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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Quick, Call the Snopes Folks


Telling outright falsehoods has become old hat for the Bush Administration, hasn't it? I mean, really, we've had a whole load of whoppers lately, but in today's WaPo, Glenn Kessler unloads on the latest "urban legend" to come out of the Preznit's mouth.

It seems the whole "the fact that we were following Osama bin Laden because he was using a certain type of telephone made it into the press as the result of a leak." is nothing but a big, old lie.
The al Qaeda leader's communication to aides via satellite phone had already been reported in 1996 -- and the source of the information was another government, the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time.

The second time a news organization reported on the satellite phone, the source was bin Laden himself.
It's kind of tough to blame it on the media when Bin Laden is the one who told the media in the first place that he was using satellite phones, now isn't it?

Sure, this isn't a huge lie, like the mushroom clouds or the we'll be greeted with flowers and candy or we don't conduct domestic surveillance without a warrant or anything. But when an Administration gets comfortable enough to lie about the little things as easily as the big ones, it sure shows an intellectual sloppiness and an ethical black hole after a while.

And before I start hearing cries that this is just the politicization of national security matters and I ought to be ashamed of myself, consider this: the Judges on the FISA court so mistrust this Administration at this point, they've asked for a detailed briefing, because they fear the Preznit and his crony pals have tainted the entire legal process. One of these judges resigned in protest this week, he was so disgusted. And the Bushie crony rationale for not using FISA, even though they had emergency authority for up to 72 hours?
One government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the administration complained bitterly that the FISA process demanded too much: to name a target and give a reason to spy on it.

"For FISA, they had to put down a written justification for the wiretap," said the official. "They couldn't dream one up."
Holy hell in a hand basket. If I made that kind of whiny excuse in a court of law, the judge would rip my head off with his bare hands.

And if this is any indication, that's exactly what the Administration feared: if you are doing blanket wiretaps of multiple people with absolutely no probable cause, then of course the judge is going to yell at you. Grow some balls and realize that the legal system requires that you actually do your freaking job instead of trying to cheat your way through everything.

It's not as though a probable cause standard for potential terrorist activity is so high, for hell's sakes -- you simply have to show that you have evidence of a connection to illegal activity and to an outside actor. You know, like "hey, this guy works for Osama and he's roommates with some other guys we know do as well." Or "we found this guy's phone number in the cell phone used by this other fellow who was caught with bomb-making material." Oh yeah, tough standards.

Look, the FISA court is there for a reason. You need a cool-headed third party to review these warrant applications to be certain the government isn't running around half-cocked on a call from someone's pissed off ex-wife who is trying to get even for a late child support check. (Yep, it happens. Been there, done that, reined in an officer on that warrant more than once in my prosecutor days.) I mean, it's not like this Administration has given everyone any sort of confidence that there is a cool head in the bunch. *snerk* No wonder the FISA judges are pissed.

Next time someone whines on teevee that the FISA requirements were just too cumbersome (And I'm talking to you, Toensing, you dissembling partisan mouthpiece.), I want the journalist interviewing them to say the following: "Is the cost of liberty so cheap, that you are willing to sell it because you are too lazy to do some paperwork?"

Grow up, George. Do your job. And stop thinking you run the world. This isn't King for a Day. Here's an urban legend for you: all those advisors telling you how great you are at your job? They're just sucking up. They don't really mean it.

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