Wednesday, May 16, 2007

OK -- I'm Convinced..... It's Time to IMPEACH

I have been one poor correspondent over these months since the last election cycle. After all, the wicked witches running the congress had been melted by the icy cold water thrown on them by a disgusted electorate. I was as happy as Dorthy returned to Kansas after having lived through the terrible nightmare of the Texas neo-con tornado...

But I was dead wrong to be happy. All that I have heard since the congressional takeover is lip-service to the agenda that was forwarded by the Democratic leadership in the months leading up to the November election. We're STILL losing brave men and women in Iraq for no discernable reason. Bush is surging troops in the face of a 28% approval rating (within a percentage point of what the illustrious Schmidlap calls the Keyes Constant) and he sees no real problem with pretty much ANY WRONGDOING by his minions. Events of the last 24 hours have caused me to go past my usual distaste for all things neo-con, and get right down to brass tacks: BUSH MUST BE IMPEACHED. What events you ask? What hit my radar in the past day which makes IMPEACHMENT a necessity? It's not the Wolfowitz scandal at the world bank, nor the firing of the U.S. Attorneys for partisan political reasons.

And no, it's not the troop surge.

All of these things while distasteful are completely within the boundaries of a president's constitutional authority. So, what is it, you ask? It's HIGH CRIMES and MISDEMEANORS.

Last night on the award-winning PBS investigative series Frontline the entire breadth of Bush's illegal domestic spying program was laid bare. The basis for the program revolved around a very quiet move by the Bush administration's FBI to commandeer the records of private enterprises in Las Vegas in the weeks preceeding New Year's Eve 2003 in reaction to a "threat" against the city intercepted by the NSA. In effect, National Security Letters were used to confiscate ALL information on 250,000 people who had visited Las Vegas over a 2 week period. In the end, there was no threat. There were no terrorists, no plot. But the FBI now had the personal financial and travel records of a quarter of a million citizens - AND THEN HELD THE INFORMATION FOR AT LEAST TWO YEARS.

The despicable nazi John Yoo could barely contain his glee as he explained that under the constitution the president has unbridled and unlimited rights to do anything he wants regarding suspicionless searches and seizures. The basis for this power: the president's authority as commander-in-chief. Yoo did everything but call the 4th amendment "quaint." At the same time, the investigation revealed that the president is almost certainly STILL bypassing the FISA courts and conducting unmonitored domestic surveillance on U.S. citizens.
Here is a portion of an interview done for the program with Peter Swire, Chief Counsel for "Privacy" in the Clinton administration


FRONTLINE: ...the president says, "I authorized (the warrantless domestic spying program)." As a lawyer, as somebody who specialized in information technology and the law for a quarter of a century, what's your bottom-line take on this? …

SWIRE: I was outraged. I tend to be fairly level in the way I approach things, and I had a sense of outrage that they would just disregard the law. The law said the exclusive authority for wiretaps were these other statutes, and the president looked at exclusive authority and said, "Except when I feel like it." It was as though the lessons of Watergate had been forgotten. It was as though the lessons of centralized executive power and the problems that come with that had been forgotten. And now the president just said, "I think I can do it my way."

Q: So you're saying the president violated the law?

A: My view is that the president violated the law, yes.


Q: Now, the president has described the program publicly, and to a certain extent Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA, Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales have followed the same line that makes it sound as though the eavesdropping is from one point overseas -- Al Qaeda -- to one point in America; point to point, person to person. Is that what's going on here, or is there more going on?

A: Well, there's still mysteries here. There's one program that the president and the attorney general have announced publicly, but there's very strong reports about other programs that are happening, too. ...

Q: What are you talking about? There's one program; ... it's the program the president describes. What else have you got in mind?

A: Well, there's two other revelations that we've had -- three programs to keep in mind. Program number two has to do with a whistleblower for AT&T who says that some of the big phone switches where huge amounts of communications go in and out between the U.S. and overseas, there's a direct feed to the government. That's not point-to-point for people linked to Al Qaeda; that's anybody who's sending e-mails or [making] phone calls overseas.
[The] next report was the USA Today story in the spring of 2006 which said that for 40 or 50 million Americans -- that's not all Al Qaeda -- 40 or 50 million Americans, [their] detailed phone records have been turned over to the government by the big phone companies. So now we have huge numbers of ordinary communications being intercepted, huge numbers of ordinary Americans' phone records being taken, and no legal structure in place to do that. That's much, much broader than a few people linked to Al Qaeda. ...

Q: [T]his business of turning over the stored communication records for 40 or 50 million Americans, is that legal? …

A:I think it's illegal according to the published reports. There's something called the Stored Communications Act. It says what the rules are for when the government can get people's phone records, but the published reports went down each of the exceptions and said they didn't apply. And we had apparently senior lawyers for one of the phone companies, Qwest, that decided not to participate. … The published reports said ... that Qwest had asked for a warrant, and the government refused to do it.

Q: Could the National Security Agency have gone under the FISA law and gotten a warrant to obtain stored communications, records, for millions of Americans?
I think that would really be up to the judges on the FISA court. The Patriot Act says you can get the whole database. If the whole database is 10 million people, that's something that was never discussed in Congress, [has] never necessarily been approved by any court. The court might decide that's a general warrant and it violates the Fourth Amendment, but the words in the statute would appear to allow it. …

Q: The third program you were talking about is this AT&T program. ... What is your understanding of what is happening in the AT&T case?

A: This program sounds like it could be Carnivore on steroids (an old FBI eavesdropping program)

Both my wife and I had to pick our jaws up off the floor. And today, the exacta came in. My brother emailed me this piece from Slate wherein a former assistant to (now retired) Attorney General John Ashcroft testified before a senate committee that (then) White House Counsel (now Atty. General) Alberto Gonzalez tried to coerce Ashcroft and his deputy to sign off on the reauthorization of the COVERT domestic spying program in 2004 WHILE ASHCROFT LAY CRITICALLY ILL IN THE HOSPITAL. The punchline is that Ashcroft, who has never been accused of being a liberal, had already come to the determination that the program was ILLEGAL, and he REFUSED to signoff on it. The upshot is that the US Attorney General was telling the president that this program BROKE THE LAW. The president's reaction? Send his counsel to get his signature from a nearly comatose Ashcroft. The piece reads like Kafka on acid.

So what do we have?? We have two stories which dovetail. They tell that this administration believes that it is answerable to no one. Bush and his minions believe that TOTAL INFORMATION AWARENESS isn't a necessary evil, but a presidential prerogative. It's time to stop this madness. It's time to IMPEACH.


I'm not Ned said...

You had me at "OK".

schmidlap said...

Welcome, Rabble.

Start your watch now, because soon, "pragmatists" will be here commenting that impeachment isn't worth doing, because there are (allegedly) not enough votes in the Senate to convict.

But welcome to my world. Cold here, isn't it?

drmagoo said...

Schmidlap, I used to be one of those pragmatists (as I've mentioned before), but I just can't take it anymore.

Rousing Rabble said...

It is with absolutely NO cold comfort that I join you in your world. I had run VERY long indeed with my original blog entry, so I didn't really get into just how scary these people around Bush are. Yoo is an Alpha Creep and Gonzalez used his darker-than-white ethnicity to catapult himself into "Peter Principle" slots in the federal government. I mean, really, when John "Cover Up the Nude Statues in the Capitol Rotunda" Ashcroft is looked upon as TOO LIBERAL by Bush's Brain... it's Katie-Bar-The-Door time...

jimbow8 said...

I don't disagree with impeachment. However, I think there's a misunderstanding regarding "high crimes and misdemeanors." It doesn't mean that there has to be an actual federal crime committed. James Madison (you know, that guy who wrote the Constitution) argued the case for impeachment for similar grounds in 1789. BEFORE there were any federal crimes on the book.

Rousing Rabble said...

Jimbow, I agree with you completely - and that's why I used Madison's wording "high crimes and misdemeanors" in describing BushCo's actions here. I have watched nearly all of Comey's testimony in front of the SJC yesterday, and I am struck by the TIME LAG involved. It's been THREE YEARS since this happened, and it's taken a HOSTILE TAKEOVER of the US CONGRESS to get anything resumbling the truth from this administration.

jimbow8 said...

Sorry for any confusion. I wasn't pointing out that anyone here was miscategorizing the phrase "high crimes and misdemeanors." I was pointing to that misunderstanding I constantly hear coming from the media and talking heads. "Firing someone isn't a crime" - that sort of thing.