Cheney Pushed U.S. to Widen Eavesdropping
WASHINGTON, May 13 — In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.Here is a repeat of a post from December, 2005:
But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency's strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.
The evil that is Dick Cheney
A few weeks ago Sidney Blumenthal gave us a history of the evil machinations of Dick Cheney over the last 40+ years.
The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith at the Asia Times discuss Cheney's lust for imperial power in ralation to the war in Iraq and the war on terror in War crimes made easy.
How has the Bush administration gotten away with such apparently illegal acts as hiding intelligence reports from Congress, creating secret prisons, establishing death squads, kidnapping people and spiriting them across national borders, and planning unprovoked wars? Part of the answer lies in the administration's deliberate effort, initiated even before September 11, 2001, to tear down any existing legal and institutional means for preventing, exposing or punishing violations of national and international law by American officials.As you can see the real threats Dick Cheney sees are the checks and balances in the US constitution itself. In other words, Dick Cheney hates America because of it's freedoms. Dick Cheney is the real terrorist threatening the United States.
In 2002, Adriel Bettleheim wrote in the Congressional Quarterly that Vice President Dick Cheney "considers it the responsibility of the current administration to reclaim those lost powers for the institution of the presidency". Indeed, the Bush administration has tried to remove all conceivable restrictions on the "imperial presidency", setting its sights in particular on dismantling the Freedom of Information Act, the Intelligence Oversight Act and the War Powers Resolution.
The Freedom of Information Act
The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provides a good example of the constraints Cheney aimed to remove. Essentially a sunshine law passed by Congress in 1966, the FOIA requires that government agencies disclose their records on written request. The act provides nine "exemptions" to the public's right of access, but in the Bill Clinton years attorney general Janet Reno advised agencies that information should be released as long as it did "no foreseeable harm".The Lord of Darkness, Dick Cheney, needs darkness to carry out his nefarious schemes against the American people and the world.
Shortly after September 11 attacks, attorney general John Ashcroft issued a sweeping memorandum that interpreted out of existence much of the FOIA, discouraging government agencies from releasing any information that could conceivably be withheld. ("Any discretionary decision by your agency to disclose information protected under the FOIA should be made only after full and deliberate consideration of the institutional, commercial and personal privacy interests that could be implicated by disclosure of the information.")
Department and agency heads who decided to withhold records were "assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions" unless they lacked a sound legal basis - as determined by the administration itself.
Ashcroft's memo advocated broad interpretation of the exemptions, particularly Exemption 5, which protected agency and interagency memos. Subsequent communications recommended that government agencies withholding requested information cite as well Exemption 2, regarding agency personnel rules and practices, and Exemption 4, regarding proprietary interests.
Congressional intelligence oversight
A second example of the Bush administration's efforts to "reclaim" the "lost powers" of the presidency concerns congressional intelligence oversight. In the wake of the Vietnam War, a Senate select committee headed by Senator Frank Church conducted the most extensive investigation ever made of US intelligence operations, revealing, among other things, a series of previously secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) plots to assassinate foreign leaders and overthrow foreign governments.Preventive war VS checks and balances.
In response to these revelations, Congress passed the Intelligence Oversight Act of 1980. That act concentrated the power of Congress to oversee American intelligence operations in the House and Senate intelligence committees. It also required intelligence agency heads to keep the oversight committees "fully and currently informed" not just of their ongoing activities but of "any significant anticipated intelligence activity".
Initially, Congress succeeded in performing "serious and nonpartisan oversight", though partisan bickering later reduced its effectiveness, according to Kevin Whitelaw and David E Kaplan in US News and World Report. In the late 1990s, intelligence committee members and staffs were nonetheless receiving more than 1,200 briefings and reviewing more than 2,200 reports from the CIA annually.
Shortly after September 11, Bush officially informed the CIA and other agencies concerned with national security that "[t]he only members of Congress whom you or your expressly designated officers may brief regarding classified or sensitive law enforcement information" are "the speaker of the House, the House minority leader, the Senate majority and minority leaders, and the chairs and ranking members of the intelligence committees in the House and the Senate".
In practice, the Bush administration has failed - or in certain cases simply refused - to keep the intelligence committees informed on some of the most important aspects of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism. According to Douglas Jehl of the New York Times, "The restrictions that the White House has imposed on briefings about the CIA detention program" for high-level terror suspects "were described by Republican and Democratic Congressional officials as particularly severe". This, in turn, appears "to have had the effect of limiting public discussion about the CIA's detention program".
Senate majority leader Harry Reid forced a dramatic closed session of the Senate this fall to demand that the intelligence committee investigate the cherry-picking and manipulation of intelligence used to promote the Iraq war.
But the administration has refused to provide critical information such as presidential intelligence briefings. According to a recent article by Murray Waas in the National Journal, for example, Bush was briefed by the CIA on September 21, 2001 - less than two weeks after September 11 that there was scant evidence of collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda. But the intelligence committee didn't learn about the briefing until the summer of 2004. The Bush administration is still refusing to provide the president's daily brief and dozens of related documents to the committee.
The constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. Since World War II, however, the many armed conflicts in which the US has been involved have been conducted without such a declaration. In 1973, at the height of opposition to the war in Vietnam, Congress tried to reassert some mild constraints on the authority of the president to initiate and conduct wars without Congressional authorization by passing the War Powers Resolution.In conclusion:
This required the president to consult with Congress before the start of any hostilities and to remove US armed forces from those hostilities if Congress had not declared war or passed a resolution authorizing the use of force within 60 days. The resolution was vetoed by Richard Nixon, but Congress overrode the veto.
The Bush administration, however, has asserted almost unlimited powers to make war. In its National Security Strategy of the United States, issued in 2002, it claimed the right to launch preventive wars simply on the basis of the belief in a threat of possible future danger. Condoleezza Rice, then national security advisor, put it this way, "As a matter of common sense, the United States must be prepared to take action, when necessary, before threats have fully materialized."
As Senator Robert Byrd pointed out in a speech to Congress on January 25, this doctrine of preventive war "takes the checks and balances established in the constitution that limit the president's ability to use our military at his pleasure, and throws them out the window ... This doctrine of preemptive strikes places the sole decision of war and peace in the hand of the president and undermines the constitutional power of Congress to declare war".
The War Powers Resolution mattered little in Afghanistan and Iraq, because Congress enthusiastically supported these ventures, passing what political scientist Nancy Kassop, writing in Presidential Studies Quarterly, termed "exceedingly permissive resolutions" that "leave critical decision-making to the president's discretion". But it may matter very much in the future. In recent Congressional hearings, for instance, Senator Lincoln Chaffee posed the following question to Rice, now secretary of state: "Under the Iraq war resolution, we restricted any military action to Iraq. So would you agree that if anything were to occur on Syrian or Iranian soil, you would have to return to Congress to get that authorization?"
She answered: "Senator, I don't want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. And I think you'll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the 'war on terrorism' and in the war on Iraq."
The Bush administration seems to assert that its powers are sufficient for it to initiate an illegal war of aggression without authorization from either the United Nations or Congress.
Preventing future Iraqs - future aggressive wars, abuse of civilians, torture of prisoners and other war crimes - is not just a matter of changing administrations and foreign policies. It also involves restoring and elevating the legal barriers that once stood in the way of an out-of-control imperial presidency. "Lost powers" usurped by "the institution of the presidency" must be reclaimed by the people and their representatives.What we can see in all of this is the fulfilment of Dick Cheney's life long dream of an executive branch with almost unlimited power. Once again we can see that
That about says it all.