Thursday, May 11, 2006

NSA brawl heats up

As I mentioned in the item below, there is a major fracus in Washington over the NSA compling suspect phone records from America's phone companies. USA TODAY ran a story revealing that the US National Security Agency has massive database of Americans' phone records, received from carriers like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth.

Big deal. One would expect no less in a post 9/11 world, and frankly I'd be angry if the NSA wasn't keeping an eye on this sort of thing.

But the usual suspects have gone absolutely bananas on this. It's not just Arlen Spector.

“The press is doing our work for us and we should be ashamed of it…” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, (D-Vt.,) the Senate Judiciary Committee's senior Democrat. “Shame on us, being so far behind, in being so willing to rubberstamp anything this administration does, the Republican-controlled Congress refuses to ask questions and so we have to pick up the paper to find out what is going on. We ought to fold our tents and steal away.”

That would be the same Senator Leahy who was kicked off the Senate Intelligence Committee for leaking classified information to his pals in the press.

Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), said: “We’re talking about the most fundamental issue of privacy for America and its citizens….Currently most members of Congress are somewhere between benign neglect and blissful ignorance when it comes to this administration’s overreaching.”

Durbin called for subpoenas of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other “key” administration members. Then he ramped up the partisan screed rhetoric. “The fact that the Department of Justice has abandoned their own investigation of this administration’s wrongdoing because there has been a refusal to give the investigators security clearances, is clear evidence of a coverup within the administration.”

Yes, Senator Durbin, who compared our troops in Iraq to the guards in Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags. And just barely escaped censure.

Loyal, patriotic Americans who care about the country's national defence, to be sure. If the good people of Vermont and Illinois wish to be represented in the Senate by people who obviously have so little regard for the country's safety and security in wartime, that is certainly their affair.

As a contrast let's look at how a couple of other Senators handled this, shall we?

Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions: "Sen. Durbin said that this was a warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans. First of all, let me say it’s not a wiretapping. There’s no listening of any conversations here.

"It’s simply a compilation apparently according to the article of the numbers that every telephone company maintains when somebody makes a call. And it’s been made available in some fashion to the government of the U.S. so they could, perhaps in some way that I don’t understand, match it to terrorist phone calls to somebody in foreign nations or wherever that might be involved in attempting to attack the U.S."

Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn was even more direct: "The suggestion, the hyperbolic language that suggests that maybe there’s some sort of coverup is just ridiculous. We’ve had four members of the intelligence committee on the judiciary committee, the rest of us are not. So we don’t know what they know…

“To suggest that there’s some sort of coverup is just not correct,” Cornyn continued. “And I’m not going to characterize the purpose (for which) someone might make such an allegation but I think it’s pretty obvious."

"So there’s no coverup," Cornyn said. "This is not a partisan matter. This is not somewhere where the president or the intelligence community is running like a rogue elephant trampling our civil liberties. I think we ought to lower our language and our rhetoric a little bit and be conscious of what’s at stake. And what’s at stake is the safety and security of the American people."

"This is nuts,” said Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) "We are in war. And we’ve got to collect intelligence on the enemy. And you can’t tell the enemy in advance how you’re going to do it. And discussing all of this stuff in public leads to that.”

"The White House is not going to acknowledge all of the things that we’re doing against the enemies. No surprise there. "

Hallelujah. At least a few people get it.

Of course, the kicker is that President Bush's new CIA nominee, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, headed the NSA from March 1999 to April 2005. So Hayden would have overseen the agency's domestic call-tracking program...and thus will be in line for a massive partisan grilling amidst tears of outrage and posturing for the TV cameras. Sickening.

Once again: people like Durbin and Leahy simply either do not comprehend that we're in an existential war or simply don't care, as long as they keep the partisan wheels churning.

Again, just for the purpose of comparision, let's take a look at how US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt handled things during WWII.

Roosevelt, aside from incarcerating and/or deporting anyone who was a known security risk or might have potentially been one gave the FBI carte blanche to intercept all overseas phonecalls and cable transmissions and to intercept any domestic mail within the US that it deemed necessary. I've personally seen a citation and medal given to one elderly woman who steamed the stamp off a domestic letter and found some microfilm under it...which resulted in the destruction of a Nazi spy ring and sent 6 spies to the gallows.

Roosevelt, unlike certain politicians and their allies in the Main Stream Media today recognized an existential threat when he saw it and was prepared to do what it took to deal with it.

I only wish President Bush was as open and forthright about dealing with this war.

It's time we got serious, Senators. Quit handcuffing our security apparatus.

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