Sunday, June 25, 2006

Lather, rinse, repeat

Now that yet another secret Bush administration surveillance program, this one scouring transactional banking databases, has been revealed, it was easily expected that various White House officials would, once again, denounce such exposure and claim that it would hurt efforts against terrorism. While usually preferring that underlings assail the press with reprimands, this time Dick Cheney stood forth, apparently fed up with the leaking and publishing of so much of his dirty war, to admonish the media, which, once again, was the New York Times.

Having read his complaint, I was rather stuck by how much it sounded like every other complaint about previously revealed "secret" -- now not so -- programs instantiated by the White House shortly after 9/11. I dug up a few choice tidbits for what might be called an ad nauseum review of the yowling. Familiar themes pervade administration ire: the adminstration is protecting Americans -- how dare anyone question them -- secret programs are necessarily good and legal, exposure of them is necessarily bad and possibly illegal, and those who expose them, if not outright traitors, have at least jeopardised national security.

1) Guantanamo Bay, indefinite detention and legal counsel:

Disruption of the interrogation environment, such as through access to a detainee by counsel, undermines this interrogation dynamic. Should this occur, a critical resource may be lost, resulting in a direct threat to national security.

2) Secret CIA prisons

Brushing aside international criticism of the CIA-run prisons set up in eight countries, Bush said that the nation is at war with an enemy "that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again. And so, you bet, we'll aggressively pursue them..."
-- Washington Post,
Bush Defends CIA's Clandestine Prisons

November 8, 2005

Republican leaders yesterday demanded an immediate joint House and Senate investigation into the disclosure of classified information to The Washington Post that detailed a web of secret prisons being used to house and interrogate terrorism suspects.

"If accurate, such an egregious disclosure could have long-term and far-reaching damaging and dangerous consequences, and will imperil our efforts to protect the American people and our homeland from terrorist attacks,

3) NSA warrantless wiretappping

The President confirmed the existence of a highly classified [NSA warrantless wiretapping] program on Saturday. The program remains highly classified; there are many operational aspects of the program that have still not been disclosed and we want to protect that because those aspects of the program are very, very important to protect the national security of this country.
-- Alberto Gonzales,
December 19, 2005

The safety and security of the American people depend on our ability to find out who the terrorists are talking to, and what they're planning. The American people expect me to protect their lives and their civil liberties, and that's exactly what we're doing with this program.
-- George Bush,
Jan. 25 2006

4) NSA phone records collection

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday that the government can obtain domestic telephone records without court approval under a 1979 Supreme Court ruling that authorized the collection of business records.

"[T]hose kinds of records do not enjoy Fourth Amendment protection. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy in those kinds of records."

"Let me try to reassure journalists that my primary focus, quite frankly, is on the leak -- on leakers who share the information with journalists," Gonzales said yesterday. He added that he would prefer to "try to persuade" journalists "that it would be better not to publish those kind of stories."
-- Washington Post,
Gonzales Defends Phone-Data Collection
May 24, 2006.

5) And the banking transaction surveillance

The news media take it upon themselves to disclose vital national security programs, thereby making it more difficult for us to prevent future attacks against the American people,

the disclosure of this program is disgraceful. We're at war with a bunch of people who want to hurt the United States of America, and for people to leak that program and for a newspaper to publish it does great harm to the United States of America.
-- George Bush,
Bush Condemns Bank Record Search Leak,
June 26, 2006

While the most common refrain bespeaks dire threat and a cowed populace shivering in fear, wanting protection at any cost, there is one standout phrasing in this group, given legalistic voice by one of the masterminds behind the legal justifications for torture, Alberto Gonzales.

While employing the mantra of "national security" when needs be, Gonzales is probably uncomfortable asserting such grandiose aims unless forced. His pronouncement about the NSA's collection of phone records is more in keeping with his mindset, wherein he claims the administration's legal authority for the data collection, not out of some need to protect Americans but simply because they can. His claim that there can be no "reasonable expectation of privacy" seems to fly in the face of all the lawsuits currently being levied against telecommunications companies but no matter. Gonzales' legal opinion that the White House can collect such data appears, as it usually does, to be entirely at odds with an empathy for American civil liberties. With that little legalistic hiccup -- far removed from the usual script -- Gonzales revealed the true stance of the White House as regards their covert curricula: whatever they do, they do because they can. And so far, no one has proved them wrong.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

so when does the secret spying on postal mail come out?

9:15 PM  
Blogger theBhc said...

Good question. I'm sure at this point, we'd all be surprised to learn they weren't doing that.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Musclemouth said...

The news is often months, if not years or decades, behind the times.

3:32 PM  

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