Friday, December 23, 2005

Bush Divulges Secret Info

I missed President Bush's address last Saturday. I've heard a lot about it so I went back and checked the text (click here for text).

About his authorization of questionable wire tapping, President Bush says,

Yesterday, the existence of this secret program was revealed in media reports after being improperly provided to news organizations. As a result, our enemies have learned information they should not have.

And the unauthorized disclosure of this effort damages our national security and puts our citizens at risk. Revealing classified information is illegal, alerts our enemies and endangers our country.

Are we really to believe that terrorists don't assume every attempt is being made to intercept their communications? I would be astounded if we weren't. As it is, I'm astounded that the President decided to do this in a way that circumvents the law.

If a someone, especially a news organization, has classified information about illegal or possibly illegal actions by government officials, what should they do? I think they have a responsibility to require the government to prove to their satisfaction that no laws were broken. If this is not done, they have a responsibility to go public. If they believed the actions were legal and that the government was correct that public disclosure would damage national security, they should sit on it. They could still go public with the info if it becomes public some other way or they come to believe the actions were, in fact, not legal.

He also said,

And the activities conducted under this authorization have helped detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks in the United States and abroad.

Duh! Even a half-witted terrorist could guess that their communications would be monitored, but did they know that monitored communications had actually foiled attacks? It seems to me that the most sensitive information about this monitoring was revealed by the President himself.

I've heard several news commentators say that the President has ordered 30 possibly illegal wire taps. I reviewed his Saturday address and I disagree with the number 30.

President Bush said,
In the weeks following the terrorist attacks on our nation, I authorized the National Security Agency, consistent with U.S. law and the Constitution, to intercept the international communications of people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations. Before we intercept these communications, the government must have information that establishes a clear link to these terrorist networks.
Later he said,
The activities I authorized are reviewed approximately every 45 days. Each review is based on a fresh intelligence assessment of terrorist threats to the continuity of our government and the threat of catastrophic damage to our homeland.
Still later,
I have reauthorized this program more than 30 times since the Sept. 11 attacks and I intend to do so for as long as our nation faces a continuing threat from Al Qaeda and related groups.
I think he meant that he reauthorized the program every 45 days which over almost 4 years is about 30 times. The only reason I make this point is that some commentators seem to believe this was a very limited program of only 30 wiretaps. I don't believe that is what the President said. We do not know how many wiretaps were authorized. This could have been wide spread listening.

I don't doubt that the President had the best of intentions when he authorized this program, but good intentions don't trump the law. While the President feels strongly that it his duty to defend and protect the American people, it is our responsibility as citizens to elect and retain representatives that adhere to the law.

We correctly praise our armed forces for their sacrifices in defense of our liberty. We worry that dissension at home will send the wrong message to our troops. But our armed forces are not just defending their fellow citizens, they are also defending our constitution. What does it say to men and women who risk their lives every day in defense of this country, that we as citizens are so fearful for our lives that we are willing to ignore the constitution and laws to prevent another attack?

If fear allows our laws to be broken and our constitution to be ignored, we dishonor those who have sacrificed in their defense.

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