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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush, NSA and Congress Amid Turmoil

The past few days have seen a strong uproar by the U.S. Congress regarding the alleged, and now confirmed usage of NSA powers to spy on Americans. The NSA, National Secutrity Agency, the most secret intelligence organization in the country, was authorized by President Bush to conduct surveillance on American citizens without court orders on more than thirty occasions. The New York Times printed the report this past week and an eruption of outrage resulted in the Congress. In fact, such was the uproar that the schedule vote to end a potential filibuster on the Patriot Act renewal ended in a flop for the Bush Administration. Several senators directly expressed that their vote had been swayed by the Times report. This, of course brings up the question of the articles timing, specially after the Times admitted that it had held off on the report for more than a year. Why was the report held? The Times says it is because the White House asked them to not print it for reasons of National Security (what else would you expect). The Times says that even with the printed report, they still withheld some information deemed too sensitive. I'm not suggesting that the Times timed the printing of the article with the Bush Administrations biggest success in Iraq (the elections) to thwart any good news, but it certainly raises some eyebrows. Let me also point out that The New York Times has been particularly hurt in the past couple of years. Beginning with the false reporting by Jayson Blair, to the skewed reports by renegade reporter Judy Miller, the Times credibility has taken a huge hit. Maybe they were thinking that with such an explosive report, if timed correctly, they could restore some juice to the wounded paper. Again, this is just a theory. I am an avid Times reader.

The Bush Administration initially declined to comment, but has now come out full force attacking the Times and staunchly defending its actions. President Bush angrily defended and justified his actions authorizing the NSA to spy on Americans. He called the Times irresponsible and accused them of endagering National Security. Bush also vowed that he would not stop using these methods to "protect the american people". The way in which the President came out swing very aggresively might end up hurting him, specially since he is viewed as vey arrogant. It might not be the best idea to come and say basically: I am the President and I can do what I want. A more humble approach and explanation of why he decided to use his authority in that way, and why he feels that he still needs to use it, could be more fruitful. But hey, the White House has been misfiring for months now, another misfire won't matter. Or will it?

Several members of Congress have called for an investigation, and Senate Judiciary committee Chairmen Arlen Specter has stated that he will begin investigative hearings early next year and that they will have top priority. The President might be in trouble in this case. Whatever justification the White House decides to use regarding the legality of the orders, they are most certain a violation of U.S. law. They might argue that going through the secret court takes too long, but that argument falls by the wayside because it only takes a matter of hours to get a court approved warrant. I am not going to say that it is not necessary to investigate Americans at times. Of course it is, but there are ways to do it and laws protecting these kind of actions for a reason. Who is to say that this particular order has not been abused by the NSA, or that it won't be abused in the future? That is why there are checks and balances, to protect us from the possible abuses by government organizations. This is a democracy, we should behave like one. No one is above the law, or is the law for that matter.

Bush Approved Eavesdropping, Official Says

P.S. Certain members of Congress cannot escape the fact hat they were briefed by the White House, at least on some of the activities being conducted. So they cannot act completely shocked and not bear some of the blame for failing to fulfill their responsibilty of oversight.

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