Week with George Stephanopoulous," Sept. 4, 2005 (Source)

11) "I think I may need a bathroom break. Is this possible?" –President Bush, in a note to to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a U.N. Security Council meeting, September 14, 2005 (Source) (Read more about Bush’s potty break)

10) "You are the best governor ever." –Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, writing to Texas Gov. George Bush in 1997 on his 51st birthday, adding that she found him "cool" and that he and his wife, Laura, were "the greatest" and telling him: "Keep up the great work. Texas is blessed." (Source)

9) "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." –George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005 (Source (Listen to audio clip)

8) "Well, I think that’s bullsh*t and I hate that. Just let it go." –Commentator Bob Novak to James Carville, before storming off the set at CNN, Aug. 4, 2005 (Source) (Read more about Novak’s freakout)

7) "I’m proud of George. He’s learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What’s worse, it was a male horse." –First Lady Laura Bush, at the White House Correspondents dinner, April 30, 2005 (Source) (Read more of Laura Bush’s comedy routine)

6) "You work three jobs? … Uniquely American, isn’t it? I mean, that is fantastic that you’re doing that." –President Bush, to a divorced mother of three in Omaha, Nebraska, Feb. 4, 2005 (Source) (Listen to audio clip)

5) "Considering the dire circumstances that we have in New Orleans, virtually a city that has been destroyed, things are going relatively well." –FEMA Director Michael Brown, Sept. 1, 2005 (Source)

4) "Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job." –President Bush, to FEMA director Michael Brown, while touring hurricane-ravaged Mississippi, Sept. 2, 2005 (Source) (Listen to audio clip)

3) "What didn’t go right?" –President Bush, as quoted by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, after she urged him to fire FEMA Director Michael Brown "because of all that went wrong, of all that didn’t go right" in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, Sept. 6, 2005 (Source)

2) "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?" –House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-TX), to three young hurricane evacuees from New Orleans at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 9, 2005 (Source)

1) "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is that they all want to stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality. And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway so this (chuckle) – this is working very well for them." –Former First Lady Barbara Bush, on the hurricane evacuees at the Astrodome in Houston, Sept. 5, 2005 (Source)

Are We At War?

Kevin Drum makes an interesting point:

Of course, their argument is not that the president has the inherent power to authorize domestic surveillance anytime he wants, only that he has that power during wartime. And as near as I can tell, that’s the elephant in the room that no one is really very anxious to discuss: What is "wartime"? Is George Bush really a "wartime president," as he’s so fond of calling himself? Conservatives take it for granted that he is, while liberals tend to avoid the subject entirely for fear of being thought unserious about the War on Terror. But it’s something that ought be brought up and discussed openly.

Consider a different war, for example. It’s safe to say that whatever Bush’s NSA program actually involves, no one would have batted an eyelash if FDR had approved a similar program during World War II. Experience suggests that during a period of genuine, all-out war, few people complain when a president pushes the boundaries of the law based on military necessity. But aside from World War II, what else counts as wartime?

If you count only serious hot wars, the United States has been at war for over 20 of the 65 years since 1940. That’s a lot of "wartime."

However, if you count the Cold War, as conservatives generally think we should, the tally shoots up to about 50 years of war. That means the United States has been almost continuously at war during the past 65 years — and given the nature of the War on Terror, we’ll continue to be at war for the next several decades.

If this is how we define "wartime," it means that in the century from 1940 to 2040 the president will have had emergency wartime powers for virtually the entire time. But does that make sense? Is anyone really comfortable with the idea that three decades from now the president of the United States will have had wartime executive powers for nearly a continuous century?

Somehow we need to come to grips with this. There’s "wartime" and then there’s "wartime," and not all armed conflicts vest the president with emergency powers. George Bush may have the best intentions in the world — and in this case he probably did have the best intentions in the world — but that still doesn’t mean he has the kind of plenary power Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Roosevelt exercised during their wars.

He’s right.  Certainly, we are engaged in armed conflict, but when are we not?  Were we in wartime when we invaded Grenada?  How about Kosovo?  How about the "war on drugs"? 

Calling something a war does not make it a war, and even the Bush Administration has acknowledged, sometimes overtly, that what we are doing now is rebuilding a nation in Iraq.  And the armed conflicts we engage in there are merely incidental to that.

But even if you consider that we are "in wartime" with respect to Iraq, that has nothing to do with the NSA wiretaps, which pertain to al Qaeda.  For example, if there was a warrantless tap of a phone conversation between a suspected AQ cell in the Phillipines and an American citizen, what does that have to do with the "War" in Iraq?  What does that have to do with Congress’ authorization to use military force in Afghanistan or Iraq?


So I ask again, are we engaged in an actual WAR on terrorism, or is it just a convenient rhetorical label, as was Johnson’s WAR on poverty or Reagan’s WAR on drugs?

Standing On Principle

A U.S. Judge with the FICA court (you know, the one that the government is supposed to go with warrants for wiretaps) resigns, apparently in protest:

A federal judge on a court that oversees intelligence cases has resigned to protest President George W. Bush’s authorization of a domestic spying program, The Washington Post said.

US District Judge James Robertson resigned late Monday from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) on which he served for 11 years and which he belives may have been tainted by Bush’s 2002 authorization, two associates familiar with his decision told the daily.

The resignation is the latest fallout of Bush’s weekend public admission that he authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) — the country’s super-secret electronic surveillance arm — to eavesdrop on international telephone calls and electronic mail of US citizens suspected of having links with terrorist organizations including Al-Qaeda.

A Psychiatrist’s Guide To Christmas Carols

Stop me if you heard this one.

No.  Don’t bother.  I’m gonna post it anyway.  This could be my last post for a while, except for my attempts to mobile-photoblog my car trip home for Christmas.

Schizoprenia — Do You Hear What I Hear?

Multiple Personality Disorder — We Three Queens Disoriented Are

Dementia — I Think I’ll Be Home For Christmas

Narcissistic — Hark The Herald Angels Sing About Me

Manic — Deck The Hall and Walls and House and Lawn and Streets and Stores and Office and Town and Cars and Buses and Trucks and Trees and Fire Hydrants and………

Paranoid — Santa Claus Is Coming To Get Me

Borderline Personality Disorder — Thoughts Of Roasting On An Open Fire

Personality Disorder — You Better Watch Out, I’m Gonna Cry, I’m Gonna Pout, Maybe I’ll Tell You Why

Obessive Complusive Disorder — Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells

ADHD — Hark the herald angels sing ba-rum-pa-pum-pum in the little town of Bethlehem up on the housetop in a winter wonderland one foggy Christmas Eve hey how bout them Bears no I don’t want to switch to Sprint but thank you for shopping at K-Mart.

More Dissenters From The Right

I already mentioned George Will.  Here’s some more:

Former Rep. Bob Barr (from paper edition of WaPo):

The American people are going to have to say, ‘Enough of this business of justifying everything as necessary for the war on terror.’

David Keene, Executive Director of the American Conservative Union, on today’s Diane Rehm Show:

Keene: […] Having said that as a description of  their justification of it, the claim that in trying to protect  Americans and pursuing his powers as commander in chief that a  President has power that inherently trumps the rest of the Constitution is a sort of exaggerated claim of power on behalf of this President or any other President for that matter […]

Rehm: How do you see this action in using a branch of government  such as
the NSA to spy on American citizens?

Keene: I think its Presidential overreaching and I think most  Americans would certainly oppose it. Just as we have been at the forefront of the call for reform of the Patriot Act, the reauthorization.

Bruce Fein, former Associate Deputy Attorney General under Reagan, on today’s Diane Rehm Show:

Fein: It’s more power than King George III had at the time of the revolution in asserting the theory that anything the President thinks is helpful to fighting the war against terrorism he can do. That was why he claimed he can ignore the torture convention […]

Rehm: Bruce Fein, why couldn’t the National Security Agency do exactly what the President wanted if they had simply gone to this special secret court?

Fein: It could have, the secret court is inclined to ratify virtually every warrant that has ever been asked by the executive branch.

Rehm: So why didn’t the President go to the court?

Fein: Because I think the President believes that he is the only unit of government capable of running a war.

RELATED:  Alan Dershowitz, who defended the Administration’s use of torture, isn’t even buying the Bushies here.  From Crooks and Liars:

Wolf: Did the President break the law?

Alan: I think the President broke the law. I think congress should hold hearings…

Gay Kisses = Terrorist Threat

I recently reported that the Pentagon was spying on domestic anti-war protest groups — groups which the Pentagon believed posed a threat to national security.  NBC broke the story last week when it obtained the Pentagon’s secret database of "suspicious groups" which it had spied upon.

You may have heard about some of these groups.  Like a group of elderly Quakers in Florida.

It gets worse:

According to recent press reports, Pentagon officials have been spying on what they call "suspicious" meetings by civilian groups, including student groups opposed to the military’s "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" ban on lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel. The story, first reported by Lisa Myers and NBC News last week, noted that Pentagon investigators had records pertaining to April protests at the State University of New York at Albany and William Patterson College in New Jersey. A February protest at NYU was also listed, along with the law school’s LGBT advocacy group OUTlaw, which was classified as "possibly violent" by the Pentagon. A UC-Santa Cruz "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" protest, which included a gay kiss-in, was labeled as a "credible threat" of terrorism.

Unbelieveable.  I’m speechless.

Now, keep in mind that Bush is defending the NSA surveillance (which is a separate issue altogether) by assuring us that everyone being surveilled has a known connection to Al Qaeda.  Given the military intelligence at work above, where gay kiss-ins are deemed to be credible threats of terrorism, how much do you trust Bush on that assurance?

Richard Nixon Speaks Up

Bush_nixon_narrowweb__200x284From the veils of time, that is.  See if you can notice any similarities between Nixon’s views on executive power and the view of the Bush Administration:

FROST: So what in a sense, you’re saying is that there are certain situations, and the Huston Plan or that part of it was one of them, where the president can decide that it’s in the best interests of the nation or something, and do something illegal.

NIXON: Well, when the president does it that means that it is not illegal.

FROST: By definition.


FROST: But when you said, as you said when we were talking about the Huston Plan, you know, "If the president orders it, that makes it legal", as it were: Is the president in that sense?is there anything in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights that suggests the president is that far of a sovereign, that far above the law?

NIXON: No, there isn’t. There’s nothing specific that the Constitution contemplates in that respect. I haven’t read every word, every jot and every title, but I do know this: That it has been, however, argued that as far as a president is concerned, that in war time, a president does have certain extraordinary powers which would make acts that would otherwise be unlawful, lawful if undertaken for the purpose of preserving the nation and the Constitution, which is essential for the rights we’re all talking about.

Read more at The Talent Show.

Ironically, the very statutes in the news now, such as FISA, were enacted in response to the extreme powergrabs conducted by Nixon.

The “I” Word

Here’s a nice quote.

I think if we’re going to be intellectually honest here, this really is the kind of thing that Alexander Hamilton was referring to when impeachment was discussed.

That’s not from some hippy liberal.  That’s from Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative think tank known as the American Enterprise Institute, speaking about Bush’s foray into unconstitutional and illegal wiretapping.

Congress Speaks Out

Bush, and AG Alberto Gonzales, have argued that the NSA surveillance was tacitly sanctioned by Congress when it passed the Authorization Of Military Force act in the days following 9/11, an act which permitted Bush to use "all necessary force" to go after terrorists.

Um, not so much.  When the AOMF was being debated in Congress, here’s what some Congresspersons – Democratic and Republican – were saying:

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK):

Some people say that is a broad change in authorization to the Commander in Chief of this country. It is not. It is a very limited concept of giving him the authority to pursue those who have brought this terrible destruction to our country and to pursue those who have harbored them or assisted them and conspired with them in any way. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. James McGovern (D-MA):

The body of this resolution is appropriately limited to those entities involved in the attacks that occurred on September 11th…It reiterates the existing constitutional powers of the President to take action to defend the United States, but provides no new or additional grant of powers to the President. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE):

In extending this broad authority to cover those ‘planning, authorizing, committing, or aiding the attacks’ it should go without saying, however, that the resolution is directed only at using force abroad to combat acts of international terrorism. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-NJ):

The resolution is not a blank check. We do this with our eyes open and in fervent prayer, especially the prayer that President Bush and his national security team will be lavished with wisdom from God above to use only that force which is truly necessary and only that force which is truly appropriate. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX):

The tension that we face tonight is to provide the President with enough authority to eradicate wrongdoing without wronging the carefully crafted systems of checks and balances so essential to our democracy. … As we vote for this important resolution with the lives of so many at stake in this important endeavor against terrorism, we cannot let the executive branch become the exclusive branch. [Congressional Record, 9/14/01]

Bush has also claimed that Congress was briefed on the NSA program, and therefore it tacitly endorsed that program.  As many have pointed out, only a handful of Senators were briefed, which doesn’t count as "congressional approval" under even the wildest imagination.

Moreover, Sen. Jay Rockefeller was one of those who became aware of the program (after it had started) back on June 17, 2003.  After learning about it, but being unable to talk about it — even to his staff — he handwrote a sealed letter to the White House.  He also kept a copy, just in case the Administration tried to argue that Congress approved of the surveillance.

Today he released that letter with the following statement:

For the last few days, I have witnessed the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General repeatedly misrepresent the facts. The limited members who were told of the program were prohibited by the Administration from sharing any information about it with our colleagues, including other members of the Intelligence Committees.

The record needs to be set clear that the Administration never afforded members briefed on the program an opportunity to either approve or disapprove the NSA program.

In the letter, Rockefeller warned of “profound oversight issues,” and said he was “unable to evaluate, much less endorse these activities.”  It can be viewed (in PDF format) here.

Kristol On Meth

Well, he’s on something.  In attempting to defend the President’s NSA actions, Bill Kristol offers up this moronic sentence:

This is presumably one reason why President Bush decided that national security required that he not simply follow the strictures of the 1978 foreign intelligence act, and, indeed, it reveals why the issue of executive power and the law in our constitutional order is more complicated than the current debate would suggest. It is not easy to answer the question whether the president, acting in this gray area, is "breaking the law." It is not easy because the Founders intended the executive to have — believed the executive needed to have — some powers in the national security area that were extralegal but constitutional.

Ah.  How desparate are we, Bill?  We’ve had to invent a new concept and a new word here.  "Extralegal".   

Sadly, even the worst lawyer on Earth will tell you that the Constituiton is the Supreme Law of The Land.  In fact, the Constitution itself says that it is the Supreme Law of the Land.  The Founders (as conservatives once argued) wanted a limited federal government, and the Constitution was an expression of that limitation. 

But conservative Kristol is arguing, apparently with a straight face, that the Founders created a Constitution with the intent of having the President be able to ignore it.  Such a proposition is ridiculous.  But even if true, why didn’t the Founders just say that within the Constitution?  Why instead did they express that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land?

Hit & Run fisks Kristol further here.

About Echelon

There is speculation (here and here, for example) that the NSA surveillance is the kind that doesn’t fit in with existing laws.

For example, Echelon.  Wikipedia describes Echelon as follows:

ECHELON is thought to be the largest signals intelligence and analysis network for intercepting electronic communications in history. Run by the UKUSA Community, ECHELON can capture radio and satellite communications, telephone calls, faxes and e-mails nearly anywhere in the world and includes computer automated analysis and sorting of intercepts. ECHELON is estimated to intercept up to 3 billion communications every day.

In other words, what the NSA is doing is not tapping a specific person or conversation, but essentially monitoring (electronically) billions of communications by computer simultaneously, hoping to "hear" (again, by computer) certain patterns of words or phone numbers.  Once a conversation is flagged, this begins the investigation process.  The rest of the intercepted communication essentially becomes "garbage out".

If this is indeed what is happening, then it is impossible to get an individual warrant. 

Moreover, one can only speculatae as to the extent to which the Echelon program is actually used.  If it does exist as I have described it, it certainly is a valuable tool, whose utility is (arguably) diminished once it becomes known.  Therefore (the argument goes), Bush was justified in using it, and not telling Congress about it before, and not telling the American people about it even now.

But I’m largely with Matt Yglesius on this.  Too bad.  We don’t skirt the Constitution simply because new technology enables us to:

I’m perfectly happy to believe that the decision to deploy illegal NSA wiretaps was driven by some novel technological development. I’m likewise happy to believe that the novel development in question may be a very useful tool in fighting terrorism. I’m even willing to believe that the new technology may somehow be such that public disclosure of its existence — by, for example, initiating a congressional debate about whether or not to deploy it — might have in some way compromised its utility. At that point, however, you have to say "so much the worse for new technology."

If something is invented that would be useful to deploy, but also illegal to deploy thanks to an outdated 1978-vintage statute, the thing to do is to change the statute. The view that the President just gets to do whatever is simply not going to pass muster. Presidents may well have good reason for wantng to do whatever, but you can’t run a country like that. Bill Clinton’s health plan was a good idea. In some sense, if he’d just overridden or ignored congress and put it in place, that would have been good for the country. In another, more important sense, it would have been disastrous.

As the saying goes, the constitution is not a suicide pact. But by the same token, not every risk that someone somwhere might get killed is license to kill the constitution. Laws are laws, and if they’re somehow found wanting, they ought to be amended or repealed not just wished away.

UPDATE:  The Echelon rationale doesn’t seem to hold a lot of water.  As noted here:
The Clinton administration program, code-named Echelon, complied with FISA. Before any conversations of U.S. persons were targeted, a FISA warrant was obtained. CIA director George Tenet testified to this before Congress on 4/12/00:

I’m here today to discuss specific issues about and allegations regarding Signals Intelligence activities and the so-called Echelon Program of the National Security Agency…

There is a rigorous regime of checks and balances which we, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and the FBI scrupulously adhere to whenever conversations of U.S. persons are involved, whether directly or indirectly. We do not collect against U.S. persons unless they are agents of a foreign power as that term is defined in the law. We do not target their conversations for collection in the United States unless a FISA warrant has been obtained from the FISA court by the Justice Department.

Meanwhile, the position of the Bush administration is that they can bypass the FISA court and every other court, even when they are monitoring the communications of U.S. persons. It is the difference between following the law and breaking it.

Hindrocket On The NSA Surveillance

Powerline was named Time Magazine’s Blog Of The Year for 2004.  Time Magazine is not having a "Blog Of The Year" this year.  I’m sure there’s a reason why.

Powerline’s John Hindrocket — who is a lawyer — wrote a moronic post on the NSA surveillance scandal, and threw in this piece of silliness today:

Many people seem not to understand that the executive branch is of equal authority with the legislative and judicial branches. The President has Constitutional powers upon which Congress cannot impinge. Thus, if the President has the authority to direct the armed forces to intercept phone calls received by telephones used by terrorists in Afghanistan, as I think he surely does, that authority cannot be taken away by Congressional action.

I have no idea what "equal authority" means, and neither (I suspect) does John.  But any 9th grader can tell you that our government consists of three branches which individually act as checks and balances of the others.  For example, the Constitution states that the President is the Commander-in-Chief, but it give the power to Congress to declare war.  The judiciary gets to interpret the Constitution, but the President (with the advice and consent of Congress) gets to select the judicary. 

And so it goes.  For every power afford one of the branches of government, there is a "check" on that power from another branch. 

The notion that one branch — in this case, the executive branch — can do whatever the hell it wants and the other branches have no oversight, is simply wrong.  Moreover, it’s ascribing totalitarian ideals to the Founding Fathers.

Wiretapping of Americans without court approval or Congressional statute defies the basic American notion of a government comprised of checks and balances.

And you would think that patriotic Americans, not to mention lawyers, would know this.

It’s also interesting how strict constructionists of the Constitution — like Hindrocket — suddenly are clinging to the argument that the Constitution gives "the authority to direct the armed forces to intercept phone calls received by telephones used by terrorists in Afghanistan".  I find no such language anywhere in the Constitution.  Not even close.

And these people criticize judges about "legislating from the bench"?  How about "legislating from the Oval Office", asshole?

Only Stupid People Go On Reality Shows

I’m convinced of this now more than ever:

Three contestants have spoken of their disbelief after being fooled into thinking they went into space for the UK reality show Space Cadets.

The three believed they had blasted off from a cosmonaut training camp in Russia, but were in fact in a fake spaceship in a warehouse in Suffolk.

They cheered up when told they had each won £25,000 ($44,300).

But one contestant, teaching assistant Keri Hasset from Birmingham, said she was "heartbroken" by the prank.

Ms Hasset, plasterer Paul French, 26 from Bristol, and footballer/recruitment consultant Billy Jackson, 25, from Kent, had suspicions they were being tricked when they had to hold a ceremony for a celebrity Russian dog called Mr Bimby on the spaceship.

"This is a spacecraft but it feels like a caravan," Paul told his fellow astronauts.

"And if we were going to space and they were weighing us for our health, they wouldn’t use scales like you get at home, would they?"

No, Sherlock.  They wouldn’t.

The fact that there was gravity might have tipped you off, too.

Bin Laden Hates Those Windmill Things

It’s stories like this that don’t give me much faith in out Department of Homeland Security:

San Jose officials are still wondering how a miniature golf course landed on a federal list of the most attractive terrorist targets.

Local officials said Thursday they were shocked to learn that Emerald Hills Golfland, a three-acre theme park with two miniature golf courses, had been placed on a Homeland Security watch list.

"The moment we realized it was on the list, it was taken off," said San Jose police officer Rubens Dalaison, who handles "critical infrastructure assessment" for the department. "I myself took it off."

But the list remains secret, and even San Jose Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who is the ranking minority member of a House subcommittee on terrorism risk assessment, said she did not know whether it is still listed.

"We had a subcommittee hearing with department officials before Thanksgiving and I asked, `What’s going on with the list?’ and they couldn’t answer," she said. "I do not know if Golfland is on the list today or not. It’s so embarrassing."

Another Bush Lie Exposed

With the discovery of secret wiretaps without court order comes the discovery that Bush, again, lied.  From a Bush speech given on April 20, 2004, (from [UPDATE:  Screw the website — Think Progress has the video of Bush saying this]:

Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.

Bush ordered the now-controversial wiretaps within weeks after 9/11.  So he was clearly lying when he spoke these words.

UPDATE: Shakespeare’s Sister searches the White House website for the words "wire tap", and finds more admissions from the White House that a court order is required.

Of special note is this "Ask The White House" page at the White House website, a Q&A with U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.  At one point, McNulty writes:

The framers of the Constitution established the ground rules for law enforcement more than 200 years ago and the USA PATRIOT Act must and does abide by those rules. For example, the actions you mention can only happen if a federal judge is satisfied that the government has met the appropriate standard. For searches and seizures, the standard is probable cause to believe that the place to be searched has evidence of, for example, a terrorist plot. The lesson from the horrors of 9-11 should be clear. We must do all we can within the Constitution to prevent the death of Americans at the hands of terrorists.

The emphasis (underline) is his, not mine.

Later on, hre writes:

Since its enactment in 2001, there have been zero verified civil liberties violations regarding the use of the PATRIOT Act.

The PATRIOT Act was crafted with built-in civil liberties safeguards, such as judicial review and Congressional oversight, to preserve Americans’ civil liberties while giving law enforcement the much-needed tools to address the terrorist threat

In addition, the PATRIOT Act updates the law to account for 21st Century technology. Terrorists are smart enough to use the most advanced technological devices. By maintaining judicial checks and balances, the PATRIOT Act enables investigators to keep up with the way terrorists communicate in the 21st Century.

Emphasis mine.  And still later:

The USA PATRIOT Act authorizes the monitoring of communications only with the approval of a federal judge. The approval is periodically reviewed by the judge, and a report of all approvals is made to Congress. FBI agents can’t just monitor your phone calls and e-mail messages because they think it might be interesting. I agree with you that the tools provided by the USA Act do work and are critical to our efforts to identify terrorists and prevent terrorism in this country.

Emphasis mine again.

I wonder what Paul is thinking today.

George Will On The NSA Surveillance

Bush doesn’t have George Will on his side.  Not that’s bad. 

Will makes the argument that the presidential power play exhibited here is — wait for it — unconservative.

Particularly in time of war or the threat of it, government needs concentrated decisiveness — a capacity for swift and nimble action that legislatures normally cannot manage. But the inescapable corollary of this need is the danger of arbitrary power.

Modern American conservatism grew in reaction against the New Deal’s creation of the regulatory state, and the enlargement of the executive branch power that such a state entails. The intellectual vigor of conservatism was quickened by reaction against the Great Society and the aggrandizement of the modern presidency by Lyndon Johnson, whose aspiration was to complete the project begun by Franklin Roosevelt.

Because of what Alexander Hamilton praised as "energy in the executive," which often drives the growth of government, for years many conservatives were advocates of congressional supremacy. There were, they said, reasons why the Founders, having waged a revolutionary war against overbearing executive power, gave the legislative branch pride of place in Article I of the Constitution.

One reason was that Congress’s cumbersomeness, which is a function of its fractiousness, is a virtue because it makes the government slow and difficult to move. But conservatives’ wholesome wariness of presidential power has been a casualty of conservative presidents winning seven of the past 10 elections.

On the assumption that Congress or a court would have been cooperative in September 2001, and that the cooperation could have kept necessary actions clearly lawful without conferring any benefit on the nation’s enemies, the president’s decision to authorize the NSA’s surveillance without the complicity of a court or Congress was a mistake. Perhaps one caused by this administration’s almost metabolic urge to keep Congress unnecessarily distant and hence disgruntled.

…In peace and in war, but especially in the latter, presidents have pressed their institutional advantages to expand their powers to act without Congress. This president might look for occasions to stop pressing.

Breaking News: From The War On Evolution Front Lines

CNN and MSNBC have "breaking news" that the federal judge in the Dover, PA "intelligent design" case has issued an opinion.

Details are coming, but it appears to be a victory: "intelligent design" cannot be taught in Pennsylvania schools.

Frankly, I’m not celebrating.  I’m still too embarassed as an American that this is even an issue.

UPDATE:  MSNBC has the 139 page opinion available in PDF format.  From my quick perusal, it appears that the federal judge hits all the right notes.

He notes that the "official position" of the Intelligent Design Movement is that the "intelligent designer" is not necessarily a christian God.  But he easily penetrates that veil, noting that a reasonable objective person knows that ID adherents are religious people pushing a religious agenda.  Indeed, the pre-eminent text for ID — "Of Pandas and People" — is simply an edited version of a creationist textbook.  (The Supreme Court has forbid the teaching of creationism in public schools as a violation of the Establishment Clause).  In many cases, the words "creationism" was simply replaced with "intelligent design".

The judge also relied on the Wedge Document, which I wrote about and reprinted back here.  The Wedge Document was authored by members of the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. The Discovery Institute is a think tank based in Seattle, Washington, and is the most visible arm of the Intelligent Design movement.  The document specifically says that the aim of the Intelligent Design movement is to replace science with theism. 

Can’t get any more obvious than that.

Ah, there it is . . . on page 43 of the opinion:

The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.

Later, the Court wades deep into the question of whether IS a science at all and writes:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, ID is not science.  We find that ID fails on three different levels: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science back in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

As to the first argument, the Court makes a good point.  ID proponents, by their own admission, are challenging the ground rules of what science is.  In doing so, they are tacitly admitting that ID is not science, at least under the historical and present meaning of the word.  So essentially, everybody agrees that ID is not science!  ID becomes "science" only if you change the definition of "science".

Later on, the Court focused on the members of the Dover PA school board to determine whether they had the intent to insert religion into the classroom.  In other words, if the school board has a secular purpose for bringing in ID, then it might pass constitutional muster.

On this topic, the opinion gets brutal here.  It is quite clear that some members of the schools clearly lied in order to convince the Court that the introduction of ID merely had a secular purpose.  For example, two board members — Buckingham and Bonsell — repeatedly denied, in their respective despositions (under oath), knowledge of the source of funds to purchase ID textbooks.  But as it turned out, they knew full well: they solicitied donations at church.  And the Court had the testimony and cancelled checks to prove it. 

Those two also attacked their critics (teachers, other school board members, etc.) as "atheists" and "un-christian".  Kind of an odd slam if your intent is (supposedly) secular.

But when it comes to the bottom line on the issue of the school board’s intent, the Court minces no words:

Any asserted secular purposes by the Board are a sham and merely secondary to a religious objective. …Defendants’ previously mentioned flagrant and insulting falsehoods to the Court provide sufficient and compelling evidence for us to deduce that any alleged secular purposes that have been offered in support of the ID Policy are equally insincere.

Hmmm.  Lying to the court and trying to hide your religious objectives.  Nice going, religious zealous.  By the way, isn’t there a commandment somewhere about "bearing false witness"?

And the Court opinion concludes as follows:

Both Defendants and many of the leading proponents of ID make a bedrock false assumption which is utterly false.  Their presupposition is that evolutionary theory is antithetical to a belief in the existence of a supreme being and to religion in general.  Repeatedly in this trial, Plaintiffs’ scientific experts testified that the theory of evolution represents good science, is overwhelmingly accepted by the scientific community, and that it in no way conflicts with, nor does it deny, the existence of a devine creator.

Abso-fuckin-lutely.  Just like saying "Happy Holidays" doesn’t mean pissing on Jesus.  Well said, your Honor!

To be sure, Darwin’s theory is imperfect.  However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific principles.


The citizens of the Dover area were poorly served by the members of the Board who voted for the ID Policy.  It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy.

Hey!  That’s what I said!

Now comes the part where the Court addresses Pat Robertson (and his ilk), anticipating the criticism to come from today’s opinion.  This is gold.

Those who disagree with this holding will likely mark it as the product of an activist judge.  If so, they will have erred as this is manifestly not an activist Court.  Rather, this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on the school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case for ID, who in combination drove the Board to adopt an imprudent and unconstitutional policy.  The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the backdrop which has now been fully revealed through this trial.  The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.


Latest On Snoopgate

(1) First of all, it’s being called "Snoopgate".  Ugh.  Watergate left this country with many legacies, and I think the "-gate" suffix is one of the worst.

(2) Jonathan Alter reveals that Bush summoned the New York Times editor and publisher to the Oval Office, urging the paper not to go public with the NSA wiretapping story.  Alter suggests that Bush did so because he knew it would reveal him (Bush, not Alter) to be a lawbreaker.  Read the short piece here.

In Defense Of Canada

I’ve never quite understood why so-called patriotic conservative bloggers and pundits take swipes at Canada all the time:

Canada has been described lately by a conservative U.S. television host as "a stalker" and a "retarded cousin."

Another pundit recently asked if Canadians weren’t getting "a little too big for their britches."

There’s been a spate of Canada-bashing by right-wing media commentators in the United States ever since Prime Minister Paul Martin’s complaints about lumber penalties and U.S. policy on climate change. His remarks prompted an unusual rebuke last week from the American ambassador.

The attacks on Canada have had web bloggers typing overtime and a non-profit group that’s monitoring the trend, Media Matters for America, says it’s disturbing.


Last week, MSNBC host Tucker Carlson, a well-known conservative pundit, let loose with a string of anti-Canada rants.

"Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York," he said.

"Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he’s nice but you don’t take him seriously. That’s Canada."

Carlson also said it’s pointless to tell Canada to stop criticizing the United States.

"It only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?"

What is this?  The "Bad Neighbor" policy?

Let’s remember what Canada did on September 11, 2001.  Thousands of planes had to be landed immediately.  Our airports were overflowing, and the capacity to land planes was strained.  Flights were diverted to Canada.  Tens of thousands of commuters were stranded, and couldn’t return to the United States since all flights were grounded.

What did Canadians do?  They opened the doors to their houses.  Their generosity was legion, inspiring — among other things — tribute websites.  And it wasn’t the first time Canada provided assistance in America’s time of crisis.

Sure, they gave us Celine Dion and Ann Murray, but for the most part, they’ve been a good and friendly neighbor to the North.   When conservative pundits criticize Canadians simply because Canada doesn’t kiss American ass 24/7, it speaks ill of this country, not theirs.  And I wish they would shut up.

What Was The Most Looked-Up Word In The Dictionary In 2005?


No kidding.  "Integrity" was the word most looked-up on Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, as reported here

Speaks highly of us as a culture, don’t it?

Then again, maybe people were looking up the spelling, not the definition. 

Here’s the top ten list:

Top 10 most looked-up words of 2005

1. integrity n. firm adherence to a code, especially moral or artistic values; incorruptibility.

2. refugee n. one that flees; especially a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.

3. contempt n. willful disobedience to or open disrespect of a court, judge or legislative body.

4. filibuster n. the use of extreme dilatory tactics in an attempt to delay or prevent action, especially in a legislative assembly.

5. insipid adj. lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate or challenge; dull, flat.

6. tsunami n. a great sea wave produced especially by submarine earth movement or volcanic eruption.

7. pandemic n. occurring over a wide geographic area and affecting an exceptionally high proportion of the population.

8. conclave n. a private meeting or secret assembly, especially a meeting of Roman Catholic cardinals secluded continuously while choosing a pope.

9. levee n. an embankment for preventing flooding; a continuous dike or ridge (as of earth) for confining the irrigation areas of land to be flooded.

10: inept n. generally incompetent; bungling.


By the way, isn’t "inept" an adjective?

Sleep Tight


About 150 pounds of commercial plastic explosives has disappeared from a private storage site, along with 2,500 blasting caps and 20,000 feet of explosive detonation cord, authorities said Monday.

"In the hands of the wrong person, this material can be very, very destructive," Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White said at a news conference.

Wayne Dixie, an agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the missing material was enough to level a building. Two containers, both stored inside two bunkers southwest of Albuquerque, were burglarized sometime between Dec. 13 and Sunday, authorities said.

More yikes:

Venezuela has declared a state of emergency and launched a nationwide hunt for a stolen truck carrying a capsule of the highly radioactive Iridium-192.

Angel Diaz, director of nuclear affairs at Venezuela’s Energy Ministry, made a plea to the thieves and the people of Venezuela that the truck, missing since Sunday night, be returned safely. "We call on those who stole it, probably because of the truck, to say that they can suffer very serious consequences that can lead to death."

The capsule in question sits in a container about the size of a lunch box. Diaz could not rule out the theft being motivated by "malicious purposes," but was hoping it was a simple matter of truck theft. This is the third capsule of its kind to go missing in the country since March.

Taking The Fun Out Of Sudoku

SudokuHow many Sudoku problems are there?  If you visit your local bookstore, where Sudoku puzzle books abound, you would think there are millions.  The Sudoku craze is boffo box office (so to speak).

And it looks like there are plenty of puzzles to be had.  Actually, for a typical 9 x 9 Sudoku grid, there are 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 possible arrangments where every number from 1 through 9 appears in every row and column (and no numeral appears twice in any row or column).

That’s a lot of Sudoku puzzles.

Actually, it’s not that high.  For example, if you have a valid Sudoku arrangement, and turn it 90 degrees, that counts as a different arrangement.  Also, if you have a valid Sudoku arrangment, and (for example) switch all the 6’s and 7’s, that counts as a different arrangement.  So the 6,670,903,752,021,072,936,960 number is a little exaggerated.

Therefore, the number of Sudoku patterns is substantially less.  In a 9 x 9 grid, there are only 3,546,146,300,288 distinct patterns.  I say "only", but really, it is still enough to keep you busy for a while.

For more Sudoku trivia, history, strategy and mathematrical geekdom, read here at The American Scientist.

Rove In The Crosshairs

I haven’t been following the minutae of Plamegate lately, but if this is true, it doesn’t bode well for Karl Rove:

In late January 2004, the grand jury investigating whether top officials in the Bush administration knowingly leaked Valerie Plame Wilson’s name and covert CIA status to reporters subpoenaed the White House for records of administration contacts with more than two-dozen journalists going back two years, to determine if any officials talked about Plame with the media.

According to people close to Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald’s probe, one such document was not turned over to the grand jury by the Feb. 6, 2004 deadline: an email White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove had sent in July 2003 to then-Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley. In the email, Rove told Hadley that he spoke to Time Magazine reporter Matthew Cooper about Plame’s husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, a vocal critic of the administration’s prewar Iraq intelligence.

Rove testified before the grand jury for the first time in February 2004. At the time, he didn’t disclose that he had been one of the anonymous sources for Cooper and conservative columnist Robert Novak. The two filed the first stories on Plame, identifying her as a CIA operative.

The grand jury subpoenaed the White House for any information concerning contacts with the 25 reporters on Jan. 22, 2004. It was the second time a directive was issued ordering White House officials to turn over records to determine if officials had spoken about Plame, her husband, and the administration’s claims that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium-the key component for a nuclear bomb-from Niger with journalists.

Three months earlier, in late 2003, then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales enjoined all White House staff to turn over any communication about Valerie Plame Wilson and her husband. Gonzales’ request came 12 hours after senior White House officials had been told of the pending investigation. The email Rove sent to Hadley never turned up in that request either, people close to the investigation said.

Rove’s alleged failure to disclose his conversations with Cooper and Novak and the fact that he didn’t turn over the Hadley email on two separate occasions is the reason he’s been in Fitzgerald’s crosshairs and may end up being indicted, people close to the investigation said.

The “Oddfather” Is Dead


Mob boss Vincent "The Chin" Gigante, the powerful Mafioso who avoided jail for decades by wandering the streets in a ratty bathrobe and slippers, feigning mental illness, died Monday in prison. He was 77.

The head of the Genovese crime family, who had suffered from heart disease, died at the federal prison in Springfield, Mo., said prison spokesman Al Quintero. It was the same place where rival mob boss John Gotti died of cancer in 2002 at age 61.

I once worked for the law firm that represented this guy.  Of all the New York mobsters in the latter half of the 20th century, Vinnie was my favorite.  I didn’t know him, but I just liked his M.O. — strutting around Little Italy in a bathrobe.

Legal Justification For NSA Wiretaps

One of the best pieces in the blogosphere examining the legal landscape of the NSA wiretapping comes from Orin Kerr, law professor at George Washington University, on the right-leaning law blog, The Volokh Conspiracy.

Kerr begins:

Was the secret NSA surveillance program legal? Was it constitutional? Did it violate federal statutory law? It turns out these are hard questions, but I wanted to try my best to answer them. My answer is pretty tentative, but here it goes: Although it hinges somewhat on technical details we don’t know, it seems that the program was probably constitutional but probably violated the federal law known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Starting with his Fourth Amendment analysis, Kerr argues that the NSA wiretapping program may fall within one of two exceptions to the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment.

The first exception, he posits, is the border search exception.  The courts have held that it is permissible (and not unconstitutional) to conduct searches at the border of the United States "or its functional equivalent."   Kerr suggests that Bush supporters might have a winning argument that interception of phone calls coming in to this country fit within the "border search" exception. 

After all, Kerr points out, the Supreme Court has held that "border searches" within this exception do not have to be at the border.  Kerr cites UNITED STATES v. RAMSEY, 431 U.S. 606 (1977), involving warrantless searches of international mail in a New York City post office.  If that does not violate the Vonstitution, then wiretaps shouldn’t either, Kerr suggests.

The problem is that if you actually read the Ramsey case, the Supreme Court was quite clear about why warrantless searches of mail does not violate the Fourth Amendment.  Rehnquist recognized this when he wrote:

That searches made at the border, pursuant to the longstanding right of the sovereign to protect itself by stopping and examining persons and property crossing into this country, are reasonable simply by virtue of the fact that they occur at the border, should, by now, require no extended demonstration.

In other words, the border search exception applies to persons and property crossing our borders, not communications.  While property can enter the country via a package or mail, it cannot via a telephone conversation.  The border search exception, despite what Kerr suggests, simply does not apply.

Kerr also proposes another possible exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of warrants: a "national security exception".  Presumably, the Bush Administration takes the position that the President does have power to protect the nation from attempts of domestic organizations to attack and subvert the existing structure of Government, and in doing so, it may engage in wiretaps without a warrant.  And the NSA surveillance is such a case.

It’s an intriguing argument.  But as Kerr even acknowledges, such a "national security exception" does not actually exist and, unlike the border search exception, no Court has ever acknowledged that the Constitution recognizes that exception.  Would the Bush Administration encourage the judicial system to "legislate from the bench" and create this exception?

Kerr then puts the Constitution aside and addressed whether the NSA wiretaps violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (or "FISA") at 50 U.S.C. 1809 et seq.

The statute is pretty clear.  Specifically, 50 U.S.C. 1809 prohibits "electronic surveillance" except as authorized by statutory law: "A person is guilty of an offense if he intentionally . . . engages in electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute." "Electronic surveillance" is defined in 50 U.S.C. 1801(f) to mean, in relevant part:

(1) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire or radio communication sent by or intended to be received by a particular, known United States person who is in the United States, if the contents are acquired by intentionally targeting that United States person, under circumstances in which a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy and a warrant would be required for law enforcement purposes;
(2) the acquisition by an electronic, mechanical, or other surveillance device of the contents of any wire communication to or from a person in the United States, without the consent of any party thereto, if such acquisition occurs in the United States. . . .

A "United States person" is defined in 50 U.S.C. 1801(i) as "a citizen of the United States [or] an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence." A "wire communication" is defined as a communication that is traveling by a wire.

Kerr concludes that the NSA clearly violated the statute.  In fact, our Attorney General even recognized this

But note that the statute carves out several exceptions to the rule above.  Do the NSA wiretaps fit within any of the statutory exceptions?

Let’s take a look at them.  50 U.S.C. 1802(a)(1) provides in relevant part:

Notwithstanding any other law, the President, through the Attorney General, may authorize electronic surveillance without a court order under this subchapter to acquire foreign intelligence information for periods of up to one year if the Attorney General certifies in writing under oath that–

(A) the electronic surveillance is solely directed at–
(i) the acquisition of the contents of communications transmitted by means of communications used exclusively between or among foreign powers, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; or
(ii) the acquisition of technical intelligence, other than the spoken communications of individuals, from property or premises under the open and exclusive control of a foreign power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3) of this title; [and]

(B) there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.

Well, okay.  We have to see what this exception means by "a foreign power, as defined in section 1801(a)(1), (2), or (3)".

So we go there.  Here’s how the statute defines a "foreign power" in 50 U.S.C. 1801:

(1) a foreign government or any component thereof, whether or not recognized by the United States;
(2) a faction of a foreign nation or nations, not substantially composed of United States persons;
(3) an entity that is openly acknowledged by a foreign government or governments to be directed and controlled by such foreign government or governments;
(4) a group engaged in international terrorism or activities in preparation therefor;
(5) a foreign-based political organization, not substantially composed of United States persons; or
(6) an entity that is directed and controlled by a foreign government or governments.

Okay. So clearly the exception noted above applies to foreign governments ([1] and [2], and/or entities acknowledged by foreign government to be directed or under the control of that foreign governments.

Clearly, those definitions do not fit al Qaeda, where as (4) and (5) definitely do.  Unfortunately, (4) and (5) are not mentioned in the exception.

Now, if we return to the FISA statute, let’s note that it forbids "electronic surveillance under color of law except as authorized by statute".  Is there another statute which would allow the NSA wiretapping?

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says "yes".  In the wake of 9/11, Congress passed the Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No. 107-40, 115 Stat. 224, ("AUMF")which states:

(a) IN GENERAL.–That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The key phrase is "all necessary and appropriate force".  Is the use of wiretaps a "necessary and appropriate force"?  Is it "force" at all?

There is little guidance on this.  In HAMDI et al. v. RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, et al., the Supreme Court concluded that detention of a detainee counted as a "necessary and appropriate force" under that AUMF.  Justice O’Connor wrote:

Because detention to prevent a combatant’s return to the battlefield is a fundamental incident of waging war, in permitting the use of "necessary and appropriate force," Congress has clearly and unmistakably authorized detention in the narrow circumstances considered here.

Now, I think that wiretapping the enemy is probably a "fundamental incident of waging war".  But what we’re doing here is conducting surveillance on U.S. citizens.  Kerr agrees, and gives three sound reasons:

First, O’Connor’s opinion says the following about detention for interrogation: "Certainly, we agree that indefinite detention for the purpose of interrogation is not authorized." It seems to me that surveillance and wiretapping is pretty similar to interrogation: the point of both is getting information about your enemy.

Second, it doesn’t seem like wiretapping counts as a "use of force." If you read the text of the AUMF, it doesn’t seem to me that it authorizes wiretapping.

Finally, note that Congress passed the Patriot Act about a month after passing the AUMF; if Congress had intended the AUMF to give the president wide authority to conduct domestic surveillance against Al Qaeda, I don’t think they would have spent so much time amending FISA for terrorism investigations.

So at bottom, I think the AUMF probably didn’t authorize this, although the Hamdi case gives some colorable (if ultimately unpersuasive) arguments that it might.

The final argument advanced in favor of the wiretaps (advanced by Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez) is that the President is authorized to do this under his "inherent authority" under Article II of the Constitution.  This is what the Bush Administration argued before in a supplemental brief to the FISA Court of Review:

In considering the constitutionality of the amended FISA, it is important to understand that FISA is not required by the Constitution. Rather, the Constitution vests in the President inherent authority to conduct warrantless intelligence surveillance (electronic or otherwise) of foreign powers or their agents, and Congress cannot by statute extinguish that constitutional authority. Both before and after the enactment of FISA, courts have recognized the President’s inherent authority to conduct foreign intelligence surveillance. See, e.g., Butenko, 494 F.2d at 608 (grounding exception to warrant requirement in the President’s Commander-in-chief and foreign-affairs powers; noting that the country’s self-defense needs weigh on the side of reasonableness); Truong, 629 F.2d at 914 (citing the President’s foreign affairs power as justifying an exception to the warrant requirement); cf. United States v. United States District Court (Keith), 407 U.S. 297, 308 (1972)(reserving the question whether the President’s foreign-affairs powers justify exception from warrant requirement).

Kerr looks at the three cases cited in that paragraph, and notes that the brief gets them backwards:

In all three of those cases — Butenko, Truong, and Keith – the Courts were talking about whether the President’s interest in conducting foreign intelligence monitoring creates an exception to the Warrant Requirement of the Fourth Amendment. In other words, the issue in those case was whether the Constitution bars warrantless surveillance absent Congressional action, not whether Congressional prohibitons in this area cannot bind the Executive branch.

This is a key point.  What we have here are three operators: Congress, the President, and the Constitution.  The Congress and the President act as checks and balances of each other, but the Constitution is the Supreme Law.  If the Constitution bars an activity, then neither Congress or the President can permit that activity.

There’s another strangeness to the "inherent authority" argument.  If, as the Bush Administration argues, the President has inherent authority within the Constitution to do anything to conduct this war on terrorism, then why did he scold Congress this morning for failing to extend the Patriot Act?  After all, under the argument he advances, Bush supposedly doesn’t need the Patriot Act!!

Finally, here’s final note to ponder: if the President’s arguments here are wrong, then (as Gonzalez has conceded) the President has violated FISA, which is a criminal act.  So even if you don’t follow the legal mumbo-jumbo, just understand here that the political stakes are very very high.

Bush And The NSA Wiretapping

This topic has been churning in the blogosphere and media for 48 hours now (at least), and I have nothing new to add.

But I am absolutely appalled at the poor defense given to the action, as a matter of constitutional law.

The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution is quite simple: There shall be no warrantless search and seizures of people and their belongings.  Over the years, there has been a steady chipping away at the Founder’s words, but that process has been one publicly exposed, discussed and debated.

What the President has done here, unilaterally and in secret, is simply thumb his nose at the Constitution — the very document he swore to uphold.  His reasoning?  He is the Commander-in-Chief, and he can do what he damn well wants.  Oh, and Congress gave him that authority.

The problem, of course, is that if the President can do whatever he wants as C-i-C, that renders the rest of the Constitution a virtual nullity.  A mere shadow of what the Framers wrote.  For example, what is to prevent the President — in his "inherent" C-i-C powers — from housing soldiers in your house (which he could not do under the Third Amendment?  Absolutely nothing.  All he has to do is deem that it is necessary to the War on Terror (whether it is actually necessary or not), and boom – the Third Amendment flies out the window.  What’s next?  The Second Amendment?  The First?

Secondly, the idea that Congress gave the President that authority is an unsatisfactory explanation.  It’s simply not true.   Here’s the "Use of Force" resolution from 9/15/01:

(a) That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.

Now, conservatives like to talk about "strict constructionism" and all that.  So where is the grant of authority in the above?

It doesn’t exist, and everybody knows it:

Bush’s comments followed a morning of television appearances and a briefing by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, seeking to rebut criticism from Democratic as well as some Republican members of Congress, who have questioned the source of the president’s power to engage in eavesdropping without the involvement of a judge, as required by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA.)

Gonzales said that while FISA prohibits eavesdropping without court approval, it makes an exception where Congress "otherwise authorizes." That authorization, he said, was implicit in the authorization for the use of military force in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 attacks.

In a news conference to respond to Bush’s statements, three Senate Democrats challenged the legal justification for the domestic spying program and said Bush should stick to the FISA process.

"Where does he find in the Constitution the authority to tap the wires and the phones of American citizens without any court oversight?" demanded Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. He also disputed Bush’s statement in the news conference that checks on his executive power — such as his authority to order the secret surveillance — came from his oath of office and congressional oversight.

"That’s not a check on the executive branch, notifying some members of Congress — if he did — that he’s taken the law into his own hands," Levin said. "That is not a check on the executive branch, nor is the fact that he gets opinions from six lawyers in the executive branch, all under his control, that he can do this."

What’s remarkable about this whole issue is that there has been, by law, since 1972, a provision for obtaining warrants from a secret FISA court.  These warrants are quick and almost never denied.  In fact, since the 1972 FISA Act has been in effect, it has received over 20,000 warrant applications, and rejected only two!

Even more startling, the Bush Administration can even seek warrant approvals from the secreat FISA court retroactively – up to 72 hours after the search or wiretap is done.  Yet the Bush Administration didn’t even do that.

And why not?  The court, as I said, is secret.  The proceedings are secret.  There simply is no security risk.

Now, I’m no fan of the FISA law, but it exists, and it is extremely leniant.  Therefore, the only reason, as far as I can see, for the Bush Administration to ignore the law is because it is engaging in wiretaps that are far beyond the pale.

Bush has defended the practice by saying it has only been done on people with known links to al Qaeda.  When I first heard that, my initial thought was "Yeah. Sez you."  As a country, we have has experience with the Bush Administration and its hyperimaginative sense of who does and who doesn’t have al Qaeda links.

But setting that aside, if Bush’s assertion is true, then it seems to me that getting a warrant from the secret FISA court would be extremely easy.   Again, why didn’t they do it?

And if we’ve been engaging in this practice, where are all the al Qaeda prosecutions?  Why haven’t we made more arrests of these people here at home who have links to al Qaeda?

This is simply a power grab, and a move to an unconstitutional totalitarian form of government.

Anyway, Crooked Timber has a wonderful taxonomy of the rather lame justifications put out by Bush and/or his supporters for this clearly unconstitutional act:

    1. Epochal Shift: “9/11 Changed Everything and so the President can do whatever he likes.”
    2. You Can’t Handle the Truth!: Your Jack Nicholson moment, viz: “Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? … I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it!”
    3. Exquisite Regret: “I fully appreciate the strength of the arguments (moral, practical, empirical) that you put before me about the evil nature of torture, arbitrary detention and spying on the very citizens from whom our claim to legitimate government derives. So believe me when I say that I have agonized over these decisions, lain awake at night, analyzed the hypotheticals in detail and now, with a great sense of the weight of the choice I am making, I will sign this piece of paper suspending the rights of anyone whom our staffers feel should be investigated.”
    4. Rubber Stamp: “We obtained a legal opinion from one of our own lawyers. He said it was OK and I believe him. He’s totally objective.”
    5. World Weary: “Oh, puh-leeze. This is nothing new. It’s been going on for years—Americans have no idea how little legal protection they have from arbitrary government surveillance. That’s why I became a libertarian. I still fully support the Government’s right to monitor, lock up, ‘render’ and torture anyone they declare is an enemy combatant, though. I absolutely still don’t trust them to run a Social Security Program or redistribute taxes to the poor, obviously.”
    6. Radical Empiricist: I’m not sure we have all the facts about this, and we should suspend judgment until either more real evidence becomes available or the black GM Suburban pulls up outside my house and bundles me off to a disused Soviet-era facility in Eastern Europe.

Via Atrios, this statement from Senator Reid:

“The President asserted in his December 17th radio address that “leaders in Congress have been briefed more than a dozen times on this authorization and the activities conducted under it.” This statement gives the American public a very misleading impression that the President fully consulted with Congress.

“First, it is quite likely that 96 Senators of 100 Senators, including 13 of 15 on the Senate Intelligence Committee first learned about this program in the New York Times, not from any Administration briefing.

“I personally received a single very short briefing on this program earlier this year prior to its public disclosure. That briefing occurred more than three years after the President said this program began.

“The Administration briefers did not seek my advice or consent about the program, and based on what I have heard publicly since, key details about the program apparently were not provided to me.

“Under current Administration briefing guidelines, members of Congress are informed after decisions are made, have virtually no ability to either approve or reject a program, and are prohibited from discussing these types of programs with nearly all of their fellow members and all of their staff.

“We need to investigate this program and the President’s legal authority to carry it out. We also need to review this flawed congressional consultation system. I will be asking the President to cooperate in both reviews.”

At his press conference today, Bush said "The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy."  To that, I think Timothy Naftali has the perfect response:

A key goal of the terrorists is to destroy our constitutional system. Our leaders should not be helping them.

What makes the current form of executive overreaching particularly unsettling is that unlike the Cold Warriors, who understood what they were doing was wrong and placed some limits on their secret programs, our present leadership is operating under an expansive theory that the president can do what he pleases to "protect " us, including denying citizens their day in court, the torture of suspects and now the monitoring of our private communications.

Scott Shields:

It’s amazing to me that there can be such a disconnect in Bush’s own head about this. He asks how an Iraqi cannot understand that "it’s important that there be rule of law" while simultaneously arguing that the rule of law does not apply to him when it comes to domestic wiretaps. Like I said, it gave me a chuckle, but it really isn’t funny.

MORE:  Read how conservative blog Redstate lectures everybody on constitutional law . . . and gets it wrong.

LAST WORD (for now) goes to Ben Franklin, speaking from beyond the grave:

"Those who are willing to sacrifice their basic liberties to assure their security deserve neither."

Barbarism And Barbie

I don’t have much patience for scientists who insist that violent video games lead to violence in children.  Yesm, I know — there are plenty of those studies, so it must be true. 

And politicians — including Hillary Clinton — are happy to jump on the "family values" bandwagon, as evidenced by her bill to protect children from violent video games.  In Illinois, they even consider Super Mario Brothers to be violent.

A few initial thoughts: To the extent that these games are a bad influence on children, since when does government get into the child-rearing business?  What happened to, you know, the parents?  How hard is it to control what software goes in to the family computer?

But let’s also be somewhat realistic.  Kids are violent.  It’s what they do.  Even in the innocent pre-computer days, kids played "cops and robbers" or "cowboys and indians".  And it usually involved people shooting at each other.  That’s mock violence, just as much as pressing a button and shooting a cartoony character on a video monitor.  So what?!?

31218561_0c1c32a734_mLook, if your desire is to prevent kids from acting violently, then you are going to have to do far more than banning Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.  For example:

BARBIE, that plastic icon of girlhood fantasy play, is routinely tortured by children, research has found.

The methods of mutilation are varied and creative, ranging from scalping to decapitation, burning, breaking and even microwaving, according to academics from the University of Bath.

That’s Barbie — about as innocent and passive a toy as they come. 

So maybe it’s not violent toys we should be banning.  Even innocuous toys are subject to violence.  Maybe are children act violently because children are violent.  And if you’re looking for a scapegoat, why not society-at-large? 

Another War on Christmas Battle That Never Happened

From Sadly, No:

I’ve decided to start debunking some of the misleading "War on Christmas" stories posted on WorldNetDaily. It’s a big pain in the ass, but I don’t wanna let MediaMatters do all the work. Let’s start with this one, called "Housing Officials ‘Cancel’ Christmas":

Managers in charge of two federally subsidized housing facilities have told residents in one case they cannot sing Christmas carols, and in another they can’t decorate their own entry doors with religious symbols, according to a religious-liberty law firm.

This is what I love about WorldNetDaily’s so-called "reporting": throughout the entire piece they rely on one source, the Liberty Foundation, for all their information. They never even bother contacting the accused institutions to get their side of the story.

For some actual reporting on this matter, let’s go to WFTV in Florida:

A local man wanted to spread the joy of Christmas at his assisted living facility but was told no. Jay Dyer said he couldn’t believe that the place he has lived for half his life wouldn’t let caroler’s come in for a small party.

OK, that’s significantly different from what WorldNetDaily told us. Instead of banning residents from singing Christmas carols, the assisted living home simply told one resident that he couldn’t bring carolers in during a small party. Now, I’m willing to admit that’s a stupid policy if they indeed were afraid people would get offended by having carolers in the building. But that’s all null and void, because the living facility has reversed the policy and is now allowing carolers to come to the holiday party:

The center Wednesday changed its tune. The carolers can come in, no doubt music to Jay Dyer’s ears.

Channel 9 tried to get a comment from the facility, but did not receive a call back. Meanwhile, Dyer said the original party date of December 3 had passed and he’ll try to organize something for Saturday.

And again, the facility still hasn’t commented publicly on this issue, so we have no idea why they actually made the decision. My guess is that some bureaucrats made an idiotic decision, and quickly reversed it when they realized how stupid it was. Sadly, bureaucrats making dumb decisions does not constitute a war against Christmas.

Note On Bush’s Primetime Speech

(1)  Bush said:

Reconstruction efforts and the training of Iraqi Security Forces started more slowly than we hoped. … At this time last year, there were only a handful of Iraqi army and police battalions ready for combat.

And here’s what Rumsfeld said "at this time last year" (12/8/04, to be specific):

Their security forces, as I mentioned earlier, are – oh, they’re now up to something like 110[000], 120,000 — up from zero. And they are putting their lives at risk as well…they’re being trained rapidly

So basically, either Rumsfeld was lying then, or Bush is lying now.

(2)  Bush takes on a stupid straw man:

If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone.

Who thinks that terrorists would become peaceful if we leave them alone?  Who said this?

(3)  For those who misses the speech, Shakespeare’s Sister gives the abridged version:

Good evening…landmark day in the history of liberty…democracy at the heart of the Middle East…I know many Americans have questions about the cost and direction of this war (but I’m not going to answer them—quick, over there, look at the sparkly freedom!)…weapons of mass destruction…mass graves…global terrorist movement…perpetual war against America…9/11…(do they look scared again yet, Dick?)…stay the course…fight them over there…only two options before our country—victory or defeat…we remember the words of the Christmas carol, written during the Civil War: “God is not dead, nor [does] He sleep; the Wrong shall fail, the Right prevail, with peace on Earth, good-will to men.”

Billmon on Spying on America

Billmon’s brevity is the source of his wit:

Bush declined to discuss the domestic eavesdropping program in a television interview, but he joined his aides in saying that the government acted lawfully and did not intrude on citizens’ rights.

"Decisions made are made understanding we have an obligation to protect the civil liberties of the American people," Bush said on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

Washington Post
December 2005

Citizens of the U.S.S.R. are guaranteed inviolability of the person. No person may be placed under arrest except by decision of a court or with the sanction of a procurator.

The inviolability of the homes of citizens and privacy of correspondence are protected by law.

Constitution of the USSR
December 1936

Light Blogging

Yes, I know there’s much going on.  Bush is talking to the press, laying out plans for victory in Iraq (supposedly), and defending his decision to spy on law-abiding people like you and me.  The War on the "War on Christmas" still spins away.  And people are dying all the time (Jack Anderson being the latest).

But it’s the holiday season, and work is busy, so blogging will be light for a while.  Expect the usual un-insightful posts over the next couple of weeks, albeit lower in quantity, and higher in un-insightful-ness.

The bad spelling and gramattical errors, however, will remain intact.

Congress Not Informed Of All Intelligence Issues Relating To Iraq

The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has issued a report explaining specifically the areas in which intelligence was not shared with Congress.  Key graf:

The executive branch generally does not routinely share with Congress four general types of intelligence information:

  • the identities of intelligence sources;
  • the "methods" employed by the Intelligence Community in collecting and analyzing intelligence;
  • "raw" intelligence, which can be unevaluated or "lightly" evaluated intelligence, (18) which in the case of human intelligence (19) sometimes is provided by a single source, but which also could consist of intelligence derived from multiple sources when signals (20) and imagery (21) collection methods are employed; and,
  • certain written intelligence products tailored to the specific needs of the President and other high-level executive branch policymakers. Included in the last category is the President’s Daily Brief (PDB), a written intelligence product which is briefed daily to the President, and which consists of six to eight relatively short articles or briefs covering a broad array of topics. (22) The PDB emphasizes current intelligence (23) and is viewed as highly sensitive, in part, because it can contain intelligence source and operational information. Its dissemination is thus limited to the President and a small number of presidentially-designated senior administration policymakers. (24)

This should kill the meme that Congress voted for the war having the same intelligence information as Bush.