According to a report in The Los Angeles Times, the Bush White House’s secret surveillance program not only went well beyond the stated parameters, but the whole program was more or less vetted by a single, lower-level attorney with strong ties to Bush and his inner circle.
The article cites a government report that revealed on Friday more about the workings and origins of the updated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act program, but revealed little more about the actual parameters of the often-illegal surveillance conducted under what has become known as The President’s Surveillance Program.
Attorney John Yoo in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel was largely responsible for assessments about the programs’ legality, authoring a series of memos legally blessing the program even though his superiors and most top officials were uninformed about it.
Meanwhile, an investigation through the inspectors general included interviews with more than 200 top officials and front-line agents in defense and intelligence agencies. Views of the effectiveness of the warrantless wiretapping and other still-secret activities were mixed.
Also, the selective and often confrontational way in which the Bush administration sought and procured legal authorization for its post-Sept. 11 programs came in for criticism.
So, what we have is an unprecedented intrusion on the privacy and civil rights of millions of American citizens ostensibly to fill critical gaps in our national intelligence effort to combat terrorism with results that are occasionally positive, but more often not. We fell for the old shill’s chant, “Three for a nickel, two for a dime,” trading our precious rights of privacy for information of questionable value. The shill offered a better deal by far.
Normally, one might point the finger at the watchdogs; but The President’s Man Yoo queered that path. The most bizarre episode in that arema involved the middle of the night visit to a hospitalized Attorney General John Ashcroft by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales and Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Their attempt to get the medicated AG to sign off on a program extension was foiled by the timely arrival of Deputy Attorney General James Comey, who – along with FBI Director Robert Muller – had threatened to resign over the plan to continue the controversial program.
As noted in the Times, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said the report added a sense of urgency to establishing a nonpartisan “commission of inquiry” to probe Bush administration programs. Unfortunately, President Obama opposes such a commission, evidently preferring to spend his precious political capital on dealing with the economy and health care.
The report illustrates how the Bush White House not only manipulated the public and Congress to get its way, but also its own officials. And yet we still don’t know the extent to which our rights as citizens have been violated.
How much evidence do our leaders need to take the kind of action necessary to get at the truth, to shine the glaring light of public scrutiny into the shadowy recesses of this Dark Empire and expose Darth Bush and Cheney the Hutt?
Contact your representatives, or follow Vince Bugliosi’s advice and contact your district attorney or your state attorney general. Urge them to start the process, to get the ball rolling. President Obama has another agenda, one that is necessary and important. But shunting the deceits and manipulations of the Bush Administration off to the side is unacceptable. Light a fire under your representatives. It will take a sustained grassroots effort and no time like today to start. We have to take the responsibility.
May the Higher Power of your choice spark a sense of urgency in your heart today. These matters are too important to be left in the hands of politicians.