Skip to comments.Bush's Spying: Scandalous, or Echo of Clinton-Era "Echelon"?
Posted on 12/20/2005 7:40:43 AM PST by april15Bendovr
Bush's Spying: Scandalous, or Echo of Clinton-Era "Echelon"?
Friday's big scoop by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau on domestic spying by the National Security Agency, "Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts," no doubt had the effect the paper intended, throwing the White House on the defensive and causing the renewal of the Patriot Act to be thwarted, a long-time goal of the Times editorial page.
But is this sort of terrorist surveillance truly a new and troubling thing? The government's Echelon spy program was reported on during the Clinton administration, in a 2000 report on CBS's "60 Minutes." In words that ring familiar, host Steve Kroft intoned:
"If you made a phone call today or sent an e-mail to a friend, there's a good chance what you said or wrote was captured and screened by the country's largest intelligence agency. The top-secret Global Surveillance Network is called Echelon, and it's run by the National Security Agency and four English-speaking allies: Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand. The mission is to eavesdrop on enemies of the state: foreign countries, terrorist groups and drug cartels. But in the process, Echelon's computers capture virtually every electronic conversation around the world."
This is what the Times reported Friday: "Under a presidential order signed in 2002, the [National Security Agency] agency has monitored the international telephone calls and international e-mail messages of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States without warrants over the past three years in an effort to track possible "dirty numbers" linked to Al Qaeda, the officials said."
Not that Bush and Republicans are content with the Times' revelations. Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas accuses the Times of (as the AP puts it), "endangering American security to sell a book by waiting until the day of the terror-fighting Patriot Act reauthorization to report that the government has eavesdropped on people without court-approved warrants."
Cornyn was referring to a book by Times reporter and story author James Risen, whose book "State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush administration" will be published by the Free Press in January. The Times failed to make a note of that in its Friday story.
Blogger Tom Maguire thinks a correction is in order on this Saturday paragraph from intelligence reporter David Sanger ("In Speech, Bush Says He Ordered Domestic Spying"): "Mr. Bush's public confirmation on Saturday of the existence of one of the country's most secret intelligence programs, which had been known to only a select number of his aides, was a rare moment in his presidency. Few presidents have publicly confirmed the existence of heavily classified intelligence programs like this one."
Maguire points us to this phrase just a few graphs on, showing that more than "select" aides knew about the program and that Bush had repeatedly briefed Congress on it (with no outcry from the liberal senators now excoriating Bush over the program's existence): "He said Congressional leaders had been repeatedly briefed on the program, and that intelligence officials 'receive extensive training to ensure they perform their duties consistent with the letter and intent of the authorization.'"
Reporter Sanger also uses one of the paper's favorite phrases to describe Bush's Saturday radio address to the nation in which he criticized Congress: "He also lashed out at senators, both Democrats and Republicans, who voted on Friday to block the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act, which expanded the president's power to conduct surveillance, with warrants, in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Indeed, President Bush reacted strongly, saying in his address that as a result of the Times' report, "our enemies have learned information they should not have."
John Hinderaker at Power Line sees a Valerie Plame parallel: "How does the Times know this? Because intelligence officials who are hostile to the Bush administration, and disagree with its policies, leaked the information .Under the Plame precedent, this case is a no-brainer. The intelligence officials who leaked to the Times should be identified, criminally prosecuted, and sent to prison."
One wonders if the Times will get behind that prosecution as vigorously as they did when it was I. Lewis Libby in the spotlight.
The Times followed up with a worried front-page "news analysis" by Scott Shane (of the Joe Wilson appreciation society) on Saturday, "Behind Power, One Principle."
"A single, fiercely debated legal principle lies behind nearly every major initiative in the Bush administration's war on terror, scholars say: the sweeping assertion of the powers of the presidency. From the government's detention of Americans as 'enemy combatants' to the just-disclosed eavesdropping in the United States without court warrants, the administration has relied on an unusually expansive interpretation of the president's authority. That stance has given the administration leeway for decisive action, but it has come under severe criticism from some scholars and the courts."
Confederate Yankee accuses Risen and Lichtblau in their Monday follow-up story of "sensationalizing the scope of Bush's executive order" and has more useful background on Bush's legal justification of using surveillance against terror suspects.
I'm going to keep yelling it from the rooftops. The key point all these reports neglect is that these taps were on calls and e-mails either originating or terminating internationally. This is not domestic spying.
No the key point is that President Bush actually has probable cause to do this, what was Cliton's reason?
Filtering out internet porn sites to see who was into giving BJs on the cheap?
Just another assault by the enemies of America.
We have enemies here and they are abetted by the New York Times and the Democrats.
I am sick of it.
Time for a major boycott of any New York Times input whatsoever.
That's what I thought when I heard all of the hoopla over this. Didn't Clinton do it daily? I remember Echelon and something called Carnivore as well. I've always just assumed we were long past this stage of Big Brother, living with the legacy of Clinton. I don't have any problem with surveilling non-citizens at all. I consider this somewhat of an improvement, since the callers had direct links to Al Quaeda.
This is an effort to stop the very effective protection of the U.S.
Notice we have had NO attacks since 9/11 here. Well the Times, the media and the democrats will see to it that there are attacks here. We are seeing that action in progress.
And, note - it will be the responsibility of the media, the Times and the Democrats. Do you really want a democrat protecting your country? Notice how they do it.
By abetting all enemies in and out of this country.
Exactly. And this morning, I finally figured out why they could not go to the Courts for regular wiretap warrants. The targets of the surveillance were identified by their association with known or suspected foreign terrorists. Those associations would in most cases have come from NSA monitoring of the communications of these foreign overseas terrorists. That information would not be releasable to a court, and of course there might also be questions of timeliness.
Additionally, and possibly more importantly, the terrorists overseas would suspect that the US was monitoring their calls, and thus would change numbers frequently to throw the monitors off. Those in the US would be less paranoid, and thus monitoring their calls would reveal the changed numbers of the overseas end of the line. It would not in many cases be necessary to monitor what was said on those calls monitored by the US number, only the "who was called" information would be needed, and then those numbers could be monitored for content. However I'd monitor the content of the calls to and from the US numbers as well.
It would be interesting to know how many of those monitored were US citizens, how many were legal immigrants, and how many were illegals, including people who had overstayed legitimate visas as well as those with falsified papers.
By the way these papers have been selling I would say there already has been a boycott and major layoffs of their employees.
Could you imagine approaching the 9th circus court for wire taps or other Lefty judges like them?
If the president is not spying domestically, then where are the complaints that he isn't doing enough to keep the country safe? If we are so concerned with national security, shouldn't the president's reach be extended to include domestic spying? After all, there may be terrorists here already. Why not tap every phone in the U.S. and be done with it?
What exactly would that tell us? I suspect that if we knew that, then everyone here would be calling for the head of the person who "leaked" the information.
Nothing will satisfy me other than complete destruction.
I have had it with the ignorant media enemies of America.
If I have to listen one more time as they try and interpret the President's remarks for us as they snicker about the importance of poll numbers all the time totally having no knowledge of history, the facts of war and the responsibility they have to join in the efforts to protect us, I will destroy my tv.
I am ready to destroy the freedom of the press. Why? Because the press seeks to destroy my freedom, my country, my president. This is war.
An important point, and in fact we hear repeatedly that some planned attacks were foiled by the intelligence gathered.
Perhaps there's proper reasons why we haven't been told specifics, but I can't help thinking President Bush could put this whole matter to bed full stop by actually explaining what plots were stopped and when. There have been many small victories in the WOT that have happened all over the world that haven't seen the light of day. I realize many can't be discussed without compromising security assets, but I have to think some could be brought forward. It would mute the Dems attacks considerably IMO.
No, I do not agree. Let President Bush run the war and reveal what he wants to reveal.
The problem is that we have enemies in our government, in our media. The president cannot say that but you know full well he understands that.
By getting him to continually let the help him make decisions, get him to reveal more and more, plays into their gameplan of destroying this country and our safety.
Always remember - We Have Enemies in this Government and in the Media and they seek to destroy this country.
MESSAGE TO DEMOCRATS: If there is another attack "democrat" will be a term of hatred and scorn, disloyalty and self-destruction. Kennedy, Reid, Pelosi, Kerry, Boxer, Levin, Rangel et al., will be hunted as terrorist sympathizers worthy of listing beside Benedict Arnold, John Walker, and Albert Ames.
It has been rumored in the past that someone from the David Koresh compound had the "key" to Echelon. That is why it had to be destroyed.
I wasn't clear...I don't feel anyone other than the President should have the discretion to release the info. I just feel that if HE did it on a few points where he felt he could it would go a long way to shutting down the naysayers.
Oh, ok I agree. But, it does not matter with the naysayers - they will just move on to another facet of the president's efforts.
Being President in this country is extremely hard - I do not blame the president from ignoring the media. I just can't understand how he can even be passably polite to them as they seek to undermine him every step of the way.
Their whole viewpoint of superiority over what is revealed to the American public is a farce. They are in fact totally ignorant of history and have been educated by liberals in our school systems to be nice little socialists. So, therefore, they are less educated than the older in our society and have been thoroughly indoctrinated by their educators and their bosses to the socialistic, worldrule agenda.
It is up to middle America to protect this country. We cannot depend on the liberal states to do it.
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