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Profile: George W. Bush
Positions that George W. Bush has held:
September 20, 2001
“Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen. It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
[US President, 9/24/2001]
March 20, 2002
“Remember these are—the ones in Guantanamo Bay are killers. They don’t share the same values we share.”
[US President, 3/25/2002; Human Rights Watch, 1/9/2004]
June 10, 2002
“This guy, Padilla, is a bad guy. And he is where he needs to be—detained,” along with many other “would-be killers”
July 10, 2002
“Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security and for the people of Iraq.”
[US President, 10/14/2002]
August 22, 2002
“The American people know my position. And that is that regime change is in the interest of the world.”
[Agence France-Presse, 8/22/2002; CNN, 8/25/2002; CNN, 9/30/2002]
September 7, 2002
“I would remind you that when the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied—finally denied access [in 1998], a report came out of the Atomic—the IAEA that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I don’t know what more evidence we need.”
[Washington Times, 9/27/2002]
September 12, 2002
“Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.”
[Executive Office of the President, 9/12/2002 ; PBS, 9/12/2002; Age (Melbourne), 6/7/2003]
September 16, 2002
Saddam’s offer is “his latest ploy, his latest attempt not to be held accountable for defying the United Nations…. He’s not going to fool anybody. We’ve seen him before…. We’ll remind the world that, by defying resolutions, he’s become more and more of a threat to world peace. [The world] must rise up and deal with this threat, and that’s what we expect the Security Council to do.”
[Agence France-Presse, 9/19/2002]
September 25, 2002
“… the danger is, is that they work in concert. The danger is, is that al-Qaeda becomes an extension of Saddam’s madness and his hatred and his capacity to extend weapons of mass destruction around the world. Both of them need to be dealt with. The war on terror, you can’t distinguish between al-Qaeda and Saddam when you talk about the war on terror. And so it’s a comparison that is—I can’t make because I can’t distinguish between the two, because they’re both equally as bad, and equally as evil, and equally as destructive.”
[US President, 9/30/2002]
October 1, 2002
“The UN must show some backbone. We’ll work with members of the Security Council to put a little calcium there, put calcium in the backbone.”
[London Times, 10/2/2003]
October 7, 2002
“The threat comes from Iraq. It arises directly from the Iraqi regime’s own actions—its history of aggression, and its drive toward an arsenal of terror. Eleven years ago, as a condition for ending the Persian Gulf War, the Iraqi regime was required to destroy its weapons of mass destruction, to cease all development of such weapons, and to stop all support for terrorist groups. The Iraqi regime has violated all of those obligations. It possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons. It has given shelter and support to terrorism, and practices terror against its own people. The entire world has witnessed Iraq’s eleven-year history of defiance, deception and bad faith…. We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas… And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons.”
[US President, 10/14/2002]
October 21, 2002
“The stated policy of the United States is regime change because, for 11 years, Saddam Hussein has ignored the United Nations and the free world. For 11 years, he has—he said, look, you passed all these resolutions; I could care less what you passed. And that’s why the stated policy of our government, the previous administration and this administration, is regime change—because we don’t believe he is going to change.”
[US President, 10/28/2002]
October 22, 2002
“For the sake of having an international body which is effective, the UN… must be resolved to deal with this person, must resolve itself to be something more than a League of Nations, must resolve itself to be more than just a debating society, must resolve itself to help keep international peace. It’s an important time in our history to determine whether or not we’re going to be a nation which is willing to work with other nations to keep the peace. The answer is ‘you bet’ but if they won’t, if the UN can’t make its mind up, if Saddam Hussein won’t disarm, we will lead a coalition to disarm him for the sake of peace.”
[CNN, 10/22/2002; Associated Press, 10/21/2002]
November 7, 2002
“Hopefully, we can do this peacefully ’ don’t get me wrong. And if the world were to collectively come together to do so, and to put pressure on Saddam Hussein and convince him to disarm, there’s a chance he may decide too o that. And war is not my first choice, don’t ’ it’s my last choice.”
[US President, 11/11/2002]
November 8, 2002
Saddam’s “cooperation must be prompt and unconditional or he will face severest consequences”
[US President, 11/11/2002]
November 9, 2002
“The world has now come together to say that the outlaw regime in Iraq will not be permitted to build or possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons… [a]nd my administration will see to it that the world’s judgment is enforced”
[US President, 11/15/2002]
November 20, 2002
“Saddam Hussein has been given a very short time to declare completely and truthfully his arsenal of terror. Should he again deny that this arsenal exists, he will have entered his final stage with a lie. And deception this time will not be tolerated. Delay and defiance will invite the severest of consequences. America’s goal, the world’s goal, is more than the return of inspectors to Iraq. Our goal is to secure the peace through the comprehensive and verified disarmament of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Voluntary or by force, that goal will be achieved.”
[New York Times, 11/21/2002; US President, 11/25/2002]
December 2, 2002
“In the inspections process, the United States will be making one judgment: Has Saddam Hussein changed his behavior of the last 11 years? Has he decided to cooperate willingly and comply completely, or has he not? So far the signs are not encouraging…. That declaration must be credible and complete, or the Iraqi dictator will have demonstrated to the world once again that he has chosen not to change his behavior. Any act of delay, deception, or defiance will prove that Saddam Hussein has not adopted the path of compliance and has rejected the path of peace.”
[US President, 12/9/2002; Washington Post, 12/3/2002]
December 4, 2002
“This is our attempt to work with the world community to create peace. And the best way for peace is for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. It?s up to him to make his decision.”
[US President, 12/9/2002]
December 31, 2002
“I hope this Iraq situation will be resolved peacefully. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to work to deal with these situations in a way so that they’re resolved peacefully.… You said we’re headed to war in Iraq ? I don’t know why you say that. I hope we’re not headed to war in Iraq. I’m the person who gets to decide, not you. I hope this can be done peacefully.”
[US President, 1/6/2003]
January 2, 2003
“First of all, you know, I’m hopeful we won’t have to go war, and let’s leave it at that.”
[White House, 1/2/2003]
January 28, 2003
Iraq has enough material “to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax—enough doses to kill several million people… more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin—enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure… as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.”
[Washington Post, 1/28/2003]
February 7, 2003
“But Saddam Hussein is—he’s treated the demands of the world as a joke up to now, and it was his choice to make. He’s the person who gets to decide war and peace.”
[US President, 2/10/2003]
March 6, 2003
“I’ve not made up our mind about military action. Hopefully, this can be done peacefully.… I want to remind you that it’s his choice to make as to whether or not we go to war. It’s Saddam’s choice. He’s the person that can make the choice of war and peace.”
[US President, 3/10/2003]
March 8, 2003
“[I]t is clear that Saddam Hussein is still violating the demands of the United Nations by refusing to disarm.… We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq. But if Saddam Hussein does not disarm peacefully, he will be disarmed by force.”
[US President, 3/17/2003]
March 17, 2003
“Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
[US President, 3/24/2003]
March 26, 2003
“We will help the Iraqi people to find the benefits and assume the duties of self-government. The form of those institutions will arise from Iraq’s own culture and its own choices.”
[US President, 3/31/2003]
April 28, 2003
“As freedom takes hold in Iraq, the Iraqi people will choose their own leaders and their own government. America has no intention of imposing our form of government or our culture. Yet, we will ensure that all Iraqis have a voice in the new government…”
[US President, 5/5/2003]
May 9, 2003
“Soon, Iraqis from every ethnic group will choose members of an interim authority. The people of Iraq are building a free society from the ground up, and they are able to do so because the dictator and his regime are no more.”
[US President, 5/12/2003]
July 2, 2003
“There are some who feel that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring ‘em on. We have the force necessary to deal with the situation.”
[New York Times, 7/2/2003]
July 30, 2003
“Yes, I think, first of all, remember I just said we’ve been there for 90 days since the cessation of major military operations. Now, I know in our world where news comes and goes and there’s this kind of instant-instant news and you must have done this, you must do that yesterday, that there’s a level of frustration by some in the media. I’m not suggesting you’re frustrated. You don’t look frustrated to me at all. But it’s going to take time for us to gather the evidence and analyze the mounds of evidence, literally, the miles of documents that we have uncovered.”
October 18, 2003
“We don’t torture people in America. And people who make that claim just don’t know anything about our country.”
[Amnesty International, 10/20/2003]
May 5, 2004
“People in Iraq must understand that I view those practices as abhorrent.…must also understand that what took place in that prison does not represent the America that I know.… The America that I know has sent troops to Iraq to promote freedom.”
[CBS News, 5/5/2004]
May 11, 2004
“I’m probably not the only one up at this table that is more outraged by the outrage than we are by the treatment.… These prisoners, they’re murderers, they’re terrorists, they’re insurgents. Many of them probably have American blood on their hands. And here we’re so concerned about the treatment of those individuals. I am also outraged that we have so many humanitarian do-gooders right now crawling all over these prisons, looking for human rights violations while our troops, our heroes, are fighting and dying.”
[New York Times, 5/11/2004]
June 10, 2004
“Listen, I’ll say it one more time.… The instructions that were given were to comply with the law. That should reassure you. We are a nation of laws. We follow the law. We have laws on our books. You could go look at those laws and that should reassure you.”
[US President, 6/21/2004]
June 24, 2004
“The United States is committed to the worldwide elimination of torture and we are leading this fight by example.”
[Amnesty International, 5/7/2004]
September 1, 2005
“I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees. They did anticipate a serious storm. But these levees got breached. And as a result, much of New Orleans is flooded. And now we are having to deal with it and will.”
[Reuters, 9/2/2005; Washington Post, 9/1/2005]
George W. Bush was a participant or observer in the following events:
Page 12 of 16 (1587 events)previous
Emiliano Santiago. [Source: Elliot Margolies]Oregon National Guardsman Emiliano Santiago’s lawsuit against his forcible redeployment back to Iraq begins in a Seattle, Washington, appeals court. Santiago spent eight years in the Guard, and his term of duty expired in June 2004. But four months later, the Army ordered him to ship out to Afghanistan. It also reset his military termination date to December 24, 2031. (The 26-year extension was explained by Army lawyers as being made for “administrative convenience.”) Santiago refused to go, and filed a lawsuit naming Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as the defendant. The lawsuit, Santiago v. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, is the highest court review of the Army’s controversial “stop-loss” policy (see November 2002, November 13, 2003, Early January, 2004, and June 2, 2004) to date. Army lawyers say that under the November 2002 “stop-loss” policy, President Bush can “suspend any provision of the law relating to promotion, retirement or separation” of any soldier who is deemed essential to national security in times of crisis. Santiago’s lawyers say in a written statement: “Conscription for decades or life is the work of despots.… It has no place in a free and democratic society.… If the government can break its promises to young men and women like Santiago, then the bedrock of our all-volunteer army—trust in the government’s promises—will crumble.” Many legal observers believe that if Santiago loses in the appeals court, he and his lawyers will push the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Ironically, Santiago is slated to be redeployed to Afghanistan within a week, and may not be on hand to hear whether he wins or loses his case. [Seattle Times, 4/6/2005] Santiago says it is not a matter of politics for him, but of fairness. “If I still had two years or one year left of my contract, I would say, ‘I signed up for it, I’m in,’” he says. “This is not right. [The Army is] not doing what they told me they were going to do.… It’s crazy.” Santiago recalls being told by his recruiter in 1997 that there was virtually no chance of his being sent overseas for active duty. According to Santiago, the recruiter told him, “The only reason the National Guard would get deployed is if there was, like, a World War III.” [Seattle Weekly, 3/30/2005] Santiago will lose the lawsuit, and will redeploy to Afghanistan (see April 15, 2005). [Oakland Tribune, 1/14/2006]
The White House attempts to explain the apparently illegal refusal to allow citizens who may disagree with President Bush to attend his rallies and public events (see February 3, 2005, March 22, 2005, and March 21, 2005) by alleging that bands of liberal protesters are conspiring to disrupt those events. “There is an active campaign underway to try and disrupt and disturb his events in hopes of undermining his objective of fixing Social Security,” says White House spokesman Trent Duffy, referring to Bush’s recent swing through the US to whip up public support for his plans to privatize Social Security. “If there is evidence there are people planning to disrupt the president at an event, then they have the right to exclude those people from those events.” Others disagree. Representative Marilyn Musgrove (R-CO) says through a spokesman: “He is the president, and regardless of affiliation, everybody should have the opportunity to go and see the president. It shouldn’t be the job of anybody to make sure the crowd is 100 percent sympathetic.” White House officials counter that all they are doing is attempting to prevent threats and disruptions. If they believe an individual will attempt to disrupt an event, they say, they will have that person removed before anything occurs. Linda Coates, a Fargo, North Dakota city commissioner who was prevented from attending a February Bush rally when her name turned up on a “blacklist” maintained by the White House, says the Bush administration is going far beyond protecting Bush from hecklers and security threats. “These events are clearly so carefully crafted that they can’t be considered ‘open forums’ anyway,” Coates says. “They are pep rallies. This is a new thing in terms of having an administration that tries to have absolute tight control on public perception of events and of reality.” American Enterprise Institute political analyst John Fortier says the tightly controlled events are part of the Bush administration’s “permanent campaign.” He adds: “I don’t know if it is working, but I don’t fault it too much that these rallies aren’t open forums for debate. When the president goes out to the country, it’s meant to be on his turf.” Diana DeGette (D-CO) says that the strategy isn’t working. “In politics, the best way to win support for a controversial policy is to sell it to people who are still undecided,” she says. “It appears that this White House has so little confidence in the president’s Social Security privatization plan, however, that administration officials are not allowing even undecided Americans into the president’s events.” Duffy denies that Democrats or other possible Bush critics are denied access to Bush’s rallies and events, but refuses to give details about how citizens are screened or chosen to ask questions of Bush during these events. Duffy does say: “There are steps being taken to ensure the president has a degree of order at these events. I think the president of the United States deserves to have a level of respect when he holds town meetings or any other forum.” In previous events, prospective attendees were:
turned away for wearing T-shirts supporting Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry;
pressured to volunteer for the 2004 Bush presidential campaign;
told to fill out questionnaires asking for names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and pledges of support for the president;
preemptively banned due to membership of Democratic organizations;
and quizzed as to their support for Bush and his policies.
Mark Udall (D-CO) says through a spokesman: “The president would be better served if he were to listen to dissenting views at these town hall meetings. It would probably help him make the changes he needed to better his policy on Social Security.” [Fox News, 4/22/2005]
While Christopher Hill, the Bush administration’s new chief envoy to Southeast Asia, is overseas trying to shore up relations with North Korea, President Bush undermines Hill by publicly insulting North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il. Kim “is a dangerous person,” Bush says. “He’s a man who starves his people. He’s got huge concentration camps. And… there is concern about his capacity to deliver a nuclear weapon. We don’t know if he can or not, but I think it’s best, when you’re dealing with a tyrant like Kim Jong Il, to assume he can.” In 2008, author J. Peter Scoblic will note that while Bush’s allegations against Kim are largely true, to publicly insult him is to make it that much more difficult to persuade the dictator to give up his nuclear weapons (see August 2003). [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 243]
President and Mrs. Bush enjoy a laugh at the Correspondents’ Dinner. [Source: MSNBC]The highlight of the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner (an annual fete where, as author and media critic Frank Rich will write, “reporters suck up to people in power [and] clamor to rub shoulders with… C-list celebrities”) is the scripted comedy stylings of First Lady Laura Bush. The media will report that Mrs. Bush “steals the show” with her jibes at her husband. She “interrupts” President Bush as he is beginning his address to the assemblage; Rich will write that her move “prompt[s] the ballroom full of reporters to leap to their feet and erupt in a roar of sycophancy like partisan hacks at a political convention.” She tells a risque joke involving her husband, a horse, and masturbation, receiving roars of adulation. The entire act is carefully scripted and staged, but reporters gush over it in the next morning’s news, even as they acknowledge it for the public relations stunt it truly is. “We truly saw the real Laura Bush,” one reporter writes. Others write of Mrs. Bush’s “most humanizing populist riff, [her] affection for the runaway new television hit Desperate Housewives,” but few note that her press secretary later acknowledged that Mrs. Bush had never actually seen an episode. Rich wonders at the reception such a performance, featuring off-color masturbation jokes and lies about television-watching habits, might have received from conservative journalists had the performer been named Hillary Clinton. “The press corps’ eagerness to facilitate and serve as dress extras in what amounted to an administration promotional video,” Rich will write, “was a metaphor for just how much the reality-based community had been co-opted by Bush’s own reality over the past four years.” [Associated Press, 5/1/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 174-175]
Abu Faraj al-Libbi. [Source: Pakistani Interior Ministry]Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi is arrested in Mardan, Pakistan, near the town of Peshawar. He is captured by Pakistani forces with US assistance. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will later claim that he doesn’t even tell the US about al-Libbi’s capture until a few days after it happened (and the first media account comes out three days later), so apparently Pakistan interrogates him on their own for a few days. Al-Libbi is that turned over to the US and detained in a secret CIA prison (see September 2-3, 2006). [New York Times, 5/5/2005; Musharraf, 2006, pp. 209]
Some Call Al-Libbi High-Ranking Leader - In 2004, the Daily Telegraph claimed al-Libbi was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s “right hand man” and helped him plan the 9/11 attacks. After Mohammed was arrested in early 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), Al-Libbi allegedly took his place and became the third in command of al-Qaeda and the group’s operational leader. Furthermore, the Telegraph claims he was once Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant, helped plan two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see December 14 and 25, 2003), and has been in contact with sleeper cells in the US and Britain. [Daily Telegraph, 9/19/2004] The same month, MSNBC made the same claims. They also called him al-Qaeda’s number three leader and operational commander. [MSNBC, 9/7/2004] President Bush hails al-Libbi’s capture as a “critical victory in the war on terror.” Bush also calls him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the al-Qaeda network.”
Al-Libbi Little Known to Media and Experts - But al-Libbi is little known at the time of his arrest and some experts and insiders question if he really is as important as the US claims. The London Times will report several days after his arrest, “[T]he backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department ‘Rewards for Justice’ program.” One former close associate of Osama bin Laden now living in London laughs at al-Libbi’s supposed importance, saying, “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.” Even a senior FBI official admits that his “influence and position have been overstated.” The Times comments, “Some believe [his] significance has been cynically hyped by two countries [the US and Pakistan] that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.” [London Times, 5/8/2005] However, later revelations, such as details on al-Libbi’s interrogation (see Shortly After May 2, 2005 and Late 2005), will provide more evidence that al-Libbi in fact was al-Qaeda’s operational leader. It is not known why the FBI did not have him on their most wanted list, if MSNBC and the Telegraph newspaper and other sources were already aware of his importance in 2004.
President Bush and Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai sign a “strategic partnership” allowing the US to have a long-term military presence in Afghanistan. The US is allowed to have access to existing military bases and potentially new bases as well. [Agence France-Presse, 5/24/2005] Both the US and Afghanistan government try to avoid talk of permanent US military bases in Afghanistan, because the idea is highly unpopular with the Afghan population. There are about 18,000 foreign troops in the country, half of them American. There also is a NATO-led force of 8,500 peacekeepers in the capital of Kabul. [Reuters, 4/26/2005] Asia Times reports that the US is constructing new military bases in the country, and in fact began work in February 2005. The bases “can be used in due time as a springboard to assert a presence far beyond Afghanistan.” The largest US air base is Afghanistan is located only about 50 miles from the border with Iran, “a location that makes it controversial.” [Asia Times, 3/30/2005]
President Bush, on a tour to promote his administration’s proposals to privatize Social Security, tells an audience in Greece, New York, “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” [White House, 5/24/2005] Washington Post reporter Dan Froomkin calls the line “a revealing ad-lib.” [Washington Post, 5/25/2005] Author and media critic Frank Rich later notes that “catapulting the propaganda” does not have the desired effect in this instance: “Support for his plan actually declined as his tour played out, and it was dead on arrival in a Congress his party controlled.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 197]
The 2005 NPT Review Conference, held once every five years to review and extend the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968), is an unusually contentious affair, and the US is at the center of the imbroglio. After the 2000 NPT Review Conference (see Late May, 2000), the US, under George W. Bush, refused to join in calls to implement the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT—see September 10, 1996). The US’s recalcitrance is, if anything, magnified five years later. Many representatives of the NPT signatories focus their ire upon the US, even though two signatories, Iran and North Korea, are, in author J. Peter Scoblic’s words, “violating either the spirit or the letter of the treaty” in developing their own nuclear weapons. Other nations send their foreign ministers to the conference, and in turn the US could have been expected to send Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. (In 1995 and 2000, the US had sent, respectively, Vice President Al Gore and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to represent the US.) Instead, the US sends State Department functionary Stephen Rademaker. Not only is Rademaker’s lesser rank a studied insult to the conference, Rademaker himself is an ardent conservative and a protege of arms control opponent John Bolton. Rademaker enters the conference prepared to use the forum to browbeat Iran and North Korea; instead, he finds himself defending the US’s intransigence regarding the CTBT. The New Agenda Coalition, made up of Brazil, Egypt, Ireland, Mexico, South Africa, Sweden, and New Zealand—all allies of the US—focuses on “the troubling development that some nuclear-weapon states are researching or even planning to develop new or significantly modify existing warheads,” a Bush administration priority (see May 1, 2001 and December 13, 2001). “These actions have the potential to create the conditions for a new nuclear arms race.” Even Japan, usually a solid US ally, says that all nuclear-armed states should take “further steps toward nuclear disarmament.” Canada, the closest of US allies both in policy and geography, is more blunt, with its representative saying, “If governments simply ignore or discard commitments whenever they prove inconvenient, we will never build an edifice of international cooperation and confidence in the security realm.” And outside the conference, former British Foreign Minister Robin Cook lambasts the US in an op-ed entitled “America’s Broken Unclear Promises Endanger Us All,” blasting the Bush administration for its belief that “obligations under the nonproliferation treaty are mandatory for other nations and voluntary for the US.” For his part, Rademaker says just before the conference, “We are not approaching this review conference from the cynical perspective of, we are going to toss a few crumbs to the rest of the world, and, by doing that, try to buy goodwill or bribe countries into agreeing to the agenda that we think they should focus on rather than some other agenda.” In 2008, Scoblic will interpret Rademaker’s statement: “In other words, the administration was not going to engage in diplomacy even if it would encourage other states to see things our way—which only meant that it was quite certain they never would.” [United Nations, 5/2005; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 277-280]
The Army suppresses an unclassified report by the RAND Corporation, a federally financed think tank that often does research for the military. The report, entitled “Rebuilding Iraq,” was compiled over 18 months; RAND submitted a classified and an unclassified version, hoping that the dissemination of the second version would spark public debate. However, senior Army officials are disturbed by the report’s broad criticisms of the White House, the Defense Department, and other government agencies, and the Army refuses to allow its publication. A Pentagon official says that the biggest reason for the suppression of the report is the fear of a potential conflict with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The unclassified version of the report will be leaked to the New York Times in February 2008. That version finds problems with almost every organization and agency that played a part in planning for the Iraq invasion.
Bush, Rice Let Interdepartmental Squabbles Fester - The report faults President Bush, and by implication his former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, for failing to resolve differences between rival agencies, particularly between the departments of Defense and State. “Throughout the planning process, tensions between the Defense Department and the State Department were never mediated by the president or his staff,” the report finds.
Defense Department Unqualified to Lead Reconstruction Effort - The report is also critical of the Defense Department’s being chosen to lead postwar reconstruction, citing that department’s “lack of capacity for civilian reconstruction planning and execution.” The Bush administration erred in assuming that reconstruction costs would be minimal, and in refusing to countenance differing views, the report says. Complementing that problem was the failure “to develop a single national plan that integrated humanitarian assistance, reconstruction, governance, infrastructure development and postwar security.” As a result, the report finds, “the US government did not provide strategic policy guidance for postwar Iraq until shortly before major combat operations commenced.”
State's Own Planning 'Uneven' and Not 'Actionable' - It questions the “Future of Iraq” study (see April 2002-March 2003), crediting it with identifying important issues, but calling it of “uneven quality” and saying it “did not constitute an actionable plan.”
Franks, Rumsfeld Exacerbated Problems - General Tommy Franks, who oversaw the entire military operation in Iraq, suffered from a “fundamental misunderstanding” of what the military needed to do to secure postwar Iraq, the study finds. Franks and his boss, Rumsfeld, exacerbated the situation by refusing to send adequate numbers or types of troops into Iraq after the fall of Baghdad.
Strengthened Resistance to US Occupation - The poor planning, lack of organization, and interdepartmental dissension together worked to strengthen the Iraqi insurgency. As Iraqi civilians continued to suffer from lack of security and essential services, resentment increased against the “negative effects of the US security presence,” and the US failed to seal Iraq’s borders, foreign and domestic support for the insurgents began to grow.
RAND Study Went Too Far Afield, Says Army - In 2008, after the Times receives the unclassified version of the report, Army spokesman Timothy Muchmore explains that the Army rejected the report because it went much farther than it should in examining issues pertinent to the Army. “After carefully reviewing the findings and recommendations of the thorough RAND assessment, the Army determined that the analysts had in some cases taken a broader perspective on the early planning and operational phases of Operation Iraqi Freedom than desired or chartered by the Army,” Muchmore will say. “Some of the RAND findings and recommendations were determined to be outside the purview of the Army and therefore of limited value in informing Army policies, programs and priorities.”
Recommendations - The Army needs to rethink its planning towards future wars, the report finds. Most importantly, it needs to consider the postwar needs of a region as much as it considers the strategy and tactics needed to win a war. [New York Times, 2/11/2008]
Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, New York Times, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Bush administration (43), Thomas Franks, Timothy Muchmore, US Department of State, US Department of the Army, RAND Corporation
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), one of the nation’s most respected defense experts, is critical of the Bush administration’s wholesale failure to work to help Russia secure its “loose nukes” (see January 10, 2001 and After and August 2002). “In measuring the adequacy of our response to today’s nuclear threats,” he says, “on a scale of one to ten, I would give us about a three.” Nunn adds that a recent summit between Presidents Bush and Putin moves the US “closer to a four.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 210]
Former director of Israeli intelligence Uzi Arad says that many Israelis were keenly disappointed in the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq and not Iran. Arad says: “If you look at President Bush’s ‘axis of evil’ (see January 29, 2002), all of us said North Korea and Iran are more urgent. Iraq was already semi-controlled because there were [UN-imposed economic] sanctions. It was outlawed. Sometimes the answer [from the Bush neoconservatives] was ‘Let’s do first things first. Once we do Iraq, we’ll have a military presence in Iraq, which would enable us to handle the Iranians from closer quarters, would give us more leverage.’” Arad’s words are almost verbatim echoes from three years before (see Late January 2002). [Unger, 2007, pp. 307-308]
During a joint press conference with President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a Reuters reporter asks both leaders whether comments made by Sir Richard Dearlove, recorded in the minutes of a July 23 British cabinet meeting (see July 23, 2002), were accurate. According to the minutes, Dearlove said that the “intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy [of regime change].” Responding to the question, Blair insists that the facts were not fixed “in any shape or form at all.” Bush’s response, however, does not answer the question. Instead, he addresses another issue that was raised by the Downing Street minutes. The minutes, along with several other recently published Downing Street documents, called into question the Bush administration’s claim that the decision to use military force against Iraq did not take place until shortly before the invasion began. In his response to the reporter’s question, Bush chooses to discuss this issue instead. “And somebody said, ‘Well, you know, we had made up our mind to go to use military force to deal with Saddam.’ There’s nothing farther from the truth… [Saddam Hussein] made the decision.” Significantly, neither Bush nor Blair, in their responses, attempt to challenge the authenticity of the memo. [New York Times, 6/8/2005; US President, 6/13/2005]
On the heels of a speech by President Bush that stated the US government was obtaining court authorizations for each of its domestic surveillance activities (see June 9, 2005), the White House releases a “fact sheet” making the government’s case for its compliance with the law and the efficacy of its actions in “safeguarding our homeland.” The sheet claims: “The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Law enforcement officers must seek a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone, track his calls, or search his property. These strict standards are fully consistent with the Constitution. Congress also oversees the application of the Patriot Act, and in more than three years there has not been a single verified abuse.” [White House, 6/9/2005] Bush made almost identical claims a year before (see April 19-20, 2004). Former AT&T senior technician Mark Klein (see July 7, 2009 and May 2004), who helped install the equipment used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and his firm to intercept foreign and domestic Internet communications (see January 16, 2004), will later say that Bush’s insistence that the administration gets court orders before wiretapping communications is false. AT&T, on behalf of the NSA, was monitoring “billions of messages a second,” Klein will write, all without court orders. [Klein, 2009, pp. 47-48]
In a Columbus, Ohio, speech praising the USA Patriot Act (see October 26, 2001), President Bush claims that when US government agencies wiretap anyone’s phones or email communications, they do so with a court order. Bush says: “Before the Patriot Act, agents could use wiretaps to investigate a person committing mail fraud, but not to investigate a foreign terrorist. The Patriot Act corrected all these pointless double standards—and America is safer as a result. One tool that has been especially important to law enforcement is called a roving wiretap. Roving wiretaps allow investigators to follow suspects who frequently change their means of communications. These wiretaps must be approved by a judge, and they have been used for years to catch drug dealers and other criminals. Yet, before the Patriot Act, agents investigating terrorists had to get a separate authorization for each phone they wanted to tap. That means terrorists could elude law enforcement by simply purchasing a new cell phone. The Patriot Act fixed the problem by allowing terrorism investigators to use the same wiretaps that were already being using against drug kingpins and mob bosses. The theory here is straightforward: If we have good tools to fight street crime and fraud, law enforcement should have the same tools to fight terrorism.” [White House, 6/9/2005] Bush made almost identical claims a year ago (see April 19-20, 2004). The same day as Bush makes his speech, the White House issues a fact sheet making the same claims (see June 9, 2005). Former AT&T senior technician Mark Klein (see July 7, 2009 and May 2004), who helped install the equipment used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and his firm to intercept foreign and domestic Internet communications (see January 16, 2004), will later say that Bush’s insistence that the administration gets court orders before wiretapping communications is false. AT&T, on behalf of the NSA, was monitoring “billions of messages a second,” Klein will write, all without court orders. [Klein, 2009, pp. 47-48]
The US House of Representatives approves House Resolution 344 (H.Res.344) with a 398 to 15 vote urging President Bush to block the proposed takeover of Unocal Oil by the Chinese National Overseas Oil Company (CNOOC Ltd) on the grounds of national security. CNOOC has bid $18.5 billion for Unocal against a $16.5 billion bid by Chevron. In a written statement, China’s foreign ministry says, “CNOOC’s bid to take over the US Unocal company is a normal commercial activity between enterprises and should not fall victim to political interference.” [Washington Post, 7/4/2005] Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) warns that the “Chinese would also be advantaged by such a transaction because it would extend their military and economic reach in such a way that could potentially impact… [US] involvement in East Asia.” [Office of Representatives Duncan Hunter, 7/1/2005]
White House press secretary Scott McClellan knows that Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff is planning another article detailing what White House official Karl Rove told reporter Matt Cooper (see July 10, 2005). McClellan believes the Isikoff article will reveal that Cooper asked about former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife, but McClellan has been personally assured by Rove that he told Cooper nothing (see September 16, 2003 and September 27, 2003). President Bush has also assured McClellan that Rove is not the source of the leak (see September 29, 2003). McClellan will later write, “Maybe I did not want to believe that Karl had not been completely forthcoming, or that what he had told me—and the president—was not true.” White House counsel Harriet Miers tells McClellan, “There’s some news that’s likely to come out tomorrow about Karl in the leak investigation that may appear to contradict what you said nearly two years ago” (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003 and July 13, 2005). She warns him not to comment on the investigation. As he will later write, “In effect, she was forbidding me from talking and setting the record straight about my previous comments.” Miers then apologizes and leaves McClellan to mull over the impact of the Rove revelation. He will later disclose the “painful, chilling effect” the revelation has on his “relationships with reporters,” and will reflect: “[I]f some of the highest-ranking officials of the Bush White House hadn’t been forthright with the president’s chief spokesman, how could anyone assume they were honest with the public? The White House had a serious credibility problem, and I was now going to take the heat for it.” He will compare the impact of the Isikoff article to “getting whacked upside the head with a two-by-four. I never saw it coming, given Karl’s personal assurances to me and the president, at least not until the final few days before it became public. And even then I convinced myself not to believe the growing buzz in Washington because of the personal assurances I had received.” [McClellan, 2008, pp. 257-260]
President Bush says he is withholding judgment on whether senior political adviser Karl Rove was one of the administration officials who leaked the identity of undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson to the press. Rove has been identified in court testimony as having disclosed Plame Wilson’s identity to two separate journalists, Robert Novak (see July 14, 2005) and Matthew Cooper (see July 6, 2005). Bush has said repeatedly that anyone identified as leaking Plame Wilson’s identity would be fired (see September 29, 2003 and June 10, 2004). He now says it would be wrong for him to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. “I have instructed every member of my staff to fully cooperate in this investigation,” he says. “I also will not prejudge the investigation based on media reports.” Bush makes these statements with Rove literally sitting at his elbow. Rove’s attorney Robert Luskin indicates that Rove already told the grand jury of his conversation with Cooper (see July 17, 2003). “Rove has cooperated completely with the special prosecutor, and he has been repeatedly assured he is not a target of the investigation,” Luskin says. “Rove has done nothing wrong. We’re confident that he will not become a target after the special prosecutor has reviewed all evidence.” Rove’s supporters inside and outside the administration emphasize that Rove never told the reporter Plame Wilson’s actual name, nor mentioned her undercover status, but merely told Cooper that “Joseph Wilson’s wife” worked at the CIA. Critics note that it would take anyone a matter of moments to identify Plame Wilson as Wilson’s wife. Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee have asked Bush to revoke Rove’s security clearance. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) says the issue of whether Rove actually broke the law is not the only issue. “We just don’t hold those working at the closest and highest levels to the president to a criminal standard and say, ‘If you have not committed a crime, show up for work tomorrow morning,’” he says. [New York Times, 7/14/2005] Days later, Bush will modify his earlier statements, saying that someone who has committed a crime would no longer work in his administration (see July 18, 2005).
Some of the 91 signatures on the letter from House Democrats to the president. [Source: House Judiciary Committee / Raw Story]Representative John Conyers (D-MI), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, and 91 other House members send a letter to President Bush asking that White House political adviser Karl Rove either explain his role in outing CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson, or resign. Conyers and the co-signers write, “[W]e believe it is not tenable to maintain Mr. Rove as one of your most important advisers unless he is willing to explain his central role in using the power and authority of your administration to disseminate information regarding Ms. Plame [Wilson] and to undermine her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson.” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) do not sign the letter, but send their own letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) asking that relevant House committees schedule hearings on the Plame Wilson matter. In their letter, Pelosi and Hoyer write: “We urge you to direct that committees with jurisdiction over the Plame matter schedule hearings immediately. In previous Republican Congresses the fact that a criminal investigation was underway did not prevent extensive hearings from being held on other, much less significant matters” (see July 29, 2005). [Raw Story, 7/15/2005]
During a press conference, President Bush is asked if he still intends to fire anyone involved in the Plame Wilson leak, and if he is “displeased that Karl Rove told a reporter that Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s wife worked for the [CIA] on WMD issues.” Bush, described as looking “mildly annoyed,” responds, “We have a serious ongoing investigation here,” and adds: “[I]t’s being played out in the press. And I think it’s best that people wait until the investigation is complete before you jump to conclusions. And I will do so, as well. I don’t know all the facts. I would like to know all the facts. The best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who’s spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know all the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.” The last line regarding a “crime” was carefully selected before the conference by White House communications director Dan Bartlett, who, press secretary Scott McClellan will later write, wanted to “redefine the terms of firing someone who might have been involved in the leak, specifically Karl.” The New York Times observes, “The remarks appeared to shift the standard for dismissal that has been expressed repeatedly over many months by Mr. Bush’s spokesmen—from promises to fire anyone who played a role in the disclosure, to Mr. Bush’s statement today that criminal conduct would have to be involved.” McClellan dutifully echoes the new phrase in his own press conference, “barely objecting that it did not square with what the president had previously committed to do” (see September 29, 2003 and June 10, 2004). “I think that the president was stating what is obvious when it comes to people who work in the administration: that if someone commits a crime, they’re not going to be working any longer in this administration,” McClellan tells reporters. “I think that you should not read anything into it more than what the president said at this point.” McClellan will later describe himself as “psychologically battered” by this point (see July 11, 2005). [New York Times, 7/18/2005; White House, 7/18/2005; New York Times, 7/19/2005; McClellan, 2008, pp. 262-263]
Accusations of Shifting Standards, 'Lowering the Ethics Bar' - Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says he is disappointed in what he believes to be Bush’s shifting stance. “The standard for holding a high position in the White House should not simply be that you didn’t break the law,” he says. Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) writes a letter to Bush charging that he has “significantly changed” his position, and that a president has “an affirmative obligation” to take quick action to protect national security secrets without waiting for a prosecution to run its course. [New York Times, 7/18/2005] Other Democrats charge that Bush has “lowered the ethics bar” for his administration. Representative John Conyers (D-MI) says: “It appears that an administration that came to office promising ‘honesty and integrity’ and to avoid ‘legalisms’ is now defining ethical standards downward. In this White House, apparently no aide will be fired or forced to resign unless and until the jail cell door is locked behind him.” [Associated Press, 7/18/2005]
Rove Held to Different Standard of Accountability, Say Experts - Some experts say that by insisting on waiting for a final legal verdict, Bush is setting a different standard of accountability for Rove than for other government employees. Elaine Kaplan, who headed the Office of Special Counsel from 1998 through 2003, says: “Government employees and officials who are negligent with classified information can lose their jobs for carelessness. They don’t have to be convicted of intentionally disseminating the information. Crime has never been the threshold. That’s not the standard that applies to rank-and-file federal employees. They can be fired for misconduct well short of a crime.” Beth Slavet, the former chair of the Merit Systems Protection Board, adds: “The government can fire a Civil Service employee if it can show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that it would ‘promote the efficiency of the service’ to do so. The person does not have to be guilty of a crime. You can be dismissed because you didn’t submit paperwork on time, you didn’t follow instructions, you repeatedly showed up late for work, or you yelled at supervisors and fellow workers.” [New York Times, 7/19/2005]
Several prominent former Louisiana politicians sign a letter urging President Bush to support the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6)‘s provisions for revenue sharing (see April 21, 2005)
(see June 28, 2005). Endorsed by former Governors Mike Foster (R-LA), Buddy Roemer (R-LA), David Treen (R-LA) and former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and J. Bennett Johnston (D-LA), the letter states: “Louisiana puts an average of $5 billion each year into the Federal treasury from revenues produced off its shore. Energy Bill provisions that would give a meaningful share of those revenues through direct payments to Louisiana and other coastal states that host so much of the nation’s energy production are critical.” [Associated Press, 7/22/2005; Louisiana, 7/22/2005]
In a letter to President Bush, Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco urges the president and his energy secretary, Samuel W. Bodman, to visit the Louisiana coast and see first-hand the deteriorating condition of the state’s coastal wetlands. She wants the administration to reconsider its objection (see July 15, 2004) to a provision in the House (see April 21, 2005) and Senate (see June 28, 2005) versions of the 2005 Energy Policy Act (HR 6) that would channel oil and gas royalties from offshore operations to coastal states for coastal wetland restoration. In her letter, she emphasizes how Louisiana’s disappearing wetlands is making the oil and gas industry’s vast network of pipelines increasingly vulnerable to damage. She also stresses that coastal wetlands have historically protected the coast from the full fury of hurricanes and, without this barrier, a major hurricane could devastate low-elevation coastal communities like New Orleans. “Let me show you the fragile wetlands that are the only protection for the thousands of miles of pipelines that connect this nation to 80 percent of its offshore energy supply and to a full third of all its oil and gas, both foreign and domestic. The vulnerability of those protective wetlands is all the more apparent to our two million coastal zone residents during this active hurricane season.”
[Louisiana, 7/20/2005; Houma Today, 7/21/2005]
The Bush administration’s relentless public relations campaign to sell the Iraq war is falling flat, crushed under the weight of events, according to author and media critic Frank Rich. Its new marketing slogan—“As the Iraqis stand up, we’ll stand down”—leaves most listeners cold, according to surveys. When President Bush proclaims that “30 Iraqi battalions [are] in the lead” in the fighting, his words are disproven within hours, by statements from his own commanders to Congress that note the number of Iraqi battalions fighting alongside American forces has declined from three to one. Rich will put the facts into his own words: “750 soldiers were now ready to stand up on their own should America’s 140,000 troops stand down.” Bush officials also try to claim a victory by announding the death of “the second most wanted al-Qaeda leader in Iraq,” the “top operational commander of al-Qaeda in Baghdad.” The news makes little, if any, impact in the media or on the American citizenry. “He may not even be one of the top 10 or 15 leaders,” one Iraq expert tells reporters. Lastly, Bush officials’ lofty claims of stopping 10 al-Qaeda plots draw little besides scorn. According to Rich, Americans know by now that these so-called plots have been roundly debunked, proven either to be the same ones that have been endlessly trotted out over the years, far less substantial than originally reported, or merely lies. [Rich, 2006, pp. 198]
The Connecticut Four, from left to right: Janet Nocek, Peter Chase, George Christian, and Barbara Bailey. [Source: Robert Deutsch/ USA Today]A case filed against Attorney General Alberto Gonzales by four plaintiffs from Connecticut’s Library Connection, Inc.—George Christian, Barbara Bailey, Peter Chase, and Janet Nocek—goes to trial in federal district court (see July 13, 2005). The trial is filed as Doe v. Gonzales because the government has filed a gag order against the plaintiffs forbidding them from identifying themselves or discussing the case publicly. The case involves a demand for information from the FBI for information concerning library usage by patrons of a Connecticut library; the four plaintiffs, on behalf of their data management firm Library Connection, have refused. The case revolves around the use of a National Security Letter (NSL) by the FBI; the plaintiffs, with support from the American Civil Liberties Union, want the NSL voided, the gag order lifted, and such use of NSLs found unconstitutional. Christian and his three colleagues are not allowed to attend the hearings in person because of the possibility that they might be identified as the plaintiffs; they are forced to watch the proceedings on a closed-circuit broadcast from a locked room in the Hartford courthouse. When the judge in the proceeding asks to review the government’s evidence for keeping the gag rule in place, Justice Department lawyers insist on submitting secret evidence directly to the judge, without providing that evidence to the plaintiff’s lawyers. The judge is not pleased, and rules, as did her predecessor in New York, that a perpetual gag order amounts to prior restraint, and thereby is unconstitutional. She adds that her review of the secret evidence gives no national security rationale for keeping the plaintiffs gagged. The Justice Department immediately appeals the ruling, and the plaintiffs stay silent and gagged. While the four plaintiffs remain silent about the NSL and the court case, the Justice Department’s primary lawyer, Kevin O’Conner, does not: O’Conner has frequently debated one of the plaintiffs, Chase, about the Patriot Act, and though Chase is now required to remain silent, O’Conner continues to make frequent public appearances touting the Patriot Act. Christian later says, in 2007 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (see April 11, 2007), that the continuing gag order causes the four “John Does” considerable professional and personal distress, especially after the national media begins reporting the story. The media eventually learns, through the careless redaction of information by government lawyers, of Chase’s identity as one of the four plaintiffs, and reveals that Library Connection is the firm involved in the lawsuit. Christian’s name comes to light shortly thereafter. The attorneys warn Christian and the others that even though their identities and their firm have been revealed, they still cannot comment at all on the case. Christian, for one, wants to testify before Congress in regards to the upcoming reauthorization of the Patriot Act (see March 9, 2006), but cannot. The four plaintiffs quickly become known in the media as the “Connecticut John Does” or the “Connecticut Four.”
Appeals Court - In November 2005, a New York court of appeals hears the case. Christian and his colleagues are allowed to be present at the case this time, but are required to conceal their identities by entering and leaving the court building separately, are not allowed to sit together, and are not allowed to confer with, or even make eye contact with, each other or their attorneys. The Justice Department lawyers argue that even revealing themselves as recipients of a NSL would violate national security, an argument refuted by submission of the raft of news articles identifying Christian, Chase, and Library Connection. The government argues that those news reports don’t matter because no one in Connecticut reads the primary newspaper carrying the story, the New York Times, and that surveys prove that most people don’t believe what they read in the news anyway. The Justice Department also tries to get the news articles to be kept under seal in court papers. Christian characterizes the entire proceeding as “absurd.” The court refuses to admit the plaintiff’s claim that 48 states, including Connecticut, have laws protecting the privacy of library patrons, but does admit into evidence the claims by Gonzales that there is no statutory justification for claims of privacy. In an attempt to get the gag order lifted before the Patriot Act reauthorization, the plaintiff’s attorneys make an emergency appeal directly to the Supreme Court, but are rebuffed. [Senate Judiciary Committee, 4/11/2007] In June 2006, Nocek tells a reporter, “Imagine the government came to you with an order demanding that you compromise your professional and personal principles. Imagine then being permanently gagged from speaking to your friends, your family or your colleagues about this wrenching experience.… Under the Patriot Act, the FBI demanded Internet and library records without showing any evidence or suspicion of wrongdoing to a court of law. We were barred from speaking to anyone about the matter and we were even taking a risk by consulting with lawyers.” [Interview: George Christian, 6/2/2006]
Gag Order Lifted, Case Dropped - Weeks after President Bush signs into law the Patriot Act reauthorization (see March 9, 2006), the FBI voluntarily lifts the gag order without waiting for a court order. The agency then tries to get the original ruling against the gag order vacated, an attempt that the appeals court refuses. The appellate judges are clearly disturbed by the breadth of the NSL gag provisions; one appellate judge writes, “A ban on speech and a shroud of secrecy in perpetuity are antithetical to democratic concepts and do not fit comfortably with the fundamental rights guaranteed American citizens… Unending secrecy of actions taken by government officials may also serve as a cover for possible official misconduct and/or incompetence.” The appeals court refers the case back to district court, allowing the original opinion to stand. Weeks later, the FBI withdraws its NSL, saying that it no longer needs the information it originally requested. Christian later testifies, “In doing so, they removed the Patriot Act from the danger of court review.” Christian later says that he believes the entire procedure was managed as an attempt to prevent the case from becoming public knowledge before Congress could vote on the reauthorization of the Patriot Act. [Senate Judiciary Committee, 4/11/2007]
Entity Tags: Peter Chase, Senate Judiciary Committee, National Security Letters, US Department of Justice, Library Connection, Inc., George Christian, George W. Bush, American Civil Liberties Union, Barbara Bailey, Connecticut Four, Alberto R. Gonzales, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kevin O’Conner
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The US intelligence community releases a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran, the first of its kind since 2001. Its central conclusion is that Iran is about ten years away from manufacturing enough highly enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon. That doubles the previous estimate of five years. (The “five years away” estimate has been a staple of US assertions about Iran’s nuclear program since 1995.) Even then, the report states, it is unclear whether Iran would have the technology capable of using the uranium in a functional nuclear device. The NIE gives little support for recent statements by Bush administration officials that assert Iran is working hard to develop and deploy a nuclear weapon, and that such deployment could happen much sooner than ten or even five years. President Bush has said repeatedly that while he wants to resolve the crisis with Iran diplomatically, “all options are on the table,” meaning a potential military strike is being considered. The NIE says that Iran is conducting clandestine work as part of its nuclear program, but there is no way to know if that work is on nuclear weapons development. Iran is, the report states, acquiring technologies that could be diverted to bomb-making. It is uncertain whether Iran’s ruling mullahs have decided whether to build a nuclear arsenal, the NIE says, but, according to a senior intelligence official, “it is the judgment of the intelligence community that, left to its own devices, Iran is determined to build nuclear weapons.” The White House has refrained from attributing its assertions about Iran’s nuclear program to US intelligence, as it did with Iraq before the March 2003 invasion. Instead, it has pointed to Iranian efforts to conceal its activities, and questioned why, since Iran has tremendous oil and natural gas reserves, it would need a nuclear energy program. The administration is riven with infighting and competing viewpoints on Iran’s nuclear program, and this NIE does little to resolve those differences. The NIE also says that the US intelligence community still knows far too little about Iran’s nuclear program. The intelligence community gathers most of its information from communication intercepts, satellite imagery, and reports from the UN inspectors who have been investigating Iran’s nuclear program since 2003. Those inspectors have found facilities for uranium conversion and enrichment, results of plutonium tests, and equipment bought illicitly from Pakistan, all of which raised serious concerns but could be explained by an energy program. Inspectors have found no evidence that Iran possesses a nuclear warhead design or is conducting a nuclear weapons program. Deputy Director of National Intelligence Michael Hayden says that since the October 2002 NIE, which wrongly concluded Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program (see October 1, 2002), the rules governing the creation of NIEs have been revamped to mandate “a higher tolerance for ambiguity,” even if NIEs would be less conclusive in the process. [Washington Post, 8/2/2005] In 2007, a new NIE will conclude that Iran actually stopped work on a nuclear weapon in 2003 (see December 3, 2007).
Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, tells federal investigators that he disclosed CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to New York Times reporter Judith Miller on July 8, 2003 (see 8:30 a.m. July 8, 2003). Reporter Murray Waas will write, “The new disclosure that Miller and Libby met on July 8, 2003, raises questions regarding claims by President Bush that he and everyone in his administration have done everything possible to assist Fitzgerald’s grand jury probe.” Many involved in the investigation question Libby’s apparent decision not to give a personal waiver of privilege to Miller, who is currently sitting in jail rather than disclosing the contents of her conversations with Libby (see July 6, 2005). Miller does not accept the validity of a general waiver signed by Libby and others at the behest of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald and his prosecutors consider the meetings between Libby and Miller critical to proving that Libby committed criminal offenses by giving information on Plame Wilson’s CIA status to Miller and other reporters. [American Prospect, 8/6/2005]
Camp Casey. [Source: Indybay (.org)]Antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan, of Vacaville, California, sets up “Camp Casey” three miles outside of President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch. Bush has come to his ranch for his yearly August vacation; Sheehan has come to demand a meeting with Bush to discuss the loss of her son, Casey, in Iraq. Sheehan chooses the date to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the briefing that warned Bush of Osama bin Laden’s intention to attack the US (see August 6, 2001). Camp Casey begins as a single pup tent in a ditch by the side of a dirt road, in which Sheehan intends to stay for whatever time it takes to secure a meeting with Bush. Author and media critic Frank Rich later writes that because Bush is so firmly ensconsced in the protective “bubble” that shields him from awareness of criticism, he and his top officials are blindsided by the media response to Sheehan’s lonely vigil. Casey Sheehan, who died in April 2004 a mere two weeks after his arrival in Iraq (see April 4, 2004), will become, Rich will write, emblematic of both “the noble intentions of those who volunteered to fight the war [and] also the arrogance, incompetence, and recklessness of those who gave the marching orders.”
Bush Refuses to Meet with Sheehan - Bush will refuse to meet with Sheehan and the increasing number of peace activists who gather at Camp Casey, causing him inordinate embarrassment (see August 12, 2005) as more and more reporters begin questioning his motives in refusing to meet with the bereaved mother of a fallen US soldier. Bush even ignores the advice of some of his public relations staffers and fellow Republicans, who ask him to reconsider, as Senator George Allen (R-VA) says, “as a matter of courtesy and decency.” Rich will write: “Only someone as adrift as Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president couldn’t win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7. But the White House held firm. In a particularly unfortunate gesture, the presidential motorcade, in a rare foray out of the vacation compound, left Sheehan in the dust on its way to a fundraiser at a fat cat’s ranch nearby” (see August 12, 2005). [Rich, 2006, pp. 193-196] Political analyst Charlie Cook says: “Anything that focuses media and public attention on Iraq war casualties day after day—particularly [something] that is a good visual for television, like a weeping Gold Star mother—is a really bad thing for President Bush and his administration.… Americans get a little numb by the numbers of war casualties, but when faces, names, and families are added, it has a much greater effect.” Republican strategist Kellyanne Conway agrees, saying: “Cindy Sheehan has tapped into a latent but fervent feeling among some in this country who would prefer that we not engage our troops in Iraq. She can tap into what has been an astonishingly silent minority since the end of last year’s presidential contest. It will capture attention.” University professor Stephen Hess says that Sheehan’s “movement… can be countered by a countermovement” and therefore negated, but “I think the president might have defused the situation if he had invited her in instantly.” Hess predicts that Sheehan will soon be targeted by Republican strategists in a counterattack (see August 11, 2005 and After).
Focus of Antiwar Movement - Camp Casey quickly becomes the focus of the American antiwar movement, with organizations such as MoveOn.org and Code Pink pitching in to help expand and coordinate the camp, and high-profile Democratic operatives such as Joe Trippi organizing support among left-wing bloggers. MoveOn’s Tom Mattzie says: “Cindy reached out to us.… Cindy is a morally pure voice on the war, so we’re trying to keep the focus on her and not jump in and turn it into a political fight.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/11/2005]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Cindy Sheehan, Charlie Cook, Casey Sheehan, Bush administration (43), “Camp Casey”, Code Pink, George F. Allen, MoveOn (.org), Stephen Hess, Frank Rich, Kellyanne Conway, Joe Trippi, Tom Mattzie
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin meet with antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan (see August 6, 2005 and After) for about 45 minutes. Sheehan, who has requested a meeting with President Bush during his vacation at his ranch in Texas, says she is not satisfied with the meeting with Hadley and Hagin. “I don’t believe his phony excuses for the war,” she says. “I want him to tell me why my son died (see April 4, 2004). If he gave the real answer, people in this country would be outraged—if he told people it was to make his buddies rich, that it was about oil.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/11/2005]
Congress passes a law that forbids the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and their contractors from firing or otherwise punishing any employee who informs Congress about possible wrongdoing. President Bush issues a signing statement that says only he or his appointees will decide whether employees of either agency can give information to Congress. [Boston Globe, 4/30/2006]
The Bush motorcade drives past Camp Casey; Texas police officers stand between the motorcade and the camp. [Source: American Patriot Friends Network]President Bush and his motorcade drive past the growing camp of war protesters and peace activists nicknamed “Camp Casey” (see August 6, 2005 and After) without stopping, leaving the gathered protesters and bereaved family members literally in the dust. Bush is on his way to a fundraising barbecue expected to raise at least $2 million for the Republican National Committee. Camp founder Cindy Sheehan holds a sign that reads, “Why do you make time for donors and not for me?” The Associated Press reports, “It was unclear whether Bush, riding in a black Suburban with tinted windows, saw the demonstrators.” Bush has continued to refuse to meet with Sheehan and the others in Camp Casey, a makeshift camp three miles outside of his Crawford, Texas vacation ranch. The camp is attracting war protesters, peace activists, and bereaved family members who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan. [Associated Press, 8/12/2005] The New York Times notes that in less than a week, Camp Casey has grown from one woman’s lonely vigil to a gathering of well over 100 protesters and family members, with visits from celebrities such as actor Viggo Mortensen and a full-time police presence. War supporters have blasted Sheehan and her companions, calling her everything from a traitor to a terrorist supporter, and arguing that the death of her son does not give her the right to criticize the war effort. Local supporters of Bush have suggested, among other things, that they unleash a gaggle of skunks on the camp to drive the protesters away; some have pretended to drive their pickup trucks into the crowds, and splashed protesters with mud as they revved their engines. [New York Times, 8/13/2005] Author and media critic Frank Rich will later write that the images of Bush’s motorcade ignoring Sheehan and the other protesters become embarrassing fodder for media comment and criticism. [Rich, 2006, pp. 194] The Times writes, “[Bush’s] five-week sojourn at his 1,600-acre ranch offers the protesters ample opportunity to camp out for extended periods in front of the national media at a time of sharp spikes in the casualties in Iraq, and as public polling data suggests the lowest support for the war since it began.” In a recent television ad paid for by her peace organization Gold Star Families for Peace, Sheehan said: “All I wanted was an hour out of his extended vacation time, but he’s refused to meet with me and the other military families. We just want honest answers.” [New York Times, 8/13/2005]
President Bush, who has been on vacation for the month of August, changes venues, traveling to Idaho for more biking and fishing. As he noted 10 days ago during a bike ride with journalists at his Crawford ranch, “I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy… . And part of my being is to be outside exercising. So I’m mindful of what goes on around me. On the other hand, I’m also mindful that I’ve got a life to live, and will do so.”
[Cox News Service, 8/13/2005; USA Today, 8/24/2005]
President Bush declares that a major disaster exists in Louisiana, releasing federal aid to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the area struck by Tropical Storm Cindy on July 5-6, 2005. [White House, 8/23/2005] Louisiana Governor Blanco had declared a state of emergency in light of Tropical Storm Cindy on July 6, 2005. [Louisiana, 7/6/2005]
Tammy Pruett weeps while watching Bush’s presentation. [Source: Jim Watson / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]The White House presents Tammy Pruett, whose four sons are serving in Iraq, as a counter to antiwar protester Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son Casey in Iraq (see August 6, 2005 and After). Unlike Sheehan, Pruett and her family staunchly support the war; also unlike Sheehan, Pruett has not lost any of her sons. Apparently the White House found Pruett after learning of her family’s appearance on CNN in June 2004, where she defended the war effort, and contacted the family a week before the event. “An obviously delighted President Bush,” who has repeatedly refused to meet with Sheehan (see August 12, 2005), flies to Idaho to introduce Pruett to what the Washington Post calls “a boisterous invitation-only audience mostly made up of military families.” Bush tells the audience: “There are few things in life more difficult than seeing a loved one go off to war. And here in Idaho, a mom named Tammy Pruett—I think she’s here—knows that feeling six times over. Tammy has four sons serving in Iraq right now with the Idaho National Guard—Eric, Evan, Greg, and Jeff. Last year, her husband Leon and another son, Eren, returned from Iraq, where they helped train Iraqi firefighters in Mosul. Tammy says this—and I want you to hear this—‘I know that if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country. And I guess you couldn’t ask for a better way of life than giving it for something that you believe in.’ America lives in freedom because of families like the Pruetts.” Bush kisses Pruett on the cheek after the speech, then sends her out to talk to the press. [Washington Post, 8/25/2005]
Pruetts Offer Condolences to Sheehan, Other Bereaved Families - But the Pruetts are not willing to merely serve as props for the White House’s pro-war agenda. Both Leon and Tammy Pruett are quick to offer tearful condolences to families who have lost loved ones overseas, specifically naming Sheehan. Tammy says while her family supports the war, they do not want to be seen as criticizing those who oppose it. “We don’t feel like we’re out here trying to be a poster family, we’re just proud of our sons,” she says. [MSNBC, 8/24/2005]
Careful Staging - The Post notes that the Pruett speech is viewed by White House planners “as a crucial opportunity for Bush to show both compassion and resolve when his conduct of the war is increasingly being publicly questioned, and polls of public support are flirting with Vietnam War-era depths.” The speech and presentation are carefully crafted, with a drum corps playing the themes of each of the five branches of service, and Bush placed before a group of soldiers dressed in fatigues and arrayed in front of a huge red, white, and blue backdrop festooned with photographs of soldiers, police officers, firefighters, and rescue workers beneath the heading “Honoring America’s Soldiers.” The entire event, Knight Ridder reporter William Douglas writes, is designed to “creat[e] a visual link between the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.” [MSNBC, 8/24/2005; Washington Post, 8/25/2005]
Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Cindy Sheehan, Casey Sheehan, Bush administration (43), Eren Pruett, Evan Pruett, Leon Pruett, Tammy Pruett, Idaho National Guard, William Douglas, Greg Pruett, Jeff Pruett, Eric Pruett
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
As Katrina barrels towards the Gulf Coast, most of the top White House staff members are on vacation, taking advantage of President Bush’s five-week vacation at his Crawford, Texas ranch. Andrew Card, White House Chief of Staff, and a veteran crisis manager who managed the federal response to hurricanes under George H.W. Bush, is vacationing at his lakefront summer home in Maine. Vice President Dick Cheney is vacationing at his Wyoming ranch. Frances Townsend, the White House Homeland Security Advisor who reports to Bush on Homeland Security policy and combating terrorism matters, is vacationing as well. After Katrina sweeps through the Gulf Coast, she will attend several meetings in Washington, before leaving on a previously scheduled trip to Saudi Arabia where she will work on joint counterterrorism projects. Bush will urge Townsend to make the trip despite the unfolding Katrina disaster as a “signal to… the enemy” that the hurricane has not distracted Bush’s attention from terrorists, according to one report. Later, White House representatives will decline to identify the person in charge of preparing for the hurricane in Washington, maintaining that Bush and his aides can run the government just as well from their summer homes. “Andy Card is the chief of staff, and he was in close contact with everyone,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will say at one point. “And the president is the one who’s in charge at the White House.”
[Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] On Tuesday, August 30, when asked to identify the person leading the White House’s response to Katrina, McClellan will reply that Joe Hagin, Deputy Chief of staff is the “point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.”
[White House, 8/30/2005]
Louisiana Governor Blanco, determining that the storm will be so big that state and local governments will not be able to handle it, asks President Bush to declare a state of emergency. The exact timing of Blanco’s letter is unclear. The PDF version of the letter is dated August 28. [Louisiana, 8/28/2005 ] However, the Federal News dateline for the letter is 4:27 am EDT August 27. [Federal News Service, 8/27/2005] Governor Blanco’s office and the Times-Picayune will publish the full text of the letter today. [Louisiana, 8/27/2005; Walker, 8/27/2005]
President Bush declares an emergency for Louisiana, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected area. This declaration activates the National Response Plan, and authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for parishes in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in multiple parishes. Bush’s declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property.” In response to this declaration, FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area. [White House, 8/27/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] . As Governor Blanco will later note, this pre-impact declaration is extremely unusual. The last time a president issued a pre-impact declaration was when Hurricane Andrew was bearing down on Florida in 1992. [CNN, 8/27/2005] Note that while President Bush’s emergency declaration identifies 39 parishes, it does not identify the parishes in Katrina’s path, apparently due to a clerical error. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005] This omission has no practical effect, and a corrected declaration will be issued on Monday. [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005]
Note 1 - Reuters will later incorrectly report that Bush appoints William Lokey as the Federal Coordinating Officer, and will imply that such action is somehow unusual. [Reuters, 9/15/2005] In fact, as reflected in the official Federal Register entry, and in the White House release, Brown appoints Lokey as the coordinating officer for Louisiana. This appointment is consistent with standard practice: For each declared emergency, a different (lower level) individual is appointed as the federal coordinating officer.
Note 2 - Knight Ridder (and other news media) will later incorrectly report that Bush failed to trigger the federal government’s responsibility, and that it is not triggered until DHS Secretary Chertoff’s August 31 announcement that the Katrina disaster is an “Incident of National Significance.” [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005; Knight Ridder, 9/15/2005] In fact, Bush’s declaration (a) effectively authorizes FEMA to provide a full and immediate federal response to the unfolding crisis, and (b) makes the crisis an “Incident of National Significance.” [US Department of Homeland Security, 12/2004] , at 7 (“Note that while all Presidentially declared disasters and emergencies under the Stafford Act are considered Incidents of National Significance, not all Incidents of National Significance necessarily result in disaster or emergency declarations under the Stafford Act.”); [US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] (granting FEMA full authority to respond to the emergency.) The strategy behind DHS Secretary Chertoff’s much ballyhooed—and inaccurate—August 31 announcement
[ that his declaration triggers for the first time a coordinated federal response to states and localities overwhelmed by disaster remains unclear at this time. ]
In a meeting with aides this afternoon, President Bush discusses the coming storm. Aides inform Bush that the evacuations are proceedings as planned, and that 11,000 National Guard troops will be in a position to respond to the emergency, according to a senior White House official. (The actual number in position will be less than half of this number, however.) Bush tells senior advisor Dan Bartlett that he may need to rearrange his schedule to add a trip to the Gulf Coast next week. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]
Governor Blanco will send a letter to President Bush today, requesting that he declare an “expedited major disaster” for Louisiana in light of the approaching hurricane. According to Blanco, “this incident will be of such severity and magnitude that effective response will be beyond the capabilities of the State and the affected local governments and that supplementary Federal assistance will be necessary.”
[Louisiana, 8/28/2005 ] Note: A Presidential declaration of a major disaster expands the federal assistance programs available to assist the affected area in recovering from the impact of the disaster, while the earlier declaration of emergency authorizes shorter-term federal assistance to protect lives, property, and the public safety immediately before or after a disaster. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 1/21/2006]
According to a later interview with the New York Times, FEMA Director Mike Brown states that by this time, he has grown so frustrated with Mayor Nagin’s apparent refusal to order a mandatory evacuation that he calls President Bush to ask for help. “‘Mike, you want me to call the mayor?’ the president responds in surprise,” according to Brown. [New York Times, 9/15/2005]
President Bush telephones Governor Blanco (apparently in response to FEMA Director Michael Brown’s request to call New Orleans Mayor Nagin (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005), to urge a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, according to later reports. Blanco responds that Mayor Nagin has already decided to do so, and will make the announcement shortly. [Washington Post, 9/11/2005]
Louisiana Governor Blanco takes the podium to reinforce the need for evacuation: “I want to reiterate what the mayor has said (see (9:30 am) August 28, 2005). This is a very dangerous time. Just before we walked into this room, President Bush called (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005) and told me to share with all of you that he is very concerned about the residents. He is concerned about the impact that this hurricane would have on our people. And he asked me to please ensure that there would be a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. The leaders at the highest ranks of our nation have recognized the destructive forces and the possible awesome danger that we are in. And I just want to say, we need to get as many people out as possible. The shelters will end up probably without electricity or with minimum electricity from generators in the end. There may be intense flooding that will be not in our control, which would be ultimately the most dangerous situation that many of our people could face. Waters could be as high as 15 to 20 feet.… That would probably be ultimately the worst situation. We’re hoping that it does not happen that way. We need to pray, of course, very strongly, that the hurricane force would diminish.” Blanco then describes the gridlock on roads leading out of New Orleans, and urges residents to take alternate routes. [CNN, 8/28/2005; WWLTV 4 (New Orleans), 8/28/2005; KATC News (Lafayette, LA), 8/30/2005]
Max Mayfield, Director of the National Hurricane Center hosts a teleconference with FEMA officials, including FEMA Director Michael Brown and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. [Times-Picayune, 9/4/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/5/2005] President Bush receives a briefing via video conference from his ranch in Crawford Texas. [US President, 9/5/2005] Brown assures Bush during this briefing that FEMA is ready for the storm, according to ABC News. [ABC News, 9/8/2005] Bush tells Brown that he is very impressed with everything FEMA is doing, according to Brown [CBS News, 8/29/2005]
Note - Whether President Bush participates in this particular briefing is not clear from current reports. However, it is undisputed that Bush receives a briefing from Mayfield via videoconference at some point this morning.
Responding to Governor Barbour’s request
[, President Bush declares an emergency for Mississippi, and orders federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts in the affected areas. This declaration authorizes FEMA to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures to save lives, protect property and public health and safety for counties in the storm’s path and to minimize or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the surrounding parishes of Louisiana. FEMA is thus authorized to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, including specifically, “[m]easures undertaken to preserve public health and safety and to eliminate threats to public or private property” in southern Mississippi. FEMA Director Michael Brown appoints William L. Carwile, III as the Federal Coordinating Officer for Mississippi. [White House, 8/28/2005; US President, 9/5/2005; US Department of Homeland Security, 9/7/2005] ]
From his ranch in Crawford, President Bush speaks briefly with reporters. Bush first explains that he has spoken with FEMA Director Michael Brown (see Before 9:30am August 28, 2005) and with the governors of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana (see Shortly before 9:30 am August 28, 2005), and Mississippi. He announces that he has already signed disaster declarations for Louisiana and Mississippi. Bush then addresses the residents in the storm’s path: “Hurricane Katrina is now designated a Category 5 hurricane. We cannot stress enough the danger this hurricane poses to Gulf Coast communities. I urge all residents to put their own safety and the safety of their families first by moving to safe ground. Please listen carefully to instructions provided by state and local officials.” Bush then turns to Iraq, congratulating “the people of Iraq on completing the next step in their transition from dictatorship to democracy.” Bush’s brief statement contains 203 words about the pending Katrina disaster, and 819 words about the new Iraqi constitution. [US President, 9/5/2005]
Mary Landrieu (D-La) and David Vitter (R-La) send a joint letter to President Bush. After thanking Bush for the early declaration of emergency and for his public comments urging residents to flee Hurricane Katrina, the senators urge Bush “respectfully but in the strongest possible terms to tour the devastated area as soon as practical,” to reassure the affected residents that federal agencies will help the area recover. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/28/2005]
Alabama Governor Bob Riley declares a state of emergency, and asks President Bush to issue an “expedited major disaster declaration” for six counties in the southwestern part of Alabama most likely to suffer significant damage due to Hurricane Katrina. [Alabama, 8/28/2005]
President Bush arrives in Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, Arizona, for a previously scheduled public appearance in El Mirage. While at the base, Bush joins Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) in a small celebration of McCain’s 69th birthday. [White House, 8/28/2005]
President Bush attends a previously scheduled “Conversation on Medicare” with about 400 guests at the Pueblo El Mirage RV Resort and Country Club in nearby El Mirage, Arizona. Before engaging in the Medicare discussion, Bush addresses the unfolding Katrina disaster: “I know my fellow residents here in Arizona and across the country are saying our prayers for those affected by the—Hurricane Katrina. Our Gulf Coast is getting hit and hit hard. I want the folks there on the Gulf Coast to know that the federal government is prepared to help you when the storm passes. I want to thank the governors of the affected regions for mobilizing assets prior to the arrival of the storm to help residents avoid this devastating storm. I urge the residents there in the region to continue to listen to the local authorities. Don’t abandon your shelters until you’re given clearance by the local authorities. Take precautions because this is a dangerous storm. When the storm passes, the federal government has got assets and resources that we’ll be deploying to help you. In the meantime, America will pray—pray for the health and safety of all our residents.” He then turns to discuss immigration and other issues. [US President, 9/5/2005]
White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan reports that President Bush speaks with FEMA Director Michael Brown twice this morning, and that Brown has provided Bush with an update on the status of the storm. McClellan also reports that, “In addition to dealing with the urgent issues related to the hurricane, the President will be participating in conversations today in Arizona and Southern California with some people with Medicare experts working with Medicare beneficiaries and health professionals about the upcoming changes in the Medicare program.”
[White House, 8/29/2005]
White House officials, including Joe Hagin, White House Deputy Chief of Staff, participate in a video conference call with federal and state officials from aboard Air Force One, according to Scott McClellan, White House Press Secretary. President Bush likely will not participate: “I think there is a little bit more of a staff participation in this call. This is something the White House has been doing both from D.C. as well as from Crawford over the last few days. We’ve been participating in these video conference calls with the federal authorities and with state emergency management operation centers.” McClellan will report at around 11:30 am that “One of the main things that [FEMA Director Michael Brown] emphasize[s during the call is] that it remains a serious situation, and there’s still a lot of concern about storm surge, flooding, the damage and destruction on the ground, power outages, and things of that nature.” FEMA also provides updates from other states as well. [White House, 8/29/2005] McClellan will later state that that Hagin is the “point person in terms of overseeing efforts from the White House.”
[White House, 8/30/2005]
Note - The Los Angeles Times will later report that the White House declines to say who is in charge of preparing for the hurricane in Washington, asserting that Bush and his aides can run the government just as well from their summer homes. “Andy Card is the chief of staff, and he was in close contact with everyone,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan will say, “And the president is the one who’s in charge at the White House.”
[Los Angeles Times, 9/11/2005] Knight Ridder will report that no one at the White House has been assigned the task of tracking and coordinating the federal response on behalf of the White House. [Knight Ridder, 9/11/2005]
President Bush declares Louisiana and Mississippi “major disaster areas,” which makes available federal financial assistance to individuals, businesses, and local governments. [White House, 8/29/2005; White House, 8/29/2005]
“This will allow federal funds to start being used to deploy resources to help in those two states,” White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says. “This is something that was done verbally, and the governors of those states have been notified of that approval.”
[Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] (In fact, this declaration has little effect on the immediate disaster and response. Rather, it increases the types and beneficiaries of longer term federal assistance recovery that will be available in the areas affected by the hurricane
Governor Kathleen Blanco holds a press conference urging evacuated residents to stay put. Blanco reports that officials have received calls from 115 people in New Orleans who say they are stranded, as well as an Unknown number of people in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes. When the winds subside, boats will be deployed from Jackson Barracks in the Lower 9th Ward to go look for people who are trapped. Blanco discusses the widespread flooding in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, reporting that the water as deep as 10-12 feet in some places. Local officials at the St. Bernard courthouse are trapped on the second floor, and water is rising to that level. State officials have received reports that as many as 20 buildings in New Orleans have collapsed or toppled from the winds. Water is leaking from the 17th Street Canal floodwall. [Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005] During the press conference, Blanco thanks FEMA Director Michael Brown and says, “I hope you will tell President Bush how much we appreciated—these are the times that really count—to know that our federal government will step in and give us the kind of assistance that we need.” Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) reiterates Blanco’s praise: “We are indeed fortunate to have an able and experienced director of FEMA who has been with us on the ground for some time.” Brown responds to their praise in kind: “What I’ve seen here today is a team that is very tight-knit, working closely together, being very professional doing it, and in my humble opinion, making the right calls.”
[New York Times, 9/11/2005]
President Bush conducts his second medicare event today at the James L. Brulte Senior Center in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He again opens his remarks with a brief mention of the unfolding crisis in the Gulf States before turning to his Medicare discussion: “We’re praying for the folks that have been affected by this Hurricane Katrina. We’re in constant contact with the local officials down there. The storm is moving through, and we’re now able to assess damage, or beginning to assess damage. And I want the people to know in the affected areas that the federal government and the state government and the local governments will work side-by-side to do all we can to help get your lives back in order. This was a terrible storm. It’s a storm that hit with a lot of ferocity. It’s a storm now that is moving through, and now it’s the time for governments to help people get their feet on the ground. For those of you who prayed for the folks in that area, I want to thank you for your prayers. For those of you who are concerned about whether or not we’re prepared to help, don’t be. We are. We’re in place. We’ve got equipment in place, supplies in place. And once the—once we’re able to assess the damage, we’ll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas.”
[US President, 9/5/2005]
State Representative Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville), issues the following statement on Katrina: “I am grateful for the strong leadership of Governor Blanco and for the tireless professionalism of the team here in Baton Rouge. I’d also like to thank President Bush for signing the Declaration of Disaster and starting the flow of aid. The entire range of federal and state resources is being coordinated here for the most immediate and effective response. With cooperation from our entire delegation, and the help of our colleagues and friends here in Congress, we hope to gather support for a federal response that will address the needs of our state following this disaster declaration. We must meet this challenge and move forward together. Peachy and I are praying for all of you affected by Katrina. This is not our first hurricane, and it will surely not be our last. But South Louisianans are good and strong people and we are committed to making it through this disaster together. Damage assessments have yet to begin but it is clear that we will have significant immediate and long term needs. Our wetlands and coastal area contribute greatly to America and this is a moment when we will need a lot back from our nation. Supporting a quick recovery of the oil and gas industry, while providing federal assistance for our commercial fishermen and agricultural industries will be critical to rebuilding the fabric of south Louisiana and our contributions to the national economy. We must also redouble our efforts to rebuild South Louisiana itself. The true costs of losing the buffers of our wetlands and barrier islands are now apparent. And after Katrina, what was earlier a $14 billion need for coastal restoration may have become billions of dollars more expensive. I urge residents of Parishes affected by Katrina to heed the orders of Emergency Preparedness officials and do not return to your homes until the all clear is given.”
[Times-Picayune Blog, 8/29/2005]
Louisiana Governor Blanco calls President Bush this evening. Reportedly, she tells him, “Mr. President, we need your help. We need everything you’ve got.” Blanco later recalls that Bush was reassuring. However, the conversation is rather vague, according to later reports. Blanco does not specifically ask for a massive intervention by the active-duty military. “She wouldn’t know the 82nd Airborne from the Harlem Boys’ Choir,” says an official in Governor Blanco’s office (who wishes to remain anonymous). [Newsweek, 9/19/2005] Blanco will later acknowledge that she does not “give him a checklist or anything.”
“Do we stop and think about it?” she will ask. “We just stop and think about help.”
[New York Times, 9/11/2005] Blanco’s aides will contend that she should not have to provide a detailed list under the circumstances: “That’s like telling a drowning man that you are not going to help him until he asks for a life preserver.”
The six-way talks over North Korea’s nuclear program (see August 2003 and Spring and Summer 2005) finally bear fruit: all participants, including North Korea and the US, agree to “the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.” The North Koreans had insisted that they were entitled to receive light-water nuclear reactors in return for disarming, a central provision of the 1994 Agreed Framework (see October 21, 1994). The US refused to agree, and the Chinese brokered a compromise statement in which North Korea “stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that the “other parties expressed their respect” and will discuss the reactor demand “at an appropriate time.” But Bush administration conservatives, furious at the agreement, prevail on President Bush to modify the US’s position. The White House forces US negotiator Christopher Hill to read a hard-line statement written by Bush conservatives that defines the “appropriate time” for the reactor discussions as being after North Korea has unilaterally disarmed. Simultaneously, the Treasury Department announces its imposition of sanctions on an Asian bank for allegedly laundering North Korean funds. The North Koreans respond by walking out of the negotiations, leaving the agreement unsigned. They will not return to negotiations for 15 months. [BBC, 12/2007; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 244]
Nineteen US Representatives, headed by Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), send a letter to President Bush warning of a “crisis along the Southwest border” of the nation “that needs immediate attention.” Smith and his fellow signatories complain that “coyotes,” or criminals who smuggle illegal immigrants across the border in attempts to avoid immigration procedures and the US Border Patrol, constitute a grave threat to national security. Smith references the case of Antonio Amparo-Lopez, a “coyote” whom, after being arrested, was let go by Carol Lam, the US Attorney in Southern California (see February 2, 2004 and July 30, 2004). Lam and other Justice Department officials have cited a severe lack of resources in their decisions not to prosecute low-level alleged criminals such as Amparo-Lopez. The signatories ask Bush to “dedicate additional resources and direct US Attorneys in the Southwest region to make the prosecution of human smugglers a priority.” Representative Randall “Duke” Cunningham is one of the signatories; he is under investigation by Lam’s office for corruption. Six weeks later, the Justice Department’s Office of Legislative Affairs sends what conservative columnist Byron York will call “a brush-off letter” in response. [US Department of Justice, 3/23/2007 ; National Review, 3/28/2007]
Conservative radio host and former Secretary of Education William Bennett is castigated by both liberals and conservatives for his statement that aborting all black children would lower the US crime rate (see September 28-October 1, 2005). President Bush’s press secretary, Scott McClellan, tells reporters that Bush “believes the comments were not appropriate,” though he does not actually condemn Bennett’s words, as requested by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Pelosi says: “What could possibly have possessed Secretary Bennett to say those words, especially at this time? What could he possibly have been thinking? This is what is so alarming about his words.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) says he is “appalled” by Bennett’s remarks. “The Republican Party has recently taken great pains to reach out to the African-American community, and I hope that they will be swift in condemning Mr. Bennett’s comments as nothing short of callous and ignorant,” he adds. Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL), an African-American, says, “This is precisely the kind of insensitive, hurtful, and ignorant rhetoric that Americans have grown tired of.” Rush asks “my friends, the responsible Republicans” to pass a House resolution condemning Bennett’s remarks as “outrageous racism of the most bigoted and ignorant kind.” He asks: “Where is the indignation from the GOP, as one of their prominent members talk about aborting an entire race of Americans as a way of ridding this country of crime? How ridiculous! How asinine! How insane can one be?” Instead, Rush calls for the “aborting” of Republican policies, “which have hurt the disadvantaged, the poor average Americans for the benefit of large corporations.” Bruce Gordon, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), says Bennett and his employer, the Salem Radio Network, owe the nation an apology. “In 2005, there is no place for the kind of racist statement made by Bennett,” he says in a statement. “While the entire nation is trying to help survivors, black and white, to recover from the damage caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, it is unconscionable for Bennett to make such ignorant and insensitive comments.” [CNN, 9/30/2005]
Ignorance, Stereotyping Blacks as Born Criminals - In a press release, Howard Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), says: “Are these the values of the Republican Party and its conservative allies? If not, President Bush, Ken Mehlman [Dean’s Republican counterpart], and the Republican Leadership should denounce them immediately as hateful, divisive, and worthy only of scorn. This kind of statement is hardly compassionate conservatism; rather, Bennett’s comments demonstrate a reprehensible racial insensitivity and ignorance. Bill Bennett’s hateful, inflammatory remarks regarding African Americans are simply inexcusable. They are particularly unacceptable from a leader in the conservative movement and former secretary of education, once charged with the well-being of every American school child. He should apologize immediately. As Americans, we should focus on the virtues that bring us together, not hatred that tears us apart and unjustly scapegoats fellow Americans.” [Democratic National Committee, 9/29/2005] Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), says: “I’m not even going to comment on something that disgusting. Really, I’m thinking of my black grandchild and I’m going to hold [off].” [ABC News, 9/29/2005] The Reverend Jesse Jackson, a former Democratic presidential candidate and former associate of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, says: “Republicans, Democrats, and all Americans of goodwill should denounce this statement, should distance themselves from Mr. Bennett. And the private sector should not support Mr. Bennett’s radio show or his comments on the air.” [Guardian, 10/1/2005]
Civil Rights Leader: Bennett's Show Should be Canceled - Wade Henderson, the executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, says an apology is insufficient; Bennett’s radio program should be canceled. Referring to inaccurate news reports that blacks were responsible for a “crime wave” in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Henderson says, “I think African-Americans are certainly tired of being stereotyped as being responsible for the majority of crime in American society when the facts simply don’t bear that assumption out.” [CBS News, 9/30/2005]
Entity Tags: Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, Harry Reid, George W. Bush, Bruce Gordon, Bobby Lee Rush, Howard Dean, Ken Mehlman, William J. Bennett, Jesse Jackson, Salem Radio Network, Patrick J. Leahy, Wade Henderson, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Nancy Pelosi, Scott McClellan
Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda
John Roberts. [Source: In These Times]John Roberts is approved by the Senate to become the new chief justice of the US Supreme Court, replacing the recently deceased William Rehnquist (see September 5, 2005). Roberts, who once clerked for Rehnquist while Rehnquist was an associate justice, also served in the Reagan Justice Department and as an associate counsel to then-President Reagan. He was deputy solicitor general in the first Bush administration. George W. Bush appointed him to the DC Circuit Court in 2001. [White House, 9/29/2005] Roberts was originally nominated to succeed the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor, but when Rehnquist died, Bush quickly withdrew the nomination for associate justice and refiled Roberts’s name for chief justice.
Characteristics and History - Roberts appeals to conservatives for a number of reasons; he has a powerful legal intellect, is soft-spoken, personable, and telegenic, and has not been outspoken about his views on issues like abortion and the right to privacy. Law professor Stephen Wermiel, who knows Roberts well, said in July that Roberts is not “somebody who… comes off as gruff or overbearing, which some people will recall was a factor in the [Robert] Bork hearings in 1987” (see July 1-October 23, 1987). Wermiel called Roberts’s nomination “a stroke of brilliance on the White House’s part.” One area of controversy surrounds Roberts’s work with Governor Jeb Bush of Florida during the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, where Roberts helped construct the strategies used in the Bush v. Gore case that awarded George W. Bush the presidency. Another is Roberts’s membership in the Federalist Society, an organization of conservative activist judges, lawyers, and legal thinkers. A third is his advocacy, during his time with the first Bush administration, for scrapping decades of law providing for the separation of church and state in order to allow prayer in public schools. [National Public Radio, 7/20/2005] Four days before President Bush nominated him to the Court, Roberts voted in favor of upholding the Bush administration’s assertions about its wartime powers in the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (see June 30, 2006), ruling that Bush need not consult Congress before setting up military commissions, and ruling that Bush is not bound by the strictures of the Geneva Convention. Liberals are unhappy with his stance against abortion, his representation as a private attorney of corporate mining interests seeking to dodge environmental regulations and of businesses trying to evade affirmative action requirements, as well as his attempts to curb environmentalists’ efforts to save endangered species. In 2007, reporter Charlie Savage will write that while progressives and liberals busily attacked Roberts for his positions on various “hot-button” issues, “[a]lmost lost amid the hubbub was” Roberts’s “unwavering commitment to the [expansion of] presidential power,” dating back to his 1980-81 clerkship under Rehnquist and his tenure as a White House lawyer under Ronald Reagan (see June-July 1983, October 1983, February 13, 1984, and May 16, 1984). [Savage, 2007, pp. 251-255]
Quick Confirmation - The Senate agreed to expedite Roberts’s confirmation process in order to allow him to preside over the next session of the Supreme Court in October, and so gave its members little time to peruse his record. Roberts sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, and is confirmed by a 78-22 vote. Roberts hit a brief snag when he divulged that he had met with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales just six days before hearing oral arguments in the Hamdan case, had met with Vice President Cheney and a select coterie of top White House officials while considering his verdict, and had met with Bush for the president’s final approval on the Court nomination the same day that he handed down his favorable ruling. Though 22 Democrats vote against his confirmation, because Roberts’s ascension to the Court does not change the ideological balance among the nine justices (Roberts is replacing the equally conservative Rehnquist), Senate Democrats decided not to filibuster his nomination. [Dean, 2007, pp. 154-155; Savage, 2007, pp. 252]
Speaking at the New America Foundation, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, argues that power in Washington has become so concentrated, and the inter-agency processes within the Federal government so degraded, that the government is no longer capable of responding competently to threatening events—whether such events are natural disasters or international conflicts. He describes how successive administrations over the last five decades have damaged the national security decision-making process and warns that new legislation is desperately needed to force transparency on the process and restore checks and balances within the federal bureaucracy. The process has hit a nadir with the Bush administration, he says, whose secrecy and disregard for inter-agency processes has resulted in disastrous policies, such as those toward Iraq, North Korea, and Iran, and the policies that resulted in the prisoner abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. “Fundamental decisions about foreign policy should not be made in secret,” he says. “You don’t have this kind of pervasive attitude out there unless you’ve condoned it.” He says, “[T]he case that I saw for four-plus years was a case that I have never seen in my studies of aberrations, bastardizations, and perturbations in the national-security [policy-making] process.” This approach to government also contributed to the failures in responding to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. “Decisions that send men and women to die, decisions that have the potential to send men and women to die, decisions that confront situations like natural disasters and cause needless death or cause people to suffer misery that they shouldn’t have to suffer, domestic and international decisions, should not be made in a secret way.” His speech includes a very direct and open attack on the Bush administration. “What I saw was a cabal between the Vice President of the United States, Richard Cheney, and the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, on critical issues that made decisions that the bureaucracy did not know were being made. And then when the bureaucracy was presented with those decisions and carried them out, it was presented in such a disjointed incredible way that the bureaucracy often didn’t know what it was doing as it moved to carry them out.” Wilkerson contrasts the current president with his father, George H.W. Bush, “one of the finest presidents we have ever had,” who, in Wilkerson’s opinion, understood how to make foreign policy work. Wilkerson likens George W. Bush’s brand of diplomacy to “cowboyism” and notes that he was unable to persuade US allies to stand behind his policies because “it’s hard to sell shit.” He explains that Bush is “not versed in international relations and not too much interested in them either. There’s a vast difference between the way George H. W. Bush dealt with major challenges, some of the greatest challenges at the end of the 20th century, and effected positive results in my view, and the way we conduct diplomacy today.” Wilkerson lays the blame for the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse directly at the feet of the younger Bush and his top officials, whom Wilkerson says gave tacit approval to soldiers to abuse detainees. As for Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser and now Powell’s successor at the State Department, she was and is “part of the problem.” Instead of ensuring that Bush received the best possible advice even if it was not what Bush wanted to hear, Rice “would side with the president to build her intimacy with the president.” Wilkerson also blames the fracturing and demoralization of the US military on Bush and his officials. Officers “start voting with their feet, as they did in Vietnam,” he says, “and all of a sudden your military begins to unravel.” Wilkerson is particularly scathing in his assessment of the Pentagon’s supervisor of the OSP, Douglas Feith, one of the original members of the Cabal. Asked if he agrees with General Tommy Franks’s assessment of Feith as the “f_cking stupidest guy on the planet.” Wilkerson says, “Let me testify to that. He was. Seldom in my life have I met a dumber man. And yet, after the [Pentagon is given] control, at least in the immediate post-war period in Iraq, this man is put in charge. Not only is he put in charge, he is given carte blanche to tell the State Department to go screw themselves in a closet somewhere.…That’s telling you how decisions were made and…how things got accomplished.” [American Strategy Program, 10/19/2005; Financial Times, 10/20/2005; Inter Press Service, 10/20/2005; Salon, 10/27/2005]
A CIA report completed this month concludes that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq government “did not have a relationship, harbor, or even turn a blind eye toward [Islamist leader Abu Musab] al-Zarqawi and his associates.” The report will be made public one year later as part of a bipartisan Senate investigation. That investigation will conclude that Hussein regarded al-Qaeda as a threat rather as a potential ally, and that the Iraqi intelligence service “actively attempted to locate and capture al-Zarqawi without success.” The New York Times will later report that “The disclosure undercuts continuing claims by the Bush administration that such ties existed, and that they provided evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda.” But despite this report, President Bush will continue to allege such a link existed. For instance, in August 2006, he will claim in a news conference that Hussein “had relations with Zarqawi.” [New York Times, 9/8/2006]
In an essay for the Virginia Law Review entitled “Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb,” Georgetown law professor David Luban dismantles the familiar argument that torture of a detainee might be necessary to stop the so-called “ticking bomb scenario.” Author and former White House counsel John Dean, who quotes Luban in his 2006 book Conservatives Without Conscience, will describe the scenario and its ramifications thusly: “A nuclear bomb has been planted in the heart of a major American city and authorities have in custody a person who knows where it is located. To save possibly millions of lives, would it not be justified to torture this individual to get the necessary information to stop it? Absolutely. Is not this lesser evil justified? Of course it is. And this argument is a wonderful means to comfort those who have moral problems with torture. Its beauty is that once you concede there are circumstances in which torture might be justified, morally and legally… you are on the other side of the line. You’ve joined the torture crowd. To paraphrase [George W.] Bush, you’ve joined the evildoers.” Dean calls it “a bogus argument, a rhetorical device. It is seductively simple, and compellingly logical. But it is also pure fantasy.” The likelihood of such conditions are extremely remote, Dean writes, on the order of a giant meteor striking the Earth. Dean will cite Luban’s arguments as counters to the scenario. Luban writes, “[T]here are certain situations so monstrous that the idea that the processes of moral rationality could yield an answer in them is insane… to spend time thinking what one would decide if one were in such a situation is also insane, if not actually frivolous.” Luban notes that Senator John McCain (R-AZ), himself a victim of torture during the Vietnam War (see October 1, 2005 and November 21, 2005), “has said that ultimately the debate is over who we are. We will never figure that out until we stop talking about ticking bombs, and stop playing games with words.” [Dean, 2006, pp. 165]
Senator John McCain (R-AZ), an ardent opponent of torture by US officials (see November 21, 2005), continues to press an amendment to a $440 billion defense appropriations bill that prohibits cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners held in US captivity (see July 24, 2005 and After). The bill also posits the US Army Field Manual as the uniform standard for interrogations by any Defense Department personnel. The Field Manual is being revised, and Pentagon sources have claimed the revisions will include a section on the importance of following the Geneva Conventions. The amendment is facing stiff opposition from the White House, which asserts that it would encroach on the power of the president as the commander in chief, and would threaten national security by reducing the ability of military interrogators to obtain critical intelligence from prisoners. On the floor of the Senate, McCain reads a letter from former Secretary of State Colin Powell, who had opposed Vice President Cheney on the issue of torture. Powell writes: “Our troops need to hear from Congress. The world will note that America is making a clear statement with respect to the expected future behavior of our soldiers.” McCain himself calls the White House’s legal theories on torture “strange,” and warns that enemies could use America’s justifications of torture as justifications for the torture of US captives. “We are Americans and we hold ourselves to humane standards of treatment of people no matter how evil or terrible they may be,” he says. Terrorists “don’t deserve our sympathy. But this isn’t about who they are. This is about who we are. These are the values that distinguish us from our enemies.” The White House continues to oppose the amendment. President Bush threatens to veto the entire bill, and Cheney circulates pro-torture talking points to friendly Congressional Republicans. Cheney, with CIA Director Porter Goss in tow, asks McCain to exempt CIA officials from the anti-torture amendment at the discretion of the president; McCain refuses. McCain is bolstered by a letter signed by over two dozen retired generals urging Congress to pass the amendment, including Powell and former Joint Chiefs chairman General John Shalikashvili. The amendment passes the Senate 90 to nine. However, the House leadership, steered by Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), refuses to allow the amendment into the House version by refusing to let the House vote on it at all. It will take a House-Senate conference committee to decide the fate of the amendment. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 195; Savage, 2007, pp. 221]
During a roundtable discussion on ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos says, “[A] source close to this told me this week, that President Bush and Vice President Cheney were actually involved in some of these discussions” about disclosing CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to reporters (see July 14, 2003). [Think Progress, 8/2/2005]
Harriet Miers. [Source: Harpers.org]After President Bush successfully places conservative judge John Roberts as chief justice of the Supreme Court (see September 29, 2005), he names White House counsel and personal friend Harriet Miers to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor on the Court.
Firestorm of Criticism - The media reacts adversely to this; Miers is said to be insufficiently qualified for the position and to have been chosen because of her loyalty to Bush. Her nomination is further derailed by opposition from hard-line conservatives, who do not believe she is conservative enough in her beliefs, particularly on abortion. Miers is certainly a weak choice from most viewpoints—she has no constitutional law experience and lacks a reputation as a strong legal thinker. She has never been a judge, nor even published an academic law journal article. Even conservative stalwart Robert Bork, who is still a center of controversy from his failed Court nomination (see July 1-October 23, 1987), calls Miers’s nomination “a disaster on every level.” When a letter Miers had written Bush for his birthday in 1997 is published in the media—in which Miers gushed over Bush in breathless, almost schoolgirlish prose, calling him “cool!” and “the best governor ever!”—the derision hits a fever pitch. When she submits a questionnaire to the Senate Judiciary Committee listing her background and qualifications for the job, a questionnaire almost devoid of pertinent and specific information, the ranking members of the committee threaten to have her do it over, a humiliation she avoids by withdrawing her name from consideration.
Trumped-Up Dispute over Executive Privilege - The Senate asks to see Miers’s White House memos to judge the quality of her legal work, and the White House refuses, citing executive privilege. Many view the dispute as a trumped-up conflict designed to allow the Bush administration to save what little face it can in the debacle; neoconservative columnist Charles Krauthammer had suggested engineering just such a “conflict” to stage “irreconcilable differences over documents” that would allow the Bush White House to withdraw Miers’s nomination over the issue.
Withdrawal - Miers indeed asks Bush to withdraw her nomination, and Bush cites the documents dispute in announcing the decision to pull Miers from consideration: “It is clear that senators would not be satisfied until they gained access to internal documents concerning advice provided during her tenure at the White House—disclosures that would undermine a president’s ability to receive candid counsel,” Bush says. “Harriet Miers’s decision demonstrates her deep respect for this essential aspect of the Constitutional separation of powers—and confirms my deep respect and admiration for her.” Bush settles on another nominee, Samuel Alito, to replace O’Connor (see October 31, 2005 - February 1, 2006). [Savage, 2007, pp. 262-266; Dean, 2007, pp. 155]
Staunch Advocate for Expanded Executive Power - In 2007, reporter and author Charlie Savage will write that, in his view, the Bush administration chose Miers for a simple reason: she is a staunch advocate for the continued expansion of presidential power. “Miers… could be counted on to embrace Bush’s expansive view of presidential powers,” he will write. Miers is quite loyal to Bush “and, through him, the institution he represented.” Miers’s adoration of Bush on a personal level would further guarantee her “solid support for any presidential claim of power that might come before the Court,” he will write. “Like Roberts before her, she was an executive branch lawyer who identified with the task of defending the prerogatives of the president.” On the questionnaire she submits to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Miers writes that as White House counsel, she has gained significant constitutional experience in “presidential prerogatives, the separation of powers, executive authority, and the constitutionality of proposed regulations and statutes.… My time serving in the White House, particularly as counsel to the president, has given me a fuller appreciation of the role of the separation of powers in maintaining our constitutional system. In that role, I have frequently dealt with matters concerning the nature and role of the executive power.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 265-267]
Entity Tags: US Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, Jr, Sandra Day O’Connor, Samuel Alito, Senate Judiciary Committee, Harriet E. Miers, Charlie Savage, George W. Bush, Bush administration (43), Charles Krauthammer, Robert Bork
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
On October 6, 2005, the FBI warns of al-Qaeda subway bombings in New York City. It is alleged that a terror plot will be put into motion “on or about October 9, 2005.” A counterterrorism official states that the warning is unnecessary: “There was no there there.” [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] It is later confirmed that New York City authorities had been aware of the threat for at least three days and had responded accordingly. Local TV station WNBC had been asked by federal authorities to hold the story back. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Meanwhile, Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court is failing (see October 3-27, 2005). [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ]
In a speech, President Bush lists ten terrorist plots the US has supposedly foiled since 9/11, as well as five “casings and infiltrations.” Here are the plots, exactly as they are described in a White House press release, rearranged into a rough chronological order:
West Coast Airliner Plot - In mid-2002 the US disrupted a plot to attack targets on the West Coast of the United States using hijacked airplanes. The plotters included at least one major operational planner involved in planning the events of 9/11.
Jose Padilla Plot - In May 2002 the US disrupted a plot that involved blowing up apartment buildings in the United States. One of the plotters, Jose Padilla, also discussed the possibility of using a “dirty bomb” in the US.
2002 Straits of Hormuz Plot - In 2002 the US and partners disrupted a plot to attack ships transiting the Straits of Hormuz.
2002 Arabian Gulf Shipping Plot - In late 2002 and 2003 the US and a partner nation disrupted a plot by al-Qaeda operatives to attack ships in the Arabian Gulf.
2003 Karachi Plot - In the spring of 2003 the US and a partner disrupted a plot to attack Westerners at several targets in Karachi, Pakistan.
East Coast Airliner Plot - In mid-2003 the US and a partner disrupted a plot to attack targets on the East Coast of the United States using hijacked commercial airplanes.
2003 Tourist Site Plot - In 2003 the US and a partner nation disrupted a plot to attack a tourist site outside the United States.
Heathrow Airport Plot - In 2003 the US and several partners disrupted a plot to attack Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners. The planning for this attack was undertaken by a major 9/11 operational figure.
2004 UK Plot - In the spring of 2004 the US and partners, using a combination of law enforcement and intelligence resources, disrupted a plot to conduct large-scale bombings in [Britain].
2004 [British] Urban Targets Plot - In mid-2004 the US and partners disrupted a plot that involved urban targets in [Britain]. These plots involved using explosives against a variety of sites.
Here are the five additional “casings and infiltrations”:
2001 Tasking - In 2001, al-Qaeda sent an individual to facilitate post-September 11 attacks in the US. US law enforcement authorities arrested the individual.
2003 Tasking - In 2003, an individual was tasked by an al-Qaeda leader to conduct reconnaissance on populated areas in the US.
Gas Station Tasking - In approximately 2003, an individual was tasked to collect targeting information on US gas stations and their support mechanisms on behalf of a senior al-Qaeda planner.
Iyman Faris and the Brooklyn Bridge - In 2003, and in conjunction with a partner nation, the US government arrested and prosecuted Iyman Faris, who was exploring the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Faris ultimately pleaded guilty to providing material support to al-Qaeda and is now in a federal correctional institution.
US Government & Tourist Sites Tasking - In 2003 and 2004, an individual was tasked by al-Qaeda to case important US Government and tourist targets within the United States. [White House, 10/6/2005]
However, later in the month the Washington Post publishes a story questioning the importance of most of these plots. The article states that the plot list “has confused counterterrorism experts and officials, who say they cannot distinguish between the importance of some incidents on the list and others that were left off. Intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the White House overstated the gravity of the plots by saying that they had been foiled, when most were far from ready to be executed. Others noted that the nation’s color-coded threat index was not raised from yellow, or ‘elevated’ risk of attack, to orange, or ‘high’ risk, for most of the time covered by the incidents on the list.” An anonymous former CIA counterterrorism official tells the Post that Bush made it “sound like well-hatched plans… I don’t think they fall into that category.” Another anonymous counterterrorism official says, “We don’t know how they came to the conclusions they came to… It’s safe to say that most of the [intelligence] community doesn’t think [the list is] worth very much.” [Washington Post, 10/23/2005]
Ellen Sauerbrey. [Source: Salon]The New York Times criticizes President Bush for nominating a political crony with no expertise to a critical State Department position. Bush has nominated Ellen Sauerbrey, a Maryland Republican legislator who chaired his 2000 presidential campaign in that state, to the post of assistant secretary of state for population, refugees, and migration, a nomination the Times calls “patronage.” The Times describes the post as “coordinat[ing] the delivery of life-sustaining emergency aid to refugees of foreign wars, persecution, and natural disasters.” Sauerbrey would oversee a bureau responsible for allocating $700 million a year to private relief groups and United Nations agencies, mostly to set up refugee camps and arrange for food deliveries, protection, and other vital aid in third world countries. “Ms. Sauerbrey has no experience responding to major crises calling for international relief,” the Times notes. “This is a post for an established expert in the field.” Sauerbrey was chosen for another “patronage job” in 2002, the Times continues, as the US representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. “There she has relentlessly pressed an anti-abortion and anti-family-planning agenda at international conferences meant to focus on urgent problems like sexual trafficking and the spread of AIDS,” the Times writes. Salon will later note that during her tenure at the UN, Sauerbrey worked to scuttle international agreements that guaranteed women’s rights to reproductive health care. The Times recommends that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee block her nomination; editorial boards for a number of other newspapers also oppose her nomination. [Salon, 1/6/2005; New York Times, 10/11/2005] Sauerbrey will be granted the position as a recess appointment (see January 5, 2006).
Congress passes a law requiring the Customs and Border Patrol to relocate its illegal immigrant checkpoints near Tucson, Arizona, every seven days in order to prevent smugglers from being able to avoid those checkpoints. President Bush signs the law, then issues a signing statement saying that the Border Patrol should view the “relocation provision as advisory rather than mandatory” because, in his view, only the president has the constitutional authority to decide how to deploy law enforcement officers. As a result of Bush’s signing statement, Border Patrol authorities disobey the law, and explain to investigators from the Government Accountability Office that the law is not mandatory, but “advisory.” White House spokesman Tony Fratto later says in response to the Border Patrol’s refusal to obey the law: “The signing statements certainly do and should have an impact. They are real.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 242-243; Boston Globe, 6/19/2007]
Slate’s Jacob Weisberg. [Source: Paid Content (.org)]Jacob Weisberg, a senior editor of Slate magazine, warns liberals that the possible prosecution of White House official Karl Rove and/or former White House aide Lewis Libby may not be cause for celebration. “Opponents of the Bush administration are anticipating vindication on various fronts—justice for their nemesis Karl Rove, repudiation of George W. Bush’s dishonest case for the Iraq war, a comeuppance for Chalabi-loving reporter Judith Miller of the New York Times, and even some payback for the excesses of independent counsels during the Clinton years,” he writes. Weisberg calls support for the potential prosecutions “self-destructive,” and explains: “Anyone who cares about civil liberties, freedom of information, or even just fair play should have been skeptical about [special prosecutor Patrick] Fitzgerald’s investigation from the start. Claiming a few conservative scalps might be satisfying, but they’ll come at a cost to principles liberals hold dear: the press’s right to find out, the government’s ability to disclose, and the public’s right to know.” Weisberg calls the law that is at the heart of the Plame Wilson investigation, the Intelligence Identities Protection Act (IIPA), “flawed,” and the entire Fitzgerald investigation “misbegotten.” The law is difficult to use for a conviction because it requires that prosecutors prove intent to do harm. “Under the First Amendment, we have a right to debate what is done in our name, even by secret agents,” Weisberg writes. “It may be impossible to criminalize malicious disclosure without hampering essential public debate.” After calling the White House “negligent” and “stupid” for revealing Plame Wilson’s CIA status, he says that no one has shown Rove, Libby, or any other official leaked her name with the intent of causing her or her career harm. Weisberg writes: “[A]fter two years of digging, no evidence has emerged that anyone who worked for Bush and talked to reporters about Plame… knew she was undercover. And as nasty as they might be, it’s not really thinkable that they would have known. You need a pretty low opinion of people in the White House to imagine they would knowingly foster the possible assassination of CIA assets in other countries for the sake of retaliation against someone who wrote an op-ed they didn’t like in the New York Times” (see July 6, 2003). The outing of Plame Wilson was “accidental,” Weisberg claims, part of the Bush administration’s attempts to defend itself against its failure to find WMD in Iraq. Weisberg calls Fitzgerald “relentless and ambitious,” implying that he is pursuing the case for the fulfillment of his personal ambition, and says that no evidence exists of anyone breaking any laws, whether it be the IIPA, statutes against perjury or conspiracy, obstruction of justice, or anything else. Fitzgerald will indict someone for something, Weisberg states, because not to do so would seem like he failed in his investigation. Fitzgerald is sure to bring what Weisberg calls “creative crap charges of his own devising” against someone, be it a White House official or a reporter. Weisberg concludes by calling Fitzgerald’s investigation “a disaster for freedom of the press and freedom of information.” [Slate, 10/18/2005]
The US and Britain send a team to search for the body of Osama bin Laden in the rubble of the Pakistani town of Balakot, according to the British Sunday Express newspaper. The al-Qaeda leader is thought to have been buried there following a recent earthquake. The British component comprises members of the foreign intelligence service MI6 and the SAS Special Forces unit; the Americans are US Special Forces. The team, whose deployment is approved by President Bush, is flown in from Afghanistan equipped with imagery and eavesdropping technology, high-tech weapons systems, and linguists. The search is motivated by the fact that, days before the earthquake happened, an American satellite spotted an al-Qaeda training camp in a nearby area and obtained high-resolution close-ups. A senior intelligence officer in Washington says: “One of those photos bore a remarkable resemblance to bin Laden. His face looked thinner, which is in keeping with our reports that his kidney condition has worsened.” This is a reference to the rumor that bin Laden has kidney problems (see November 23, 1996). The Sunday Express will report: “In recent weeks, both MI6 and the CIA have established that bin Laden has received a portable kidney dialysis machine from China but it requires electricity to power it. Drones, unmanned aircraft that US Special Forces launched from Afghanistan last week, have reported that the area along the border has lost all power supplies.” However, the state of bin Laden’s kidneys will still be shrouded in mystery two years later (see Late 2007). According to the report, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to keep other rescue teams working to locate survivors away from the border area where the search for bin Laden is concentrated. [Daily Times (Lahore), 10/20/2005] There are no reports that the search is a success. A man thought to be bin Laden will continue to release audio messages (see, for example, January 19, 2006).
President Bush signs Executive Order 13388, which dramatically expands the powers of the US government to monitor and collect data on US citizens. [Executive Order 13388 of October 25, 2005, 10/25/2005] The order augments the power of “National Security Letters,” authorized in 1981 by then-President Ronald Reagan (see December 4, 1981), but rarely used against US citizens until the advent of the Bush administration and the USA Patriot Act. Thanks to the order, the data files are even more accessible to what the order calls “state, local, and tribal” governments as well as the undefined “appropriate private sector entities,” presumably private data-mining corporations that collect personal and financial data on US citizens for the government.
Over 30,000 NSLs a Year - The FBI now issues over 30,000 NSLs a year, a hundredfold increase from earlier administration usages. NSLs are issued by FBI field supervisors at their discretion without court warrant or oversight by the judiciary or Congress. NSLs force their recipients—librarians, booksellers, employers, Internet providers, and others—to turn over any and all personal data on their customers and employees and are legally required not to tell the targets of the investigations about the letters or the data collection. An FBI supervisor can, without oversight or reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity, collect data on what a citizen makes, spends, invests, gambles, reads in books and on the Internet, buys online, and with whom that citizen lives, works, associates, telephones, and exchanges e-mails. Senior FBI officials admit that the huge spike in NSLs stems from the FBI’s new authority to collect tremendous amounts of data on US citizens not accused of criminal activities. And NSLs are now used to generate leads against terrorist suspects and not merely pursue them.
NSLs Handled With Discretion, Officials Insist - FBI and White House officials insist that NSLs are handled with discretion and with a recognizance of Americans’ right to privacy. Joseph Billy Jr, the FBI’s deputy director for counterterrorism, says he understand that “merely being in a government or FBI database… gives everybody, you know, neck hair standing up.” But innocent Americans “should take comfort at least knowing that it is done under a great deal of investigative care, oversight, within the parameters of the law.” [Washington Post, 11/6/2005]
The grand jury hearing evidence in the Plame Wilson CIA leak investigation hears the summation of special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald. The final weeks of the jury’s tenure have been marked by what the Washington Post calls “a furious effort” by lawyers for White House political strategist Karl Rove to convince Fitzgerald that Rove should not be prosecuted for perjury. The press is unsure what criminal charges Fitzgerald may have asked the jury to bring, or whether he asked them to vote on possible indictments. The grand jury’s term is expiring, and observers believe Fitzgerald is reluctant to empanel a second grand jury to consider further evidence. Law professor Lori Shaw says this jury is well-versed and invested in the investigation. “You have to consider: They are not rookies at this anymore,” she says. “I have a feeling that by now this grand jury has a good idea of what crime, if any, occurred.” White House officials believe that either Rove or Lewis Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, and perhaps both of them, will face criminal charges. But the White House is downplaying the current status of the investigation. Press secretary Scott McClellan tells reporters, “We certainly are following developments in the news, but everybody’s got a lot of work to do.” And President Bush has tried to shift the public’s attention away from the investigation and onto what he calls his successful economic policies. [Washington Post, 10/27/2005] Two days later, the jury will indict Libby (see October 28, 2005).
The media learns that Vice President Dick Cheney and staffers from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) regularly interfered with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2004 report on the intelligence community’s failures to accurately assess Iraq’s WMD threat (see July 9, 2004). According to administration and Congressional sources, that interference was facilitated and encouraged by committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). Cheney and the OVP members regularly intervened in the committee’s deliberations, and drastically limited the scope of the investigation.
Protecting the Bush Administration - Reporter Laura Rozen will later write, “In order to prevent the White House and the Office of the Vice President itself from ever coming under any Congressional oversight scrutiny, Cheney exerted ‘constant’ pressure on [Roberts] to stall an investigation into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq.” Cheney and the OVP also withheld key documents from the committee. Some of the withheld materials included portions of then-Secretary of State Colin Powell’s February 2003 address to the United Nations (see February 5, 2003) that were written by Cheney’s then-chief of staff, Lewis Libby, and documents that Libby used to make the administration’s case for war with Iraq. The OVP also withheld the Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) documents: written intelligence summaries provided to President Bush by the CIA. The decision to withhold the documents was spearheaded by Cheney’s chief legal counsel and chief of staff David Addington. Much of the withheld material, and Cheney-OVP interference, was designed to keep the committee from looking into the Bush administration’s use of intelligence findings to promote the war. According to committee member John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), Cheney attended regular policy meetings in which he gave White House orders to Republican committee staffers. It is “not hearsay,” Rockefeller says, that Cheney pushed Roberts to, in reporter Jonathan Landay’s words, “drag out the probe of the administration’s use of prewar intelligence.” The committee chose to defer the second portion of its report, about the administration’s use of intelligence to propel the nation to war, until after the November 2004 elections. That portion of the report remains uncompleted.
Shifting the Blame to the White House - Reporter Murray Waas writes, “Had the withheld information been turned over, according to administration and Congressional sources, it likely would have shifted a portion of the blame away from the intelligence agencies to the Bush administration as to who was responsible for the erroneous information being presented to the American public, Congress, and the international community.” He continues: “When the [report] was made public, Bush, Cheney, and other administration officials cited it as proof that the administration acted in good faith on Iraq and relied on intelligence from the CIA and others that it did not know was flawed. But some Congressional sources say that had the committee received all the documents it requested from the White House the spotlight could have shifted to the heavy advocacy by Cheney’s office to go to war. Cheney had been the foremost administration advocate for war with Iraq, and Libby played a central staff role in coordinating the sale of the war to both the public and Congress.” [National Journal, 10/27/2005; Wilson, 2007, pp. 381]
Entity Tags: Office of the Vice President, John D. Rockefeller, George W. Bush, David S. Addington, Colin Powell, Bush administration (43), Jonathan Landay, Murray Waas, Laura Rozen, Senate Intelligence Committee, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Pat Roberts
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion
After meeting with President George Bush in Washington, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tells Italian reporters, “Bush himself confirmed to me that the USA did not have any information [about alleged uranium sales from Niger to Iraq] from Italian [intelligence] agencies.”
[White House, 11/2/2005]
President Bush, stung by the opposition from both left and right that derailed his nomination of Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court (see October 3-27, 2005), nominates appeals court judge Samuel Alito to the Court to replace the retiring Sandra Day O’Connor. [Dean, 2007, pp. 155-157]
Staunch Advocate of Expanding Presidential Power - Alito has impeccable credentials, especially in contrast to the widely derided Miers. He is a graduate of Yale Law School, a long-time member of the conservative Federalist Society, and has years of decisions behind him as an appellate court judge. He is a product of the Reagan-era Justice Department. Bush calls him “one of the most accomplished and respected judges in America.” He is a powerful anti-abortion advocate, and a staunch supporter of granting ever more power to the executive branch, especially at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches. During his time in the Reagan Justice Department, he worked on a project to “increase the power of the executive to shape the law.” In 2000 he called the “unitary executive theory” (see April 30, 1986) the “gospel according to the OLC,” the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, where he worked for four years, and said he was firmly committed to advancing that theory. [Savage, 2007, pp. 267-271]
Bland Facade at Hearings - Alito receives a unanimous “well qualified” assessment from the American Bar Association, and the Bush administration expects that his nomination will sail through the Senate confirmation hearings as quickly and painlessly as did Bush’s previous choice for the Court, John Roberts (see September 29, 2005). The hearings are more contentious than Bush would like, and former Nixon White House counsel John Dean will say in 2007 that Alito’s performance before the Judiciary Committee “only served to confirm that the entire process has become little more than a great charade.” Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), one of the longest-serving members of the committee, observes that the Bush administration believes—correctly—that it can nominate radical right-wing extremists to the Court virtually at will, “as long as their views were not well known,” and adds, “[T]he current White House [has] turned the effort to hide nominees’ views into an art form.” Like Roberts, Alito presents a bland, non-confrontational facade to the committee (see January 9-13, 2006), refusing to take a personal stance on any issue and giving the impression that, as Kennedy will say after Alito and Roberts begin their service on the Court, he would be “as neutral as a baseball umpire.… The men who promised to be neutral umpires look more and more like loyal members of the president’s team.” [Dean, 2007, pp. 155-157]
Party-Line Confirmation - After an attempt by Senators Kennedy and John Kerry (D-MA) to filibuster Alito’s confirmation fails, the Senate confirms Alito’s ascension to the Court by a near-party line 58-42 vote, the closest such vote since Clarence Thomas’s (see October 13, 1991). Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) condemns what he calls the “very bitter partisanship” over Alito’s nomination, and accuses Democrats of playing politics: “When you have a man who has the decency, the legal ability and the capacities that Judge Alito has treated this way, I think it’s despicable.” Alito, whose hardline conservative beliefs are sufficiently masked during the hearings, replaces the far more moderate O’Connor, who before her retirement made up the “moderate center” of the Court with Justices Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. Now Alito joins Thomas, Roberts, and Antonin Scalia to form a hard-right conservative bloc on the Court which, when joined by center-right conservative Kennedy, forms a nearly unshakable conservative majority. [CNN, 2/1/2006]
Overturning Roe? - Many believe that Alito gives the Court the fifth vote it needs to finally overturn the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade (see January 22, 1973), a longtime goal of social conservatives that would go far to make abortions illegal in the US. [Slate, 10/31/2005]
Entity Tags: Orrin Hatch, Sandra Day O’Connor, Samuel Alito, John Dean, US Supreme Court, John G. Roberts, Jr, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, David Souter, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Harriet E. Miers, Antonin Scalia
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The FBI terminates its two-year investigation into who disseminated the forged documents that alleged Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003). Italian intelligence chief Nicolo Pollari has confirmed that former Italian intelligence agent Rocco Martino disseminated the documents (see November 3, 2005). FBI chief Robert Mueller has praised Pollari and SISMI’s cooperation with the bureau’s investigation. In part because of information provided by SISMI to the FBI, the bureau concludes that the forgeries were produced by a person or persons for personal profit, and rules out any possibility that SISMI attempted to influence US policies. The Italian newspaper La Repubblica has published a three-part investigative series claiming Pollari had knowingly provided the US and Great Britain with the forgeries (see October 16, 2001, October 18, 2001, December 9, 2001, and September 9, 2002), perhaps at the behest of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who it says was said to be eager to help President Bush in the search for weapons in Iraq (see (After October 18, 2001)). Berlusconi has denied any involvement. [New York Times, 11/4/2005]
Special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is narrowing his focus on the potential criminal actions of White House political strategist Karl Rove. According to lawyers involved in the Lewis Libby perjury investigation, Fitzgerald is abandoning inquiries into whether Rove lied to a grand jury about his role in the Plame Wilson identity leak, and his characterization of the involvement of President Bush in the leak. Now Fitzgerald is focusing on whether Rove tried to conceal from the grand jury a conversation he had with Time reporter Matthew Cooper in the week before Valerie Plame Wilson’s identity was revealed (see 11:00 a.m. July 11, 2003 and October 15, 2004). Fitzgerald is not sure Rove was fully forthcoming about the belated discovery of an internal e-mail in which he described the conversation with Cooper (see After 11:07 a.m. July 11, 2003 and March 1, 2004), and some within the investigation speculate that Rove may have perjured himself. White House officials have said that Rove will not be asked to leave the administration if he is not indicted. Democratic leaders in Congress have renewed their call for him to resign, reminding Bush of his pledge to demand the “highest ethical standards” from the members of his administration. [New York Times, 11/4/2005] Rove’s lawyer, Robert Luskin, will point to a casual conversation between himself and journalist Viveca Novak as proof that Rove did not deliberately lie about the conversation with Cooper (see March 1, 2004). However, a source familiar with the case tells reporters that Rove had informed Luskin about the Cooper conversation even before his first testimony to the grand jury in February 2004 (see February 2004). Rove then told the jury that he did not remember speaking with Cooper about Plame Wilson. According to the source, Fitzgerald finds it suspicious that Rove did not find the e-mail until after he had subpoenaed Cooper to testify before his grand jury (see May 21, 2004). [Washington Post, 12/3/2005]
John Murtha during his press conference. [Source: Larry Downing / Reuters]Representative John Murtha (D-PA), one of the most conservative and hawkish Democrats in the House of Representatives and a longtime supporter of the military, stuns opponents and fellow Democrats alike by calling for the immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. Fighting back tears, Murtha, a former US Marine and a decorated Vietnam veteran, says the troops in Iraq suffer from poor equipment and low morale. Moreover, the troops’ presence there now serves as an impediment to Iraqi progress towards stability and self-governance. The war is “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion,” he says, and adds, “Our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.” Islamic insurgents “are united against US forces, and we have become a catalyst for violence.… I resent the fact, on Veterans Day, [Bush] criticized Democrats for criticizing them. This is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion. The American public knows it. And lashing out at critics doesn’t help a bit. You’ve got to change the policy.… It’s time to bring [the soldiers] home.” Murtha submits a bill to compel the withdrawal of troops as soon as feasible (see November 17, 2005). Congressional Republicans counter with accusations of cowardice (see November 18-21, 2005) and even siding with terrorists over their country. Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert (R-IL) says: “Murtha and Democratic leaders have adopted a policy of cut and run. They would prefer that the United States surrender to the terrorists who would harm innocent Americans.”
Democratic Leaders Cautious - Democratic leaders such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and campaign chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) react cautiously to Murtha’s call for withdrawal. Pelosi has privately said that she will call for a complete withdrawal of troops in 2006, but does not yet join Murtha in his call for withdrawal, merely saying that he deserves to have “his day.” Emanuel is even more cautious, saying, “Jack Murtha went out and spoke for Jack Murtha.” As for Iraq policy, Emanuel says, “At the right time, we will have a position.”
Mishandling of Intelligence - Murtha joins with other Democrats in accusing the administration of deliberately misrepresenting intelligence about Iraq’s WMD and its connections to al-Qaeda. Vice President Cheney has called such accusations “dishonest and reprehensible.” President Bush responds: “I expect there to be criticism. But when Democrats say that I deliberately misled the Congress and the people, that’s irresponsible. They looked at the same intelligence I did, and they voted—many of them voted—to support the decision I made.… So I agree with the vice president.” Asked about the comments, Murtha retorts, “I like guys who got five deferments and [have] never been there and send people to war, and then don’t like to hear suggestions about what needs to be done.” Cheney received five deferments during the Vietnam War which allowed him to sit out the war; Bush was a Texas Air National Guardsman who did not leave the country during that war. Other Democrats say that they were themselves misled about the intelligence on Iraq’s WMD.
Angry Rhetoric from Both Sides - The White House issues a statement in response to Murtha’s call for a pullout, declaring that Murtha is “endorsing the policy positions of [liberal filmmaker] Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.” Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) responds that Bush and Cheney “have begun a new campaign of distortion and manipulation. Because of the polls showing that Americans have lost trust in the president and believe he manipulated intelligence before the war, the president and vice president have abandoned any pretense of leading this country and have gone back on the campaign trail.” They could not find weapons of mass destruction, Kennedy says, and “they can’t find the truth, either.” Kennedy’s Senate colleague Ted Stevens (R-AK) responds by accusing Kennedy and other Democrats of attempting to “undermine the people standing abroad by repeatedly calling [Bush] a liar.” House Republican Geoff Davis says Murtha’s statements are “shameful.” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) says that if the US does not prevail in Iraq, it will invite another 9/11-type attack: “Four years have expired without a second attack on our homeland because we’ve aggressively projected America’s fighting forces in the theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq.” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) counters that the White House has “shamelessly decided to play politics” over Iraq. “We need a commander in chief, not a campaigner in chief,” Reid says. “We need leadership from the White House, not more whitewashing of the very serious issues confronting us in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2005; New York Times, 11/18/2005; New York Sun, 11/18/2005]
Entity Tags: Ted Stevens, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Rahm Emanuel, Dennis Hastert, Geoffrey C. (“Geoff”) Davis, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Duncan Hunter, George W. Bush, John P. Murtha, Harry Reid, Michael Moore
Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation
Dr. Peter Feaver. [Source: Georgia State University]President Bush gives what is touted as a major speech on the Iraq war strategy at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. The event is heavily stage-crafted, with the strategy document labeled “Our National Strategy for Victory in Iraq,” and the phrase “Plan for Victory” prominently repeated (in what author Frank Rich will later call “Orwellian mitosis”) over the stage and podium. Bush uses the word “victory” 15 times in his speech. The speech itself is not a military strategy proposal, but rather a public relations document based on the work of Duke University political scientist Peter Feaver, who joined the National Security Council as a special adviser in June 2005 to monitor and bolster American public opinion on the war. Feaver, a Navy reservist who has frequently written articles supportive of Bush foreign policies, analyzed poll data from 2003 and 2004 and concluded that the American public would support a war with rising casualties if it believed such a war would ultimately succeed. The speech was written to hammer home the idea (see May 24, 2005) that victory in Iraq is attainable. Other political scientists question both Feaver’s analysis and the ethics of using such tactics to shape public opinion. John Mueller of Ohio State University says that Feaver’s idea would only produce a small, transient rise in public support for the war. Referring to the costs in lives and in dollars, Mueller says, “As the costs go up, support goes down.” “This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency,” says Christopher F. Gelpi, another Duke professor who co-authored the research on American tolerance for casualties. “The Pentagon doesn’t need the president to give a speech and post a document on the White House Web site to know how to fight the insurgents. The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion.” The media was not supposed to know about Feaver’s contribution to the “strategy” document; the plan, posted on the White House’s Web site, does not credit Feaver’s work, but the software used to produce the document shows the original author to be “feaver-p.” The White House confirms that Feaver and another NSC staff member, Deputy National Security Adviser Meghan O’Sullivan, wrote the document with assistance from members of O’Sullivan’s staff. The White House insists that the document is an interagency production that reflects the thinking of the entire administration, not just a few NSC officials and staffers. Press secretary Scott McClellan calls the document an unclassified explanation of strategies that have been in use since 2003. Interestingly, Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey, who supervises the training of Iraqi troops, says he did not see the document before its public release. [White House, 11/30/2005; New York Times, 12/4/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 198]
As Congress debates legislation that will outlaw “cruel, inhuman, and degrading” treatment of terrorist suspects and detainees in US custody, the Justice Department issues a secret opinion, one that few lawmakers even know exists, ruling that none of the CIA’s interrogation methods violate that standard. The Justice Department has already issued one secret opinion countermanding the Bush administration’s stated position that torture is “abhorrent” (see February 2005). Both rulings are efforts by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House officials to realign the Justice Department with the White House after an in-house revolt by many Justice officials threw administration policies on torture and domestic surveillance into doubt (see Late 2003-2005). Though the public debate on torture becomes ever more pervasive during President Bush’s second term, the two rulings will remain in effect through the end of 2007 and beyond, helping the White House give US officials the broadest possible legal latitude for abusing and torturing prisoners. As late as October 2007, the White House will insist that it has always followed US and international law in its authorization of interrogation practices. Those assurances will be countered by an array of current and former officials involved in counterterrorism (see October 3, 2007). [New York Times, 10/4/2007] In 2007, Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will say in conjunction with a lawsuit filed against the Justice Department’s interrogation practices, “These torture memos should never have been written, and it is utterly unacceptable that the administration continues to suppress them while at the same time declaring publicly that it abhors torture. It is now obvious that senior administration officials worked in concert over a period of several years to evade and violate the laws that prohibit cruelty and torture. Some degree of accountability is long overdue.” The ACLU will also note that the administration had failed to disclose the existence of the two opinions in its court filings, a failure characterized by the administration as an accidental oversight. [Harper's, 11/7/2007]
Members of the 9/11 Commission, issuing their final report on progress made in meeting the commission’s earlier recommendations, give the Bush administration a grade of “D” in its nonproliferation efforts. The administration has wholly failed to help Russia secure loose nuclear materials and actual weapons, the commission finds (see January 10, 2001 and After and June 2005). President Bush needs to make nonproliferation a priority, to “ride herd on the bureaucracy” and engage in “a maximum effort” to ensure the US’s nuclear security. “Given the potential for catastrophic destruction,” the commission members find, “our current efforts fall far short of what we need to do.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 210]
Arthur Sulzberger. [Source: New York Times]George W. Bush summons New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger and Times editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office to try to dissuade them from running a landmark story revealing the NSA’s illegal wiretapping program (see December 15, 2005) that he authorized in 2002 (see Early 2002). In the meeeting, Bush warns Sulzberger and Keller that “there’ll be blood on your hands” if another terrorist attack were to occur, obviously implying that to reveal the nature of the program would invite terrorist strikes. Bush is unsuccessful in his attempt to quash the story. [Newsweek, 12/21/2005; Newsweek, 12/22/2008]
In his weekly radio address, President Bush claims that the US always obtains court warrants before launching electronic surveillance efforts. “The Patriot Act is helping America defeat our enemies while safeguarding civil liberties for all our people,” he says. “The judicial branch has a strong oversight role in the application of the Patriot Act. Under the act, law enforcement officers need a federal judge’s permission to wiretap a foreign terrorist’s phone or search his property. Congress also oversees our use of the Patriot Act. Attorney General Gonzales delivers regular reports on the Patriot Act to the House and the Senate.” [White House, 12/10/2005] Bush has made similar claims in the recent past (see April 19-20, 2004, June 9, 2005, and April 19-20, 2004). Former AT&T senior technician Mark Klein (see July 7, 2009 and May 2004), who helped install the equipment used by the National Security Agency (NSA) and his firm to intercept foreign and domestic Internet communications (see January 16, 2004), will later say that Bush’s insistence that the administration gets court orders before wiretapping communications is false. AT&T, on behalf of the NSA, was monitoring “billions of messages a second,” Klein will write, all without court orders. [Klein, 2009, pp. 47-48]
Conservative columnist Robert Novak, who first outed Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA agent (see July 14, 2003), writes that he believes President Bush knows which administration official or officials leaked Plame Wilson’s identity to the press. If Novak is correct, this would implicate Bush in a potential crime. [Washington Post, 7/3/2007]
New York Times headline from article revealing NSA surveillance. [Source: CBS News]The New York Times reveals that after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush granted the National Security Agency (NSA) secret authorization to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the US without going through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court to obtain legal warrants (see Early 2002. The administration justifies its actions by claiming such eavesdropping, which includes wiretapping phones and reading e-mails, is necessary to find evidence of terrorist activities, and says the nation needs the program after the 9/11 attacks exposed deficiencies in the US intelligence community’s information gathering process, and because of what they characterize as the “handcuffing” of US intelligence agencies by restrictive laws. The Times has had the article for over a year; the White House prevailed on the Times not to publish its findings for that time, arguing that publication would jeopardize continuing investigations and warn potential terrorists that they were under scrutiny. Many believe that the White House wanted to delay the publication of the article until well after the 2004 presidential elections. The Times delayed publication for over a year, and agreed to suppress some information that administration officials say could be useful to terrorists. (Less than two weeks before the article is published, Bush tries to convince the Times not to print the article at all: see December 6, 2005.) Two days after the Times publishes its article, Bush will acknowledge the order, and accuse the Times of jeopardizing national security (see December 17, 2005). The NSA program eavesdrops without warrants on up to 500 people in the US at any given time, officials say; the overall numbers have likely reached into the thousands. Overseas, up to 7,000 people suspected of terrorist ties are being monitored. Officials point to the discovery of a plot by Ohio trucker and naturalized US citizen and alleged al-Qaeda supporter Iyman Faris to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with blowtorches as evidence of the program’s efficacy. They also cite the disruption of an al-Qaeda plot to detonate fertilizer bombs outside of British pubs and train stations by the program. But, officials say, most people targeted by the NSA for warrantless wiretapping have never been charged with a crime, and many are targeted because of questionable evidence and groundless suspicion. Many raise an outcry against the program, including members of Congress, civil liberties groups, immigrant rights groups, and others who insist that the program undermines fundamental Constitutional protections of US citizens’ civil liberties and rights to privacy. Several other government programs to spy on Americans have been challenged, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)‘s surveillance of US citizens’ library and Internet usage, the monitoring of peaceful antiwar protests, and the proposed use of public and private databases to hunt for terrorist links. In 2004, the Supreme Court overturned the administration’s claim that so-called “enemy detainees” were not entitled to judicial review of their indefinite detentions. Several senior officials say that when the warrantless wiretapping program began, it operated with few controls and almost no oversight outside of the NSA itself. The agency is not required to seek the approval of the Justice Department or anyone else outside the FISA court for its surveillance operations. Some NSA officials wanted nothing to do with a program they felt was patently illegal, according to a former senior Bush administration official. Internal concerns about the program prompted the Bush administration to briefly suspend the program while Justice Department officials audited it and eventually provided some guidelines for its operations. A complaint from Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the federal judge who oversees the FISA Court, helped spur the suspension, according to officials. Kollar-Kotelly questioned whether information obtained under the program was being improperly used as the basis for FISA wiretap warrant requests from the Justice Department. Some government lawyers say that the Justice Department may have deliberately misled Kollar-Kotelly and the FISA court about the program in order to keep the program under wraps. The judge insisted to Justice Department officials that any material gathered under the program not be used in seeking wiretap warrants from her court. The question also arose in the Faris case, when senior Justice Department officials worried that evidence obtained by warrantless wiretapping by the NSA of Faris could be used in court without having to lie to the court about its origins. [New York Times, 12/15/2005]
The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approves the Senate’s amendment to a defense appropriations bill that outlaws torture (see October 1, 2005 and November 1-4, 2005), 308-122, after the Republican House leadership stops blocking a vote on the amendment (see October 1, 2005). The next day, President Bush meets privately with the author of the amendment, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). In a surprising reversal of the White House’s opposition to the bill, Bush now says he supports the amendment—or will if McCain makes some changes. Bush asks McCain to alter the language of the amendment so that US intelligence officers, if charged with war crimes due to their abuse of a prisoner, can offer a defense that a “reasonable” person could conclude they were following a lawful order. McCain agrees. Bush and McCain hold a joint press conference to announce the White House’s support for the amendment (see December 15, 2005). The press bills the agreement between Bush and McCain as a serious setback for Vice President Cheney, the leader of the White House’s opposition to the bill, with the New York Times calling the vote a “stinging defeat” for Bush and a “particularly significant setback for Vice President Dick Cheney, who since July has led the administration’s fight to defeat the amendment or at least exempt the Central Intelligence Agency from its provisions” (see October 20, 2005). [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 196; Savage, 2007, pp. 223]
Times executive editor Bill Keller. [Source: New York Times]The New York Times’s executive editor, Bill Keller, defends his paper’s decision to reveal the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, conducted through the NSA (see December 15, 2005), after holding the story for over a year. Keller writes: “We start with the premise that a newspaper’s job is to publish information that is a matter of public interest. Clearly a secret policy reversal that gives an American intelligence agency discretion to monitor communications within the country is a matter of public interest.… A year ago, when this information first became known to Times reporters, the administration argued strongly that writing about this eavesdropping program would give terrorists clues about the vulnerability of their communications and would deprive the government of an effective tool for the protection of the country’s security. Officials also assured senior editors of The Times that a variety of legal checks had been imposed that satisfied everyone involved that the program raised no legal questions. As we have done before in rare instances when faced with a convincing national security argument, we agreed not to publish at that time. We also continued reporting, and in the ensuing months two things happened that changed our thinking. First, we developed a fuller picture of the concerns and misgivings that had been expressed during the life of the program. It is not our place to pass judgment on the legal or civil liberties questions involved in such a program, but it became clear those questions loomed larger within the government than we had previously understood. Second, in the course of subsequent reporting we satisfied ourselves that we could write about this program—withholding a number of technical details—in a way that would not expose any intelligence-gathering methods or capabilities that are not already on the public record. The fact that the government eavesdrops on those suspected of terrorist connections is well-known. The fact that the NSA can legally monitor communications within the United States with a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court is also public information. What is new is that the NSA has for the past three years had the authority to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States without a warrant. It is that expansion of authority—not the need for a robust anti-terror intelligence operation—that prompted debate within the government, and that is the subject of the article.” [CNN, 12/16/2005]
A number of senators from both political parties lash out at President Bush’s acknowledgment that he reauthorized the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program over thirty times since its inception in late 2001 (see December 17, 2005). Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) says that such warrantless wiretapping is outside of the law. “He’s trying to claim somehow that the authorization for the Afghanistan attack after 9/11 permitted this, and that’s just absurd,” Feingold says. “There’s not a single senator or member of Congress who thought we were authorizing wiretaps.… If he needs a wiretap, the authority is already there—the [Foreign] Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). They can ask for a warrant to do that, and even if there’s an emergency situation, they can go for 72 hours as long as they give notice at the end of 72 hours.” Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) says the behavior of the White House and NSA “can’t be condoned.” Specter, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, says his committee will immediately begin investigating the matter. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) says the report swayed his decision on the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act. “Today’s revelation that the government listened in on thousands of phone conversations without getting a warrant is shocking and has greatly influenced my vote,” he says. [CNN, 12/16/2005]
President Bush acknowledges that he issued a 2002 executive order authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap US citizens’ phones and e-mails without proper warrants, and accuses the New York Times of jeopardizing national security by publishing its December 15 article (see Early 2002 and December 15, 2005). Bush says he was within the law to issue such an order, which many feel shatters fundamental Constitutional guarantees of liberty and privacy, but accuses the Times of breaking the law by publishing the article. Bush tells listeners during his weekly radio address that the executive order is “fully consistent” with his “constitutional responsibilities and authorities.” But, he continues, “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.” He admits allowing the NSA to “to intercept the international communications of people with known links to al-Qaeda and related terrorist organizations” in a program designed to “detect and prevent terrorist attacks.” Under the law, the NSA must obtain warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court, but after Bush’s executive order, it was no longer required to do so. Bush justifies the order by citing the example of two 9/11 hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, who, he says, “communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al-Qaeda who were overseas, but we didn’t know they were here until it was too late.” Because of the unconstitutional wiretapping program, it is “more likely that killers like these 9/11 hijackers will be identified and located in time, and the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.” Bush also admits to reauthorizing the program “more than thirty times,” and adds, “I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from al-Qaeda and related groups.” [CNN, 12/16/2005] Bush fails to address the likelihood that the domestic surveillance program began well before 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, July 2001, and Early 2002).
After an NSA program to intercept telephone calls where one party is in the US and the other party is abroad is revealed (see December 15, 2005), President George Bush defends the program in a radio address. He justifies the program by implying that, if it had been in place before 9/11, it may have prevented the attacks: “As the 9/11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the September the 11th attacks, and the commission criticized our nation’s inability to uncover links between terrorists here at home and terrorists abroad. Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, communicated while they were in the United States to other members of al-Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn’t know they were here until it was too late.” There are conflicting accounts of the circumstances of the hijackers’ calls and the NSA actually intercepted them, so it is unclear why they were not exploited to prevent the attacks (see Early 2000-Summer 2001, (Spring 2000), Summer 2002-Summer 2004, and March 15, 2004 and After). [WhiteHouse(.gov), 12/17/2005; US President, 12/26/2005 ] It is unclear which statements of the 9/11 Commission the president thinks he is referring to. The Commission’s final report touches on the NSA intercepts of the hijackers’ calls from the US in two places; in one it says: “[T]he NSA was supposed to let the FBI know of any indication of crime, espionage, or ‘terrorist enterprise’ so that the FBI could obtain the appropriate warrant. Later in this story, we will learn that while the NSA had the technical capability to report on communications with suspected terrorist facilities in the Middle East, the NSA did not seek FISA Court warrants to collect communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries, because it believed that this was an FBI role,” (note: we do not actually learn this later in the 9/11 Commission report, this is the only mention). The second passage refers to Almihdhar’s time in San Diego and does not actually mention that the NSA intercepted the relevant calls, “Almihdhar’s mind seems to have been with his family in Yemen, as evidenced by calls he made from the apartment telephone.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 87-8, 222]
Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and NSA chief Lieutenant General Michael Hayden conduct their own “briefing” on the recently revealed NSA wiretapping program (see December 15, 2005) with the White House press corps. Gonzales and Hayden make the following points:
Gonzales says that he will not discuss the internal workings of the still-classified program, only what he calls its “legal underpinnings.”
He claims that the program, which he calls “the most classified program that exists in the United States government,” is legal because President Bush authorized it, and says that the idea that “the United States is somehow spying on American citizens” is wrong: it is “[v]ery, very important to understand that one party to the communication has to be outside the United States.”
He says that for the NSA to eavesdrop on a US citizen’s telephone or e-mail communications, “we have to have a reasonable basis to conclude that one party to the communication is a member of al-Qaeda, affiliated with al-Qaeda, or a member of an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, or working in support of al-Qaeda.” The wiretapping program is an essential part of the administration’s war against terror, he says.
He goes on to claim that “the authorization to use force, which was passed by the Congress in the days following September 11th, constitutes” legal grounds for “this kind of signals intelligence.” [White House, 12/19/2005] The White House signed Congress’s Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) into law on September 18, 2001 (see September 14-18, 2001. [White House, 9/18/2001]
Hayden Claims Supreme Court Backing - While he admits that the Congressional authorization to use force against international terrorism does not specifically mention any kind of electronic surveillance, he refers the listeners to the Supreme Court case concerning alleged US terrorist Yaser Esam Hamdi (see June 28, 2004), in which the Court ruled that Hamdi had the legal right to challenge his detention. “[T]he United States government took the position that Congress had authorized that detention in the authorization to use force, even though the authorization to use force never mentions the word ‘detention.’ And the Supreme Court, a plurality written by Justice O’Connor agreed. She said, it was clear and unmistakable that the Congress had authorized the detention of an American citizen captured on the battlefield as an enemy combatant for the remainder—the duration of the hostilities. So even though the authorization to use force did not mention the word, ‘detention,’ she felt that detention of enemy soldiers captured on the battlefield was a fundamental incident of waging war, and therefore, had been authorized by Congress when they used the words, ‘authorize the President to use all necessary and appropriate force.’ For the same reason, we believe signals intelligence is even more a fundamental incident of war, and we believe has been authorized by the Congress. And even though signals intelligence is not mentioned in the authorization to use force, we believe that the Court would apply the same reasoning to recognize the authorization by Congress to engage in this kind of electronic surveillance.”
Bush 'Very Concerned' With Protecting Civil Liberties - Gonzales insists, Bush “is very concerned about the protection of civil liberties, and that’s why we’ve got strict parameters, strict guidelines in place out at NSA to ensure that the program is operating in a way that is consistent with the President’s directives.” He adds, “[W]e feel comfortable that this surveillance is consistent with requirements of the Fourth Amendment. The touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is reasonableness, and the Supreme Court has long held that there are exceptions to the warrant requirement in—when special needs outside the law enforcement arena. And we think that that standard has been met here.”
Wiretapping Essential in Catching Terrorists - Hayden reiterates how important the wiretapping is to catching terrorists and stopping potential attacks against US targets, though he and Gonzales both refuse to say what, if any, terrorist plots or what terror suspects might have been captured through the NSA wiretapping program. Hayden does say, “This program has been successful in detecting and preventing attacks inside the United States.…I can say unequivocally, all right, that we have got information through this program that would not otherwise have been available,” though he refuses to cite specifics. He admits that there have been some errors in surveilling innocent US citizens, though he refuses to give any details, and says those errors were quickly corrected.
Administration Not Required to Go Through FISA - Gonzales, who is the main speaker in the briefing, reiterates that while the administration continues to seek warrants from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court, “we are not legally required to do, in this particular case, because the law requires that we—FISA requires that we get a court order, unless authorized by a statute, and we believe that authorization has occurred.” He justifies the administration’s refusal to use the FISA court for obtaining warrants by insisting that NSA officials “tell me that we don’t have the speed and the agility that we need, in all circumstances, to deal with this new kind of enemy. You have to remember that FISA was passed by the Congress in 1978. There have been tremendous advances in technology… since then.” Hayden adds, “I don’t think anyone could claim that FISA was envisaged as a tool to cover armed enemy combatants in preparation for attacks inside the United States. And that’s what this authorization under the President is designed to help us do.”
'Balancing' of Civil Liberties, National Security - Hayden says the warrantless wiretapping program is part of “a balancing between security and liberty,” a more “aggressive” operation “than would be traditionally available under FISA. It is also less intrusive. It deals only with international calls. It is generally for far shorter periods of time. And it is not designed to collect reams of intelligence, but to detect and warn and prevent about attacks. And, therefore, that’s where we’ve decided to draw that balance between security and liberty.”
Media Leaks Damaging to National Security - Gonzales refuses to talk about when any members of Congress were briefed on the program or what they were told, but he does imply that there will be some sort of leak investigation as to how the New York Times found out about the program: “[T]his is really hurting national security, this has really hurt our country, and we are concerned that a very valuable tool has been compromised. As to whether or not there will be a leak investigation, we’ll just have to wait and see.”
No Evidence of Compromised National Security - When asked whether he can cite any evidence that the revelation of the program’s existence has actually compromised anything—“Don’t you assume that the other side thinks we’re listening to them? I mean, come on,” one reporter says—Gonzales responds, rather confusingly, “I think the existence of this program, the confirmation of the—I mean, the fact that this program exists, in my judgment, has compromised national security, as the President indicated on Saturday.”
Easier to Sidestep FISA Instead of Seek Congressional Approval - He does admit that the administration decided to sidestep the FISA court entirely instead of attempt to work with Congress to rewrite the FISA statutes because “we were advised that that would be difficult, if not impossible” to amend the law to the White House’s satisfaction. Gonzales says those who are concerned about the program being excessively intrusive or a threat to American civil liberties simply “don’t understand the specifics of the program, they don’t understand the strict safeguards within the program.… Part of the reason for this press brief today is to have you help us educate the American people and the American Congress about what we’re doing and the legal basis for what we’re doing.” He adds that any legal experts who believe the program is illegal are basing their judgments “on very limited information.”
Tough Questioning - One reporter asks an unusually tough series of questions to Gonzales: “Do you think the government has the right to break the law?”, to which Gonzales replies, “Absolutely not. I don’t believe anyone is above the law.” The reporter then says, “You have stretched this resolution for war into giving you carte blanche to do anything you want to do,” to which Gonzales replies cryptically, “Well, one might make that same argument in connection with detention of American citizens, which is far more intrusive than listening into a conversation.” The reporter insists, “You’re never supposed to spy on Americans,” and Gonzales deflects the responsibility for the decision back onto the Supreme Court.
Administration Will Tell Nation What It Needs to Know - Gonzales says the administration has no intention of releasing any of the classified legal opinions underpinning the program, and this press briefing is one of the methods by which the administration will “educat[e] the American people…and the Congress” to give them what they need to know about the program. [White House, 12/19/2005]
During a press conference, President Bush is asked if he will order an investigation into the leak that revealed the NSA’s domestic surveillance program (see December 15, 2005). Bush says he has not directly ordered an investigation, presuming the Justice Department is handling the matter, but he calls the leak “a shameful act for someone to disclose this very important program in a time of war.” And he implies that the leak, and the New York Times’s decision to print the resulting article, is treason: “The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.… But it is a shameful act by somebody who has got secrets of the United States government and feels like they need to disclose them publicly.” When asked why he “skip[ped] the basic safeguards of asking courts for permission for the intercepts,” he answers: “[R]ight after September the 11th, I knew we were fighting a different kind of war. And so I asked people in my administration to analyze how best for me and our government to do the job people expect us to do, which is to detect and prevent a possible attack. That’s what the American people want. We looked at the possible scenarios. And the people responsible for helping us protect and defend came forth with the current program, because it enables us to move faster and quicker. And that’s important. We’ve got to be fast on our feet, quick to detect and prevent. We use FISA still—you’re referring to the FISA court in your question—of course, we use FISAs. But FISA is for long-term monitoring. What is needed in order to protect the American people is the ability to move quickly to detect. Now, having suggested this idea, I then, obviously, went to the question, is it legal to do so? I am—I swore to uphold the laws. Do I have the legal authority to do this? And the answer is, absolutely.… [T]he legal authority is derived from the Constitution, as well as the authorization of force by the United States Congress” (see September 14-18, 2001). A reporter asks why “has your administration not sought to get changes in the law instead of bypassing it, as some of your critics have said?” Bush responds by reiterating the point that the program is “limited in nature to those that are known al-Qaeda ties and/or affiliates.” He then reiterates another point: he believes he has the authority to bypass the law. He “share[s] the same concerns” about civil liberties that members of Congress have expressed (see December 16, 2005).” However, his reassurances that domestic calls are not being monitored are not absolute. “[I]f you’re calling from Houston to [Los Angeles], that call is not monitored. And if there was ever any need to monitor, there would be a process to do that.” He is asked: “You say you have an obligation to protect us. Then why not monitor those calls between Houston and LA? If the threat is so great, and you use the same logic, why not monitor those calls? Americans thought they weren’t being spied on in calls overseas—why not within the country, if the threat is so great?” Bush replies: “We will, under current law, if we have to. We will monitor those calls. And that’s why there is a FISA law. We will apply for the right to do so. And there’s a difference—let me finish—there is a difference between detecting so we can prevent, and monitoring. And it’s important to know the distinction between the two.” He concludes, “I just want to assure the American people that, one, I’ve got the authority to do this; two, it is a necessary part of my job to protect you; and, three, we’re guarding your civil liberties.” [White House, 12/19/2005]
Vice President Dick Cheney, formerly the chief of staff for President Gerald Ford (see November 4, 1975 and After), says, “Watergate and a lot of the things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the ‘70s served, I think, to erode the authority… the president needs to be effective, especially in the national security area.” Cheney says that he and George W. Bush have restored some of “the legitimate authority of the presidency” that was taken away in the aftermath of Watergate. “I think the vice president ought to reread the Constitution,” retorts Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA). The chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean comments that Bush and Cheney’s behavior “reminds Americans of the abuse of power during the dark days of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew.” [Toronto Star, 12/21/2005; Werth, 2006, pp. 348]
Judge James Robertson. [Source: US Courts.gov]US District Judge James Robertson resigns from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), a special, secret court set up to oversee government surveillance operations. Robertson refuses to comment on his resignation from FISC, but two of Robertson’s associates say that Robertson’s resignation stems from his deep concerns that the NSA’s warrantless domestic wiretapping program (see Early 2002) is not legal, and has tainted the work of the court. Robertson, formerly one of ten “revolving” members of FISC who periodically rotate in and out of duty on the court, continues to serve as a Washington, DC district judge. Colleagues of Robertson say that he is concerned that information gained from the warrantless surveillance under Bush’s program subsequently could have been used to obtain warrants under the FISA program, a practice specifically prohibited by the court. Robertson, a Clinton appointee selected for FISC by Chief Justice William Rehnquist, has also been critical of the Bush administration’s treatment of detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and recently issued a decision that sidetracked Bush’s use of military tribunals for some Guantanamo detainees (see November 8, 2004). Even though Robertson was hand-picked for FISC by the deeply conservative Rehnquist, who expressly selected judges who took an expansive view of wiretapping and other surveillance programs, [Associated Press, 12/21/2005] some conservative critics such as Jim Kouri, a vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police, call Robertson a “left-leaning, liberal” “Clintonista” jurist with ties to “ultra-liberal” civil rights associations and a desire for media attention (though Robertson has refused to speak to the press about his resignation). Critics also demand that less attention be directed at the NSA wiretapping program and more on finding out who leaked the information that led to the New York Times’s recent revelatory articles on the program (see Early 2002). GOP strategist Mike Baker says in response to Robertson’s resignation, “Only the Democrats make confirmations and appointments of people by Republican President [sic] a question of ideology. The news media try to portray [Robertson] as non-partisan. He’s as liberal as they come and as partisan as they come.” [Men's News, 12/23/2005] Presiding judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly is arranging for a classified briefing of all the remaining FISC judges on the wiretapping program, partly in order to bring any doubts harbored by other justices into the open. Sources say Kollar-Kotelly expects top NSA and Justice Department officials to outline the program for the judges. No one on FISC except for Kollar-Kotelly and her predecessor, Judge Royce Lambeth, have ever been briefed on the program. If the judges are not satisfied with the information provided in this briefing, they could take action, which could include anything from demanding proof from the Justice Department that previous wiretaps were not tainted, could refuse to issue warrants based on secretly-obtained evidence, or, conceivably, could disband the entire court, especially in light of Bush’s recent suggestions that he has the power to bypass the court if he so desires. [Washington Post, 12/22/2005]
Jonathan Alter. [Source: Publicity photo via Greater Talent Network]Reporter and political pundit Jonathan Alter writes that President Bush’s attempt to kill the New York Times domestic wiretapping story (see December 15, 2005 and December 6, 2005), which the Times delayed for over a year at the White House’s request, is not an attempt to protect national security, as Bush will say in his response to the article (see December 17, 2005), but “because he knew that it would reveal him as a law-breaker.” Alter continues, “He insists he had ‘legal authority derived from the Constitution and Congressional resolution authorizing force.’ But the Constitution explicitly requires the president to obey the law. And the post-9/11 congressional resolution authorizing ‘all necessary force’ in fighting terrorism was made in clear reference to military intervention. It did not scrap the Constitution and allow the president to do whatever he pleased in any area in the name of fighting terrorism.” Alter is puzzled that Bush felt the need for the program when the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978) “allows the government to eavesdrop on its own, then retroactively justify it to the court, essentially obtaining a warrant after the fact.” Alter says that only four of “tens of thousands” of FISA requests have ever been rejected, and, “There was no indication the existing system was slow—as the president seemed to claim in his press conference—or in any way required extra-constitutional action.” He concludes: “[Bush] knew publication would cause him great embarrassment and trouble for the rest of his presidency. It was for that reason—and less out of genuine concern about national security—that George W. Bush tried so hard to kill the New York Times story. …We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.” [Newsweek, 12/21/2005]
Reporter Arlene Getz equates President Bush’s attempt at controlling the media exposure of the warrantless wiretapping program (see December 15, 2005 and December 6, 2005) to similar media manipulation programs undertaken by the white apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s, and the acceptance of the controlled media by some South African citizens. Getz, who reported extensively on South Africa’s government, writes: “For anyone who has lived under an authoritarian regime, phone tapping—or at least the threat of it—is always a given. But US citizens have always been lucky enough to believe themselves protected from such government intrusion. So why have they reacted so insipidly to yet another post-9/11 erosion of US civil liberties?” She extends the comparison: “While Bush uses the rhetoric of ‘evildoers’ and the ‘global war on terror,’ Pretoria talked of ‘total onslaught.’ This was the catchphrase of P. W. Botha, South Africa’s head of state from 1978 to 1989.…Botha liked to tell South Africans that the country was under ‘total onslaught’ from forces both within and without, and that this global assault was his rationale for allowing opponents to be jailed, beaten or killed. Likewise, the Bush administration has adopted the argument that anything is justified in the name of national security.” [Newsweek, 12/21/2005]
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) writes that Congress explicitly rejected several attempts by the Bush administration to provide him with war-making authority and the authority to wiretap and monitor US citizens “in the United States” when it approved the September 18, 2001 authorization to use military force (AUMF) against terrorists (see September 14-18, 2001). Instead, the Bush administration merely usurped that authority and launched—or expanded (see Spring 2001)—its warrantless wiretapping program, conducted by the NSA. Since then, the Bush administration and the Justice Department have both repeatedly asserted that the AUMF gave them the right to conduct the wiretapping program, an assertion that Daschle says is flatly wrong. On December 21, the Justice Department admitted in a letter that the October 2001 presidential order authorizing warrantless eavesdropping on US citizens did not comply with “the ‘procedures’ of” the law that has regulated domestic espionage since 1978, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). FISA established a secret intelligence court and made it a criminal offense to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant from that court, “except as authorized by statute.” However, the letter, signed by Assistant Attorney General William Moschella, argues that the AUMF gave the administration the authority to conduct the program. [Washington Post, 12/22/2005] The letter continues the argument that Congress gave President Bush the implict authority to create an exception to FISA’s warrant requirements, though the AUMF resolution did not mention surveillance and made no reference to the president’s intelligence-gathering authority. The Bush administration kept the program secret until it was revealed by the New York Times on December 15, 2005. Moschella argues that secret intelligence-gathering, even against US citizens, is “a fundamental incident to the use of military force” and that its absence from the resolution “cannot be read to exclude this long-recognized and essential authority to conduct communications intelligence targeted at the enemy.” Such eavesdropping, he argued, must by necessity include conversations in which one party is in the United States. [William Moschella, 12/22/2005 ] Daschle, one of the primary authors of the resolution, says that Moschella and the Bush administration are wrong in their assertions: “I did not and never would have supported giving authority to the president for such wiretaps. I am also confident that the 98 senators who voted in favor of authorization of force against al-Qaeda did not believe that they were also voting for warrantless domestic surveillance” (see September 12-18, 2001). [Washington Post, 12/23/2005]
Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Bush administration (43), Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), Al-Qaeda, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, US Department of Justice, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, New York Times, William E. Moschella, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Tom Daschle
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Chart showing NSA surveillance network. [Source: NSA Watch] (click image to enlarge)The National Security Agency has built a far larger database of information collected from warrantless surveillance of telephone and Internet communications to and from US citizens than the NSA or the Bush administration has acknowledged (see October 2001). On December 15, the New York Times exposed the NSA’s program (see December 15, 2005), which was authorized by President Bush in early 2002 (see Early 2002), but which actually began far earlier (see Spring 2001). The NSA built its database with the cooperation of several major American telecommunications firms (see June 26, 2006), and much of the information was mined directly into the US telecommunications system’s major connections. Many law enforcement and judicial officials question the legality of the program (see May 12, 2006 and December 18, 2005), and many say the program goes beyond the bounds of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see 1978). One question is whether the FISA Court, or FISC, can authorize monitoring of international communications that pass through US-based telephonic “switches,” which handle much of the US’s electronic communications traffic. “There was a lot of discussion about the switches” in conversations with FISC, says a Justice Department official. “You’re talking about access to such a vast amount of communications, and the question was, How do you minimize something that’s on a switch that’s carrying such large volumes of traffic? The court was very, very concerned about that.” While Bush and his officials have insisted that the warrantless wiretaps only target people with known links to al-Qaeda, they have not acknowledged that NSA technicials have not only eavesdropped on specific conversations between people with no known links to terrorism, but have combed through huge numbers of electronic communications in search of “patterns” that might point to terrorism suspects. Such “pattern analysis” usually requires court warrants before surveillance can begin, but in many cases, no such warrants have been obtained or even requested. Other, similar data-mining operations, such as the Total Information Awareness program, developed by the Defense Department to track terror suspects (see March 2002), and the Department of Homeland Security’s CAPPS program, which screened airline passengers (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), were subjected to intense public scrutiny and outrage, and were publicly scrapped. The Bush administration has insisted that it has no intention of scrapping the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping program, because, as its officials have said, it is necessary to identify and track terrorism suspects and foil terrorist plots before they can be hatched. Administration officials say that FISC is not quick enough to respond to its need to respond to potential terrorist acts. A former technology manager at a major telecommunications company says that after 9/11, the leading telecom firms have been storing information on calling patterns and giving it to the federal government to aid in tracking possible terrorists. “All that data is mined with the cooperation of the government and shared with them, and since 9/11, there’s been much more active involvement in that area,” says the former manager. “If they get content, that’s useful to them too, but the real plum is going to be the transaction data and the traffic analysis. Massive amounts of traffic analysis information—who is calling whom, who is in Osama Bin Laden’s circle of family and friends—is used to identify lines of communication that are then given closer scrutiny.” And, according to a government expert on communications privacy who used to work at the NSA, says that in the last few years, the government has quietly encouraged the telecom firms to rout more international traffic through its US-based switches so it can be monitored. Such traffic is not fully addressed by 1970s-era laws that were written before the onset of modern communications technology; neither does FISA adequately address the issues surrounding that technology. Computer engineer Phil Karn, who works for a major West Coast telecom firm, says access to those switches is critical: “If the government is gaining access to the switches like this, what you’re really talking about is the capability of an enormous vacuum operation to sweep up data.” [New York Times, 12/24/2005]
Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Department of Justice, Total Information Awareness, New York Times, US Department of Homeland Security, Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, Bush administration (43), Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, George W. Bush, National Security Agency, Phil Karn
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
The Justice Department opens an investigation into the leak of classified information about the Bush domestic surveillance program. The investigation focuses on disclosures to the New York Times about the secret warrantless wiretapping program conducted by the National Security Agency since shortly after the 9/11 attacks (see Early 2002). The White House claims that the Justice Department initiated the investigation on its own after receiving a request from the NSA, and that it was not even informed of the investigation until the decision had already been made. But White House spokesman Trent Duffy hails the investigation, and implicitly accuses the Times of aiding and abetting terrorists by printing its stories. “The leaking of classified information is a serious issue,” Duffy says. “The fact is that al-Qaeda’s playbook is not printed on Page One, and when America’s is, it has serious ramifications.” [Associated Press, 12/30/2005] President Bush fuels the attack on the Times when he says, “The fact that we’re discussing this program is helping the enemy.” [New York Times, 12/30/2005] Many outside of the administration have accused the wiretapping program, which functions without external oversight or court warrants, of being illegal, and Bush of breaking the law by authorizing it. Administration officials insist that Bush has the power to make such a decision, both under the Constitution’s war powers provision and under the post-9/11 Congressional authorization to use military force against terrorism, even though, as former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle recalls, Congress explicitly refused to give Bush the authority to take military action inside the US itself (see December 21-22, 2005). And, in a recent letter to the chairs of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, the White House claimed that the nation’s security needs outweigh the needs of the citizenry to be secure from secret government surveillance. [Associated Press, 12/30/2005] Others disagree. The American Civil Liberties Union’s Anthony Romero says, “President Bush broke the law and lied to the American people when he unilaterally authorized secret wiretaps of US citizens. But rather than focus on this constitutional crisis, Attorney General [Alberto] Gonzales is cracking down on critics of his friend and boss. Our nation is strengthened, not weakened, by those whistle-blowers who are courageous enough to speak out on violations of the law.” And Marc Rotenberg, the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, says the NSA should be the focus of an investigation to determine if it broke federal surveillance laws. Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project suggests a middle course. His group does not object to a limited investigation into the leak of classified information, but, he says, if the administration does “a blanket witch hunt, which I fear, it would trample all over good government laws” designed to protect government workers who expose wrongdoing. “The whole reason we have whistle-blower laws is so that government workers can act as the public’s eyes and ears to expose illegality or abuse of power.” [New York Times, 12/30/2005] Ultimately, this leak investigation may not achieve much, according to law professor Carl Tobias. “It doesn’t seem to me that this leak investigation will take on the importance of the Plame case,” Tobias says. “The bigger story here is still the one about domestic spying and whether the president intends, as he said, to continue doing it.” [Washington Post, 12/31/2005]
Entity Tags: Anthony D. Romero, Tom Devine, Trent Duffy, American Civil Liberties Union, Al-Qaeda, Tom Daschle, Senate Intelligence Committee, US Department of Justice, National Security Agency, Carl Tobias, Electronic Privacy Information Center, Alberto R. Gonzales, New York Times, Government Accountability Project, George W. Bush, Marc Rotenberg, House Intelligence Committee
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
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