Sunday, February 3, 2008


I don’t know if this is a good time to make this post, but I’m doing it anyway. In about three hours Super Bowl XLII will begin. Some of you will have the good sense to be doing more constructive things; I won’t be among you. I’ll be watching the game. But during the interminable pre-game hoopla, maybe during the breaks—Oh, I almost forgot, this is the game when you watch the commercials even if you don’t watch the game—or maybe when you are coming down after the game is over, you’ll see this post about a real-world struggle about to “kickoff” in Washington tomorrow.

Do you remember Richard A. Clarke? He is former head of counterterrorism at the National Security Council. He wrote this
Op-Ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday in response to President Bush’s state of the union address.

When I left the Bush administration in 2003, it was clear to me that its strategy for defeating terrorism was leaving our nation more vulnerable and our people in a perilous place. Not only did its policies misappropriate resources, weaken the moral standing of America, and threaten long-standing legal and constitutional provisions, but the president also employed misleading and reckless rhetoric to perpetuate his agenda....

Besides overstating successes in Afghanistan, painting a rosy future for Iraq, and touting unfinished domestic objectives, he again used his favorite tactic - fear - as a tool to scare Congress and the American people. On one issue in particular - FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) - the president misconstrued the truth and manipulated the facts....

So it is no surprise that in one of Bush's last acts of relevance, he once again played the fear card. While he has failed in spreading democracy, stemming global terrorism, and leaving the country better off than when he took power, he did achieve one thing: successfully perpetuating fear for political gain.

Sadly, it may be one of the only achievements of his presidency.

One of the savviest analysts I’ve discovered on the FISA controversy, mcjoan, called attention to the Clarke article in her Daily Kos article
Saturday night, saying that she hoped the Democratic Senators would keep it in mind as they approach the debate on the new surveillance bill on Monday.

The Dems in the Senate did at least manage to push back on the fear card long enough to get us to where we're at now--an actual debate to happen on the Senate floor over important amendments, some of which will even get a simple up or down vote.

It's an old theme for us, unfortunately; Democrats so afraid that they'll be labeled weak in the face of terror that they'll roll over for any legislative tragedy should someone whisper "terror" in their collective ear. As disastrous as their capitulation to it was in taking us to war in Iraq, their bowing to it in respects to warrantless wiretapping is just as dangerous for the long term health of the Constitution and its inherent checks and balances.

Since Eric Lichtblau and James Risen
broke the story of warrantless wiretaps in December, 2005, we've learned enough about the program to know that national security in the wake of 9/11 had little to do with.

The revelations that the NSA actually began negotiation with AT&T as
early as February, 2001 and that at least one of these "critical" wiretaps lapsed because the government didn't pay its bill should be proof enough to even the most tremulous of Democrats that Bush and the Republicans have been playing them for years.

But they don't have to take a crazed blogger's word for it. A national security expert just told them so.

On Monday morning, the day after the Super Bowl, I hope you will call your two U.S. Senators to register your concern that they not cave in to the administration’s fear-mongering on the FISA legislation and that you oppose granting immunity to the telecom companies who participated. If enough of you call, we may win this one. Make your voice heard!

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