The Most Useful of Idiots
Joe Klein, who's been consistently wrong since the day he was born, has another "hold your fire" column up on the Time website. His answer to everything is "hold your fire, Democrats." This guy would have thought Neville Chamberlain was being too aggressive with the Third Reich and needed to back off so he wouldn't alienate constituents of German origin.
This latest "hold your fire" column concerns the NSA illegal wiretapping story. He starts with this bit of nonsense:
The liberal reaction is also an understandable consequence of the Bush Administration's tendency to play fast and loose on issues of war and peace—rushing to war after overhyping the intelligence on Saddam Hussein's nuclear-weapons program, appearing to tolerate torture, keeping secret prisons in foreign countries and denying prisoners basic rights.
Appearing? APPEARING? Yeah, just like that guy in the photo appears to have shit on his back.
Then Klein goes completely to the crazy house by dismissing the rule of law and the separation of powers indiscriminantly. And makes shit up to do it:
At the very least, the Administration should have acted, with alacrity, to update the federal intelligence laws to include the powerful new technologies developed by the NSA.
But these concerns pale before the importance of the program. It would have been a scandal if the NSA had not been using these tools to track down the bad guys. There is evidence that the information harvested helped foil several plots and disrupt al-Qaeda operations.
There is also evidence, according to U.S. intelligence officials, that since the New York Times broke the story, the terrorists have modified their behavior, hampering our efforts to keep track of them—but also, on the plus side, hampering their ability to communicate with one another.
Not true at all, and this is from as right-wing a rag as they come:
The Bush administration's surveillance policy has failed to make a dent in the war against al Qaeda.
U.S. law enforcement sources said that more than four years of surveillance by the National Security Agency has failed to capture any high-level al Qaeda operative in the United States. They said al Qaeda insurgents have long stopped using the phones and even computers to relay messages. Instead, they employ couriers.
"They have been way ahead of us in communications security," a law enforcement source said. "At most, we have caught some riff-raff. But the heavies remain free and we believe some of them are in the United States."
Terrorists would have more of a reason to know US rules on monitoring communications than the average American. It would have been exceedingly easy for them to know that the government could get a secret warrant to spy on their phone calls and e-mails. They wouldn't care if it was legal or illegal. And clearly they changed their tactic well before the program was in place. You knew this was true when the only specific plot the White House claimed to thwart using this program was the guy who wanted to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge using a blowtorch. That would be an example of the "riff-raff" cited in the article.
As Digby writes,
But even if that were not true and American suicide bombers were plotting their next attacks in AOL chat rooms, the government would have no trouble getting warrants to spy on them. And that's the rub. I just don't see any scenario in which a FISA judge would not retroactively grant a warrant in a case that thwarted a terrorist plot. Neither can I imagine that if the administration made a case to the congress that it needed to extend the 72 hour retroactive limit to three weeks (or three months!) that the GOP congress wouldn't have gone along. Nor would they have withheld the money required to hire all the people needed to do the paperwork, or whatever the excuse of the day is. The administration would have gotten whatever it needed to legally monitor terrorist suspects. In fact, the terrorists and Americans alike assumed it had already done so.
Therefore, the only logical reason that the administration believed that it had to secretly and illegally spy on Americans is because they knew that Americans would not approve of which Americans they were monitoring. As Glenn says, the only security threatened by the revelations in the NY Times story is the Republican Party's political security.
Of course, Joe Klein would have to have his hear surgically removed from his ass to recognize this. It's much easier for him to make up shit and use it as evidence. And it's always easier for him to distill an argument into the exact opposite of what it actually is.
I have to hold back my deep sigh before writing this out AGAIN, but the issue here is the executive ignoring federal statutes. What you end up with, if unchecked, is a bloodless coup. We can't have an executive unilaterally deciding what laws to follow and what laws to ignore. He's a President, not a king (hat tip to Russ Feingold for that part of the soundbite).
Shorter Joe Klein: We have a President who can decide to be a king if he says it's really really important.