Wednesday, May 23, 2007

'I never did it, and anyway I've stopped"

In a recent CNN news story on a related issue, I came across the following statement from the Justice Department:

"As the Attorney General indicated earlier this year, any electronic surveillance that was being conducted pursuant to the [Terrorist Surveillance Program] is now being conducted subject to the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court."

The clear implication is that the administration is no longer trying to argue--although it may still believe--that it was entitled to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by warantless interceptions of the sort of communications covered by the act. While this is, in my view, a step forward, it does have one uncomfortable implication which doesn't seem to have gotten much attention--that the administration is no longer prepared to deny that the President and a variety of people in the National Security Agency are guilty of repeated felonies, each punishable by up to five years in prison.


Lippard said...

No, they're still arguing that they have the option of *either* using the FISA Court procedure *or* using the president's apparently limitless "unitary executive" power to do whatever is necessary in time of war that they claim exists in Article II, Section 1.

As Jacob Sullum puts it, "So the administration's position is that the program was always legal, became a little more legal after the changes demanded by Ashcroft, and is even more legal now."

Anonymous said...

This is getting to be as tiresome as the never-ending debate about the gold standard. The position is probably wrong, but even if it weren't, it would still be utterly futile because it's so far removed from political reality.

First, I should mention that no Democrats seemed to care when Clinton did the same type of spying and Eschelon was exposed, but then Bush-haters would support the gold standard if they thought it would damage Bush.

But no matter how popular this "spying on Americans" refrain becomes among left-wing authoritarians, claiming the president was wrong to listen to Al Queda after 9/11 is not going anywhere with the American people.

In fact, if Bush had the flair of the wartime Democrats he would go on the airwaves and say that he's going to make damn sure we hear everything that Al Queda ever broadcasts into the air, ESPECIALLY if it's an American citizen on the other end. He'd brag about how he was DOUBLING the Al Queda wireless eavesdropping.

There are a whole host of atrocious violations of our freedom and the constitution that are useless in fighting Al Queda. Could we perhaps talk about those?

Yes, I know that libertarians have no use for political tactics and it's fun to call the president a felon, but I really think this hurts the cause.

There are a thousand statutory felonies and every president in the last 25 years was probably a felon.

Bill Clinton was clearly a felon, and he committed his crimes to save his own ass rather than to prevent a nuke from detonating in Manhattan. George Senior was probably a felon some way or another as well as anyone who ever tried to get anything done in D.C.

In this highly politicized and overly legalized environment it all hinges on what a prosecutor can get away with politically and regardless of what you find in 40,000 pages of federal code, it will NEVER be a prosecutable felony to spy on a terrorist group after a 9/11 style attack.

In fact, by sprinkling "felon" into descriptions of every politician that we disagree with, we're actually encouraging this type of hyper-legalism where political charged discretion determines who gets targeted for prosecution and the real "crime" becomes having the wrong politics.

The fact that prosecutors have so many of these discretionary felonies in their arsenals should worry libertarians a lot more than what type of warrants are required to listen to Al Queda conversations that can be pulled out of the airwaves.


M.C. said...

Good comment, Mercy.

Anonymous said...

Mercy, I thought the main point was that this was an unambiguous case. There is a law that governs exactly this sort of spying, and the administration willfully violated it, for reasons that we can only speculate about. Aren't you the least bit curious?

M.C. said...

There is a law that governs exactly this sort of spying, and the administration willfully violated it, for reasons that we can only speculate about. Aren't you the least bit curious?

If they violated it in order to spy on Al Qaida because the FISA regs were getting in the way, I don't disapprove.

If they violated it in order to spy on the Kerry / Edwards campaign, I'm sure a tell-all book from a whistleblower will come out just in time for the 2008 presidential election.

David Friedman said...

M.C. writes:

"If they violated it in order to spy on Al Qaida because the FISA regs were getting in the way, I don't disapprove."

FISA explicitly provides for its suspension for a brief period of time, I think a week or two, if there is a war--presumably in order that Congress can amend or repeal it if necessary. Instead of asking Congress to do so, the Administration secretly violated the law. Do you approve of the government deliberately breaking the law--for good cause--instead of changing it?

So far as Mr. Mercy Vetsal's political point is concerned, I agree that doing anything about even such a blatant violation of the law as this is difficult, given that it is presented as a way of fighting terrorism. In a much earlier blog post, I offered the conjecture that perhaps that was why the administration had broken the law--to lure the Democrats into attacking them for doing so, in order to make the Democrats look soft on terrorism.

Jonathan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonathan said...

I regard a law as something to be obeyed if I agree with it, or if I expect no net benefit from breaking it.

If politicians happen to have the same regard for laws, I hope at least they won't blame me for my attitude, which is the same as theirs.

Anonymous said...

M.C. said...

Do you approve of the government deliberately breaking the law--for good cause--instead of changing it?

I don't approve of much of anything about the government, David. I'd much prefer to give AC a try, thanks mostly to reading Machinery of Freedom. However I'm a lot more bothered by perfectly "legal" evils like the drug war and our failed attempt to use violence to remake the middle east than I am about wiretapping islamic immigrants without all the legal niceties in place.

Beastin said...

I find government officials who blatantly break the law (even for a good reason) very worrisome. The more powerful the government official, the more frightening. This is especially true for laws that are designed to protect us against the government. (I am more angered than worried, for instance, by officials who break campaign finance rules.)

In the case being considered, it seems to me a very short step between a president who is unaccountable to anyone and who has the authority to do anything and a dictator. Even if President Bush uses (and used) his powers with perfect wisdom and restraint, I would be against them. It would set a precedent, and, given time, we would elect a less scrupulous leader. At very least I think we should try him for his crimes with the possibility of absolving him is he is found to have acted in the best interests of the nation. Under no circumstances should he be assumed to be in the right.

Bryan Eastin

M.C. said...

At very least I think we should try him for his crimes with the possibility of absolving him is he is found to have acted in the best interests of the nation. Under no circumstances should he be assumed to be in the right.

The problem is, there are thousands of felonies and virtually anybody could be charged with at least one of them.

That is not a positive thing.

Jonathan said...

Good contributions from m.c. here -- better than mine, I'm afraid.

Anonymous said...


Gary McGath said...

It's frightening that some people think it's OK for Bush to commit crimes as long as they say "it's to spy on Al Qaeda" as an excuse. It's pathetic that they say that yes, Bush and Clinton are both felons, but we shouldn't mention that because we might become unpopular.

There's no chance that Bush will actually be brought to justice for his criminal actions, since Congress has shown it's more concerned with making sure Bush will sign their future pet legislation than with stopping the war. But I'm glad there are people like you who are more concerned with pointing out the truth than with being liked by those in power.

James Redford said...

To interject some reality into some of the above responses, al-Qaeda was founded by the U.S. government and has always been used in furtherance of U.S. government interests.

A truly vital piece of evidence that provides definitive proof that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by controlled demolition are the videos of yellow-hot molten metal seen cascading off the South Tower (World Trade Center Tower 2).

That piece of evidence isn't merely a smoking gun: it's a smoking nuclear cannon. Those videos, alone and by themselves, are irrefragable *proof* that the South Tower (at the very least) had thermite-like ("like" in the sense of producing comparable temperatures) incendiary demolition charges with the ability to easily slice through structural steel going off within it. There is no innocent explanation for what those videos record.

That is to say, the only way to get around that it is thermite which is causing that yellow-hot metal to cascade off the South Tower before its collapse would be to posit that we are seeing a different form of extremely powerful incendiary with thermite-like temperatures at work in the videos. Of which, even if true, would be every bit as much damning, since no such powerful indendiaries can be accounted for without involving a sinister intent to plant them there.

Below are videos which contain some of this footage:

"Shot from street level of South Tower collapsing," CameraPlanet

"Wtc 1, impact site close up, tower collapse close up, long shot, people shouting," CameraPlanet

From the color of the yellow-hot molten metal seen cascading off the South Tower, it had to be at least over 1000 °C, yet jet fuel burns in open air at 260-315 °C; nor do burning office, building, or plane materials impart temperatures anywhere near that hot to structural members (indeed, it would present quite a hazard if such articles were constructed with such powerful incendiaries, and so designers of such objects go out of their way to make sure that they are not). Thus, if it wasn't molten iron from thermite that we are seeing come off the South Tower, then by necessity a reaction source with a heat intensity very much like thermite had to be present. Yet there is nothing in the U.S. government's account that can explain such a heat source; indeed, there's nothing innocent that could explain it, since it requires some sort of extremely powerful incendiary.

For more on this, see Steven E. Jones's (Ph.D.; physicist and archaeometrist; former professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Brigham Young University) below paper:

"Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Completely Collapse?," Dr. Steven E. Jones, Journal of 911 Studies, Vol. 3 (September 2006) (Older version.)

See also:

"Experiments to test NIST 'orange glow' hypothesis," Steven E. Jones, Ph.D., August 31, 2006

"Experiments with Molten Aluminum," Steven E. Jones with Wesley Lifferth, Jared Dodson, Jacob Stevenson and Shannon Walch, circa June 2006

"A description of molten aluminum poured onto rusty steel," Wes Lifferth, Physics Shop, Brigham Young University, Journal of 9/11 Studies, Vol. 9 (March 2007)

Moreover, even the official FEMA scientists Jonathan Barnett, Ronald R. Biederman, and R. D. Sisson, Jr. bolster the evidence that thermate (i.e., thermite with sulfur added, which causes it to slice through steel even faster by forming a eutectic alloy with it) was used to bring down the WTC towers (see "Appendix C: Limited Metallurgical Examination" in World Trade Center Building Performance Study: Data Collection, Preliminary Observations, and Recommendations, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA 403, May 2002 ):

Evidence of a severe high temperature corrosion attack on the steel, including oxidation and sulfidation with subsequent inter granular melting, was readily visible in the near-surface microstructure. ... No clear explanation for the source of the sulfur has been identified. The rate of corrosion is also unknown.

And in the below paper it is conclusively proved via chemical analysis using wavelength dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (WDS), scanning electron microscopy (SEM), and X-ray energy dispersive spectroscopy (X-EDS) that large quantities of thermite analogs (such as thermate) were used in the destruction of the World Trade Center towers:

"Revisiting 9/11/2001--Applying the Scientific Method," Dr. Steven E. Jones, Journal of 911 Studies, Vol. 11 (May 2007)


A conspiracy is simply when two or more people take part in a plan which involves doing something unrightful or untoward to another person or other people (of which plan may or may not be kept secret, i.e., secrecy is not a necessary component for actions to be a conspiracy). This makes government itself the largest corporeal conspiracy to ever exist, or that could ever exist.

Since obviously more than one person was involved in planning the 9/11 attacks, then *by definition* the U.S. government's offical fairy tale is a conspiracy theory, as the U.S. government is putting forth a theory concerning the 9/11 attacks which involves a conspiracy.

Furthermore, conspiracies are ubiquitous (witness all the laws on the books against conspiracy, and how many people are routinely charged under said laws), and the most egregious perpetrators of murderously brutal conspiracies are governments upon their own innocent citizens. More than six times the amount of noncombatants have been systematically murdered for purely ideological reasons by their own governments within the past century than were killed in that same time-span from wars. From 1900 to 1923, various Turkish regimes murdered from 3.5 million to over 4.3 million of its own Armenians, Greeks, Nestorians, and other Christians. The Soviet government murdered over 61 million of its own non-combatant subjects. The communist Chinese government murdered over 76 million of it own subjects. And Germany murdered some 16 million of it own subjects in the past century. And that's only a sampling of governments mass-murdering their own noncombatant subjects within the past century. (The preceding figures are from Prof. Rudolph Joseph Rummel's website at .)

All totaled, neither the private-sector crime which government is largely responsible for promoting and causing or even the wars committed by governments upon the subjects of other governments come anywhere close to the crimes government is directly responsible for committing against its own citizens--certainly not in amount of numbers. Without a doubt, the most dangerous presence to ever exist throughout history has always been the people's very own government.

Not only were all of these government mass-slaughters conspiracies--massive conspiracies, at that--but they were conspiracies of which the 9/11 attacks are quite insignificant by comparison.

Moreover, terrorism is the health of the state (indeed, government is itself a subset of terrorism), which is why so many governments throughout history have manufactured terrorism in which to serve as a pretext in order to usurp ever more power and control. In the below post by me is contained voluminous amounts of documentation which refutes the U.S. government's lying, self-serving, anti-historical, anti-factual, and provably false official fairy tale conspiracy theory concerning the 9/11 attacks, as well documentation on many other government-staged acts of terrorism:

"Documentation on Government-Staged Terrorism," September 30, 2005

In the below post by me, I provide massive amounts of documentation wherein the U.S. government itself admits it is holding innocent people indefinitely without charges (including children and U.S. citizens), torturing them, raping them--including homosexually anally raping them--and murdering them, and that the orders to do so came from the highest levels of the U.S. government:

"Crushing Children's Testicles: Welcome to the New Freedom," TetrahedronOmega, August 12, 2006

For more on the inherent incentive structure (i.e., the internal logic of the system) of government which makes it wholly unfit for protection of just property and insures that it will tend toward ever greater levels of usurpation and rapine, see my below article:

"Government Causes the Crime," James Redford, first published at circa October 2001