Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Hang up and dial again

By the way recent New York Times’ headlines read, you might think that the government has been listening to your phone calls to your best next-door-girlfriend about exchanging recipes, and is deciding whether or not such an exchange is going to put you in jail. “President Orders Spying on Americans”, “Justice Probe on Domestic Spying”, “Your Civil Rights Are Being Violated!” scream their headlines. I expect “President Orders Liberals Into Death Ski Camps!” and “Al-Qaeda Says Bush Goes Too Far” will be next.

It seems that, in the course of defending our country, under the Presidential Powers given him by the Constitution of the United States for that purpose, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to monitor -- to listen in on -- wireless telephone calls made by al Qaeda members to people who were living within our borders. But, of course, those who follow the news closely, and read more than just the accounts from the NYT, have concluded (a) that what the president did was, while somewhat shady, still probably wholly legal, (b) that he did go through proper channels, and cleared the entire action with the Senate Intelligence Committee (apparently an oxymoron), (c) that it was probably necessary for national defense, and (d) that it should have remained a secret, instead of being leaked to the press. A recent Rasmussen poll indicates that fully 64 per cent of Americans -- across the full spectrum -- support the president on this. The remaining 36%? Well, some of them are legitimately worried about the “slippery slope” everybody seems to be dancing on. With this, will the FBI go right back to wiretapping the president’s enemies, as they did for Nixon, or listening in on baby monitors as they did for Clinton? Will this lead to a repressive state? I’ll admit they have a right to their concerns, even though, by and large, I don’t share them, since I still have faith, ultimately, in the powers of the Constitution and in my fellow Americans. Call me a fool, if you must.

Meanwhile, if al Qaeda is calling my next-door-neighbor, I want to know why. At the very least, I want the people whose job it is to protect me and mine to know why al Q’ is calling.

The NYT and others are also trying to spin the investigation into these leaks, too, as some sort of politically motivated action, to try to rescue the president’s poll numbers from wherever they were just before the most recent Iraqi election. Or, perhaps, as retribution against government agents who, although they signed secrecy clauses in their contracts, “felt duty-bound” to bring down the duly-elected Commander in Chief, for slighting them when time came for promotions (isn’t that the tradition for Deep-throaters?).

Editors of the NYT, Newsweek, and other publications -- as well as Democratic Party leaders such as Chuck Schumer -- seem to think that it’s just dandy to scream bloody murder over the supposed “outing” of Valerie Plame, who had not been a field agent since roughly the first term under Clinton, and had no remaining active contacts, but that it’s supportable action as “whistle-blowing” when somebody goes outside the provided, protected whistle-blowing chain of command, and goes straight to the newspapers to reveal current intelligence methods and sources.

If criminal charges should have been filed against somebody for making public -- even accidentally -- the name of a non-secret analyst for the CIA, they should certainly be filed against the people who effectively eradicated an entire network of agents and agencies designed to help prevent terrorists from killing. It’s as simple as that. But some, like the NYT and Schumer seem to think either that we are all incredibly stupid and gullible, that there is no threat from al Qaeda, or that it is always in the best interests of the country to undermine the constitutional powers of the President of the United States for their own political or professional gain, especially when American (and other) lives are genuinely at stake.

Those of us in the majority recognize that, like it or not, we are still at war. During such time more than any other, there is good reason to keep intelligence methods and sources under wraps. I may be wrong, but historically, when somebody gives substantial aid to an enemy during wartime, that’s still considered treason. And, the Department of Justice -- not the New York Times, not the legislature’s Schumer, not even the Executive Office -- will decide whether or not I am right.

Update: as mentioned in the second-paragraph link, both houses' intel committees were notified early on. I have not made the correction in the print edition, for fear that they will bollux up the corrections the way they have in the past.

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