You know we're in trouble when the elected leadership of a supposed democracy starts to treat citizens not as constituents but as problems.
In his four-year campaign against al Qaeda, President Bush has turned the U.S. national security apparatus inward to secretly collect information on American citizens on a scale unmatched since the intelligence reforms of the 1970s.That's right. Here we are, four years after foreign nationals who were in this country illegally managed to illegally hijack planes and (illegally) fly them into buildings, killing thousands, and our own government is treating American citizens as the #1 security risk.
Since October, news accounts have disclosed a burgeoning Pentagon campaign for "detecting, identifying and engaging" internal enemies that included a database with information on peace protesters. A debate has roiled over the FBI's use of national security letters to obtain secret access to the personal records of tens of thousands of Americans. And now come revelations of the National Security Agency's interception of telephone calls and e-mails from the United States -- without notice to the federal court that has held jurisdiction over domestic spying since 1978.
That's right. You damn Americans are un-American!
A high-ranking intelligence official with firsthand knowledge said in an interview yesterday that Vice President Cheney, then-Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet and Michael V. Hayden, then a lieutenant general and director of the National Security Agency, briefed four key members of Congress about the NSA's new domestic surveillance on Oct. 25, 2001, and Nov. 14, 2001, shortly after Bush signed a highly classified directive that eliminated some restrictions on eavesdropping against U.S. citizens and permanent residents.
In describing the briefings, administration officials made clear that Cheney was announcing a decision, not asking permission from Congress. How much the legislators learned is in dispute.So either the Republican-controlled Congress needs protection now, or it just couldn't be trusted then.
The Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, began as a small policy-coordination office but has grown to encompass nine directorates and a staff exceeding 1,000. The agency's Talon database, collecting unconfirmed reports of suspicious activity from military bases and organizations around the country, has included "threat reports" of peaceful civilian protests and demonstrations.
Nixon knew all about this: surveillance of "political enemies."
The Post reported that the FBI has issued tens of thousands of national security letters, extending the bureau's reach as never before into the telephone calls, correspondence and financial lives of ordinary Americans. Most of the U.S. residents and citizens whose records were screened, the FBI acknowledged, were not suspected of wrongdoing.But under Bush, we're now guilty until proven innocent.
But here's the crux of the issue:
Yesterday's acknowledgment of warrantless NSA eavesdropping brought the most forthright statement from the president that his war on terrorism is targeting not only "enemies across the world" but "terrorists here at home." In the "first war of the 21st century," he said, "one of the most critical battlefronts is the home front."
Bush sidestepped some of the implications by citing examples only of foreigners who infiltrated the United States -- Saudi citizens Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers. But the most fundamental changes undertaken in the Bush administration's surveillance policy are the ones that have broadened the powers of the NSA, FBI and Pentagon to spy on "U.S. persons" -- American citizens, permanent residents and corporations -- on American soil.
Just listen to our president:
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
This is a highly classified program that is crucial to our national security. Its purpose is to detect and prevent terrorist attacks against the United States, our friends and allies.
Yesterday, the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have.
And the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.
The man pays a lot of lip service to notions of "spreading democracy" around the world, but has little patience or interest in preserving democracy here at home.
Spying on Americans who aren't even suspected of crimes? What's up with that?