Sunday, February 05, 2006



Well, if you haven't been paying close attention-- and now that the big ball game is over-- as a matter of fact, someone has been spying on us and that someone is the odious Regime of the (not quite legally elected) President of The United States (of America). Today's WASHINGTON POST has a really exhaustive look at the whole awful mess. Basically, as has been reported for several weeks, all the thousands of manpower hours have been a huge waste of time and resources. All of Bush's spying and eavesdropping has yielded nothing at all, at least nothing "pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use. Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as 'terrorist surveillance' and summed it up by declaring that 'if you're talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.' But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no."

Few people think this could possibly impact on them or anyone they know. They're wrong. If you ever read my other blog, the Around The World Blog you may be aware how impressed I was with Anwar, the guy who drove us all around Bali for a couple of weeks earlier this year. In fact, I was so impressed, that Friday Anwar and I concluded negotiations for a little tourist enterprise we are now partners in. I had my bank wire him a sizable amount of money in Bali. As I was doing it, it occurred to me that his first name, Mohamed, might trigger some automatic mindless scrutiny. I don't know about you but, although I have nothing whatsoever to do with Al Qaeda, I don't fancy untrustworthy, unintelligent authoritarian Mayberry Machievellis like a Bush or a Gonzales listening in on my phone conversations.

"The Bush administration refuses to say-- in public or in closed session of Congress-- how many Americans in the past four years have had their conversations recorded or their e-mails read by intelligence analysts without court authority. Two knowledgeable sources placed that number in the thousands; one of them, more specific, said about 5,000. The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears. Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, 'wash out' most of the leads within days or weeks. The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush's circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program's lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged 'reasonable' if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained."

The loudest defender of Bush's illegal spying also happens to be the Regime's most consistent liar and probably the most deceitful person to ever work in the Executive Branch, Cheney. He lied to a TV audience via CNN to claim that illegal eavesdropping "has saved thousands of lives." That, of course-- like most of what Cheney says-- is a bold-faced lie.

Bush and Gonzales and Cheney-- all of whom have shown repeatedly how completely untruthful they are-- are asking they we trust them. If someone like this says "Just trust us," all alarm bells should start ringing off the hook. This is the crew that started on a not quite right foot by conspiring with electronic voting machines to steal the 2000 election from Al Gore. Having gotten away with that, they've been upping the ante ever since! Today on NBC's increasingly less credible "Meet the Press," Arlen Specter, senior Republican senator from PA and head of the Judiciary Committee (which starts an investigation into the Bush Regime's illegal spying tomorrow), strongly rejected one of the Regime’s legalistic justifications for the domestic surveillance program. After being challenged by the Regime propaganda operative, who parroted the Gonzales/Cheney/Bush nonsense about how the authorization to attack Iraq includes the right to spy on Americans, Specter shot back: "I believe that contention is very strained and unrealistic. The authorization for the use of force doesn’t say anything about electronic surveillance. The issue was never raised with the Congress. And there is a specific statute on the books, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which says flatly that you can’t undertake that kind of surveillance without a court order."

I was able to roust DWT recalcitrant team member Helen away from some ball game she was watching today to get her to explain how the concepts of "trust" and "Alberto Gonzales" are two twains that will never meet. Here's Helen's report:

A few years ago, the Justice Department shut down an investigation of Jack Abramoff, related to some shenanigans on Guam. The U.S. Attorney for Guam caught wind of "lobbying fees" being paid to Abramoff, to the tune of $324,000. The money was being sent to him through a lawyer in $9,000 increments in order to avoid detection. Abramoff had been hired by judges on the island to protect their turf: they wanted to stop proposed legislation in Congress that would create a court above them and thereby reduce their power and influence. The U.S. attorney, Frederick Black, had held this position for twelve years, however, it was a "temporary" position. He had a reputation for integrity. Oh uh...we know how anyone with integrity fares in this administration, don't we?

At this time, Black was investigating the Governor's office for corruption. Specifically, the Governor appeared to be diverting funds for his own personal gain. The Governor had also hired Abramoff, who claimed he had contacts in the Department of Justice who could get rid of Black.

Black asked a section of the DOJ for assistance in investigating Abramoff, as he was pursuing the investigation of the Governor and his resources were limited. Apparently, the DOJ passed on this information to Gonzales, who was then White House counsel. Even though the DOJ refused to assist Black, he convened a Grand Jury, which subpoenaed the Abramoff contract with the judges. The very next day, viola! The Bush Administration announced that Black would be replaced as U.S. Attorney on Guam! A remarkable coincidence! This type of demotion has been known to happen before in this regime when it does not like what is going on. Black was demoted to Assistant U.S. Attorney on Guam.

The DOJ then sent an Assistant U.S. District Attorney to Guam, who barred Black from doing any further investigation of corruption cases. He also demanded that all new cases be approved by him-- a very unusual procedure. Thus Black's case with Abramoff was stopped in its tracks.

Apparently the FBI and the DOJ Inspector General are now looking into the circumstances of Black's demotion, which were shady, to say the least. Chuck Shumer and another Senator are advocating for an independent counsel as the DOJ itself is far too involved. Exactly who interfered to stop Black's investigation of Abramoff? Who was responsible for the Administration's decision to replace Black? Did the White House help Abramoff out? How can the public be confident in the DOJ investigation of this matter when Gonzales himself may be a target along with his deputies, former White House colleagues, his predecessor and his boss?

Trust them?


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