So…about that resolution

Congress is plodding along with business as usual this week, apparently impervious to the legitimate outrage that exists over the NY Times decision to out the existence of a secret anti-terrorism financial tracking program. Hugh Hewitt asks the proper question; “where’s the outrage?”

If what the Times Two did was dangerous to the nation’s security –and everyone from the president down is saying that– then where’s the Congressional debate over this irresponsibility?

Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Frist need to get a sense of their body’s resolution drafted, debated and voted on this week.

It is hard to take a Congress seriously that doesn’t react to such actions in a time of war.

I completely agree. Why the hesitation to debate such a resolution? Does Congress not have a voice on this issue? As the elected representatives of the American people you would think Congress might want to weigh in on the NY Times decision to endanger the lives of congressional constituents and damage the ability of our government to wage the war on terrorism. This does not seem to be something that you need to wait for polling on…

UPDATE: J.D. Hayworth is calling on Dennis Hastert to revoke the NY Times congressional press credentials. In a letter to the Speaker Hayworth writes:

Times Editor Bill Keller called the decision to reveal the existence of the terrorist tracking program a “hard call,” but went ahead and made it anyway. We disagree. It was not a “hard call” – it was the wrong call and the Times should be penalized for it.

Why not go a step further and ask the Speaker to introduce a sense of the House resolution?

UPDATE 8:20 am Wed: GOP House Leadership to introduce resolution

29 Responses to “So…about that resolution”

  1. Peter Hughes Says:

    Journalists have taken the affectionate description of the Fourth Estate and turned it into the First and Most Important Branch of Government. They have created the false definition of “Anything Negative is Certainly Intelligent”. Sometimes, the “negative” is simply stupid. This whole affair reminds me of how the word “quissling” (sp?) came into the language. Perhaps we need a new word: Timesling. Something that conveys pure disgust for a dispicable act.

  2. madmatt Says:

    Why no mention of all the other instances when the program was mentioned including a presidential address? Once again ok to leak if your in the admin, but if you say the exact same thing at an inconvenient time it is treasonous.

    You people are shameless liars, you should be ashamed of yourselves!

  3. jeff Says:

    Bush announced he was going to do this at least 3 years ago and Gonzalez discussed this last year. Do we think that terrorists have really, really, short memories? Or just American voters?

  4. Lex Says:

    Classifying this program, although perfectly legal (as opposed to classifying the warrantless domestic NSA surveillance, which was a crime*), was about as practical as classifying the fact that the sky is blue.




    But thanks for playing.

    (*Classifying anything to cover up evidence of a crime — in this case, serial felony violations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — is, itself, a crime, which I suspect is the biggest reason why the administration has fought so hard to keep this program out of court.)

  5. Craig Says:

    To the right-wing liars:

    This president is trashing the consitution. This program is not something that’s news to the terrorists (who your policies help greatly, feeding them recruits).

    It’s been announced repeatedly by the president, not to mention it’s common sense, as we’ve so often researched financial data in criminal investigations.

    What’s new is the extent of absuses for innocent citizens.

    The NY Times is responsibly informing not the terrorists but the people of the nation of the activity that affects their rights.

    You are out to serve, wittingly or unwittingly, an agenda towards a country with less freedoms, and this is about attacking the NY Times for partisan political reasons, not about its doing anything wrong in reporting on the ‘war on terror’.

  6. n. nescio Says:

    Where’s the outrage?

    There’s an easy answer to that question: it went the same place as the “outrage” over the USA-PATRIOT Act, indefinite detentions without trial or charge, transporting people on secret flights to secret prisions that just so happen to be located in torture-friendly nations, wiretaps on millions of Americans without anything even resembling a warrant, massive databases of telephone calls made by everybody in the country formed without warrant or probable cause, eminent domain decisions granting government the power to take away private land for private gain, amendments to the US constitution designed specifically to sell off our freedom of expression, and presidential signing statements that give the administration the power to ignore the rule of law entirely. I can keep going if you need me to.

    There’s lots of things to be outraged about, you know.

  7. j. Says:

    outrage? over the outing of a secret program that is anything but secret? the rnc kool-aid must have been mixed extra strong this week.

  8. Jon Says:

    1. There’s a big difference between knowing the government is monitoring financial transactions and providing details. If it’s been know about for a while in official circles, that is another problem, but it’s still a problem.
    2. There are still questions about whether the wire tapping was illegal. I think it was not, but even if it is in a gray area, I would prefer the president had the courage to proceed in this direction until told specifically otherwise.
    3. The financial monitoring was well monitored and regulated; there was not a serious risk of this being used without suspicion of terrorist involvement.
    4. The government has had the right for decades to collect information on phone calls; all information passed to a third party like the phone company or SWIFT is available to the government and is not covered by the the right against unreasonable search and seizure.
    5. Don’t blame use for Kelo v. New London; Scalia, Thomas, O’Conner, and Rhenquist were the disssenters and they’re not exactly the left-wing. Kelo is classic socialism and, if you don’t like that, vote Republican.
    6. Prisoners in this war are (usually) not covered by the Geneva Convention. That is very specific about a series of criteria about who we are required to treat as POWs. As far as I know, we are allowed by general usage, tradition, and the Geneva Convention to execute all or most of those prisoners we are holding in Guantanamo without trial, which we did not do.

  9. RC Says:

    SWIFT data has been monitored by the State Dept. since the mid-90’s, the program at the center of this NYT flap tracks the same data that I tracked as an applications developer in 1999, compliant with a Fed. law requiring reporting of funds transfers to or from any name on a State Dept. list of suspicious persons and businesses. My employer at the time was a company whose sole service was foreign purchases, so we sent DOS ALOT of data. 99.99% of transactions were innocent. I’m increasingly concerned about the erosion of privacy protections, but anyone with an upper-tier Reuters Financial news feed can get SWIFT data. I’m sure that any terrorist organization capable of long range planning knows all about SWIFT and the intricacies of funds transfers and assumes that SWIFT data is being monitored. All this data mining and monitoring is known about here and there.

  10. Lex Says:

    2. There are still questions about whether the wire tapping was illegal. I think it was not, but even if it is in a gray area, I would prefer the president had the courage to proceed in this direction until told specifically otherwise.

    No, there really aren’t. FISA makes wiretapping of calls by U.S. persons without a warrant a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine for each count. It also makes such activity tortious. AND it states that it is the sole legal authority for domestic wiretapping … and its constitutionality has been upheld in full by the Supreme Court. So, um, no, there really aren’t any questions.

  11. Jon Says:

    My understaning is that some exceptions have been made in the past when the scope of collection is limited and the analysis of the calls are made by unconcious agents, like AI daemons, and so the abuses of power by government or members of government are thus limited, so it doesn’t fall under FISA. And without access to classified information on how the program works, that determination can’t be made.

    Certainly, I’m not a specialist, and if Lex is a lawyer, he may be more informed, but, if that exception doesn’t exist now, I’d be up for it.

  12. Lex Says:

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’ve talked with quite a few who are, and they’re unanimous on this point (more so than they were on choice of presidential candidate). They also say that even were the law changed, the behavior to this point would still be criminal.

    Your understanding also overlooks the fact that there were NSA shift supervisors determining which calls would be listened to. There is no mechanism anywhere that defines that as legal.

  13. n. nescio Says:


    Thanks for the reply. It’s nice to see civil, well-reasoned responses instead of insults and obscenity and accusations of treason/America-hating. Not to say that I’ve noticed that on this specific weblog, but I do see it an awful lot on others. Good to know that some people are still interested in discussing things like adults.

    I guess I’ll try to reply to each of your points in turn. I’ll start with #2.

    Perhaps the warrantless wiretap program *is* legal, after all. I’ve seen research and claims that go both ways. Of course, if it were legal then perhaps the administration wouldn’t be currently fighting tooth and nail to prevent any sort of Congressional oversight. If it were legal, then why is Senator Arlen Spector (a man whom I held great respect for up until he attempted to shit all over my 1st Amendment rights yesterday) proposing legislation that would retroactively *legalize* the warrantless wiretap program? There are lots of questions like that, on both sides of the argument. I don’t know the answers, and I wish I did.

    I guess my point is that *I* don’t know if the program is legal or not, nor do you, nor does pretty much anybody else out there in the blogosphere. The only way anybody will ever determine if such a program is legal is by holding it up to REAL judicial and Congressional scrutiny. That isn’t happening, and in fact some appear to be trying their hardest to prevent it from *ever* happening.

    You said in point 3 that the SWIFT intelligence program “was well monitored and regulated; there was not a serious risk of this being used without suspicion of terrorist involvement.” I’d like you to explain how you know that, exactly. All I’ve seen or heard has been the administration expecting We The People to just take their word for it. I’d love to do so, I really would, except that the current administration seems to be having some credibility issues.

    You say that you “would prefer the president had the courage to proceed in this direction until told specifically otherwise”.

    I say that I would prefer that the president had respect for the rights reserved by the people who are holding up their end of the social contract, instead of trying his absolute damndest to place himself above the law.

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t particularly like the current administration, nor what they’re doing. Then again, I was scared to death of Kerry running things, I thought that Clinton was a fucking coward, and you better believe that I’m scared of the possibility of his wife running things.

    Concerns about things like unlimited presidential powers with little to no oversight or accountability should transcend party lines. This isn’t a Right or Left issue, this isn’t a Democrat of Republican issue, it’s a FREEDOM issue, plain as that. People should be terrified ANY time a government official claims they’ve got special powers that trump the Constitution.

    To everybody who isn’t: please stop giving away MY essential liberties in exchange for YOUR temporary safety. Freedom isn’t free. Sometimes you have to fight for it, bleed for it, die for it, kill for it. Giving up your freedom piece by piece because you’re too much of a fucking coward to be willing to bleed for it means you’re unworthy of freedom to begin with.

    I’d recommend that everybody maybe take a little time, and read Sinclair Lewis’ book “It Can’t Happen Here”.

  14. Jon Says:

    My only response is to state that I’d agree that I distrust the government as an institution and I’d prefer better protocols of oversight, for instance having judicial review of the rules in a rules-engine if a rules-engine-like device is determining “reasonable” as in “unreasonable search and seizure”. Some of that AI is pretty sophiticated and is capable of making these decisions in a way that keeps black-mailable material out of the hands of humans. However, in the situation where a credible argument can be made before a judge that such an engine can determine this reasonableness and a full change to the protocols can’t be made without compromising the secrecy of a military/intelligence operation, I’d prefer the government move forward even if the program is later overturned. In the meantime, since such review can’t be performed until after the war is over and the program is declassified, pragmatically I’m forced to live with the scenario as it is.

    My reference to the oversight and legality of the SWIFT program comes from what I have heard quoted in the original NYT article. This doesn’t seem to be disputed, although I have not read the article itself.

    I have a copy of “It Can’t Happen Here,” but after laughing my way through the introduction where some idiot misinterpreted a half-dozen quotes, I never read the actual book. It doesn’t seem impossible that “it” should happen here; Americans are as human as anyone else. But, in that it is written in response to the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany, which has “Socialist” right in the name of the party and whose attitudes towards economics, religion, and minorities are (although the goals are not) reflected in the far-left movement that has gripped the outside edge of the Democratic party, I’m not worried about it coming from conservatives.

  15. Jon Says:

    I forgot to mention that, this is the significance of notifying members of the Senate of the opposition party; it is pretty reasonable to assume that, after the war, these members would insure that the program is reviewed.

  16. Lex Says:

    The SWIFT program is almost certainly legal, and although I wondered aloud about that before the follow-up news reports started coming in, I’ve never claimed otherwise. (It is true, however, that the appropriate Congresscritters weren’t all informed about the program until the administration knew that the Times was preparing a story.)

    But the only claims I’ve heard that the NSA program is legal are based on one or both of two arguments:

    – That the authorization to use military force against Iraq somehow implicitly authorized warrantless domestic wiretapping in violation of FISA. That’ll come as a big surprise to Justice Scalia and the other strict-constructionists on the Court. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Thomas was the only one who bought it and wouldn’t be shocked if NO justice bought it.

    – That the president’s constitutional warmaking powers trump anything Congress might say. This one runs aground on the Court’s Youngstown ruling in the Korean War, which basically said that even in the context of his constitutional warmaking authority, the president can’t do X if Congress has explicitly banned X. FISA is a very explicit and comprehensive ban on warrantless domestic wiretapping, with felony criminal penaties; thus, the president may not order warrantless domestic wiretapping. Sure, this Court could legislate from the bench just like any other. But it ain’t likely, and unless they do, the NSA program is going down.

    And, finally:
    jon: [”It Can’t Happen Here”] is written in response to the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany, which has “Socialist” right in the name of the party and whose attitudes towards economics, religion, and minorities are (although the goals are not) reflected in the far-left movement that has gripped the outside edge of the Democratic party, I’m not worried about it coming from conservatives.

    You’re kidding, right? You actually think the Nazi movement was leftist, and/or that the far-left wing of the Democratic Party equates to Nazis? You’re gonna need to explain that one because I’m totally not seeing it.

  17. Tim Says:

    Uh oh…has Godwin’s Law just been invoked?’s_law

    Just kidding…good discussion, and thx for keeping it civil.

  18. n. nescio Says:

    Jon: you’re right. It’s very resonable to assume that members of the opposing party would ensure that the program was properly overseen once the war is over.

    The problem is that we’re currently engaged in a war against a concept, and it’s a lot harder to defeat a concept like “Terror” than it is to take Berlin or Tokyo. The war on terror is an indefinite one - never will we see “Terror” sign a surrender accord. If this is a war that begins on Bush’s watch, and ends on the watch of the West Point Class of 2006, then those opposition party members have got a hell of a wait on their hands.

    This is why demanding oversight NOW is so very essential, in my opinion. In reading It Can’t Happen Here, I was less interested in the facist/nazi parallels as I was in the “we’re in an indefinite state of emergency, give President Buzz all the powers he needs!” theme. You should read the book if only for the rather scary plot device of a president who grabs all the power he can. As for “it” coming from the far-left…really, I can see it coming from the far edge of either side. Maybe the far left wants to drag everybody into some kind of socialist utopia where nobody has to make a decision or take responsibility for themselves, and wouldn’t even *think* of burning an American flag; but it seems to me that the far right is just as interested in dragging everybody into some kind of conservative utopia where everybody is straight, rich, Christian, and wouldn’t even *think* of burning an American flag.

    In my opinion, both sides are equally worthless.

  19. zen_less Says:

    Several people have pointed out that the SWIFT program was well known. The Boston Globe has an article today that shows the Bush adminsitration itself was talking about this program for years.

    So, this was not a secret, and anyone who thinks that the Times article aided the enemy (however amorphously defined) need to show what they might be doing differently today than they did before. And how the fact that the LA Times and the Wall Street both wrote about the program DIDN’T help the terrorists in the same way.

  20. Jon Says:

    I’m not sure I have much left to add, except that I will try to make time to read “It Can’t Happen Here”. I only want to address the Godwin’s Law statement. That’s why I included the caveat that the goals of the American Left were different from that of the Nazis, because I’m not saying they are; there are enough groups deliberately copying the Nazi model and ideology, like Baathism in Iraq, that such statements aren’t appropriate.

    My point was that both Nazism and Fascism, which are not the same thing, are variations of Marxism, which dominates what is often designated as the “Left” in today’s politics. Founded around a rejection of religion as a source of moral legitimacy for a culture, the various forms of Marxism, in addition to being reduced to implementing Communism through Socialism for practical reasons, needed to find legitimacy in other places. Nazism found its legitimacy in the theories of evolution and then eugenics, placing the current world dominance of Europeans as support for finding moral legitimacy in perceived genetic superiority. Presumably, Fascism being founded by Mousolini, the former editor of the Italian Socialist newspaper, found its legitimacy in the same place as Stalist Communism, which is to say by rejecting all other forms of legitimacy taking as a mission the “reunification” of all “falsely” differentiated cultures. Fascism as an economic model is a very prototypical form of Socialism, but with a profit motive to incentivize work.

    I’m not trying to be insulting when I say it, but Nazism IS a Leftist ideology; Nazi is an abbreviation of “National Socialism” (in German, of course). In fact, following the reasoning of Shelby Steele in “White Guilt”, it may explain why the American Left has been so preoccupied with race since WWII whereas the American Right and the Republican Party, having been founded to free the slaves and being against Jim Crow and segregation for a century at that point, don’t feel the same level of guilt. It would also explain the patronizing nature of the Left’s equality programs, like affirmative action. But I never said your heart wasn’t in the right place.

  21. Jon Says:

    Also, with a few exceptions, one of the hallmarks of American Conservatism is the rejection of Utopia, that short of the Hereafter nothing can be made perfect. We focus instead on the Least Bad. I don’t consider perfect Conservatism where everyone is Christian, but where people leave me alone to be Christian, talk about my Christianity, talk to others about about them being Muslim or Buddhism, and don’t get shot for it. There are certain social institutions that require governmental acknowledgement, but they have usually been implemented in certain similar ways in other cultures because those ways have been shown to work well and provide the least negative consequences.

  22. actus Says:

    “There’s a big difference between knowing the government is monitoring financial transactions and providing details.”

    Not very many details have been provided.

  23. n. nescio Says:

    “There are certain social institutions that require governmental acknowledgement, but they have usually been implemented in certain similar ways in other cultures because those ways have been shown to work well and provide the least negative consequences.”

    No offense, Jon, but that smells like code for “I think the government should legally mandate that marriage consists of a union between one man and one woman”. Please correct me if I’m wrong, because it seems kind of hypocritical to want to be left alone to your own ends while wanting the government to poke its nose into other peoples’ lives.

  24. Jon Says:

    Yeah, marriage is what I was referring to, and while I do tend toward the Libertarian end of conservatism, I included that to reflect that I acknowledge the government must establish some standards that reflect the will of the majority when social institutions overlap with government ones. Is this all that different from establishing tax exemptions for churches, giving the government the authority to implicitly “establish religion[s]”? That’s the real danger of the income tax. But back to the subject, the marriage institution isn’t “other people’s lives”, it’s part of my life, too. Just because I’m not gay doesn’t mean this doesn’t affect me. And having concensus between virtually all religions of the world isn’t exactly establishing a theocracy, as others have claimed.

  25. n. nescio Says:

    While I don’t want to derail the discussion, I’m vaguely curious as to how two people getting married effects you. Care to elaborate?

  26. Lex Says:

    Jon: Re Naziism = leftist, I don’t agree with you for far too many reasons to go into here (not least the fact that the word “Socialist” in the party’s title is misleading, arguably deliberately so), but at least I understand now where you’re coming from. Thanks for the explanation.

  27. gil Says:

    Can’t you understand Americans…. The only one allowed to leck clasified information with impunity is the President, or Rove, or the VP.

    Any one else is a traitor….. And blogs like this will tag them so…… Very fair and balanced just like Fox channel.

    What a bunch of Right Wing Bull Shit hypocrites, cry babies !!!

    You think Terrorist don’t know that their financial transactions can be monitored, or their conversations intercepted? The only ones that did not know this is Right Wingers… But then again that is because their collective IQ equals that of my dog.

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