Saturday, April 01, 2006

Tell Me It Isn't True

In two earlier posts I discussed the puzzle of why the National Security Agency chose to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. If the NSA wished to intercept messages why not either get warrants from the FISA court, as the law required, or ask Congess to amend the act? The act itself provides a two week window after the start of a war, obviously intended to permit amendment, and in the weeks immediately after 9/11 it is hard to imagine any serious opposition to such a move. Senator Russ Feingold's recent proposal that the Senate censure Bush provides a possible solution. It is not one I like, and I am not at all sure I believe it, but it is, so far as I can see, consistent with the available evidence.

By instructing the NSA to wiretap in apparent violation of the law, Bush provided his opponents with bait. Arguably it was bait that at least some Democrats, concerned with their position within their own party, could not refuse. By accepting it, the Democrats give Bush the opportunity to accuse them of being soft on terrorism.

Assuming, as I think we should, that Bush and his advisors are clever politicians, we have a solution to the puzzle. Bush deliberately violated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to get Senator Feingold to attack him for doing so.

Tell me it isn't true.


Anonymous said...

Given that FISA judges don't believe he broke the law, do you think your post is off the mark?

Washington Times Article (FISA Judges say Bush Within Law)

Transcript of session:

Matt McIntosh said...

I know it's April fools' and all, but this was just way too obvious:

"Assuming, as I think we should, that Bush and his advisors are clever. . ."

Show of hands, who thinks "clever" is an adjective that could be accurately applied to the Bush administration?

Anonymous said...

The administration lobbied the New York Times to delay publishing the story on national security grounds, and the Times ended up delaying through the 2004 elections and only going to press once the lead reporter on the story was about to publish his own book. If Bush wanted the story out in order to goad the Democrats into opposing him and setting themselves up to appear weak on terrorism, he would have presumably been better off giving the Times the OK before the election and seeing that the issue came up earlier.

Anonymous said...

It seems implausible that this was Bush's plan. Much more likely, to me, was the realization that if called on their FISA sidestep (or anythign else related to the war on terror), they'd run on the "we're defending the country and they're trying to tie our hands" line.

In a few years, there will be some huge scandal involving this program or some other related one. Then, we'll put the handcuffs back on the police and intelligence people, some of which will be sensible, some of which will leave a hole for the next attack. But nobody will blame the Bush administration for that one, which is the point of the exercise.

Anonymous said...

Arggh! You got me. April 1. Ouch!

Andrew said...

Bush and his advisors are very clever, just not in the areas which help in governing a country. Most notably, they have been able to win two elections primarily despite the inferiority of their candidate. I believe their campaign wins are largely due to superior campaign strategy, for example, focusing on increasing voter turnout for their base and abandoning the "swing vote".

Aaron Denney said...

Hey, Mr. Anonymous. It's quite possible for judges to misapplythe law. One would expect that the judges chosen for the FISA court would be those most likely to interpret the government's sureveilance powers most broadly.

David has in earlier posts made a strong case that comes to the opposite conclusion than the one those particular judges did. I, for one, find his reading far less strained, and the FISA judges to essentially be "activist judges" reading into the constitution presidential powers that aren't there, and reading out congressional powers that are.