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December 21, 2005

Oathbreakers, Why Have Ye Come?
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:16 AM *

First, the oath of office of the President of the United States:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Next, from the Bill of Rights, the Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

On its face, President Bush’s domestic spying program, established by him in 2002 and renewed by him at least 30 times since, is unconstitutional. How long does Bush intend to carry it out? As long as Americans are endangered by terrorism. That is to say, forever.

The Christian Science Monitor reports:

WASHINGTON — From a standoff over the Patriot Act to pushback from Capitol Hill on the treatment of detainees, secret prisons abroad, and government eavesdropping at home, tensions between the Bush White House and the Republican-controlled Congress have never been more exposed.

Much of the rift is over the exercise of executive power. Some lawmakers oppose the president on the values involved in harsh interrogation of terror suspects. Others are riled that they were left out of the intelligence loop.

Even Republicans who favor renewing the Patriot Act were blindsided by news Friday, later confirmed, that President Bush had authorized secret eavesdropping on international communications from people in the US with ties to terrorists.

“It’s inexcusable … clearly and categorically wrong,” says Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, who was not among the congressional leaders Mr. Bush says had been briefed on the program. Senator Specter promises that the Judiciary Committee he chairs will hold hearings on domestic spying by the National Security Agency in the new year.

“We’ll look at what they did, whose conversations they listened to, what they did with the material, and what purported justification there was for it,” he adds.

The objection isn’t that Bush is carrying out electronic surveillance on Americans. The objection is that he isn’t bothering to seek a warrant. The standard, tired, Republican come-back, “Clinton did it too!” is a proven lie.

Congress isn’t happy with the whole thing:

“I believe the Congress — as a coequal branch of government — must immediately and expeditiously review the use of this practice,” said Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Republican from Maine.

Snowe joined three other members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, including Nebraska Republican Chuck Hagel, in calling for a joint inquiry by the Senate judiciary and intelligence committees.

Bush and his top advisers have suggested senior congressional leaders vetted the program in more than a dozen highly classified briefings. Several Democrats agreed said they were told of the program, but did not know the full details and had concerns.

West Virginia Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat, on Monday released a letter he wrote to Cheney in July 2003 that, given the program’s secrecy, he was “unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse these activities.”

Why not seek warrants? Perhaps because no court would grant them. We’ve seen these abuses in the past: Wiretaps on civil rights leaders, political opponents, anti-war protesters. That’s what the Church Committee found. That’s what the FISAC (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court), a secret court whose purpose is to grant warrants for just such wiretaps as Bush claims he wants, was established to prevent. We know that not all those unwarranted wiretaps were against overseas communications involving foreign nationals: Purely domestic calls were intercepted too.

Today’s news is that one of the judges (U.S. District Judge James Robertson) on that secret court has resigned in protest.

Dick “Vice President for Torture” Cheney and Alberto “Cell Without A Number, Prisoner Without A Name” Gonzales like the program. They also like holding US citizens incommunicado, without charges and without counsel, for years. The excuse that “time is of the essence” in getting unwarranted phone taps is false: Under current law the President would have 72 hours retroactively to seek a warrant. All he’d need is a few signatures, and there’s no reason to believe that he couldn’t get them if the requests were even marginally legitimate.

Even the right wing is in an uproar. The Chicago Tribune, under the headline “So Much for Protecting the Constitution,” says:

The facts of this case: In early 2002, President Bush secretly authorized the National Security Agency to monitor international telephone calls and international e-mail messages without any showing of probable cause to believe that a participant in the communication was involved in unlawful or terrorist activity, and without obtaining a search warrant from a court of law. This action was a direct violation of federal law and the United States Constitution.

Nonetheless, Bush has the audacity to assert that his authorization of NSA surveillance of American citizens on American soil was “lawful.” It was not. It was a blatant and arrogant violation of American law. If Bush wanted the authority to undertake such surveillance, he should have gone directly to Congress and sought such authorization, publicly. He did not do this, because it would not have been granted. So, instead of acting in accord with his pledge to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” he acted surreptitiously and unconstitutionally. What is revealing about Bush’s view of the terrorists is that he apparently believes they assume we act within the bounds of our own Constitution. So, he decided, we’ll trick them. We won’t.

President Bush believes that whatever he thinks is necessary must be lawful, whether it be domestic surveillance by NSA, or torture, or denying the Guantanamo Bay detainees the protections of the Geneva Conventions. Bush is a man of faith, not a man of law. That is a problem.

Don’t be too hard on the Democrats and others who supported Bush back in 2001 and 2002 and have since had second thoughts. As noted in Scrivener’s Error:

Certainly some Democrats voted in favor of attacking Iraq, and of granting essentially dictatorial powers to the President in response to a perceived assault on American sovereignty. They’re going to have to live with those votes. That does not, however, mean that we ignore the questions they raise now, when they know more of what is (and was) going on, on the basis that they already voted once. It means even less that we can criticize them for raising those questions now when new (or at least new to them) information has changed their minds. That is precisely the opposite of the rule of law.

There is still one remedy left to us. Despite the sour taste left by the frivolous use of this article by the Republicans a few years back, the Constitution, which Bush swore to preserve, protect, and defend, provides:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Comments on Oathbreakers, Why Have Ye Come?:
#1 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:46 PM:

As Brad DeLong likes to chant, impeach him. Impeach him now.

#2 ::: protected static ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:47 PM:

Somehow, the title of the previous post seems like it would suffice for this one. A cold wind, indeed...

#3 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Take out Cheney first, so we can get a better VP; then do Shrub. Otherwise we get Cheney as prez and are still scrod. (It's been fun reading (a) the analysis and comments at the Volokh Conspiracy and (b) the articles, (frequently longwinded) comments and (frequently longwinded) trolls on HuffPo.)

#4 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:01 PM:

Was Congress fully informed, and did they (particularly the Democrats) sign off on the program?

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today on her request to the director of National Intelligence to declassify a letter she wrote to the Bush Administration expressing concerns about the activities of the National Security Agency.

"When I learned that the National Security Agency had been authorized to conduct the activities that President Bush referred to in his December 17 radio address, I expressed my strong concerns in a classified letter to the Administration and later verbally.

"Today, in an effort to shed light on my concerns, I requested that the director of National Intelligence quickly declassify my letter and the Administration's response to it and make them both available to the public.

"The president must have the best possible intelligence to protect the American people. That intelligence, however, must be produced in a manner consistent with our Constitution and our laws, and in a manner that reflects our values as a nation to protect the American people and our freedoms."

#5 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:03 PM:

Impeach him. But wait. Then Cheney would be President. Well, impeach him. But wait...

It doesn't get any good very quickly at all. Get Cheney first, and Dubya appoints his replacement - does Congress get to approve that? I think maybe.

No, this isn't a quagmire. Like Iraq, it's a tar pit.

#6 ::: Allen Baum ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:05 PM:

Bush has an out:

"and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Clearly, his ability isn't quite adequate to the job, its all he's got...

#7 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:09 PM:

If a Democratic Congress in '06 impeaches him and Cheney, wouldn't that put Nancy Pelosi in the Oval Office? Or am I misremembering my line of succession?

#8 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:12 PM:

I think that's right, Jim. Except, remember, it would be '07, not '06. I don't think we can wait that long.

I'm an incurable optimist, though: I'm hoping we can get the REPUBLICAN congress to impeach them!


And also, I'd like a pony.

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:15 PM:

The line of succession is:

Speaker of the House
President Pro-tem of the Senate
Secretary of State
... other cabinet secretaries in order of the creation of that cabinet post.

#10 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:18 PM:


It's Cheney, then Dennis Hastert (Speaker of the House), Ted Stevens (President Pro Tem of the Senate), then Sec. Rice (Secretary of State), then a bunch more other cabinet folks.

I think an impeachment would also remove Cheney.

For a very chilling read on what Congress knew, James, try Rockefeller's handwritten letter's last paragraph. Letter

#11 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:20 PM:

Jim Kiley:

No, Pelosi is not in the line of succession,which runs:

VP, Speaker of the House (Hastert), President Pro Tem of the Senate (Stevens), Secretary of State (Rice)...and down through the Cabinet.

#12 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:24 PM:

A really wild question occurred to me just now:

Can the entire Cabinet be impeached? Or this that confined strictly to the President/VP?

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:25 PM:

I think that Jim Kiley's reasoning was:

If the Democrats took Congress in '06, then Pelosi would be Speaker of the House, and next in line after Cheney, when Bush and Cheney were impeached and convicted in '07.

#14 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Jail to the Chief!

#15 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:27 PM:

Well I understand that right now Hastert is in the line of succession, but my question presupposed a Democratic legislature in, as Xopher points out, '07.

Lori, it looks like members of the Cabinet could be impeached, but I can't imagine an "impeach them all" situation coming up in reality.

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Everyone, right now, drop what you're doing and write to your representative, your senators, and the editor of your local paper. Tell them what you think about Bush's latest.

#17 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Ah, I see -- I'm too locked on "right now" and Jim Kiley is thinking "future."

Goddess I hope the Dems take back Congress next year.

My question regarding the Cabinet was a reaction to reading through *who* is actually in the line of succession. There isn't a one I'd really want to be President.

And if they all are in on this illegal wiretapping business shouldn't they all be subject to prosecution?

#18 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:44 PM:

Here's a place to find the addresses of representatives: FCNL is the Quaker lobbying group, and their contact information is excellent.

The organization itself stands for civil liberties and other good things.

(and just in case the link didn't come through: here's the text version: )

#19 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:46 PM:

The impeachment power covers the principal federal officers: Prez, Veep, Cabinet officers, judges, and theoretically, members of Congress. One difference between the top two is that the Veep does not enjoy some of the immunities that the Pres and Congress have from the Constitution -- it is would be more expeditious to indict Cheney and force him to resign, as happened with Agnew. But definitely, Cheyney first.

Side note: the order of sucession is not strictly by the date the cabinet post was created as that would put Defense after the Attorney General. The actual order is set by legislation, and Defense takes the spot in line that the Secretaries of the Navy or War would have had. Ironically, DHS is not yet in the line of succession, and the Secretaries of Commerce and Labor are probably ineligible as they are foreign born.

#20 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:51 PM:

So, if the President of the United States declaims (note bene: not declares) a war on the Indian Ocean, does that mean we are in a state of war until the Indian Ocean dries up?

More seriously: Is the term "declared war" a term of art with a precise meaning?

I read recently that the reason that the US does not have to treat its prisoners according to the Geneva Convention is that we have not "declared war" and therefore are not subject to the Rules of War. However, the President has been invoking wartime powers in my country since 9/11. That looks to me like having it both ways. Can the Congress legally vote the President wartime powers if there is no actual war in progress? Inquiring citizens want to know.

#21 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 01:57 PM:

Fortunately or not, there is no way to impeach a slate of defendants -- each impeachment and trial is a separate process. In many cases it is easier to indict and force a resignation than it is to impeach -- consider the case of Spiro Agnew. Veeps are not immune from conventional prosecution as the President is. But if you impeach and convict a President, you can then indict him for crimes in office.

#22 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:00 PM:

Well I just emailed my rep and senators. The letter to the editor will take a little more work.

#23 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:00 PM:

"To fulfil our oaths and be free"?

Bruce Schneier has a couple of really good pieces on this here and here.

#24 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:04 PM:

It's a pity outlawry isn't on the books for oathbreaking, but perhaps that would be a cruelty against the Secret Service.

#25 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:23 PM:

I've let my Congressperson have my opinion (that site was updated last week, but not this week; maybe it's on vacation). My senators are already complaining, so they don't need my help.

#26 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:25 PM:

My senators are already complaining, so they don't need my help.

Support them anyway. They'll want to be rewarded for doing well.

#27 ::: Neil ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:31 PM:

My cherished fantasy has been an impeachment with two counts of perjury, the first occurring in January of 2001 and the other in January of 2005.

By the way, Writing Congress - everything you need in one place provides one-stop shopping. . .

#28 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:36 PM:

Another good bit of information (via Intel Dump) from a WashPost oped:

One little-noted factor in this re-balancing is what I would call "the officers' revolt" -- and by that I mean both military generals in uniform and intelligence officers at the CIA, the NSA and other agencies. There has been growing uneasiness among these national security professionals at some of what they have been asked to do, and at the seeming unconcern among civilian leaders at the Pentagon and the CIA for the consequences of administration decisions.

The quiet revolt of the generals at the Pentagon is a big reason U.S. policy in Iraq has been changing, far more than Bush's stay-the-course speeches might suggest. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is deeply unpopular with senior military officers.
The reason the Times had this story is that a career professional with a truly cosmic clearance was worried enough to leak it. Congress has it's work cut out for it, if it chooses to do it's job, but the career officers are the ones that Bush and Cheney should be worried about now.

The comments on the post linked above include a decent legal discussion of why the administration's legal theory in this case cannot hold water.

#29 ::: Sandy ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:39 PM:

I think the Ford Effect would kick in- either Bush or Cheney would presumably be impeached first, and the survivor would get to choose their VP.

Congress might have to approve, though.

I've got Beavis and Butthead in my head today. . . "Breakin' the law! Breakin' the law!" Cheney's even got a nasty underbite.

#30 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:43 PM:

James D. Macdonald:
My senators are Feinstein and Boxer. Feinstein has a letter posted on her site; the summary I would use is 'WTF? Explain this?'

I've writeen them before; what I get back is the autoresponder on their e-mail. Probably I'm on someone else's list at this point, too.

#31 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 02:56 PM:

Wow. Now even Vox Day is piling on. When he gets behind something, it's a done deal. When facts seep down to his level, they've already soaked everyone smarter.

#32 ::: Jim Kiley ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:06 PM:


At two points early in the history of the Republic, war was waged on the Barbary Coast pirates. Wikipedia has the scoop -- but the point is that from a very early date it hasn't been a requirement that wars be fought against specific countries.

Of course, it appears that in neither case did Congress actually declare war.

#33 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:12 PM:

Here's an article that discusses the long-founded international law that could/should have been used against the terrorists: The Dread Pirate Bin Laden

#34 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:20 PM:

IIRC, the House passes a bill impeaching the president and conducts an investigation. Only a majority is required.
The Senate convenes a committee to review the evidence and then holds a hearing. Then 2/3 of senators present must vote to impeach.

The bar's pretty darned high, and we'd need both houses. Unfortunately, we're all more likely to get ponies for the solstice festival of your choice than to get rid of the Worst President Ever™.

Too bad. I've had the honor of voting for the representative from (most of) San Francisco, and would love to hear the words "President Pelosi".

#35 ::: Seth Gordon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:27 PM:

My wife keeps asking me how I can believe that the Republicans will ever lose power in this country.

I tell her that other countries have been ruled by autocracies that were more brutal and competent than the current Bush Administration, and those governments were eventually replaced. But I wish I had a better answer.

#36 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:35 PM:

Ok, the scenario runs this way.

1) By-elections -- democrats run the house now.
2) Impeach Bush
3) Swear in Cheney... oops he's had a heart attack
4) Swear in the speaker of the house, a Democrat (maybe still Pelosi)

#37 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:37 PM:

Ah, already covered. I didn't read far enough before posting.

#38 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Aha. As per Wikipedia, I remembered correctly.

1 - Majority of House requred to impeach
2 - House investigates
3 - Trial is in Senate
4 - 2/3 vote in Senate to convict and remove from office.

And a pony.

#39 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 03:56 PM:

An impeachment is charges against, similar in legal nature to "indictment." Only the House of Representatives can impeach. The charges would then go to the Senate for trial and conviction or acquittal. The Senate does not impeach, as the charges have already been made.

The usage notes from say "The vaguer use of impeach reflects disgruntled citizens' indifference to whether the official is forced from office by legal means or chooses to resign to avoid further disgrace."

#40 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:00 PM:

The Wikipedia article isn't quite accurate. The actual sequence is:

* A member of the House moves for a bill of impeachment, which by House rules is referred to the Rules Committee, then to either the Judiciary Committee or a specially selected committee (anyone remember Peter Rodino?)
* The committee holds hearings and otherwise investigates, then reports the bill back to the House. Unlike virtually any other bill, a bill of impeachment cannot die in committee—it must be reported out on the request of even a single member of the House (not just the committee).
* The House then debates (ordinarily in closed session) and votes on the bill of impeachment. If the House votes the bill down, it's dead. If the House passes the bill,
* Trial will occur in the Senate. If the impeachment is of any elected or Senatorally confirmed member of the Executive Branch, the Vice President does not preside; instead, the Chief Justice of the United States, or an Article III judge selected by the Chief Justice, presides. The Senate may choose to have a judge, rather than the Vice President, preside over the trial on a majority vote.
* The Federal Rules of Evidence are in effect during the Senate trial, but the Senate itself judges whether the conduct constitutes a "high crime or misdemeanor," on the advice of the presiding officer.
* The Senate's vote is a roll-call vote, with a two-thirds majority required to sustain the bill of impeachment (technically, it is not a "conviction" because it is not in a court of law).
* Upon sustaining the bill of impeachment, the defendant officer is removed from all federal offices. That is the sole punishment for impeachment.
* Judicial review of the impeachment is virtually impossible under Hastings. Collateral attack (such as a civil suit claiming that the impeachment itself was improper) is explicitly disallowed; the Senate and House are the final judges of their own rules and procedures.

#41 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:07 PM:

Ah, yes, Rodino. I read that report. It was, um, interesting. (I thought once in a lifetime was often enough for this exercise. Guess I was wrong. But then, I didn't think we were, as a country, stupid enough to re-elect Shrub after four years of mismanagement.)

It's nice to know that Cheney couldn't preside over the Senate side (not without changing jobs, anyway).

#42 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:13 PM:

Re: Jim's reference to the Barbary Pirates and James' link to The Dread Pirate Bin Laden, I find myself smiting my own forehead at my own failure to make that connection. Of course stateless enemies are not a new problem for America or any other country; the legal framework for defending against them has been around quite a bit longer than the modern nation-state.

A small thing, perhaps, but having one's own memes in order can be a great help.

#43 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:21 PM:

It isn't the war on stateless enemies (frex, Al Qaeda) that bothers me, it's the war on an ideology (frex, terrorism). If we take that route, we could have a war on monarchy (oops, no, then we'd have to throw out Bush).

#44 ::: Lex ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:32 PM:

Memo to all federal officials, military and civilian, who swear to uphold, preserve, protect, defend, or otherwise shield the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic: If you didn't think you might not have to actually do it at some point, you shouldn't have sworn the oath in the first place.

#45 ::: Zander ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 04:47 PM:

Everyone, right now, drop what you're doing and write to your representative, your senators, and the editor of your local paper. Tell them what you think about Bush's latest.

Is it worth my writing to my MP?

#46 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 05:27 PM:

Sure, Zander. Military Police will be useful at SOME point in this process, I'm sure. Might as well get them ready.

And we'll need clear pictures, so MegaPixels are also important, though how you'd write to them isn't clear.

And the absurdity of the situation is clear and has begun to seem like a Monty Python sketch. In fact, you should contact the surviving members and see if they're interested in a copyright infringement suit. (Is there a relationship to the Mouse Problem?)

There may even be Molecular Pathology involved. I doubt it will require Multiple Precision arithmatic, though.

#47 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 05:36 PM:

I'm wondering if anyone here is knowledgeable enough to tell me how what President Bush has done is different than what's specified in these executive orders from President Carter and President Clinton.

I saw the links in a fairly right wing personal blog, in a post that essentially said that since two other Presidents have done the exact same thing, no one should be complaining about the current one's actions. I'd love to be able to state what the differences are, but am completely over my head as far as the legalities go. Also, I can't verify whether those are actual executive orders, or simply mockups to allow right wingers to go "neener neener neener."

So, can anyone help me out here?

#48 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 05:36 PM:

Is it true that ships' captains used to be able to hang pirates without any delay, no legal recourse for the pirate? If so, that seems a little excessive.

During the war on the Barbary pirates, did the president excercise "war powers"? Are war powers actually defined, anywhere? And why should the president be allowed to use them if Congress has not declared a war in the first place? (Oh, because Congress was sitting on the fence and being chicken-shits. I remember now. And it wasn't just the Democrats, neither.)

In what possible sense have we not been at war with Afghanistan and Iraq? I guess the same one that keeps Vietnam from being defined as a war. I never did quite understand that one, either.

#49 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 05:47 PM:

As it's being explained (repeatedly) on various blogs, including the Volokh Conspiracy, Carter and Clinton restricted it to foreign intelligence, as in non-citizens and non-domestic surveillance. (Part of the problem is the more conservative posters tend to repeat themselves, and there are trolls there too.)

There are also a surprising number of people who don't seem to understand security clearances and how they restrict what can be said. (They keep trying to find security restrictions in the Constitution, or the Senate/House rules.)

#50 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 06:03 PM:

P J Evans -- thanks, that makes a lot of sense. And explains the underlying sense of outrage from even members of the President's own party -- that he'd dare to do this to _citizens_.

*running off to explain the differences to others*

#51 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 06:05 PM:

Shawn, the difference between what Bush is doing and what Carter, Clinton et alia have done, is that Bush authorized spying on American citizens.

This is a clear violation of the 4th Amendment. If these steps were really necessary, the government should have gone through the procedures to get a warrant for wiretapping. This can be done in such a way that it does not tip the government's hand to the suspects.

Please note that there are Republican senators and representatives that have indicated their opposition to this. When the President's party starts objecting, you know he's done something VERY wrong.

Besides "everyone else did it" is not and never has been a valid excuse in court.

#52 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 06:11 PM:

Besides "everyone else did it" is not and never has been a valid excuse in court.

My mother would say 'if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?' I guess Shrub's mother didn't use that one. I can only imagine what she's say about this. Or is saying, wherever she is now.

#53 ::: Jules ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 06:27 PM:

Some lawmakers oppose the president on the values involved in harsh interrogation of terror suspects.

"Harsh interrogation"?

Is that like saying some of the above comments are about presenting Bush with a not-very-nice route out of office?

#54 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 06:51 PM:

One of the speculations is that the spying Bush authorised was not just against the immediate suspects, derived from captured AQ address lists, which could have been done under FISA procedures (though perhaps there would have been reason for an amendment made in the PATRIOT Act).

It seems to have been a carte blanche for a fishing expedition. "By my hand, and for the good of the State, the bearer has done what has been done."

I've seen it suggested that the NSA, after 9/11, was switching to a more directed, "hunting", strategy, when Bush unleashed this new effort, and overwhelmed them with this poorly-targeted work.

#55 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 07:03 PM:

I would like to note--in case it hasn't occurred to everyone else already--that the existence of the impeachment clause is sufficient proof that things do not become legal simply because the president does them. Secondarily, an amendment changes what it's amending, so even if the unamended constitution had given the president that much power as commander-in-chief, it was taken away again in 1791, by the Bill of Rights. This is not rocket science, folks--it's high school civics.

Also, historical note: if the Vice Presidency becomes vacant (because of resignation, death, or because the VP becomes president), "the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress." (Not the usual "advice and consent of the Senate.") Gerald Ford's great qualification for the job was that Congress liked him: Nixon wanted someone he could get approved, so the Speaker of the House wouldn't succeed to the presidency. If this actually got to either Dubya or Cheney being impeached and removed from office, Congress would probably not be willing to accept a candidate who felt like more of the same. Remember Gerald Ford saying "Our long national nightmare is over." (You can look it up, if you don't remember.)

#56 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 07:20 PM:

The other thing that's worth noting is that finding out that the President has repeated ordered the national security apparatus to perform domestic spying in obviously unconstitutional ways is that is makes nonsense out of all of his claimed 'American way of life', 'freedom and democracy' motivations; whatever he was seeking to do cannot have been to defend those things.

Anyone not actually brain-dead can now recognize that those stated motivations are false, and begin to consider what the actual motivations for these acts might be.

#57 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:35 PM:

I'm wondering if anyone here is knowledgeable enough to tell me how what President Bush has done is different than what's specified in these executive orders from President Carter and President Clinton.

Shawn, that's the Republican talking-point, "Clinton did it too!" that they haul out every time Bush does something outrageous. It's a lie.

I linked to the refutation in the main post. Here's the link again:

#58 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 08:51 PM:

At least one person has suggested elsewhere that they may have been listening to the DNC's calls, for the reason that the GOP seems to have been tracking the DNC strategy a little more closely than seems reasonable. Like within a few days. This would not surprise me - that was probably the intent with Watergate.

#59 ::: Glenn Hauman ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:16 PM:

One link Jim missed:

Articles of Impeachment Adopted by the Committee on the Judiciary, July 27, 1974

Article 2
Using the powers of the office of President of the United States, [he], in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has repeatedly engaged in conduct violating the constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice and the conduct of lawful inquiries, or contravening the laws governing agencies of the executive branch and the purposed of these agencies.

This conduct has included one or more of the following: [...]

2. He misused the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Secret Service, and other executive personnel, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, by directing or authorizing such agencies or personnel to conduct or continue electronic surveillance or other investigations for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; he did direct, authorize, or permit the use of information obtained thereby for purposes unrelated to national security, the enforcement of laws, or any other lawful function of his office; and he did direct the concealment of certain records made by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of electronic surveillance.

3. He has, acting personally and through his subordinates and agents, in violation or disregard of the constitutional rights of citizens, authorized and permitted to be maintained a secret investigative unit within the office of the President...

...and so on.

As John Dean pointed out, this is the first time a sitting President has admitted to an impeachable offense. We should impeach him for it.

#60 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:18 PM:

'if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?'

One answer I've heard is "Yes--the bodies would cushion my fall."

#61 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:57 PM:

My sense of outrage comes from the fact that the FISA court, in all its years of existance, turned down four or maybe seven (damned few) requests. And there's a retroactive clause (72 hours worth of retroactive). So why couldn't a warrant be gotten? The rules ain't that hard to follow. There's a friendly judge or two that can be found eventually. But to not even try to follow the rules.

Not what was done, but how.

That shows a serious lack of respect for authority.

#62 ::: Lin Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 09:58 PM:

'if everyone else was jumping off a cliff, would you do it too?'

One answer I've heard is "Yes--the bodies would cushion my fall."

If I said that, my mother might just have killed me on the spot. Once she stopped laughing.

#63 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:05 PM:

My understanding is that it was a technological thing. There was no paper list of victims (and I use the term deliberately, since this was criminal behavior on the part of the NSA and President). Instead, certain patterns of calls were flagged and the callers and callees tapped. People were continually added and dropped from the watch list. This was simply too many people to get warrants for, even retroactively.

But that also makes it unconstitutional. No probable cause, no warrant, no search. Period.

#64 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:12 PM:

Lydy, it is true that persons holding a commission in a regular navy, and effective independent command, were by long custom authorised to execute pirates taken in the act of committing piracy, wherever they were taken, and at once, with no formal proceedings. Of course such an officer would stand responsible for his action, and was subject to judicial review, enforced by court-martial or civilian trial - that is, to law. This enjoined a certain caution in exercising the power.

The difficulty often lies in the precise definition of the act of piracy. In 1919, after the Great War, there was an attempt to describe unlimited submarine warfare - essentially, attacking and sinking unarmed merchant vessels without warning - as a form of piracy. It failed, as all the world knows, and it is still the fact that it may form part of the duties of a regular officer in a regular navy to slaughter unarmed civilians without warning. But there was an attempt to limit this particular form of warfare to the regular forces of a declared belligerent power, and to regard other entities as pirates.

I think it is reasonable to regard terrorists as pirates, and to proceed upon much the same sort of legal basis. They are to be taken where found, by any person who finds them, and the regular officers of a nation's armed forces are authorised to deal with them in situ, if their status is undeniable.

The difficulty, as with pirates, is in the definitions. There must be legal review, and where it is possible, the question of their guilt must be decided by a duly constituted court. This court may, however, sit anywhere, under the law of the apprehending power. Provided that it dispenses natural justice after due process, the objections that the pirate is not a citizen of that power, or was taken extra-territorially, or had committed the piracy extra-territorially, are all irrelevant.

I would be perfectly happy to see all persons taken as terrorists to be charged and tried by a duly constituted court, civil or military, under the law of the United States, in the USA or anywhere else. I would dismiss all objections to the effect that they might be citizens of other nations, or that they had not committed the crimes of which they stand accused on the territory of the US. But I want them charged and tried.

#65 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:41 PM:

Lin --

I think you have to consider that some of the folks on the watch list were identifiable as, frex, "the senior members of the Kerry campaign", rather than anyone plausibly or even implausibly connected to anything resembling terrorist activity.

#66 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: December 21, 2005, 11:56 PM:

My mom might have been brought to a dead stop with that response, then again she not-too-long-ago told me i'd always intimidated her because I was so quick-minded. (I was stunned at that concept, when I was young I was extremely respectful because she was a mean slapper if you were too 'lippy'.)

My grandma Opel (Courtney Daniel) Frazier, at that response, would have just said 'you're being a smart-ass', then (not said) Whack! (or a spanking, I didn't get too many of those under her care but I really respected her, probably more than my mom...)

#67 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:04 AM:

Xopher: even if you are correct that this surveillance process was technologically different, significantly so, in a way that makes the current process of the FISA court too cumbersome to use -- which by the way I am not AT ALL convinced of -- Bush could easily have applied to Congress and requested a change in the procedure to cover the need. He didn't, which means either he didn't think it would be granted and if Congress didn't change the law he would have to stop doing it, which he didn't want to do, screw Congress, he can do what he likes, the Prezdent's judgment trumps the law, OR he didn't think he had to even ask Congress to change the law because screw Congress, he can do what he likes, etc. The blogosphere is filled with clear and cogent discussion of why the Prezdent is not above the law no matter what John Woo says.

And, as you say, it's unconstitutional to spy on US citizens without warrants. At this point, my guess is they didn't bother to try to get the FISA court to look at this stuff. They just went ahead and did what they wanted to do. It's their pattern.

Do you feel safer?

It's interesting that one of the FISA court judges has resigned in protest. Good. An honorable man.

#68 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:20 AM:

I just wrote an e-mail to my Representative, George Miller, stating that I believe George Bush has broken his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.

Feinstein and Boxer, my Senators, are on it, but I will send them e-mail as well, in support.

I hate to sound like a paranoid, but I have to wonder what the fuck else the Bushies are doing...

#69 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 04:40 AM:

Snailmail from Scotland going to my Congresscritters (I may be absentee, but I am still their constituent.)

What particularly narks me is that since my phone calls to my folks originate overseas (at my house), that's ME they can spy on.

On the other hand, I haven't done anything much that makes me a likely target for surveillance. Well, apart from sending him that hand-bound Constitution. (I thought it might be of use. I was probably wrong.)

#70 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 08:42 AM:

Lizzy - I agree 100%. And no, I don't.

#71 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 09:33 AM:

That shows a serious lack of respect for authority.

I think this the crux of the matter. At the end of the day, the Bush administration believes that the president has effectively unlimited powers. It seems to me that Bush administration did not get warrants because they felt the President's word was enough to initiate wiretaps. They do not recognize the authority of the courts or Congress. (The notion of the "wartime president" is a fig leaf because the so-called war on terrorism is rather like the so-called war on drugs. What is a reasonable end condition after which the president no longer exercises expanded powers?)

I believe Cheney is on record as saying that they are "restoring" powers the president "lost" post-Nixon. I think they feel that they are saving the presidency and, by extension, the nation. The irony is that their attempt to save the presidency is destroying the republic.

#72 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 09:33 AM:

In the event anyone is insufficiently worried about the potential for abuse of such powers as Bush is claiming: Yes, the FBI has opened "domestic terrorism" cases against activists here in Colorado Springs who were staging nonviolent demonstrations against the war in Iraq.

#73 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 10:23 AM:

Gee, I'm almost paranoid enough to believe that GWB and cronies are behind the New York transit strike, just so the online headlines about these doings would be pushed way down the page....

I know I'm pessimistic enough to doubt that he'll ever be impeached, though he deserves it so very much more than Clinton. (And "my" reps here in AZ are all Republican dirtballs and yes men.)

#74 ::: d ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:50 PM:


Related to the "Combat Footage from the War on Christmas" particle, a very excellent comic strip today from Dan Asmussen:


#75 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:52 PM:

This is what I'm sending to my Congressman, by paper mail (to his New York office, to avoid the one-week wait while it's being irradiated) and by fax. Feel free to copy all or part of it:

I am outraged at the latest revelations of domestic spying authorized by President Bush. Congress has given the Executive Branch legal ways of authorizing any investigation on foreign nationals, and any justifiable investigation of American citizens. These include retroactive warrants through the FISA courts.

The president, rather than using the extremely broad authority he has been granted, instead ordered warrantless searches and wiretaps. He has admitted, publicly, that there is no authority for them other than that, as president, he said so. He also says he intends to continue these illegal wiretaps.

This goes beyond a policy dispute. These are blatantly illegal acts, and a clear violation of his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. This president must be impeached for his crimes.

If a president can break the law, and get away with it purely because he is president, this is not a democracy, nor a republic: it is a dictatorship. The job of Congress includes protecting us from any president who would attempt to make Congress, the courts, and the American voter irrelevant rubber-stamps.

[I am represented by Charlie Rangel, who has been in Congress long enough to remember the Rodino committee. Next, I will figure out what to send to my Senators--a direct request for impeachment may be beside the point at this stage.]

#76 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 12:53 PM:


Padilla is to be tried, and not only that, but the court has ruled that the issue of enemy combatant cannot be ruled out of consideration! The DoJ want to try Padilla on a domestic crime without taking any notice of the seizing and holding incommunicado for three years an American citizen. NPR says that this ruling will also bring up a challenge to the executive war powers that Bush claims.

What I want for Padilla is a fair trial. I don't care if he's innocent or guilty, that's not my call, that's the jury's. If he's guilty, then I pray that they won't be able to apply the death penalty. If he's innocent -- I want the government to pay significant reparations, but I don't believe in Santa Claus, either.

I think that perhaps the worm is turning, about 20 degrees, but but turning. Why? I bet that it's that they crossed the line, and actually started tapping American citizens. In the abstract, many people thought that it was all right. But in practice...all of a sudden they're processing the problem as something that really could happen to them. At least, I hope that's what's going on.

#77 ::: Shawn Bilodeau ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 04:45 PM:

Lori & James - thank you also for your responses.

And James - thank you for the Think Progress link. It made for interesting reading. I'd thought that was what the legal language in the EO meant, but am so a novice with it, I couldn't be sure.

Which is why I appealed for help on this site. Lots of execellent minds, with tremendous resources, and zero desire to make fun of people because they're ignornant.

Thank you all for your help!

#78 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 05:13 PM:

Faren - How about because they were warned about a holiday attack on the subways, and wanted to empty them out without causing a panic? The insane behavior of the MTA is then easily explained.

I deeply resent etc.

#79 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 05:19 PM:

You would have thought once in a citizen's lifetime for this kind of presidential insanity! These guys seem to be stuck in a timewarp: repeating the mistakes of the years when they were supposed to be growing up.

#80 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 05:40 PM:

Bush deserves to be impeached. But I'm not sure that an existential attempt to do so will further the practical goal of removing corrupt Republican destroyers from power. I'm not sure, yet, whether I'm compelled to support an impeachment movement that will fail on moral grounds (e.g Bush is violating the law. He's setting precedents that threaten 200 years of established American government).

What if the fallout from a failed impeachment attempt actually hurts the chances of getting them all out of office in 2006 and 2008?

Even a successful impeachment might not accomplish the practical goal -- ending the abusive Republican policies that are damaging people's lives. A successful impeachment would be seen by many as a statement that one individual, George Bush, is not competent to be President. If Cheney took Bush's place, he'd continue to pursue most of the currently ruinous agendas. But he'd compensate for Bush's sloppiness and most likely not get caught as much. In 2008, the Republican candidate would claim that the Republicans had listened to the American people and cleaned up their act. A number of attack points against Bush would be two years old and nullified.

On the other hand, what if the Democrats protest Bush's illegal actions, but don't immediately try to initiate impeachment proceedings? Democrats might focus on applying pressure in Congress. Form alliances with Republicans to support authentic Congressional investigations -- not ones chaired by Bush front men. If enough steam is generated by Congressional investigations, then support "bi-partisan" impeachment proceedings (as bi-partisan as they can get). Meanwhile, attempt to work with the Republicans who're now having conscience attacks -- to establish stricter Congressional oversight of all Bush/Cheney agendas and operations.

Is keeping a lower profile morally indefensible in light of Bush's most recent violations constitutional principles? I'm not sure.

An unimpeached Bush will most likely continue to shoot himself in the foot in ways that shrewder Republican operatives can't reign in. Maybe the Democratic agenda should be to focus on Republican criminality and incompetence to elect more Democrats in 2006. Fight tactical battles in Congress against current and future Bush stupidities and blast them in the 2008 Presidential campaign.

This is in opposition to the idea that we're morally compelled to initiate a civics lesson for America, right now -- because there will be no America in two years if we don't.

#81 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 07:32 PM:

"Form alliances with Republicans to support authentic Congressional investigations -- not ones chaired by Bush front men."

Er, there are none. See Sensenbrenner, Pat Roberts, etc., chairman of important committees. (I suppose Specter might be excused from my condemnation, maybe.)

#82 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2005, 07:36 PM:

Check out this website: (Sorry, this link stuff defeats me...)

It gives me some hope.

#83 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 12:13 AM:

More news about Mr. Bush's defense, provided by DailyKos:

``Literally minutes before the Senate cast its vote [to authorize Mr. Bush to use force to deal with terrorism], the administration sought to add the words 'in the United States and' after 'appropriate force' in the agreed-upon text,'' Daschle wrote. ``This last-minute change would have given the president broad authority to exercise expansive powers not just overseas--where we all understood he wanted authority to act--but right here in the United States, potentially against American citizens. I could see no justification for Congress to accede to this extraordinary request for additional authority. I refused.''

So Congress specifically rejected Bush's wish to extend his expansion of power to domestic affairs. So much for the argument that Congress's vote somehow authorized his bypasing the FISA court.

Why wasn't this on page 1, damn it!

#84 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 01:15 AM:

"to the best of my ability"

Well, there you go. This is the natural result of electing a man of severely limited ability.

#85 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:47 AM:

Lizzy, there's a typo in the URL. Try:

#86 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 11:01 AM:

Mark Fiore has a sharply (Smartly!) funny take on this stuff in his latest animated political cartoon: (If that link doesn't work, type in And turn off your pop-up blockers, beforehand.)

#87 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 12:13 PM:

Thanks, Lila, for the correction.

#88 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Lenny Bailes writes: I'm not sure, yet, whether I'm compelled to support an impeachment movement that will fail on moral grounds...

Take it from someone who switched to the Green Party in 1996, gave money to the Nader campaign and voted for Nader in 2000— and who has been compelled to regret doing this by Democrats who hold me personally responsible for the failure of their candidate to win a majority of electoral votes— you are not compelled to vote your conscience.

No one will hold you accountable for opposing an impeachment for tactical reasons, especially since impeachment is so certain to fail anyway. Only if it were to succeed would there be any chance someone would care that you opposed it. It can't succeed, so you should just flush your conscience and oppose the impeachment.

Besides removing them from office isn't enough. They should all be serving life terms in prison for crimes against humanity. Really. The tactical difficulty is that large.

It's not your fault these jackholes have taken over. You had nothing to do with it. Nothing whatsoever. It was all those Nader voters in 2000. We're to blame. Hold us responsible for it— there aren't many of us, and no one will miss us when we're gone.

#89 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 02:34 PM:

jh woodyatt: I wish I could tell which bits of your post were delivered with irony.

They should all be serving life terms in prison for crimes against humanity.

That sounds about right. The rest of it?

#90 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 04:50 PM:

It's a serious question to me. On the other side of pragmatic doubt [Will impeachment proceedings against Bush actually improve the political state of our country?], there's the existential issue.

Choose your favorite Jean Paul Sartre quote:

"Fascism is not defined by the number of its victims, but by the way it kills them."

“Only the guy who isn't rowing has time to rock the boat.”

#91 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 05:55 PM:

My favorite quote on government (probably not exact, this is from memory):
Monarchy is like a fine merchantman, which sails well but will sometimes strike upon a rock and founder; democracy is like a raft which will never sink, but your feet are always in the water. - Fisher Ames, from a speech in the House of Representatives (around 1797)

#92 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Laura Roberts writes: I wish I could tell which bits of your post were delivered with irony.

I wish I could tell too. Some days, my life of quiet desperation brings waves of pessimism that nearly overwhelms my ability to keep up appearances. Lately, the waves have been coming in unusually powerful sets.

I really do regret voting my conscience and indirectly contributing to the reactionary takeover of America. I also resent Democrats for their continuing illiberality and their egregious botch of the tactical game. It stings to have both these facts rubbed in my face on a daily basis by the circumstances of current events. Enduring the sight of Democrats carrying water for Republicans and pushing back against calls to impeach this President, even today after the latest revelations of his criminal malfeasance, stings especially sharp.

There's a good line from Syriana, spoken in Arabic by the character of the Al Qaeda alim. He says [translated], "When a nation with five percent of the people in the world are responsible for over fifty percent of the military spending, that tells me that it has lost the power of persuasion."

I wish I had a better rebuttal to that argument than the one I get from the President, his reactionary supporters, and his conservative enablers among the so-called "opposition" party.

#93 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:00 PM:

I also resent Democrats for their continuing illiberality and their egregious botch of the tactical game. It stings to have both these facts rubbed in my face on a daily basis by the circumstances of current events.

Some of us who are registered as Democrats aren't happy with those who do this. Or with those who are claiming to be in our party, and are following the Shrub down the yellow brick road. (I am not at all sure that Nader actually had much to do with the outcome of either election, except as a scapegoat for those who can't afford to admit mistakes.)

#94 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:36 PM:

I found myself revisiting the question of Nader voter responsibility after realizing just how thoroughly the Republicans practiced fraud in 2000 and 2004. It's particularly useful to look at 2004 for this, without a third-party challenger of significance. It seems pretty clear that the Bush crew swiped several percent of the votes in several states - more in keys tates, less in some others just to pad the tally.

In the face of that, I don't see the Nader factor as being so significant anymore. I suspect that it might have mattered in an honest election. But...we didn't get that, and there comes a time when I have to say "they'd steal however much it took".

#95 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:36 PM:

It's not about impeaching or *supporting* Bush; it's about focusing on the impeachment issue or focusing on alternative strategies -- that might be more successful in wresting power away from the whole coterie.

I'm not saying that Democrats couldn't try more than one approach, or that a failed impeachment attempt will *necessarily* hurt their election chances. It only seems that way to me, right now.

I don't see an immediate drive by Democrats to impeach Bush as the most effective strategy to mitigate the awful effects of his administration

#96 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:42 PM:

j h --

The substantial majority of Americans believe that wealth confers virtue.

This is a besetting failure mode of personal-salvation religions, with a long historical past, and it generally gets worst in times of material prosperity.

But, anyway -- the actual opposition is the people who believe wealth to have nothing to do with virtue. That's a minority of the population, and a very small minority of the elected representatives in a nakedly plutocratic political system.

#97 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:46 PM:

Lenny Bailes said: I don't see an immediate drive by Democrats to impeach Bush as the most effective strategy to mitigate the awful effects of his administration.

I agree. I would, however, like hearings, lots of them, loud ones. The more noise we make, the more uneasy the country grows, the harder it will be for the Bushies to hold on to Congress.

I would also like the Democrats to grow a pair...

#98 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 06:53 PM:

I'm beginning to wonder if the Democrats have, some of them, been keeping a low profile because they think they might be among the wiretapped. (I do wish they'd actually take a stand; better yet, if they'd take a stand and hold it for long enough to make a difference.)

#99 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 07:38 PM:

Lizzy L writes: I agree. I would, however, like hearings, lots of them, loud ones.

If you're not willing to call them "impeachment hearings," then why bother with them? Don't tell me you're in the camp who thinks that censure is more appropriate than impeachment...

What in the name of all that is eldritch and ancient does this crew have to do to get impeached? Have a crisco-and-goats party on the White House lawn? Take the Lord's name in vain? Steal all the keycaps off the computers in the West Wing?

#100 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:02 PM:

j h --

They can't be impeached unless the House votes out a bill of impeachment.

The House isn't going to do that until enough Republican Representatives have constituents on their lawns with torches and pitchforks, and maybe not then.

So it's a question, not of how to get the President impeached out of present resources, but how to get those constituents on to those lawns. Which lots of loud public hearings might well encourage.

#101 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:22 PM:

jh - I'm not willing to call them impeachment hearings; see what Graydon said. Call them investigative hearings. Just hold them.

#102 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 08:27 PM:

Too bad we can't get Rodino and Ervin for this. (These records were subpoena'd....)

#103 ::: Nomie ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 10:17 PM:

Does this have anything to do with the issue at hand?

Bush orders radiation monitoring of Muslim sites, fearing nuclear armaments. I don't know whether to laugh or be sick.

#104 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 11:09 PM:

Because no Muslim would dream of hiding his nuclear bomb anywhere except a mosque....

#105 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 23, 2005, 11:35 PM:

Perhaps they're building a reactor. Those domes can disguise a cooling tower pretty well.

#106 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 12:06 AM:

If you're not willing to call them "impeachment hearings," then why bother with them?

From my Class-B player's view of the chessboard:

Our best chance to oppose the fascism of the Bush-Cheney wing of the Republican party is to re-enforce and re-emphasize the role of Congress as an oversight agency for the Executive Branch. An alliance of Democrats with some Republicans, might be able to accomplish that. We want to encourage a bi-partisan Congressional investigation that will officially affirm the fact that Bush's Executive Orders are in violation of FISA.

This may not be as easy as it sounds. To change the current structure of Congressional fact-finding committees we need more than popular outrage. We need to find some conscience-stricken Republican Congress members -- ones who're tired of being used as an automatic rubber-stamp for everything that Bush and Cheney do. (Public outrage and media outcry can certainly help with that.)

There may be a chance to build a popular consensus (even in Oklahoma) that "the President may mean well; but this time he's gone too far. Congress needs to watch him" We have a significantly smaller chance to build a consensus that "the President broke the law -- so he must be removed."

Kevin Drum reports here that: "John Kerry and Ted Kennedy have attached amendments to this year's intelligence funding bill asking for copies of the White House's daily intelligence briefing (Kennedy) and more information about secret CIA prisons (Kerry). Pat Roberts has already agreed to these amendments, but intelligence funding is now being held up because someone objects to them."

Things like this are what Democrats may be able to get, right now, using the new shock at Bush as a lever. Moderate Republicans may be pursuaded to join forces with them -- if the concept of reasserting the power of Congress can be sold as more important/attractive than preserving the power of the Republican party.

It would be emotionally satisfying to put George W. Bush on trial and shame him with truth in the eyes of the world. But what I would rather do is block Samuel Alito from the Supreme Court, nullify Frist's threat to destroy the filibuster, make the Republicans fear to put up an Alito-clone as the next nominee, compel Bush and Cheney to make all of their operations public, embolden Congress to investigate the already-documented abuses of the Bush administration, make them afraid to continue their bustout operation on the Federal government.

Later, the Democrats are going to want to hit hard on the issue that the Republicans put a criminal in the White House in 2004; why do you think the next Republican candidate will be any more trustworthy?

#107 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 12:47 AM:

Bruce: It seems pretty clear that the Bush crew swiped several percent of the votes in several states - more in keys tates, less in some others just to pad the tally.

No, it doesn't. There's a lot of hot air (and at least one bizarre glitch that was immediately corrected) but nothing clear. No, I don't consider Harper's Bazaar clear; their article on this wasn't the first that smelled like wingnuts.

It may be nice to think that Bush Inc. cheated -- but that hides the amount of real work that's needed to persuade people that their fear of the other is a bad way to decide their votes.

#108 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 09:28 AM:

From today's New York Times:

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said.

As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said.

The government's collection and analysis of phone and Internet traffic have raised questions among some law enforcement and judicial officials familiar with the program. One issue of concern to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has reviewed some separate warrant applications growing out of the N.S.A.'s surveillance program, is whether the court has legal authority over calls outside the United States that happen to pass through American-based telephonic "switches," according to officials familiar with the matter.


This so-called "pattern analysis" on calls within the United States would, in many circumstances, require a court warrant if the government wanted to trace who calls whom.

The use of similar data-mining operations by the Bush administration in other contexts has raised strong objections, most notably in connection with the Total Information Awareness system, developed by the Pentagon for tracking terror suspects, and the Department of Homeland Security's Capps program for screening airline passengers. Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.

#109 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 10:11 AM:

Chip: Avedon Carol has the best collection of info that influenced my thinking in this regard. See her weblog for more. I won't get into rehashing it all here; I suspect our hosts would be just as happy not to see a thread derailed by it.

#110 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 10:26 AM:

Both programs were ultimately scrapped after public outcries over possible threats to privacy and civil liberties.

Well, they said they'd stopped. Now I'm wondering if all they did was simply hide the programs and continue the operations. It would fit their pattern.

#111 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 11:47 AM:

Bumpersticker idea: the W-with-a-flag from 2004, but the flag is a skull-and-crossbones. For a full-size bumpersticker, the W is the first letter of Wiretap.

Keep it in front of the public, so it isn't forgotten.

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 24, 2005, 12:07 PM:

From CNN:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito defended the right of government officials to order domestic wiretaps when he worked for the Reagan Justice Department, documents released Friday show.


The Associated Press had requested documents related to Alito under the Freedom of Information Act.

The memo dealt with whether government officials should have blanket protection from lawsuits when authorizing wiretaps. "I do not question that the attorney general should have this immunity," Alito wrote. "But for tactical reasons, I would not raise the issue here."

Despite Alito's warning that the government would lose, the Reagan administration took the fight to the Supreme Court in the case of whether Nixon's attorney general, John Mitchell, could be sued for authorizing a warrantless domestic wiretap to gather information about a suspected terrorist plot. The FBI had received information about a conspiracy to destroy utility tunnels in Washington and kidnap Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser.

In its court brief, the government argued for absolute immunity for the attorney general on matters of national security.

"The attorney general's vital responsibilities in connection with intelligence gathering and prevention in the field of national security are at least deserving of absolute immunity as routine prosecutorial actions taken either by the attorney general or by subordinate officials.


That case ultimately led to a 1985 ruling by the Supreme Court that the attorney general and other high level executive officials could be sued for violating people's rights, in the name of national security, with such actions as domestic wiretaps.

"The danger that high federal officials will disregard constitutional rights in their zeal to protect the national security is sufficiently real to counsel against affording such officials an absolute immunity," the court held.

#113 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2005, 11:29 AM:

Some arguments in favor of trying to impeach Bush:

It will keep him busy and distracted with something harmless to the rest of the world.

No one seems to think that Bush has a moderating effect on Cheney et al. Presumably, having Cheney as President won't make anything worse, and having to do both the ceremonial and practical work of the office might give him that final heart attack.

Even if the work doesn't kill him, a post-impeachment Cheney isn't quite the same thing as a non-impeachment Cheney. It will have been made clear that the neo-cons don't own the government.

#114 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Nancy --

It's at least argueable that Bush is the moderating influence on Rumsfeld and Cheney.

Note that the 2-man nuclear release requirement runs all the way to the top -- it takes the President and the SecDef. Rumsfeld has had the Air Force draw up detailed operational plans to nuke Iran. The notion of Imperial Presidency is Cheney's, he's been pushing it for years and years.

So my expectation is that George -- arrogant dofus though he is -- does function as all the civilized restraint there is on Rumsfeld's blood-hunger and Cheney's wild autocracy. I should very much not like to see the result of removing that restraint prior to the removal of those it restrains.

#115 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2005, 06:11 PM:

Rumsfeld has had the Air Force draw up detailed operational plans to nuke Iran.

The thought of someone planning a war of that kind, without any need of it, is frightening. That he's the second guy on the trigger makes it worse. We need to take out Cheney or Rumsfeld first, yes. (Either one gone would be an improvement.) It's just possible they could be taken in for war crimes, based on Iraq and their treatment of 'illegal combatants'. (BTW, if we're in a state of war, how can the other guys be illegal combatants? It seems to be a contradiction.)

#116 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: December 25, 2005, 06:37 PM:

It's just possible they could be taken in for war crimes, based on Iraq and their treatment of 'illegal combatants'.

Who's going to make that happen while the Republicans control all three branches of government? I see only the faintest glimmer of hope for a voluntary Rumsfeld resignation, which would have to happen in the heat of currently non-existent Congressional investigations. If someone uncovered documented financial improprieties on Cheney's part, (similar to what Frist is facing), he might be pressured to resign.

In the public continuum that we now have, Bush's disregard for FISA appears to be the weakest link in their operation. Arguably, the torture policies are a worse crime; but Congress isn't ready to hold them accountable for those.

It looks to me like Congress might be made to flex a few muscles (with the help of disenchanted Republicans) over the NSA issue. And building public support for that might lead to Democrats gaining seats in 2006.

In the meantime, all the other stuff can be addressed peripherally -- possibly head-on if/when the Democrats re-achieve a majority in the Senate or House.

#117 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 10:27 AM:

How seriously should we take it that plans for war against Iran have been drawn up? My impression is that governments draw up all sorts of war plans just in case, even if they aren't especially intending to have a war.

#118 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 02:13 PM:

The concern here is that Cheney etc do intend war with iran.It doesn't seem tactically plausible to me, but then it didn't seem plausible to me to occupy iraq, either.

Iran has 3 times the people and worse terrain. Invasion isn't in the cards. What we could do is a punitive strike. Bomb everything we want to bomb, put small special forces teams on the ground who call in airstrikes whenever they find anything that's worth bombing, and when we get tired of it, just pull out and trust that the iranians will be either so hurt or so intimidated that they agree it's over. We might possibly take the same southern oilfields from them that Saddam took. Defending a border the other side of those wouldn't be much harder than defending the current border. We could tell a million or so iranian civilians that they're iraqis now and free to vote in iraqi elections, and who knows? maybe they'd throw flowers. It's at least as likely as it was in iraq.

On the other hand, if they tried to do it quite likely a bunch of generals would resign rather than go through with it. So they might be reduced to having the israelis do a bunch of bombstrikes. This would depend on secret weapon capabilities. The excuse would be to destroy nuclear facilities. But some of those are dug in under cities, and the obvious way to get them would be to nuke them. Nobody blinks when israel does conventional airstrikes on muslim cities, but nukes would be stretching it. So this is more likely if we have conventional bunker-busters that appear up to the job. If it goes through it might be in March 2006. One of the values of doing it that way is that Bush can say he had no control over israel, while zionists will say it was necessary and useful and absolutely totally the right thing to do. Bush can take the credit among those who're inclined to give credit for it, and make a start at avoiding the blame.

This stuff does not make sense. It's like the start of a Tom Clancy novel, with the USA as the bad guys. Adusting the borders, israeli nuclear strikes, it's conspiracy theory stuff. The trouble is that these are real live conspirators who don't make sense.

#119 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 03:46 PM:

Detailed operational nuclear attack plans against a non-nuclear regional power are unprecedented and highly significant.

The existence of attack plans for anywhere isn't particularly significant; certainly not Iran. But the staff work to make them current and fully usable is significant, because that's not generally done unless someone is at least trying to figure out if it's possible to use the plan.

Especially since this lot are willing to completely disregard the professional military, it's highly unclear what they think they're doing by having such plans drawn up, but they are all of a generation that took the Iranian Hostage Crisis extremely personally.

#120 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 03:56 PM:

This stuff does not make sense. It's like the start of a Tom Clancy novel, with the USA as the bad guys. Adusting the borders, israeli nuclear strikes, it's conspiracy theory stuff. The trouble is that these are real live conspirators who don't make sense.

It's completely insane! It's throwing an incendiary into a powder magazine: you'll get results, yes, but the cost may be higher than you wanted to pay. In this case, like the whole fscking world! Ayatollahs in Iran are not worth everyone else's lives, IMHO.

#121 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 05:00 PM:

Oh, but the whole point is to make everyone else so terrified that they submit.

It's not a sane desire to start with, and given that some of the folks they're terrifying have been playing politics under 'lose, and we boil or skin your whole family, then you' rules for generations, anyone sane would have called into question the utility of terror long since.

This bunch, though, it's how they answer their fear -- if they can torture, they cannot be tortured; if they can fling nukes about, and rend the walled cities as the rushing passage of time, why, there shall be none come rend their cities.

Beat into submission isn't a metaphor with the most of them; if only they use enough force, all shall obey. It's how they were raised and it's the foundation of what slight moral law they recognize.

Demanding submission with terror wasn't effective in Pharoh's day, or inside the walls of Babylon when the King of that city was the regent of Marduk, and surely to all the gods it is not true now.

All the same, it may well be proved again, to the count of some dozens of megatons, that the thing is not so.

#122 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 05:11 PM:

PJ, there are missions for Tomahawk cruise missiles (some of which are nuclear) for just about every country on the planet. Preparation is a good thing.

#123 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 08:21 PM:

Preparation is one thing, but I want two nukes to be all that's ever used in the history of the world. I'm not sure that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld really know, in their hearts and guts, what those things do. I'm sure in my own mind that Reagan looked on them as just a more powerful kind of high explosive. I want them to visit, either as candidates or shortly after taking office, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Trinity, and the Nevada Test Site, so they get a feel for the scale of destructiveness. I want them to be afraid to use nukes! (Yes, I think all the people with that kind of weapon available should visit those places. Think of it as a necessary pilgrimage.)

[/rant] I got thoroughly scared by a teacher, back in 1961/62. Also there were the duck-and-cover drills, and the people who wanted bomb shelters but were willing to shoot anyone who wanted in and was not in their immediate family.

#124 ::: Lisa Goldstein ::: (view all by) ::: December 26, 2005, 11:08 PM:

Lenny Bailes: If someone uncovered documented financial improprieties on Cheney's part, (similar to what Frist is facing), he might be pressured to resign.

I dunno -- I'd say giving no-bid contracts to your former company, a company from which you are still receiving money, is about as financially improper as you can get. Congress seems to disagree, however.

#125 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 06:34 AM:

Attack Iran in March? Nuclear weapons planning?

I figure I should max out my credit cards in February. The way this lot are carrying on, maybe neither I nor my bank will be around by the time the March bill falls dues.

But it'll certainly make the economic figures look good.

#126 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2005, 09:21 AM:

Oh dear, Mr Bell, could that be construed as, perhaps, ... seditious ... under our new Antipodean Dispensation?

#127 ::: John Sabotta ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 04:06 PM:

Your little impeachment fantasies fail to encompass two or three minor consequences, such as possibly "civil war".

Not that I care all that much. All of you, on all sides, will end up getting no more than you deserve. It's kind of sad, though, that millions of innocent people, who are not political freaks like you and your opposite numbers, will have to pay for all this irresponsible posturing.

#128 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 04:14 PM:

John Sabotta: Who are you speaking to and about? Your comment appears to be a non sequitur.

#129 ::: Xopher (Christopher Hatton) ::: (view all by) ::: December 28, 2005, 04:24 PM:

Civil WAR? From an IMPEACHMENT? If this country has sunk that far, we deserve it.

Dumbest thing I've heard in a while.

#130 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 03:07 PM:

A small thing which seems to have gotten lost in the last few years: the Shrub said in his re-election campaign in 1998 that he would stay as governor until the end of his term (which was in 2002). Add that one to the list of mis-statements he's made to the public.

#131 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 04:23 PM:

Brother will fight Brother over the issue of "Impeachment" or "covered in honey on a mound of fire ants"!

#132 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 29, 2005, 05:32 PM:

Mr. Sabotta, your name links to your website. With regard to irresponsible posturing, I must direct you to your own site.

#133 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 31, 2005, 11:20 PM:

Something that wanders across the back of my mind from time to time: Why was a military solution necessary after 9/11? What was wrong with the existing laws covering air piracy (aka hijacking), money-laundering, criminal conspiracy, and probably misuse of student visas (to name a few possible charges)? Could it be that this administration already had plans for the actions they're taking, and only needed an excuse to start?

#134 ::: J Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 09:02 AM:

PJ Evans, yes on all counts.

The argument was we had to invade afghanistan because they wouldn't give us bin Laden right away. Just to put the shoe on the other foot, if the chinese demanded we give them Adolf Coors immediately because they said he paid for international terrorism, and they said they had proof but they wouldn't show us, how long would it take us to ship him?

Then we invaded iraq just because Bush wanted to.

#135 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 09:44 AM:

"how long would it take us to ship him"

depends on if anyone involved in the decision making process has had to drink Coors.

#136 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 01, 2006, 10:41 AM:

Given some of the known views of Coors, I think I'd have a container ready and waiting. Same goes for Shrub and company, when the World Court comes looking. I'll allow them blankets, Bibles, a portapotty, and retort water and MREs. Cellphones and radios, no. (Why should they be treated greatly better than their non-prisoners in Gitmo?)

BTW, I don't drink 'Colorado Kool-Aid' (as some people refer to that beer). I prefer something with more character (Anchor).

#137 ::: Rael ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2006, 09:37 PM:

What a lot of folks don't realize if they listen only to the main stream press, is that past presidents have also used executive powers bypassing the "special court" when required. This includes numerous invocations by Clinton & Carter! At least Dubya had informed some members of Congress... Clinton & Carter didn't even do that. Let's see if I can dig up the actual data before I get flamed!

#138 ::: Julia Jones sees an exotic form of comment spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2007, 12:35 PM:

#138 as I write is yet another drive-by comment attacking an earlier drive-by commentator from a long defunct thread. There are a couple on another thread. I think it qualifies as comment spam, even if it's not the usual morphology.

#139 ::: SamChevreSpotsTurkishSpam ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2011, 09:16 AM:

No CaCO3 wanted, this is not a commodities exchange.

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